Time for part three of Sam Mestman and Patrick Southern's very popular series on the workflow, techniques and tips needed in getting a 5K feature made, from shooting, right through to distribution. This time it is all about editing in FCPX and they also include a rundown of essential third-party tools.


In Part 1, we talk about On-set workflow for FCPX. In part 2, we focused on how to take advantage of the media management and organizational tools.

In Part 3, we are going to focus on the fun part, which is how to maximize the editing experience in FCPX.

We've compiled a ton of useful features and strategies that should make your edit significantly more efficient. If you truly absorb all of the information, videos, and links here, you’re going to find yourself blazing through edits significantly faster you could with any other NLE.

If you are working with others, you will find that you are able to revise and iterate significantly faster with our shared workflow tips & tricks that will work beautifully on a Jellyfish or ShareStation (mention FCP.co and save 10%).

To give you a great overview of what mastery over an FCPX edit looks like and how fast you can truly be in this application, start with this video from Thomas Grove Carter:

Fully Understanding the 10.3 Update

Apple recently presented at LACPUG and went deep on the numerous timeline improvements in FCPX 10.3.

Final Cut Pro X 10.3 Workflow at LACPUG

Final Cut Pro X 10.3 - 10 Tips and Tricks at LACPUG

Training for FCPX

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When it comes to a basic knowledge of FCPX and Motion, these articles assume that you have have a general understanding of basic editing functionality within the app.

They are meant as cheat sheets for medium to advanced users to help you take your workflow to the next level.

If you are a beginner with Final Cut Pro X, the best way to get up to speed is through Ripple Training’s Tutorials. Those can get you up and running fast. Steve and Mark are the top two trainers in the business. They host a series of Macbreak Studio and Under 5 tips and Ripple Training tutorials that provide amazing tips for FCPX and Motion.

Online training is also available from Lynda.com, MacProVideo and Larry Jordan.

A New Approach to Finding the Right Clip

In other NLE’s, Most editors either spend a lot of time making and renaming subclips, or pulling selects into a timeline for review. These both require lengthy prep and are more difficult to work with than necessary. Subclips don't give you easy access to the full-length clip, and long string-outs can be difficult to navigate for a specific clip.

None of this is necessary in FCPX. You can use a variety of tools within FCPX to find what you’re looking for. You can leverage the search bar, Smart Collections, Favorites, Rejects, Keywords, notes fields, and Markers to help you filter your choices to display exactly the thing you're looking for.

The truth is that the tools for finding footage in FCPX are light years ahead of what is present in other NLE’s. When used correctly, they can revolutionize the way you work and exponentially increase your speed as an editor.

One way to do this is using Favorites rather than Stringouts or Subclips. To start, switch your Browser from List View to Filmstrip View (Command+Option+2 to Toggle). Close the timeline (Control+Command+2). Select View>Browser>Continuous Playback.

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If you are working with Multicam Clips, open the Angle Viewer (Command+Shift+7). Select the Event of the Scene you want to watch and start playback. With “Continuous Playback” selected, you will now be able to play through each take seamlessly, without need to click or use the keyboard to move down the list.

As you find outstanding performances, set In and Out points and add a Favorite ("F" on the keyboard). You can then Toggle between Filmstrip and List View to rename the Favorites to give them a more descriptive name.

If you notice variations in the kind of performance, you can create performance Keywords, such as “Comedic”, “Dry”, “Angry”, “Contemplative”, etc.

You can then easily change the Browser view from “Hide Rejected” to Favorites to then watch all of your selects. Your performance Keyword Collections can act as string-outs too. Don’t forget to return to “Hide Rejected” to see the entire performance of each take.

Quick Tip: When you rename favorites, they become searchable in the browser. To do this, select the clip with the favorite on it and click “tab”. The little arrow will twirl down, and you will be able to find your favorite. Select it, click enter, and you can rename it however you would like. If you don’t want to see your clips favorites listed in List view, click the Left arrow and the arrow will twirl back up.

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Filmstrip vs. List View 

Full disclosure, I used to be one of those people who thought Filmstrip view was for amateurs. I am now willing to admit I was wrong.

While I do spend most of my prep process in List view, I now spend most of my actual edit in Filmstrip view once I have my metadata (Clip Names, Notes, Favorites, Rejects, Keywords, Markers, etc.)

. If you have your master Smart Collection, or your Events and Keywords laid out properly and prepped ahead of time, you can allow those to do your filtering for you (along with Rejects and Favorites). Then the Thumbnail view (along with the new continuous playback feature in the browser) literally becomes your new best friend. It’s just another example of how deep the functionality of FCPX can become, and how much of an unlearning curve there really is.

Managing Projects (Sequences)

Project Settings

It's always good to start out on the right foot. That being the case, it is important to set your Project settings with your deliverables in mind before you cut in a single frame of footage.

To get started, select "File>New>Project" (Command+N). When the Project settings pop up, click "Use Custom Settings". If you don't see that button, don't worry. You're already looking at the Custom Settings. Awesome!

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After you name the Project, it's time to set the Starting Timecode. Networks and studios often require a slate at the top of your major sequences, in which case, you'll need to change the Starting Timecode so that the first frame of picture can land at 01:00:00:00.

For example, setting your timecode to 00:59:50:00 allows for 10 seconds of total slate time. Tony Gallardo made an easy to use slate template for FCPX 10.3 including 2-pop. There is also a great Head Leader and Tail Leader available on Vimeo.

When you download them, you'll need to right click, select "Open Clip" and nudge the audio 1 frame to the right with the period (.) key. For whatever reason, the audio is out of sync by a single frame on both of these.

Once you have your Starting Timecode set, it's time to select a video resolution. It's best to set your resolution based on your highest resolution deliverable. In our case, the highest resolution deliverable is UHD (the TV standard for 4K). So we chose 4K as our the format, and 3840x2160 for the resolution. Set your framerate based on the requirements of the deliverable as well. Hopefully you knew your delivery before shooting and shot in the required framerate. In many cases, the studio or network will give you a few options. In our case, we were able to shoot and deliver in 23.98p.

For Rendering, ProRes 422 is often fine during editing. However, in some high-end feature film editorial scenarios, if the show requires lots of heavy color grading and VFX, you may want to use a mastering codec like ProRes 4444 XQ.

If you shot with a camera that supports wide color and have at least one deliverable that needs it, set your Color Space to Rec. 2020. If it isn't available, you need to go back to your Library Settings and switch from Standard to Wide Color. Most TV deliverables don't require Rec. 2020. If you are, however, delivering to a theater or in HDR, then Rec. 2020 is the way to go.

In most cases, Stereo is fine for you audio channel configuration. If you are doing a 5.1 or greater audio delivery and have surround monitoring in your edit bay, set the audio to 5.1.

Project Management: Duplicate vs. Duplicate As Snapshot

Working day to day, it is often sufficient to "Duplicate" (Command+D) your Project. However, there are certain points in time when you will want to use "Duplicate As Snapshot" (Shift+Command+D). Here’s when/how to use each option:

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Duplicate Project - This simply duplicates your project for versioning.  Use this as your default as you go through your edits so that you can go back in time and see old edits and split things off for Sound and Color.

The main thing you’ll want to be aware of is that if you make any changes to Compound Clips or Multicam clips, those changes are going to ripple back through ALL of your other projects in FCPX, which could create unforeseen issues. If you need to 100% preserve a version in time, you should not only "Duplicate" your project, but ALSO make "Duplicate As Snapshot".

Duplicate As Snapshot - Snapshots are great for preserving milestones in your edit, but they do have some gotchas that you need to be aware of.

Snapshots essentially freeze your edit in time, and that means it needs to make unique instances of all your clips. This means that if you match frame to a Compound or Multicam clip within a Snapshot, it will create duplicate clips in the Browser.

It is advisable to use "Duplicate As Snapshot" at every major iteration of the Project. For example, when you hit rough cut, fine cut, and picture lock, or Editor/Director/Producer cuts in TV, you should use "Duplicate As Snapshot” as well as a standard duplicate to work from.

It would also be advisable to use "Duplicate As Snapshot" when you plan on making a lot of changes to Compound Clip or Multicam Clips. This may happen if you have a library that has a lot of branded content and those elements change over time or are periodically updated with new elements.

Lastly, you should ALWAYS make a Snapshot when you deliver your final mastered project to freeze prevent any potential long term hiccups as your final edit may be continually reused for new deliverables.  That Snapshot of your final mastered timeline becomes your insurance policy.

Adding Footage to Your Timeline

Now that you’ve reviewed your dailies, it’s time to start putting your scene together. First you’ll want to make a new Project, choose “Custom Settings” and set the Color Space to Rec. 2020. To add footage to your timeline, you’ll use the Q,W,E,D keys.

  • Q - Connect Clip. Adds Video above the Primary Storyline and Audio beneath the Primary Storyline at the location of the Skimmer or Playhead.
  • W - Insert Edit. Inserts the clip to either the Primary Storyline or a selected Secondary Storyline at the Skimmer or Playhead.
  • E - Append Edit. Adds the clip to the end of either the Primary Storyline or a selected Secondary Storyline.
  • D - Overwrite Edit. Overwrites footage in the Primary Storyline or Secondary Storyline with the selected Clip.

Editing Without The Mouse

If you know the keyboard shortcuts in FCPX, it’s kind of amazing how little you need to touch the keyboard. Check out this video I did for Macbreak Studio to see some of what’s possible: 


Editing Multicam in FCPX is simple and straight forward. Cut your Multicam into the timeline like you would any other clip and switch your angles either by click on your angles in the Angle Viewer, or by pressing the number on the keyboard corresponding to your desired Angle.

Leave your audio angle the same while you cut by selecting the filmstrip icon in the Angle Viewer. Because Multicam clips are “Reference” clips, if you make changes inside of one copy of a Multicam clip, those changes are rippled to every other instance of that Multicam clip. That means you could apply and Effect or Color Correction (or sound compressors/EQ) to a clip in the Angle Editor, and it would affect every instance of the Multicam Clip throughout all of your existing Projects.

Also check out these handy Top Ten Final Cut Pro X Multicam Editing Tips.

Blending Takes

If you want to seamlessly blend two takes of a scene from the same angle, Final Cut Pro X gives you two ways to do just that! Say you were cutting a Close Up of Actor A. Perhaps Actor A’s reading of Line 01 was great from Take 01 and Line 02 was best delivered in Take 02. If Actor A’s head position isn’t terribly far off between takes, you can cut the two line deliveries together and use the new “Flow Transition” to smooth out the jump cut.

Now say you had a Medium 2-Shot and you wanted to use Take 01 for Actor A, and Take 02 for Actor B. You could create a Split Screen composition by adding Take 02 as a Connected Clip above Take 01 and then using the either the Graduated Mask or Draw Mask Effects on Take 02. Adjust the Feather amount to taste. 

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Once you have your composition between the two takes set up properly, create a Compound Clip by selecting the two clips and pressing “Option+G”. Save the Compound Clip to your Compound Clip Event. Going forward, the two clips will be treated as one. Now you can add additional Effects or Transitions without having to Copy/Paste between clips or worry about losing sync.


There are many ways to Trim a Cat…I mean...video. Final Cut Pro X provides some pretty awesome tools for trimming things down once they are in the Timeline.

Of course, there are the classic Ripple, Roll, Slip, and Slide trim options available either by dragging with the mouse, using "nudge frame" shortcuts, or by typing in a positive or negative numerical value. If desired, you can “Loop Playback" (Command+L) while trimming. If you then select an edit point and use “Play Around” (Shift+?), you can use the keyboard to Trim while watching your edit in context.

Additionally, you can select one or more clips and “Trim Start” (Option+Left Bracket) or “Trim End” (Option+Right Bracket) to snap the beginning or end of those clips to the Skimmer or Playhead. I personally like mapping "Trim Start" and "Trim End" to the G & H keys. 

If you need to change the overall duration of a clip or group of clips by a specific amount, you can use the “Change Duration” command (Control+D).

If you simply type in a value, the clip’s duration will reflect that new value. However, if you use the "+" or "-“ modifiers, you can add or subtract the value from the existing duration of a clip or clips.

You can also change the duration of a clip by changing that clip’s speed. There is an entire menu dedicated to retiming tools. You can change the speed of an entire clip, make variable speed changes using the “Blade Speed” command, or even conform a 60fps clip to a 24p timeline by using the “Automatic Speed” command.

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Motion Integration

If using the built in Effects, Titles, and Transitions seems a little bland to you, you can make your own in Motion! Through a process called “Rigging”, you can add controls to your Motion projects in FCPX. Once your custom Motion made Effect, Title, or Transition has been Published, add it to your Project as you would anything else.

If you need to pass your Project to another editor, make certain your Motion Templates are set to save “In Library” in the Library Properties pane. Make sure to pass Projects using the “Copy To Library” command so your Motion Templates pass properly between Libraries.

If you’re wondering how to manage Motion Templates in a shared environment, especially on a Jellyfish (the only shared storage specifically designed and optimized for FCPX), look no further than this video that we put together on the subject:

Motion is awesome. If you want to figure out how to get better at Motion, Mark Spencer’s Motion Tutorials will blow your mind, and are maybe the best tutorials for any app I’ve ever seen.

In particular, I highly recommend "Shapes, Paint Strokes and Masks in Motion 5", "Using the 3D Camera in Motion 5", and "Rigging & Publishing in Motion 5". Additionally, he has done a whole series of free Motion Videos with Ripple Trainings Motion Magic in Under 5 Minutes series. We actually used two of them to help us build the Lumaforge Intro Video out of a single 3D Text character (see the intro of the embedded video above).

Recommended 3rd Party Apps and Plugins


Intelligent Assistance - Intelligent Assistance gets their own category of apps because they deserve it. They’ve done more to fill out FCPX Workflow than anyone on the planet.

  • SendtoX - Get your FCP7 and Creative Cloud projects into FCPX. Invaluable.
  • XtoCC - Does the opposite of SendtoX. Also invaluable.
  • Sync N Link - The use cases for this app have been well documented in these articles. It automatically synchronized and multicam clips for you from your original video and second system audio files using jam-synced timecode.
  • Lumberjack - An amazing system for Documentary and Unscripted content. Can be used to log footage AS IT IS BEING SHOT and can tie your transcripts to your footage.

This presentation from Marc Bach is a must watch to see what’s possible with Lumberjack:

  • Producer’s Best Friend - Allows you to generate all kinds of useful reports from FCPX Projects. Especially great for paper deliverables when working with studios and networks.
  • FinderCat - Turns your finder into an Asset Manager!


  • X2Pro - A must own if you’re delivering to Pro Tools or Logic from FCPX.
  • Shot Notes X - We’ve covered this one in-depth as well, but it’s the ultimate tool for FCPX Project Prep.
  • Library Manager - A great way to manage your FCPX Libraries.
  • Rampant Design Tools - These guys make amazing Graphic Design elements.
  • Premium Beat - A really good place to find stock music.
  • Subvert - The best way to do Subtitles with FCPX
  • Vordio - The ultimate way to get into Reaper from FCPX.
  • Redcine-X - A great companion to get the most out of you RED footage in FCPX
  • frame.io - Fantastic app for dailies and client review for your FCPX projects.
  • Speedscriber - Automatically transcribes clips in FCPX. Awesome.
  • Media Copy - Copies clips associated with an XML to a new location. Works great with Ximport AE


  • Color FInale - If you want to do Color Grading the right way in FCPX, you’ll need this.
  • Coremelt SliceX, TrackX, DriveX - If you have any interest in doing heavy tracking in FCPX, you will need some combination of these 3 tools.
  • Alex4D - Simple and easy to use effects. Alex4D has done so much for the plugin community it’s insane.
  • Dashwood 360VR Toolbox - Yes, VR is possible with FCPX, and the only way to do it is with this plugin (and It’s actually really easy to do with this plugin).
  • Hawaiki Super Dissolve - Insanely flexible dissolves. If you've ever felt limited by the dissolves in any NLE, this is the transition you've been looking for.
  • Ripple Callouts - A must have for tutorial or industrial videos.
  • XEffects Messages and Social Media - If you need to mimic Facebook/Twitter/Instagram or your iPhone, this is the way to do it.
  • Nodes - A great particle/replicator tool used in many a Hollywood film. Great for making high-tech looking displays within a scene.
  • Mosaic - Insane pixel texturing and ASCII effects with adaptive tiling.
  • Izotope RX5 - Dialogue De-noiser and De-reverb are must haves.
  • Crumplepop AudioDenoise and EchoRemover - Less expensive alternatives to iZotope's tools. Simpler controls and often just as helpful.
  • XSend Motion - Finally, someone figured out how to roundtrip to Motion.
  • Ximport AE - Imports FCPXML into After Effects. Works great with Media Copy.
  • Luca Visual FX - Luca makes a host of amazing plugins for FCPX. "Hi-Tech", "Lo-Fi Look", and "Shuffle" are among my favorites.
  • Motion VFX - These guys are awesome.


Editing audio in FCPX 10.3 is great. Using the Roles and Subroles you set up earlier, FCPX organizes your audio into “Lanes”. Lanes are similar to Tracks, except way more flexible. For example, a lane can contain any number of layers of audio so as to prevent clip collisions when audio overlaps. To see Lanes, simply select “Show Lanes” in the Timeline Index. You can switch the vertical order of Lanes to your heart’s content. You can also put “Focus” on a single lane, minimizing all other lanes.

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With all Lanes visible, you can use “Command+Up Arrow” and “Command+Down Arrow” to select the Clip above or below the currently active clip. With a clip selected, you can use the “Toggle Audio Fade In” and “Toggle Audio Fade Out” commands to add audio fades to your clips. However, neither command is automatically assigned a keyboard shortcut, so you’ll need to customize your keyboard layout to access them.

When adding audio to your Timeline, you can easily access the included Sound Effects Library and your iTunes Library from the Browser. You can even set the iTunes Library on your computer to a shared storage location by holding “Option” while opening the iTunes app. This allows you to share you music cues with an entire group of editors without having to share FCPX Libraries.

Recording Voiceover

Recording VO in 10.3 is pretty awesome. You can now assign a Role or Subrole to your VO before recording, and it will snap to the right place in the Timeline. If you record multiple takes in a row, FCPX will automatically create and Audition of your VO. Press “Y” to see the various takes. Press the Spacebar to start playback, and switch to the various takes to hear them in context.

Addressing Notes

Similar to the Dailies process, as you finish versions of a cut, you can upload them to Frame.io. As you receive notes, you can add “To-Do” markers to track where changes need to take place and whether or not a specific task has been completed.

“To-Do” markers are searchable in the Timeline Index, making it quick and easy to jump between them and check off tasks that have been completed. New to FCPX 10.3 is the ability to Copy Timecode from a document paste it into FCPX. This saves a lot of time if you are receiving typed notes with timecode stamps from a Director or Producer.

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That’s all for part 3. In part 4, we’ll be giving best practices for setting up a shared editing environment and how to finish your project entirely in FCPX. If you have any deeper questions at all about how to make any of this work for your productions… please reach out to us over at Lumaforge.

For existing LumaForge customers… not only did you buy the only shared storage specifically optimized for FCPX, but we have your back on the workflow side too. When you bought our storage, you also bought our brains. We want to work with you to take your productions to the next level. Lastly, if you’re a filmmaker in Los Angeles looking to find other people to make movies with, there’s no better place than We Make Movies, and if you’d like to become a member, you can do so here.

Written by
Top BloggerThought Leader

Sam Mestman is a lead contributor for FCP.co, the CEO of We Make Movies, and the founder of LumaForge.  

He’s had all the jobs and done all the things… but and more than anything… he's a guy who likes making movies, telling stories, and making the film industry faster, better, and cheaper.  

You can follow him on IG/Twitter at @sammestman.  You can see his film community at @wemakemovies or www.wemakemovies.org

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