Continuing our look at Final Cut Pro X for Premiere editors, Chris Roberts takes a look at the different editing techniques you can employ. There are some big changes and Chris gives you the information you need to know to get up to speed.
There are a number of techniques that often crop up when discussing editing, and obviously we’re all different in the sorts of things we’re used to doing.
The tools in Premiere Pro are much more refined than those in Final Cut Pro 7 (anyone ever really use the Group Selection tool? Honestly?). However, in Final Cut Pro X we’ve got a smaller selection of tools (7 compared to Premiere’s 12).
The Select, Blade, Zoom and Hand tools are probably all familiar and the Trim tool is a single tool that performs ripple, roll, slip and slide edits. The Range tool is quite useful for many functions (it effectively adds in and out points across footage on your timeline from which you can choose to do a number of things such as reduce audio levels, remove keyframes or portions of clips).
The Position tool though is worthy of mention as this effectively “turns off” the magnetic timeline, though this is quite a crude way of thinking of it.
Whereas with the Select tool you can freely reposition and trim footage, and the magnetic timeline does its thing, the functionality of the Position tool is much more what a Premiere editor expects from her Selection tool in that it allows you to move footage freely, lifting, overwriting and leaving gaps. This is very useful, especially when used in conjunction with the roll, slip and slide functionality of the Trim tool, if you have already cut your edit to time and need to refine things.
Gap clips themselves are useful for pacing your edits and can be added separately using Edit > Insert Generator > Gap
Instead of tracks, the timeline in FCP X functions using a feature called clip connections. If a clip in’t sitting directly in the primary storyline, it has to be connected to the primary storyline at some point.
Thankfully, the visual clutter in the timeline in FCP 10.3 has been reduced by only displaying connection lines when a connected clip is selected; otherwise connection points are indicated by little dots or flecks along the primary storyline. Though a clip will be connected from its head by default, you can adjust the point at which its connected - and it’s important to consider where a clip, title, secondary storyline is actually connected, particularly when dealing with split edits.
You can adjust the connection point by CMD-ALT-Clicking a connected clip where you want to move the connection point to.
On the flip side, if you want to move a clip in the primary storyline, but not the connected items, hold down the tilde key (the one with the ~ symbol) as you make the selection. This ignores the clip connections on the selection as you move it.
One of the most powerful but often overlooked features of editing in FCP X is the use of secondary storylines and you should start using them as soon as you have more than one connected clip next to another.
Secondary storylines gather separately connected clips into one “group” that is itself connected to the primary storyline. Secondary storylines can help the trimming of connected clips as the storyline allows changes to be made to a clip in the context of other clips within the storyline.
For example, a series of individually connected clips will (thanks to the magnetic timeline) ignore each other if you trim one, but placing them into a storyline allows the trailing clips within that storyline to be affected by trimming any of the preceding clips, but won’t affect any subsequent connected clips, storylines, etc (thanks to the magnetic timeline).
There are a number of overlays you can display from the viewer’s view menu in FCP X but one thing that’s missing from this menu is timecode overlays, which were introduced in Premiere Pro a few versions ago.
The timecode display in the middle of the viewer is contextual, so it will show either source or project timecode, depending on what you’re looking at. But what if you want to see the source timecode for a clip in the timeline?
In this case, choose View > Clip Skimming. Now when you skim across a clip in the timeline, the timecode viewer will display that clip’s source timecode.
I still believe the true mark of a professional NLE is its trimming functionality - after all, as editors this is what we do day in, day out.
Before the CC versions, Premiere Pro’s the trimming tools were dire. These days they are very flexible indeed. In comparison, FCP’s trimming is best described as functional and though I can’t say that it’s ever prevented me from doing anything, it’s certainly limited in what you may be used to.
The Trim tool is a wonderful multifunctional tool: it can be used to ripple, roll and slip a clip (depending on where you position it); slide can be invoked by holding down the option key; and you can use keyboard shortcuts and timecode input to trim if you don’t like dragging.
However, you can only trim one clip at a time. So, if you are an editor who likes to perform complicated asymmetric trims across multiple clips and tracks, you may find FCP’s trimming options slightly frustrating. That said, I’d probably argue that the magnetic timeline and clip connections make the necessity of performing such complicated edits slightly redundant, but I have to say that just occasionally I’ve wanted a bit more flexibility in being able to select more than one edit point or trim two or three clips together.
FCP does have a (sort of) equivalent to Premiere Pro’s Trim Edit view. The precision editor can be opened by double-clicking any edit point. This opens an expanded view showing the handles of the incoming and outgoing clips, which you can skim and play through using JKL.
To trim you simple click where you’d like the edit to move to. It works well but, again, if you’re expecting a dynamic trim feature, you’ll be slightly disappointed. However, I have found a similar functionality can be invoked with a bit of practice by using the extend edit command (Shift-X) to perform the edit.
Audio Cross Dissolves
Another common question I get asked is can we apply audio fades quickly between clips? Many editors (those working in news, for example) want to be able to quickly smooth the audio edits of clips with nat sound: easy enough to do these days in Premiere by applying an audio cross dissolve.
First of all, it’s worth pointing out that all transitions in Final Cut Pro automatically fade the audio of any clip they’re applied to (unless the clip is expanded prior to applying it). So, with that in mind you could create your own transition in Motion that leaves the video to cut, but will cross fade the audio. If you’re feeling lazy or don’t have Motion, Alex Gollner created a free Sound Only transition a while back.
However, I am a huge fan of the audio fade handles available on every audio clip in FCP X as I find I can really control the cross fade as all audio editing in FCP works at the subframe level by default. (I’ll even go so far as to say that I believe I’ve never had a bad audio edit in Final Cut Pro X.)
And now, with the new Modify > Adjust Volume > Apply Fades command, it’s easy to quickly apply a fade at the top and tail of all selected clips. It won’t overlap the audio for you - that you’ll have to do yourself - but it does mean you no longer have to apply each fade manually.
Just because Final Cut Pro presents its clips as a single item, rather than the separate segments for audio and video in Premiere Pro, doesn’t mean you can’t do clever things with them. For example, creating split edits is a breeze.
I would advise caution if you detach audio regularly. Unlike unlinking clips in Premiere, detaching audio is pretty much a one-way process.
Once your audio is separate from the video it’s not straightforward to put it back and you have to be careful not to knock it out of sync - unlike Premiere there are no out of sync indicators!
Instead, expanding clips is a much better way. Double-click the audio waveform of the clip and the audio will expand out allowing you to trim the audio and video separately to create your splits. If you ALT-double-click, the individual audio channels expand. Double-Click or ALT-double-click again to collapse the audio back whilst preserving your edits.
With the advent of audio lanes in version 10.3, this is made much easier as audio is automatically expanded once you choose to show audio lanes.
One issue often raised is that if we don’t have tracks how can we choose which audio channels we need to edit with - particularly as a clip with 8 source channels isn’t unusual?
In Premiere, you might edit the clip into the timeline before deleting the tracks you don’t want. Or (more likely) you might use the source patching to choose which tracks from the source clip you do want (and their destination tracks in the timeline). If you’re being a real know-all (sorry, I know that’s me) you could use the audio channels dialogue to configure and enable just the source channels you need.
(right click for larger image)
In Final Cut Pro, you would use the audio inspector of the selected clip(s) to disable or enable the appropriate audio channels. You can do this either in the browser prior to editing, or in the timeline once it has been edited.
Alternatively, you could reveal the audio components of a clip in the timeline where you can choose which parts of which source channel are being used.
Parts of the audio channels can be selected, copied and pasted to other parts of the timeline; audio effects and roles can be applied to individual channels - there are so many examples of how these features can be used, hopefully many others can give examples in the comments.
Finally, once completed, the audio components can be collapsed back, making the timeline nice and neat.
No, there is no audio mixer in FCP X, unlike Premiere which has two! This is probably top of the list of most editors working in FCP X. That’s not to say you can’t mix your audio live, it’s just that you can’t record adjustments as keyframe changes, otherwise known as automation.
All audio adjustments are made at the clip level, though “track-based” organisation (without the tracks, obvz) can be accomplished by applying appropriate roles to your audio and then showing the audio lanes.
Alternatively, you can create a compound clip (similar to a nest in Premiere Pro) of your edit to be able to adjust and apply audio effects to the roles together:
Multiple Timelines and Stringouts
Unlike in Premiere, where you can have multiple timeline open in different timeline tabs, in FCP X you can only have one timeline viewable at the same time. You can, of course, have multiple projects, but can only view one of those at any one time. If you do need to work with multiple timelines, then you can use the timeline history buttons either side of the timecode window to move back and forth between them. Click and hold to see a list enabling you to jump to the particular timeline you’re after.
Admittedly, it’s not the same as having multiple timelines tabs and if you open up another project or compound clip in the timeline, this will disrupt which timelines you can jump forward to.
Many editors that I’ve spoken to over the years have said they have to work with multiple timelines however, often using one timeline to stringout the rushes from a particular shoot and then edit from one timeline to another. I understand this process and have come across it numerous times. I would argue that viewing your rushes as filmstrips in the event, organising by date created and turning on continuous playback does a similar job. I doubt it will satisfy the hardcore proponents of this workflow though.
If you work in an environment where you often share (or even just simply access) others’ Premiere Pro project files, one limitation of FCP X’s libraries is that only one person can access them at any one time. If you need to share projects, events or other elements with other FCP X editors, you should consider using an intermediate library (that is a library that exists to be opened, have stuff copied to it and closed again) or use XMLs (see later) that can be used to transfer projects, events or even whole libraries.
There’s no “Title Tool” in Final Cut Pro X - all titles are created in Motion and published to Final Cut Pro. If you’re looking for a straightforward title, use the Basic Title. You can even apply this as a connected title using Control-T on your keyboard.
If you need to use multiple titles with the same formatting, you can simply copy and paste an existing title in Final Cut Pro; each instance of the title is independent so you can adjust it without it affecting other titles, unlike in Premiere where you need to create a new title for each instance.
If you want to have more controls over your title animations, try using the Custom Title - the published parameters for this title allow you to adjust the incoming and outgoing animations.
And so onto delivery, and Final Cut Pro X is perfectly capable of delivering broadcast-standard files. For example, choosing File > Share > Master File will give you options to export to a QuickTime .mov files using ProRes 422 and uncompressed audio, as well as AVC-Intra 100.
If you need to deliver using the AS-11 standard, then change the format to MXF and AVC-Intra 100. For audio, delivering mixed stereo channels with additional clean M&E tracks is as easy as choosing the appropriate roles from the list. (You should assign roles at the beginning of your edit rather than the end. Nick Harauz recently wrote a good article on maximising the use of roles.)
The default list of sharing options can be easily expanded. Going to Final Cut Pro > Preferences > Destinations gives a list of other formats FCP X can export to. Adding another Export File destination to the list means we can customise the settings in the same manner and save this as a custom preset. Alternatively you can access customised Compressor presets, even if Compressor isn’t installed on your system!
Other options for sharing preview files, etc exist too. And the great thing about sharing in Final Cut Pro is that it’s remarkably quick, very reliable and a background task.
As for other output options, whilst FCP X doesn’t have all the options that Premiere does for outputting EDLs, AAFs, etc, there are a variety of third-party tools which fill this gap.
FCP X’s XML file isn’t the same as the old-style FCP7 XML files Premiere Pro uses. However, Intelligent Assistance’s XtoCC tool allows you to translate the FCPXML to something Premiere can handle, should you need to do that. Similarly SendToX will allow an XML from Premiere to be imported in to FCP X.
If you want/need to go old school, then Rainer Standke’s EDL-X will create a CMX 3600 EDL from the FCPXML.
For audio, Marquis Broadcast offer X2Pro which takes the FCPXML and creates an AAF so you can send your audio to the dubbing mixer using Pro Tools.
The argument is sometimes made as to why FCP X doesn’t have all this functionality already to built in? My answer (whether it’s right or wrong) is that not everyone needs this functionality. If however you do, then a small additional cost to add it should be an acceptable compromise.