Book Image

Final Cut Pro Efficient Editing

By : Iain Anderson
Book Image

Final Cut Pro Efficient Editing

By: Iain Anderson

Overview of this book

Final Cut Pro (also known as FCP, previously Final Cut Pro X) is Apple’s efficient and accessible video editing software for everyone, offering powerful features that experienced editors and novices will find useful. FCP is the quickest way to transform your raw clips into a finished piece, so if speed is important, make this a key tool in your editing arsenal. Final Cut Pro Efficient Editing is a comprehensive best practice guide for all editors. You’ll not only learn how to use the features but also find out which ones are the most important and when you should use them. With the help of practical examples, the book will show you how typical footage can be assembled, trimmed, colored, and finessed to produce a finished edit, exploring a variety of techniques. As you progress through the book, you’ll follow a standard editing workflow to get the feel of working on real-world projects and answer self-assessment questions to make sure that you’re on track. By the end of this Final Cut Pro book, you’ll be well versed with the key features of this app and have all the tools you need to create impressive edits.
Table of Contents (20 chapters)
Section 1: Importing and Organizing
Section 2: Rough Cut to Fine Cut
Section 3: Finishing and Exporting

A brief history of editing

Cinema has been around for a little over 100 years, and for a long time, the editing process was straightforward. Each frame of film was a single image on a continuous strip of celluloid, and, to combine multiple shots in a sequence, the film was physically cut and then taped to another piece of film. Every cut took real physical effort and time, and revisiting your earlier edits could be difficult, expensive, or impossible, depending on when the decision was made. And then, the arrival of video in the 1980s made it more accessible, but also worse.

Tape-based editing meant that an editor didn’t have to physically cut film, and because it made the process much cheaper, an entire generation of teenagers could explore movie making on a budget. However, images recorded on magnetic tape cannot be easily reordered. To rearrange shots A-B-C to B-A-C means offloading the whole sequence to a second tape, then placing them back on the original tape in a different order, and often with a degree of quality loss. Linear editing surely democratized the industry, but it came at a cost.

Computer-based non-linear editing changed it all for the better, giving editors the low cost of tapes, the ability to change the image without chemicals, far easier access to special effects, and, thankfully, the return of easy clip reordering. Today, this is normal and natural, and a new video editor need not consider how things used to be done. Still, most Non-Linear Editing applications (NLEs) work in a way that’s driven by the tape-based metaphors of the past. For example, the common Overwrite and Insert operations come straight from video tape decks.

While there’s nothing inherently wrong with these operations (and, indeed, they exist in FCP), they come from a paradigm with a heavy emphasis on tracks, and a linear timeline structure. Just as with tape, nothing moves unless you explicitly tell it to. These linear methods make sense if you grew up with them, but there are better ways today. While many other NLEs have incorporated concepts such as ripple edits while retaining a default linear timeline, FCP defaults to a non-linear Magnetic Timeline.

If you’re new to editing, you’ll be totally fine: it makes sense. But if you’ve edited with another NLE, you might struggle as you try to mash the square peg of your existing knowledge into the round hole of the Magnetic Timeline. While you can make it work, it’s going to be much easier to pretend you know nothing, and start afresh.

This is easier said than done, and in the wider professional video world, the traditional paradigm is still dominant for many reasons. Firstly, most high-end productions still use the first computer-based editing app their editors learned: Avid Media Composer. It’s deeply embedded into many expensive workflows, it works, and change would cost money. Secondly, there’s a large pool of people who already know how to edit, and many of them would rather not relearn the basics; fair enough. Thirdly, FCP X (back when it had an X) was missing key features at a poorly received launch, and public perception takes a long, long time to change.

Does it matter if you use the same software as most production companies? Well, if your goal is to get a job at a production house, maybe. But if your goal is to make great videos for yourself or for your clients, not at all. Apple aimed for the non-traditional video editor, and while I’m sure they’d love more professionals to take another look, they’ve made many FCP users happy so far.

If you’d like to learn more about the launch of FCP X, please watch the excellent film Off The Tracks by Brad Olsen. There’s a free version and a longer paid version on offer at, and it’s absolutely worth your time. (Not just because I’m in it!)

But enough background: that’s how we got here. Let’s take a bird’s-eye view of FCP and see how things tick.