Oliver Peters looks at how to solve some of Final Cut Pro's professional workflow problems.


Every experienced Final Cut Pro editor has their own list of features they'd like to see added. This article isn't that. In fact, with a bit of planning, you can use FCP exactly as it is and bend it to your will. Here are five simple solutions to some common workflow situations.

Sequence-to-sequence editing.

When I work with Avid Media Composer or Adobe Premiere Pro, it's common to start by building a selects sequence (aka stringout or KEM roll). I can then use that sequence as a source for other sequences. Some Final Cut Pro editors may argue that's unnecessary because of its advanced keyword and favorites approach. Using metadata in this way can be powerful, but it provides an incomplete solution. If, like me, you'd like to edit directly from one sequence as a source into another, then there's a very simple process to follow.

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First, edit the selects project (sequence) as you would in the other NLEs. Then, select all of the clips in the timeline and create a compound clip. You can delete the selects project if you like. The compound will be unaffected. To edit inserts and B-Roll from your selects to the main project, simply skim and mark the section(s) of the compound clip in the browser and make your edit(s) to the current project. These segments will be highlighted in the browser filmstrip for the compound clip as used ranges, which is handy since FCP has no dupe detection feature. If you want the compound clip sections in the project replaced by the original sources, select all clips and Break Apart Clip Items.

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Flattening multicam clips.

A common feature request is to flatten multicam clips in a completed project sequence. This would leave only the angles that were used, without also dragging along the unused angles. Final Cut Pro currently has no such feature, but there is a workaround using two FCP companion applications from Intelligent Assistance.

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When you've locked your picture edit, export an FCPXML of the sequence. Run the file through XtoCC to generate a Premiere-friendly XML file. Then run that XML file back through SendToX to create a new FCPXML file. Import this new FCPXML back into Final Cut Pro. You will now have a new project sequence with all multicam clips converted into synchronized clips for only the used camera angles. Select all clips in the timeline and Break Apart Clip Items, which replaces the synchronized clips with their original sources.

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There are several optional steps that I also follow. You can trash the duplicate imported clips so that only the new project is in the browser. Detach audio and only keep the audio from each of the first camera clips up to the next audio edit. Now extend each remaining audio clip up to the start of the next audio edit. Finally, reassign the video and audio roles to their correct status if these were changed as part of the XML roundtrip.

Roles-based mixing.

NLEs and DAWs enable you to add audio plug-ins and set volume levels both on independent clips and on entire tracks. Most include some form of graphical mixer panel that mimics the appearance and function of a physical hardware mixer. Final Cut Pro has always enabled audio plug-ins and volume adjustments on individual clips. The introduction of audio roles has added that same ability to roles, thus permitting you to treat roles like tracks in a traditional audio application. I'd love to see Apple go the full mile and add a mini mixing panel of some sort. However, that doesn't preclude working in a similar manner with the current toolset.

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The first step is to assign proper audio roles to each clip. The simplest form could be roles for on-camera dialogue, announcer voice-overs, sound effects, and music. As you edit, make minor volume adjustments and audio enhancements on a per-clip basis, but leave the bulk of the mix to later. Once the cut is locked, select the whole timeline and create a compound clip. You can now show audio lanes. It is also possible to expand audio components. This will enable you to treat the audio roles like submix buses or stems, while still applying effects at the top level to the entire compound clip, which acts as a master mix bus.

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My usual routine is to add several effects to the dialogue role(s) - light noise reduction, de-essing, EQ for clarity, mild compression, etc. I will use EQ to cut (lower) the midrange frequencies on the music role(s) so that dialogue sits in the mix better. The last stage is to apply mastering effects to the main project - i.e. onto the top level of the compound clip. Typically this includes a final compressor/limiter and some metering plug-ins. Through this process, I've used three stages of audio processing/volume adjustment - individual clips, roles, and the final mix.

Script-based editing.

Film editors cutting scripted dramas appreciate Avid's script-based editing. This has its origins in Script Mimic, a feature of the Cinedco Ediflex, one of the original NLEs. A similar method can be deployed with Final Cut Pro, albeit not with the script-like bin display that Avid offers.

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Start with the script supervisor's script pages. Divide the scene dialogue into sections - by sentence, groups of sentences, paragraphs - whatever you are comfortable with. Draw lines on the script to mark these divisions and number each section. The numbering sequence may restart at the beginning of each new scene or be continuous from the first to the last page of the script.

Use either markers or keywords in Final Cut. If markers, then go through each take, add a marker at the start of each segment, and number that marker accordingly. If you use keywords, then set a range for each section and apply the appropriate number to that keyword range. This will create a keyword collection for each new number. As you go through each take, these matching keyword ranges will automatically be filtered into the corresponding keyword collection according to the number. That feature makes it easy to quickly compare all angles and takes for any given dialogue line.

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In addition, dialogue lines may be copied and pasted into the Notes column. Notes and markers are searchable. Markers can also be grouped into corresponding smart collections. Personally, I prefer to use keyword collections for complete scenes and then use markers for dialogue lines. Obviously, this requires a fair amount of upfront work, which is why film editors generally work with at least one assistant editor who handles such preparation.

Translating a paper cut.

This last tip applies to any sort of interview-based video, whether it's a news story, documentary, reality TV show, or corporate video. Such programs rely on filmed interviews to form the A-roll of the timeline. There are several integrated, online solutions (Simon Says, Lumberjack, Scribeomatic, etc) that allow transcription-based, rough cut editing to be done as a first pass completely in the cloud. Nevertheless, many producers simply opt for the old school methods, which is what I'm discussing here.

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In this traditional approach, transcripts of the raw interviews are generated, which can be reviewed and edited by a story editor or producer, using a word processor like Word or Pages, or even just from a paper printout. That's often called the paper cut. The first step in the video editing process is to cut a rough assembly of these selected soundbites, based solely on what's written in the transcript and in the edited order decided by the story editor, director, or producer. That's the starting point for the cut, which is further revised, embellished, and polished in successive versions by the video editor.

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How do we easily get from the paper cut to this first assembly in Final Cut Pro? As the story editor or producer goes through the transcripts, sections to be used should be highlighted and numbered. The video editor goes through the interview clips and marks range-based Favorites that correspond to the highlighted sections of the script. Each Favorite should be given the same number as on the script. That number is also entered into the Notes column. As the story editor trims and re-arranges the script in Word, care should be taken to carry the numbers along. The finished paper or electronic edit of the transcript should reflect the soundbites to be used along with their source segment numbers.

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Back in Final Cut Pro, the editor can use the search function (searching for text in Notes) to locate any of the Favorites that he or she will use. If the first soundbite is section 25 of an interview, simply enter 25 into the search field and that range pops up as the sole clip in the browser. Append it to the timeline. The next soundbite is 36, so type in 36. Now that range appears. Append it. Go through all of the sections following this process and you'll quickly complete this first assembly. Once done, go back through the sequence and trim/clean-up the cut points, polish any Frankenbites, and add appropriate B-roll cutaways.



Written by
Top BloggerThought Leader

Oliver Peters is an experienced film and commercial editor/colorist. In addition, his tech writings appear in numerous industry magazines and websites.

He may be contacted through his website at oliverpeters.com

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Rick26's Avatar
Rick26 replied the topic: #118360 10 Jan 2022 18:39
Excellent, and very helpful ! Thank you !
martin.schneider-lau's Avatar
martin.schneider-lau replied the topic: #118361 10 Jan 2022 20:08
Thank you Oliver. Nice to learn every day something new.
marconoe's Avatar
marconoe replied the topic: #118365 11 Jan 2022 00:39
Thanks for the tips Oliver!
JoeEditor's Avatar
JoeEditor replied the topic: #118366 11 Jan 2022 00:50
Roles based mixing is really a bad workaround. I could never and will never get behind such a sorry excuse for a workaround. Overwhelmingly picture lock does not exist in more of today's work, so you can't wait until that point to do the audio work. A lot of good points here, but it's all workarounds. I love using FCPX, but it is lacking very sorely, and for way too long, in several key areas. But hey, it's perfect for YouTubers (which I'm told is its primary market focus).
Carsten Orlt's Avatar
Carsten Orlt replied the topic: #118374 11 Jan 2022 02:41
Didn't you want to jump ship last October Ben? Totally understand your standpoint but to say FCP is only for Youtuber's and it shows in the software flys in the face of all professionals using it daily.

I can assure you I do not need any 'workarounds' to do my best work using FCP for the last 10 years :-)
JoeEditor's Avatar
JoeEditor replied the topic: #118377 11 Jan 2022 05:23
It's not that widely used. And some of us struggle with the workarounds. But glad it works for you. I'm slowly transitioning, too much work to do it overnight.
Dbtucson1's Avatar
Dbtucson1 replied the topic: #118381 11 Jan 2022 13:34
We’re I to have two FCP wishes they would be for an audio mixer and the ability to import selected portions of a clip rather than the entire clip. I do documentary work with long interviews that might only need 45 seconds of a two hour interview. But still I have to bloat the library with the whole thing, even if I leave the source material in its original location.
Oliver Peters's Avatar
Oliver Peters replied the topic: #118383 11 Jan 2022 13:59
I'm glad these tips were helpful. I certainly don't disagree with the criticisms of FCP, but that wasn't the point of the article. It's about working with what you have today. Nevertheless, you shouldn't lose sight of the fact that any software can be improved.
AppleGuru's Avatar
AppleGuru replied the topic: #118384 11 Jan 2022 14:05

Didn't you want to jump ship last October Ben? Totally understand your standpoint but to say FCP is only for Youtuber's and it shows in the software flys in the face of all professionals using it daily.

I can assure you I do not need any 'workarounds' to do my best work using FCP for the last 10 years :-)

It's not that widely used. And some of us struggle with the workarounds. But glad it works for you. I'm slowly transitioning, too much work to do it overnight.

I remember when I was commenting about FCPX technical issues Ben would always prays FCPX how better it was then other NLEs! lol


Audio is still handled as it should in my craft. It is done by the Audio Guys what ever they use.
I agree Audio Editing for YouTube video could be tricky since they might not have access to "Pro" Pipeline.
rustychainpro's Avatar
rustychainpro replied the topic: #118385 11 Jan 2022 15:25
Thank you Oliver. Some great ideas that I have not used before.
Andreas Kiel's Avatar
Andreas Kiel replied the topic: #118386 11 Jan 2022 17:59
Thank you Oliver.
Excellent and helpful article
JoeEditor's Avatar
JoeEditor replied the topic: #118389 12 Jan 2022 01:05
It is a very helpful article, but I've had enough of the cool-aid, trying to justify workarounds are acceptable after all these years. FCP really should be further along than it is. I very firmly believe that.

As for switching in October, I did. The TV station I was VP of production for, I began the switch to Resolve in October. I suddenly found I was leaving the station and my replacement switched it all over to Premier Pro overnight. As he and all the new editors I'd hired (who I had to train in FCP and Resolve) were already very experienced PPro users (and TV editors).

In my independent work I have need to switch more slowly.

I love working in FCP, great media management, magnetic timeline is usually really fast, but after all these years, the fact is that it still lacks very basic tools all other NLEs have that I need. I don't want to leave it, but I'm tired of wasting time with workarounds. I'll be using it for awhile before I'm totally off, but in the meantime, learning Resolve and really liking it.

I can love the NLE, and be super disappointed (and honest about) Apple's lack of development with it at the same time, guys.

If FCP works for you, great, very happy. But there are those of us who expected more of Apple based on their track record, and are disappointed. I don't see how that makes me a hypocrite or a bad person in any way.  And yet some here can't accept FCP's shortcomings as actual shortcomings, and that there are folks it doesn't work optimally for.  Oh well, not my problem.
Carsten Orlt's Avatar
Carsten Orlt replied the topic: #118390 12 Jan 2022 04:01
Hey Ben, I was only ‘poking the bear’ with the October comment 😉 I have no problem with you deciding that FCP isn’t for you anymore. What I do object too is to use one’s own opinion to generalise for other people whether it is useful and if it is that they can’t be ‘professional’.
I also don’t have a problem with Oliver listing a few Workflows that he finds handy but to title the article in a way to make it sound that because FCP might be lacking them it’s not ‘Pro’ enough I find highly misleading. I as a pro actually don’t miss them and find his Workflows actually too complicated for my own work.
So we should really end this discussion about some function is essential for being able to call yourself professional or the software you use professional. Use what works for you, make suggestions what you think would be cool and if you have the feeling another software works better for you use that 🌈
sampl_e's Avatar
sampl_e replied the topic: #118394 12 Jan 2022 09:13
Hi Oliver, just a quick question regarding the "flatten Multicam" workaround: does it preserve all resizes/transforms and applied effects?
JoeEditor's Avatar
JoeEditor replied the topic: #118398 12 Jan 2022 11:28
“What I do object too is to use one’s own opinion to generalise for other people whether it is useful and if it is that they can’t be ‘professional’.“

Neither of which I did.
Oliver Peters's Avatar
Oliver Peters replied the topic: #118401 12 Jan 2022 13:56
@sampl_e  "does it preserve all resizes/transforms and applied effects?"

I don't know, because I haven't tested that. Sorry.
Oliver Peters's Avatar
Oliver Peters replied the topic: #118402 12 Jan 2022 14:15
@Carsten " but to title the article in a way to make it sound that because FCP might be lacking them it’s not ‘Pro’ enough I find highly misleading"

Haha! Welcome to the internet :) Admittedly it's a bit "click-bait-y" but my intent was more a play on words rather than anything else.
Jamarvelous's Avatar
Jamarvelous replied the topic: #118652 27 Jan 2022 05:07
Months ago, I was inspired by a tutorial based on color coded video/audio roles and I tried it. I found the magic in working with video and audio roles. Improved my workflow speed significantly. It was nice being able to quickly identify by color what sound or music or speaker I need to tweak without skimming.

O man, and the paper edit.
Yeah! I didn’t need a feature, just a spreadsheet and transcribing software.

Thank you for sharing your experience and tips! I love FCP. It’s simple when I need it to be, and scales in sophistication as my projects evolve. I tried the other NLEs. I’m okay where I am. The app works great, lets me tell my story, much faster than the Avid/Premiere users that I worked amongst. Also, I never had my projects held hostage because my app couldn’t phone home and say my license it up to date if I couldn’t connect online, or the bill wasn't paid (gov’t finance personnel sometimes dropped the ball) I wasn’t out of commission. Bitter sweet of it was I was constantly sought out for projects.

When I transferred from editing in FCP 7 and in After Effects, I had to abandon the expectation that FCP worked like the other NLEs. I literally took a year off from using it. When I came back to it, I let it teach me how it works. I learned that easy is okay. Having fun editing is okay. “Cool video, could you change the music”…. Doesn’t hurt like it used to using other tools.

Kudos! I’ve followed the site for years. Never let me down. Keep crushing it, fam!