Pro Tips, Tutorials

Getting Started With Final Cut Pro X: An Interface Overview


Learning a new editing program isn’t as hard as you’d think, but that doesn’t mean you can become an expert in a day, week, or even a year. There’s always a ton to learn, and it helps to start at the most basic stage: an overview of the interface. Here’s a basic overview of Final Cut Pro X.


The Interface

When you open Final Cut Pro, you’ll usually see the standard window configuration. In the upper-lefthand corner, you’ve got the sidebar, where libraries, events, projects, and collections are shown (1). Next to that is the browser, where media is displayed (2). To the right of that is the viewer window where media is played back (3). Further to the right is the inspector window that shows a summary of a clip’s information (4). Below all of these is the timeline where you actually edit your video (5). Lastly, the audio meters are to the right of the timeline (6).

The Sidebars and Browsers

The browser window is where your imported media is displayed. It works hand-in-hand with the sidebar to the left. The sidebar shows any/all libraries, events, folders, and collections that hold your media. You can create and organize libraries, events, folders*, and collections here. Also, there are additional sidebars for photos and audio files and titles and generators that can be added to your projects.

When an event, folder, or collection is highlighted, its media will show in the browser. You can skim through files, drag across a clip to select a range, and drag items into your timeline. The buttons on the window are for setting the items to be in filmstrip or list view, and you can sort or group items in the browser by various metadata, change the filmstrip display size, and narrow media down by length.

The buttons above the browser are for importing media and showing or hiding either the keyword editor or background tasks window.

*Folders in Final Cut Pro X don’t actually hold any media, but they do store keyword and smart Collections.

The Viewer

The viewer is the window next to the browser, where media plays back either when skimmed or played in the timeline. The top of the viewer shows basic clip information (1) and lets you change the viewer size (2). The dropdown menu allows you to view scopes, change playback quality, view color or alpha channels, overlays, and more (3). The bottom of the viewer window has controls for transforming the media (4), adjusting color correction and enhancing audio tracks (5), and choosing clip re-timing options (6). There’s a full screen control button in the bottom right (7).

The Inspector

The inspector panel is to the right of the viewer and shows you the location of the source media file (1), the event the clip is located in (2), and if the clip is available in other representations (3). Other inspectors will become visible whether the clip is selected in the browser or the timeline, allowing you to adjust different aspects of the items (4).

The buttons above the inspector disable or enable the browser, timeline, and inspector windows.


The Timeline

The timeline is where your video project is created (1). Add, trim, delete, and arrange items to tell your story using storylines. The primary storyline is where your main sequence of clips lives (2). Photos, videos, graphics with alpha channels, music tracks, and more can all be added to the timeline.

The top left of the timeline is the timeline index, where you can view and search clips in your project and organize them in the timeline (3). To the right of that are buttons for adding clips to the timeline with different types of edits (4). The editing tools are next to these (5). On the far right of the timeline window, you’ll see control buttons for audio and video skimming, soloing selected items, turning on or off snapping, changing the appearance of the clips in the timeline (6), and browsing the effects and transitions (7).

Personalizing the Workspace

The windows can all be arranged and re-sized to fit your preferences. Windows can also be added and removed in the toolbar or with keyboard shortcuts and can then be saved as your own personal workspace. There are built-in workspaces that you can select for different stages of your edit, as well.

Now that you’re more familiar with the interface, you won’t have to spend extra time clicking around to see what everything does when you’re editing. The next step is importing media and getting it down on to your timeline so you can tell great stories.

Be sure to download the free Pond5 App for Final Cut Pro X, as well. Use it to browse through the entire Pond5 collection of video clips, music, and sound effects, send free previews to your project, trim them, add effects, and then automatically replace them with full-resolution files when you’re ready to finalize.

Do you have questions about anything in this post? What else would you like us to cover about working with Final Cut Pro X? Let us know in the comments below.