Final Cut: Tips and Tricks

Yeah you read the title right, “another tips and tricks” post for Final Cut. I know, I know but I was just thinking that there are some that are just so obscure and useful that it’s foolish not to know. Another reason that has forced me to send this out is that quite recently I have been forced to use Adobe Premier Pro. Now I’m not against the programme, that’s not my angle. But I became SO SLOW because of all the little tips and tricks that I was used to weren’t there.

So before we begin, it’s important to understand that mastering FCP is awesome, and to be a master is freaking awesome, but don’t limit yourself to one in a world of many. Sometimes, like me, you are required to use a certain programme since that’s their standard, not because it’s “industry standard”.

The tips, tricks and what?

Focus on the right window
So your layout has many different things – a timeline, a viewer, canvas, browser, audio, etc. How tedious is it when you press play (spacebar) and the wrong video starts playing because the wrong window is selected. Well here’s the go. In nearly every single setup there are four main windows (timeline, viewer, canvas, and browser). To focus on the right window use these shortcuts to make sure you’re never wasting time again!
Cmd + 1 – Focus on the Viewer
Cmd + 2 – Focus on the Canvas
Cmd + 3 – Focus on the Timeline
Cmd + 4 – Focus on the Browser

Playback controls
“Yeah I totally know about spacebar to play my video, this is a stupid tip”. What if I were to tell you that all you need is J, K, and L. Say wha?! Yes, this is a top tip for anyone who uses FCP.

J will play backwards, K is to stop playing, and L will play forward. While , . To make things even better J + K will play backwards in slow motion, K + L will play forward in slow motion. Also if you tap K J consecutively it will play backward one frame at a time, while tap K L consecutively will play forward one frame at a time! Yes, no more punching the arrow keys into the ground.

Scrub Audio (Clean)
Okay bad joke aside, scrubbing through audio is annoying. The amount of times you heard, “Eh”, “Br”, “Ah”, etc. you think they’re a rip of a scratched CD. So isn’t it best to disable the audio when scrubbing so you can focus on the picture? SHIFT + S will be you friend for this.

Rendering during playback
I hate when that red bar on the timeline says, “Hey bud, looks like it’s 4 hour render time!” Until I had enough! I found that if you change RT button on the timeline, a drop down will appear. Make sure you are selected on RT Unlimited, meanwhile change the remaining values to Dynamic. Final Cut will now preview as many effects in the sequence as it can without being whiny.

Moving in the timeline
Scrubbing is overrated – especially when you know how far you want to move. Sometimes I would make a text item and place that in as my default spacer (according to the Preferences). Now you can just type your number in and move that many frames. If you want to move in seconds, just add a . after.
8 – Jump 8 frames
8. – Jump 8 seconds

Audio at 48kHz
“Audio I import will always be uncompressed 48kHz.” Repeat and repeat until you have it in your head. Importing MP3s is all good, and 44.1kHz is allowed on the timeline, but in the end, you will have more issues than you want. There are reasons why sound effects are uncompressed WAV files, and the reason behind AIFF files being Apple’s version. They’re huge files because you get the best quality, and FCP likes that.

Other useful shortcuts

⌘ + 8 – Log and Capture window
I, O, F2 – Set you In and Out points, then F2 will bring up the log clip window (yeah time saver!)
SHIFT + T – Scroll through the four sizes of the timeline
SHIFT + Z – Zooms the timeline out to the max width
OPTION + CLICK – If you do this on a padlock it will lock all else except the one you clicked
OPTION + DOUBLE CLICK – Doing this on a Bin will open it in a new tab (extremely useful)

Remember: there are tonnes more shortcuts but mastering these will make working faster. If you find you need more, refer to the FCP manual, and then if you want even more you can make your own!