My top 10 Final Cut Pro tips

By S Simmons. Filed in Editing, Final Cut Pro  |  
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As I have mentioned in blog posts before, it is really fun to take someone else’s post and do your own version. That and it’s always fun to steal someone’s idea of course! So after reading a top 10 Final Cut Pro tips post at freshHDV, I thought it was time to do my own Top 10 Final Cut Pro tips.

The Editblog top 10 11 Final Cut Pro tips (in no particular order)

• keyboard mapping


• One of the biggest time wasters in computing is all of the time spent going back and forth to the mouse. And in editing it wastes even more time. If you haven’t remapped the majority of the FCP keyboard then you are not making the most efficient use of your editing time. Let’s be honest: how often do you really use the crop tool, or the distort tool… compared to a lot of other commands. Reclaim that keyboard real estate with something much more handy! Since I preach the wisdom of keyboard mapping I though I would upload a shot of my current keyboard at flickr to look at exactly how my FCP keyboard is layed out.

• control + F keys


• It may not seem like much but when you have to push the L or J key multiple times to play at a faster speed, a shortcut to play at triple speed is nice. Control + F9 will get you there. Control + the other F keys will get you to other speeds without multiple key taps.

• recording audio keyframes to mix in real time


• In a recent article I talked about how to keyframe audio level changes to mix audio in real-time. One of the things that makes this so powerful is the fact that you can map the button to toggle audio keyframing on and off to your keyboard. Then you can play and toggle the feature on and off as you play. If you want to adjust the overall level of a clip (like music) just toggle off as you play any make that adjustment in the mixer to change the level of the whole clip. When you come to a troublesome dialog section, toggle on and adjust levels with keyframes, all without ever stopping playback.

• dynamic trimming


• My observations have been that the Final Cut Pro trim tool is very underused by most editors. I think that may be because the FCP trim tool pretty much sucks. In fact, it would make a list of the bottom 10 FCP features. That said, dynamic trimming was added a version or so back. With dynamic trimming turned on, you can enter the trim tool and then use JKL to playback in the timeline, either forward or reverse, and as it plays, the trim is implemented when you stop playback. Try it and you’ll find yourself using the trim tool every now and then.

• mapping the snap button


• I love to turn “Snapping” on and off while moving around the timeline. Often I pick up a piece of media in the timeline and realize that I need to drop it in a specific place but can’t seem to hit it just right. If snapping is turned off I can just hit the snapping key that I have mapped to my keyboard (all without dropping the clip I have been moving) and snap that clip right into place.

• roundtripping

• Final Cut Studio becomes most powerful when all the applications are working together. Drop a Motion or Livetype project file directly into the timeline, render it, and you’re done. You can even make a Motion or Livetype project without a full screen background and it will import with an alpha channel to key over video in FCP.

• opt + return to open in external editor

• And the most efficient way to roundtrip is to set up the proper external editor in the preferences (system settings > external editors tab) and then use the keystroke of option+return to open a file in that editor by launching the app and loading the file. This works great for graphic files created in Photoshop as well.

• extend edit


• There are many ways to accomplish a task in FCP and extend edit is one of my favorites. Move the time marker to the left or right of any edit, single click that edit and push the extend edit key. The edit moves to the time marker, provided you’ve got enough unused media in the clip. Simple and useful.

• Add edit (or option + v)


• Forget the razor blade tool. If you want to make an edit in a piece of media in the timeline, move the time marker to where you want that edit, autoselect the tracks and hit option + v to add an edit. For more power, map that command to a single key, minus the modifier key. Much faster than the razor blade.

• easy Auto Select


• I have mapped (there’s that keyboard mapping again) my autoselect track selectors to my 1 through 0 keys. I am constantly turning them on and off for copying and pasting and adding edits. It’s much easier to push 6 to turn video track 6 on and off than to click that tiny little square with the mouse. For the audio tracks, it’s shift + 1 through 0. Why the 1 – 0 keys in the default FCP keyboard layout are timecode entry, especially when timecode entry is on the keypad by default as well, is beyond me.
• Auto Select all at once

• And speaking of autoselect, the quickest way to turn them all on or off at once is option + 0 on the keypad for audio, and command + 0 on the keypad for video.

Okay, so that’s my top 11 Final Cut Pro tips. I think the moral of this story is to make use of the keyboard commands and keyboard mapping as much as you can. It’s the quickest and easiest way to more efficient workflow in FCP. “Use them together. Use them in peace.”

20 comments to “My top 10 Final Cut Pro tips”

  1. Comment by David Didato:

    My favorite new tip, which should be macro’ed into a one keystroke by someone as clever as yourself:

    To select the clip under the time marker: type in sequence, “x”, “option-a”

    I use this all the time to ripple-delete a clip that’s under the playback head. Followed by “option-x” to remove the temporary in-outs.

  2. Comment by editblog:

    David… I don’t know how you could macro two different commands to only one keystroke.. but you could map them to each to 2 different keys that are close together to make is quicker. I have the select clip mapped to the ‘t’ button and ripple delete to ‘x’. So it’s just 2 successive strokes to accomplish. Map them side by side and it’s even quicker!

  3. Comment by John Sellars:

    Multiple keystrokes with one button? Easy. Use Butler. I use it all the time for FinalTouch, and one can even have the same F key do different things in different apps. It’s free at

  4. Comment by Allan White:

    I like round-tripping, but I sure wish FCP didn’t make you “reconnect” the file every time it’s saved in another program. Why this is still a problem today I do not understand. Sony Vegas, Premiere Pro et. al. all can update a file without this tedious extra step. It almost makes round-tripping more hassle than it’s worth.

    I don’t like remapping FCP (or any app FTM); I have to switch machines a lot and it’s too hard to recall new shortcuts. I *do* map actions to my mouse and Shuttle control (like ctrl-v – cut all). That rocks.

  5. Comment by editblog:

    Allan, you shouldn’t have to always reconnect a file after roundtripping. I rarely have to do this as it certainly does kind of defeat the purpose. I’m not sure what is wrong. This happens in Photoshop every now and then but not in Motion or Livetype.

    As for remapping…. to each his own but I just feel the default FCP keyboard to be wildly inefficient. Many of the keys are a rarely used compared to a lot of other more useful key commands. But that’s just me… thanks for commenting.

  6. Comment by davidvogt:

    Your article is very informative and helped me further.

    Thanks, David

  7. Comment by Carole:

    Snapping is already mapped to default “n”.

  8. Comment by Carole:

    One more thing, the Extend edit is mapped to “e”. Just so you know. Pressing “e” is faster than mousing, which you seem to poo-poo at the beginning of your article.

  9. Comment by Mr Beasily:

    why bother using live type when you can do everything it does in Motion…and then some

  10. Comment by Erich:

    I’ve been looking for an easy way to drop a bunch of clip into the timeline at say every 30 seconds. Any ideas on how this could be accomplished? thanks

  11. Comment by editblog:

    Erich; I can’ t think of any way to do that other than manually. one hand on the mouse to grab the clips and one hand doing the + 30 seconds on the key pad is about as efficient as it gets. And use a keystroke to insert the clips into the timeline instead of dragging.

  12. Comment by tony:

    Hi, I’m blanking on the shortcut to move a selected clip up or down one track. I thought it was some combo of a modifier and the up or down arrow, but no luck.
    For doing selects on a huge timeline, it’s handy to hit ctl-v, as i watch everything and then go back and hit ‘x’, ‘option-a’ and then the combo to move each clip up so i can quickly see which clips I like.
    Thanks, Tony

  13. Comment by ctrl.z.jones:

    move a clip up/down in tracks is option+pgup for going higher & option+pgdown for going. works only without audio thou (wich is why i was here to find antoher sc for both, the video and the audio alltogether.

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