Please welcome a new author to FCP.co, Nick Harauz. He's an experienced Apple Certified Trainer and his first article is a detailed tutorial about maximising the use of roles in Final Cut Pro X.


When 10.3 was released, the way we work with roles improved significantly. In this article, we’re going to take an extensive look at roles, what possibilities they offer us and how to maximize them during post-production.

What are Roles?

So if you’re new to FCP 10.3 or were scratching your head at the beginning of this article, roles are essentially a tag given to media you import based on that assets metadata (data about data). For example, any title you create in FCPX is given a purple color, while video clips can be identified by blue.

Being able to have our media tagged based on their metadata is extremely powerful as it can allow us to organize and focus on a type of media efficiently, create sub-mixes at the role or sub role level and even control what and how we export out of our project.

Roles at Import

Roles are automatically assigned to clips at import. If you head to your Final Cut Pro – Preferences, under the import tab you’ll see how this works for audio (the same is true for video, there’s just no option to change the automatic assignment).

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Leaving it set to automatic will give FCPX the power to create roles based on what it see’s from your assets metadata.

So let’s say you new everything you were about to import was music, you could switch the automatic assignment to music and it would then bring any audio you import in as music.

On top of this is the ability to use iXML to create track names if available. If your sound recordist has the ability to use iXML in their recording device, they could name each of the audio sources being recorded. That data would then be seen in FCPX and inside the multichannel audio file, names would be applied to each source accordingly without you having to do it manually.

It should also be noted that now in 10.3, if a clip contains multiple audio components, a unique subrole name is given to each one. (ie: a clip with six channels of music might label each audio component as Music-1, Music-2 , Music-3, Music-4, Music-5 and Music-6)

Roles in the Browser

To see what roles have been assigned by default select the asset in question and go to the Modify Menu – Assign Video Roles (alternatively ctrl-click a clip). Whatever is checked is the current role assigned to the clip.

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The current selected clip is assigned to the role Video

You can assign a different role and edit roles from the modify menu. Under Edit Roles you can create, merge and delete subroles as well as change the color of a primary role. In my workflow, I sometimes adjust the type of roles using the Inspector. In the example below, I’m in the Organize workspace where I have 3 clips selected in the browser.

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Video and audio role data added to basic metadata view. (Right click for larger images)

In the inspector, I edited the metadata view of the basic layout to include video and audio roles.

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Under video roles, I decide to edit the roles. On the video role, I create a subrole called B-roll by clicking the plus icon.

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Now that it’s created, I select the B-roll sub-role from the list and all three selected clips are assigned to it.

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The 3 selected clips have the subrole B-Roll assigned to them from the inspector

Roles in the Timeline and Timeline Index 

Similar to the browser, you can select a clip and using the modify menu assign a new role to a clip and use edit roles to add merge and delete subroles. Another great way to do this is by using the timeline index. To access it click the button that says index and click on the roles tab.

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Timeline Index and Roles Tab selected

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Here you can see all the roles that have been created. If you created subroles click on the expand option that appears to the right of the primary role.

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Clicking Expand will reveal the subroles for Titles

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Subroles of Titles and Video are displayed after clicking Expand

If you click on a role or subrole, you’ll see that the selected role becomes highlighted in the timeline. If you click the checkmark next to the role or subrole, it will disable it all the assets associated with it.

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At the bottom of the index is the Edit Roles option we’ve seen available from the modify menu or ctrl-clicking a clip. The Show Audio Lanes button is new though. If you press it all your audio will be separated into lanes in the timeline and audio that is connected to video will be shown in it’s own lane.

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If you select an audio lane in the timeline index, you can rearrange the order. You can also disable an individual lane, expand/collapse a lane to reveal/hide any sub-roles and focus on a lane to isolate audio from within one role, while minimising all the others.

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Audio Lanes were rearranged. Music is now above effects

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The focus indicator is on for dialogue minimizing the music and effects lane

Voice Overs and Roles

When you record a voice over in Final Cut from the Window menu, you can assign it to the role of your choice. In the example below, I created a sub-role called voice over under dialogue using Edit Roles and assigned the voice over to it under the advanced settings.

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Submixing and Compound Clips

So you may be asking where else can assigning audio roles lead me? Let’s say you want to do some mixing of an entire role or subrole of audio (ie: apply equalization, add compression) In FCP 10.3 you can now create a compound clip with all your assets.

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Once the compound clip is created (think nest if you come from Premiere) you’ll see that it contains all your video and audio separated based on the roles assigned. The badge next to the film icon shows the audio is being mixed down. The subroles are being mixed to their parent roles.

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A compound clip with multiple audio roles

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The best part about this is I can apply an effect onto these roles or adjust the audio enhancements that are stamped onto clips. Once I make a change anything associated with that role is affected. You can also change from working with roles to subroles. Simply select the compound clip and in the audio tab of the inspector under audio configuration switch it from Roles to Subroles.

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Roles at Export

We can also use roles at export to deliver different versions of a project as well as hand off our audio for final mixing if required.

The roles can be exported as separate elements or what Apple refers to as media stems. After you choose what format you’d like to share your project in, head to the settings tab and under Roles as choose Separate Files.

In the example, below I chose to limit the export of my Title roles to only include the french subroles. You can also choose to remove an entire role from export by clicking the minus button that appears to the right of the role.

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Roles as Separate Files has been selected. The subrole French is being exported instead of the entire title role

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The minus button to remove a role from export


As you can see, working with roles in Final Cut Pro 10.3 opens up a multitude of options for working with audio from import to export. For more detailed information, Apple has a new white paper all about audio roles that you can find here.

Audio Roles

For general info on roles, simply head to the FCP help menu.


nick harauz

Nick Harauz is an Apple and Adobe Certified Trainer. He has an uncanny ability to engage his students and create a level of relatedness that keeps them coming back for more.

Since 2002, Nick also works with domestic and international brands offering video production and motion graphic services. He has worked with clients such as Proctor and Gamble and Virgin Mobile. You can find some of his online training for FCPX on Lynda.com.

Follow me on Twitter @clipsandhandles

Website www.clipsandhandles.com


Written by

Nick Harauz is an experienced marketing director, post-production specialist, and creativity expert. Driven by his passion to help spark and sustain creativity in others, Harauz speaks on creativity, hosts the podcast Flow State: Stories From the Creative Process, and is currently writing his second book Finding Creativity in Uncertain Times.

Harauz is the Director of Product Marketing at Boris FX and has over seventeen years of experience as an Adobe, Avid, and FCP certified trainer.  Harauz is regarded within the post-production community for his deep knowledge of host applications mixed with a relatability that keeps students engaged.

In addition to his training expertise, Harauz has worked as an editor and motion graphics artist for domestic and international clients, including Proctor and Gamble, Virgin Mobile, and Blackberry. He has also directed and filmed noted celebrities including Lady Gaga and Richard Branson and co-edited the feature documentary My Father and the Man in Black, the untold story of Johnny Cash.

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