We Make Movies (Better): Final Cut Pro X/RED, Part 2
In Part 1, I dealt with how to properly prep your RED project for long-term feature film success in Final Cut Pro X (FCPX). Now we’ll get to the fun part: Editing. I’m going to go in depth with a ton of tips and tricks on how to get the most out of your cutting sessions. And then in Part 3, I’ll talk about the finishing process, using a combination of REDcine-X, FCPX, and DaVinci Resolve to show you how to get the most of out of your RED images. Here we go…
Q, W, E, and D keys
You can basically make four kinds of edits in FCPX. Here’s what each of them does:
—Press “Q”: Your clip is placed at the playhead above the timeline.
—Press “W”: Your clip is inserted in the timeline at the playhead.
—Press “E”: Your clip is placed at the end of the timeline.
—Press “D”: Your clip is placed at the playhead, overwriting whatever’s already there.
QUICK TIP: I’ve remapped video-only edits with the Shift modiﬁer to those keys, and audio-only edits to the Option modiﬁer.
The Magnetic Timeline
Easily the most controversial feature in FCP X, the Magnetic Timeline (MT) is designed to help you keep everything in sync, connected, and in order. Is it going to slow you down as a professional editor? To be honest, sometimes. However, there are also countless cases where it’s going to speed up your workﬂow. It all comes down to how you use it. At the end of the day, I’m a fan, and I’ve come to love it and actually get annoyed when I have to go back to Final Cut Pro 7 (FCP7). But it does take some getting used to. Here are a few tips that should allow you to take full advantage of it:
A. Pressing “P” will enable the Position Tool, which essentially turns off the MT. Clips will no longer wrap around edits as you move them, and when you move a clip, it will overwrite anything in its place, leaving a gap clip where it used to be.
B. You don’t need to use the MT if you don’t want to. By simply pressing “Q” when you edit a clip into the main timeline—called the Primary Storyline—your clip will be placed above the timeline and everything will basically function as it did in FCP7. If you keep snapping on (Press N for toggle snapping), you can avoid black frames and keep things together easily.
C. It’s extremely simple to jump clips above, or move down into, the timeline. Opt-Cmd-Up Arrow will move clips above the timeline and leave a gap clip (slug) in its place. Opt-Cmd-Down Arrow will drop a clip that’s above the timeline back into it, overwriting any clip that’s there.
Another feature that’s gotten a lot of ﬂak, but which I absolutely love, is the Skimmer. Basically, the Skimmer allows you to scrub clips or edits as you move your mouse around ﬁlmstrips or the timeline. The reason I love it is that it allows me to make edits and decisions faster, always knowing what I’m looking at—especially when used in conjunction with the trim start/end functions and the blade tool. Also, make sure you know the keyboard shortcut (S), which turns it on/off, as it can get in your way in some situations.
A Bunch of Quick Edit Tips:
—Hovering over a clip with the mouse and pressing “C” will select that clip.
—When you select the edge of an edit, by default, it will only select one edge of a clip. If you want to select both edges and do a roll edit, hold down “T” when you do this.
—Selecting a clip and pressing Cmd-6 will take you immediately to the Color Board, where you can make changes to color, saturation, and exposure.
—Double-clicking a waveform in the timeline (or Ctrl-S with clips selected) will expand the audio portion of the video, allowing you to perform J/L cuts.
—Consider remapping the trim start/end keys to “G” and “H” respectively for easy access. When using them with the Skimmer, Trim Start will trim from the start of the clip to wherever your Skimmer is. Trim End will trim from the end of the clip. I use these two commands constantly.
—Cmd-B will blade wherever you have your Playhead/Skimmer. Shift-Cmd-B will blade all clips stacked on that point. This also works really well in conjunction with the Skimmer.
—Many people complain about not having a dedicated audio mixer like they did in FCP7. For me, I ﬁnd the Range Selection tool much more effective for making changes to audio within clips. Simply press R, drag across the waveform you want to affect, and then drag up or down on the volume line to adjust the level. It’ll only adjust that part, and even adds keyframes for you.
—If you have large groups of B-Roll clips above the timeline that you want to keep to a speciﬁc length, and you want them to overlap, consider turning them into a Secondary Storyline by pressing Cmd-G. This will group them all in a row in a secondary timeline that lives directly above the main timeline. These are also useful for keeping together large sections of room tone or SFX. You can break apart Secondary Storylines if you need to with the “Break Apart Clip Items” command.
—Here’s how I’ve remapped my function keys based on use: F1 = New Compound Clip; F2 = Break Apart Clip Items; F3 = Detach Audio; F4 = Expand Audio Components; F5 = Synchronize Clips; F6 = Add to Audition; F7 = Insert Gap Clip; F8 = Open FCPX Preferences.
—Double-clicking a Compound Clip will allow you to step into it.
—Holding down “R” as opposed to just pressing it temporarily enables the Range Selection tool. The same goes for “T” and the Trim tool.
—Option-clicking a volume line on a waveform will add a keyframe to it.
—Wondering where the audio crossfade is? Well, you can fade audio up or down by dragging the little fade handle on the edge of the waveform. If you right click the handle, you can change the type of fade you apply.
—You can resize multiple clips at once, either in the Inspector or the Viewer. The really cool part? If you resize in the Viewer, FCPX will add to any other resize changes you previously made. If you resize from the Inspector, FCPX overrides previous changes. This become really useful when you’re resizing RED clips based on frame size.
—You can adjust a clip’s RAW settings by selecting it in either the timeline or the Event Browser.
—Paste Attributes (Shift-Cmd-V) has finally been added to FCPX, and it’s better than it ever was in FCP7.
Our WMM podcast simply couldn’t be done with any other non-linear editing software (we just wouldn’t have time). The ability to take multiple clips from three different cameras with second source sound and no slate, and then turn an hour long podcast into a single Multicam Clip is unbelievable. It allows me to edit an hour-long podcast in half a day. This could not happen in FCP7. Here’s a basic multicam workﬂow for you:
A. Make sure all camera angles have discernible in-camera sound or synced timecode.
B. Get all angles and sound for a Multicam Clip into one Keyword Collection.
C. Open the Inspector, choose Extended View, and assign camera angle metadata to each angle alphabetically (e.g. A-wide, B-guest, C-host, Z-audio)
D. Assign clip name into scene metadata for each group of clips.
E. Click the gear button in the bottom right corner of the Inspector and choose Apply Custom Name to batch rename clips according to scene_camera angle_counter.
F. Select all clips that are part of the multicam edit and create a Multicam Clip.
G. Your clips will be slotted in respective camera angles based on alphabetical order (which is why you name your audio “z_audio”). And if you need something more visual, here’s a video that explains how we put our podcast together.
Speed changes are way easier (and better quality) than they were in FCP7. You can either select a clip and make speed changes in the Retime menu OR press Cmd-R, and make changes directly in the timeline to the clip’s speed by dragging the speed handles in/out. Not only that, but you can quickly retime sections of a clip using the Range Selection tool and the Retime menu together. Lastly, if you want really high-quality speed renders, use the Retime menu to set the quality level to Optical Flow. It’ll take longer to render, but the quality is worth it.
Awesome Stuff You Can Do With The Timeline Index
The Timeline index is maybe the coolest thing in FCPX, and as usual, is something people very rarely talk about. Here are just some of the things you can do with it:
A. Find every instance of a clip in the timeline (just type in the name). Then you can group select, or bounce to each individual instance of it.
B. Group select and patch/repatch/rename audio and audio components.
C. See how your markers are named, and jump from one to the next. Not only that, but you can mark your to-do markers as complete directly from the Timeline Index.
D. Search and select based on Keywords/Roles/clip names, etc.
E. To select all forward/back (the old “select forward/back” tool in FCP7 is gone), simply select the ﬁrst clip you want to select from, and then use the Timeline Index to shift-select all the clips in between your start and end points.
F. Use it to see if anything is ofﬂine, and ﬁnd all instances of Compound, Synced, Audition, Multicam Clips, etc.
G. Limit your selections to just video, audio, or titles.
I will admit to being one of the people who complained about how markers worked in FCPX. I wanted timeline markers, to be able to change the color, and basically, I just wanted it to be just like it was in FCP 7. Then, somewhere along the way, something clicked for me, probably right around the time I realized how cool the Timeline Index was. Now, I get annoyed with how they worked in FCP7. Here’s how markers are supposed to work in FCPX:
1. Add a marker by pressing “M.” Rename or change marker type by pressing “M” again.
2. If you’re not using the Timeline Index to jump to and from markers, you’re not using them properly.
3. Regular markers are blue. Use these to mark things like VFX shots and other random things.
4. To-Do markers are red. Use these when in sessions with the producer/director, and in conjunction with the Timeline Index. It will turn into a much more efﬁcient to-do list than long winded emails or the FCP 7 marker system. As you complete each to-do marker, click the red dot on it in the timeline index and this will turn it into a green completed to-do marker. This is a much more efﬁcient way to make revisions to your edit.
5. Chapter Markers are orange. What could these possibly be used for now that no one makes DVDs? Well, one way is to turn your completed to-do markers into chapter markers so producers can easily jump to and from changes you’ve made, as these markers will show up in your exported QuickTime movies.
When To Use Auditions
I tend to use Auditions later on in the edit once I start ﬁne-cutting things, and the director/producer wants to see other performances for particular line reads. The really cool thing about Auditions is that you can trim each of the clips in an Audition independent of the others, and it will remember each instance’s modiﬁed in/out points. Auditions are also really useful for giving options for SFX and musical selections, as well.
It’s astonishing to me that no one uses Motion. It’s a great program, and the FCPX integration is awesome. If you’re someone like me that wants to make stuff that looks good but doesn’t want to spend years rendering in After Effects, Motion is perfect. And it’s more powerful than you think. If you want to see how powerful, you should really check out Mark Spencer’s Motion 5: The Complete Series Tutorials. It’ll change the way you work.
Part of that Motion integration is Drop Zones, which are extremely useful. One example of this is if you have standard end cards for your YouTube channel that you’re constantly updating. Drop zones make this process about a million times faster.
The Effects Browser allows you to preview how an effect/transition/title will look on your footage, just by hovering over it with your mouse. This is a huge time-saver over previous versions of Final Cut Pro, and will allow you to discover new effects and looks much faster.
The plug-in ecosystem is amazing and growing exponentially. And because of how well they now work with the Effects Browser, I ﬁnd myself rarely leaving FCPX at this point. I’ve used quite a few plugins from the FxFactory collections, and tend to love them. Here are a few you may want to consider checking out:
Searchable SFX Libraries
The SFX and music library is great, and you can add your giant 500GB SFX library like I did to it and all of your SFX will now be directly searchable within FCPX. Huge time saver.
Lack of Rendering
I almost never render anymore, as even with multiple effects, my preview render is good enough for playback and to see what I have. The “out of memory” errors and all of the FCP7 render nightmares are mostly a thing of the past.
When to Use Background Rendering
Background Rendering is great… sometimes. This is another reason to map “FCPX preferences” to an easy to remember spot on your keyboard. I tend to use it once I start to get close to locking the edit, and I won’t be doing a ton of pointless rendering that’s just going to change. It really comes in handy once you start your online, during color correction, or when you’re getting a cut ready for export. By the way, a really cool thing about FCPX is that because the performance is so much better now, I barely ever have to render anymore to get solid playback, unless I’m doing something really complicated.
I did a whole video about best practices with Compound Clips. You can watch it here.
Audio Component Editing
I also did a whole video about how audio component editing works in FCPX. You can watch that here.
Passing the Project Between Multiple Editors
Here’s a great article from fcp.co about some best practices for that.
QUICK TIP: One workaround this article doesn’t mention is if you’re trying to marry the missing clips in one editor’s event to another editor’s event, simply select all of the clips in your original media folder, copy them, and them paste them into the other editor’s original media folder. If he/she already has some of them, a dialog will appear asking if you want to replace the identical ones. You’ll also see an option with a check box next to it that says “apply to all.” Check that box, and then click “don’t replace.” Only the ﬁles missing from the other editor’s event will be added, and your original media folders will now be identical. You will now be able to Dropbox projects back and forth and everything’s going to reconnect properly.
Cool Things You Can Do with RED Clips
FYI, some of my workﬂow tips are slightly outdated, and my workﬂow has improved since I made these, but most of the stuff in there should still be valuable to you. I also did a couple videos on how to get your FCP7 RED projects into FCPX. Part 1 is here, and Part 2 is here.
Next week, in Part 3, I’ll be showing you how to finish your film in FCPX, and deliver at whatever resolution you need using combination of FCPX, Redcine X Pro, and DaVinci Resolve.
Bio: Sam Mestman has worked for Apple, ESPN, “Glee,” and Break.com, to name a few, and now runs his own post production operation at www.wemakemoviespost.com. He’s a regular writer for MovieMaker Magazine, teaches post workflow at RED’s REDucation classes, and specializes in saving independent producers tens of thousands of dollars while delivering a top quality product. He is also the founder and CEO of We Make Movies (www.wemakemovies.org), which in just three years might have become the largest film collective in Los Angeles (and now Toronto).