Final Cut Pro is fast, but you can probably still work faster. While there are many, many shortcuts to learn, I’ve found that the best shortcuts are the ones you can hit with a single hand, and ideally, with a single key, without any modifiers at all.
The joy of the one-key shortcut is how direct it can be — these are keys you can hit and immediately get on with the edit. Even ⌘S to save (in any other app, of course) feels slow when you compare it to, say, the space bar to play or pause, or T for the Trim tool.
This article isn’t really about precisely which keys you should assign these shortcuts to, because different keyboards and control surfaces offer different possibilities there. And indeed, if you explore CommandPost’s deep support for control surfaces (like a Stream Deck, Monogram Creative Console, Loupedeck and so on) you’ll open up a whole new world of one-key buttons. Still, even with just a regular keyboard, there are spare keys just waiting to be assigned.
You’ll assign all these keys through the standard Command Editor, found at Final Cut Pro > Commands > Customize. Search for each command in the top right, see them in the list below, then drag them onto the key above to assign it. But what, I hear you ask, are those keys that are worth spending a whole key on? I’m glad you’ve asked.
Set Volume to Silence (-∞dB)
This command is so useful, I’m surprised it’s not a default. To be clear, you can choose to only bring in the audio or video part of a clip by using the switch to the right of the edit buttons on the central toolbar. But because that’s a setting that resets on each launch, you’re likely to end up with unwanted sound at some point anyway. And if you don’t bring in the audio at all, you’ll need to match frame and replace to bring the audio back if you change your mind later.
Instead, assign a key to Set Volume to Silence (-∞dB) and just hit this whenever you don’t want to hear a selected clip. For this particular command, I recommend zero (0), because there’s nothing there by default (really!) and it makes sense.
Trim Start and Trim End
These two commands are very useful indeed, making a clip shorter by moving the start or end of a clip to the current playhead position. Perfect for on-the-fly tightening of a loose edit, the default shortcuts for these two commands need two keys (⌥[ and ⌥]) which are more tedious to press than you’d think, especially in close sequence with other shortcuts.
You’ll need two neighbouring keys to make this work well, so look to unused F-keys (F5/F6?) or a number pad if you have one.
Play Rate 16
This is one of those commands that doesn’t work until you assign a key to it, and which is vital for quickly playing through long timelines or source clips. It instantly plays the timeline at 16x normal speed, and there are other variations (1/2/4/8/32) if you would prefer another speed. Without this shortcut, you’d need to press L multiple times, and it’s fantastic to quickly jump from whoa to go with this one assigned.
I’ve set this to F8, but if you can’t justify a rare single-key shortcut for this one, consider ⇧L to work with the classic JKL playback shortcuts.
Select Next Clip
The default shortcut for this one isn’t tricky (⌘→) but if you’re constantly holding and releasing ⌘, it’s hard to move really quickly. The command itself is deceptively useful, because it jumps to and selects the next clip in the same role.
This makes color correction, or simply checking each of your clips, super easy, because you can very quickly skip between real clips while ignoring titles and sound effects. Or you can jump between all your titles to check spelling, while ignoring everything else. It’s a great command, and worth a key. Maybe F9 is free? And if you want to jump backwards, Select Previous Clip could go on F7?
Apply Color Correction from Previous Clip
The best feature in Final Cut Pro that almost nobody knows about, Apply Color Correction from Previous Clip is actually one of three commands. You can use them to replace any color corrections on the current clip with the corrections on the previous clip, or two clips back, or three clips back. And replace is the key word here; while the Copy and Paste Attributes and effects commands are handy, they always add new effects on top, while the Apply commands simply replace whatever color-related effects are present, including Color Balance.
If you have an extended keyboard, I like F17, F18 and F19 for these, but F10/F11/F12 work too. Use these with Select Next Clip for maximum speed in a color grading pass.
Your choice of keyboard is up to you, and while I used to use an Apple Magic Keyboard with Number Pad, the lure of mechanical keyboards was just too great, and now I’m firmly in the land of extremely loud keyboards, sadly without number pads. In some ways that’s a shame, because the number pad is ripe for reprogramming, but my Monogram Console and nanoKONTROL 2 MIDI keyboard — with CommandPost, of course — provide all the extra one-key controls I need, so I’m OK.
If you’re yet to embrace the power of keyboard shortcuts at all, don’t wait! There’s nothing that’ll make you a better editor. I’ve also got a list of the best default keyboard shortcuts right here if you want to learn a few more. Happy editing!