Pro Tips, Tutorials

Video Editing 101: Basic Editing in Final Cut Pro X


There are hundreds of functions and operations that Final Cut Pro X is capable of performing, but the majority of your cutting and assembly work really relies on the basics. That’s why it’s so important to get well-versed in the fundamentals — you’ll be using them so much, that the sooner you learn them, the faster that cutting will become like second nature.


Start and End Points/Selecting a Range

Before you start working on the timeline, you can do some initial work in the browser to bring down only a certain section of the clip instead of dragging an entire clip into the timeline and trimming it to fit. Select the item(s) you want to edit and drag the yellow outline from either end to the range you want to put in the timeline.

Holding option while dragging replaces the current range; holding command while dragging adds a selected range (as long as you’re dragging in an unselected section); and holding shift while dragging (or just clicking) changes the nearest in/out point for a selected range.

You can also use in and out points instead of dragging a selection. Position the skimmer on your preferred frame and hit I to set the range’s starting point and O for its ending point. To make multiple in/out points, press shift + command I or O. Pressing option + I or O removes them. To reset all your selection(s), hit X while the clip is selected.

Now that you have your selections, it’s time to put them onto the timeline, which you can do in a few ways.

Getting a Clip Onto the Timeline

Media can be added to the timeline from the browser (including the audio/photo and titles/generators sidebars), or it can be added to the timeline directly from the finder window*.

Either way, drag the media into the timeline. It will then be on the primary storyline, which is the dark grey bar in the middle of the timeline.

Depending on where you drag it in relation to other items (if there are any), the clip may do one of several actions, which are connect, insert, append, or overwrite. These functions can all be performed automatically by using the buttons in the top-left of the timeline and are especially useful in three-point editing. As you do this, Final Cut Pro will automatically move everything else around based on the action you use.

Connect Clips to Primary Storyline (Q): This will bring down an item that’s connected to the primary storyline at the playhead. It will move with the primary storyline automatically. This is great for cutaways, titles, or sound effects and background music that needs to be at a specific spot in regard to the primary storyline.

Insert Clip to Primary or Selected Storyline (W): This will add the item to the primary or selected storyline at the playhead or selected range and pushes everything after it further down the timeline (to the right).

Append Clip to Primary or Selected Storyline (E): Your item will be added to the end of the primary or a selected storyline.

Overwrite Clip to Primary or Selected Storyline (D): Your item will overwrite anything in the primary or selected storyline at the playhead/skimmer or selected range. The overall length of the storyline will not change.

*Whenever you add anything to the timeline from the drag and drop method, you’re essentially importing the media into the event where the current project lives. Final Cut will then apply the default optimization and analysis to the clips, which you can modify in the import pane.

Three-Point Editing

Although three-point editing is the most basic, tried-and-true way to get clips into the timeline using the edit types above, it still has a lot going on with it. The basic gist of it is that you use three edit points — either two in your timeline and one in your browser, or vice versa, and then use the edit type that best fits what you want to do.

By setting the in and out points (or selecting a range) in the browser, you’re telling FCPX exactly which section of the clip you want to place in the timeline. By setting the in and out points (or selecting a range) in the timeline, you’re telling FCPX exactly where to place the media. And then by using a certain edit type (insert, overwrite, connected), you’re telling FCPX how you want the media to be added. In most cases, the media’s in point will line up with the skimmer or playhead when added.

If your two points are in the timeline, then the clip from the browser will fill that section, regardless of how long the selected range is in the browser.

To backtime a clip into the timeline — meaning the endpoint of the clip lines up with the playhead/skimmer — hit Shift + Q for connected edits and Shift + D for overwrite edits. This will use whatever section of the clip you’ve selected in the browser and overwrite anything that’s on the layer the clip is sent to.

If you want to send multiple clips to the timeline, select two or more clips (not a range) and perform the same actions as you would for a single clip. They will be edited into the timeline in the order you selected them. You can also select multiple clips in the timeline and edit clips in their place.


Editing Your Clip on the Timeline

Now that your clip is on the timeline, you can trim it (T) by clicking and dragging each end inward or outward. Move the clip by clicking and dragging it left and right or up and down (anything that’s connected to its storyline will move with it; anything that’s not will move around it). When snapping (N) is on, the clip will snap to the end or beginning of an adjacent clip, both while trimming and moving items around. You can also use the blade tool (B) to cut items at any frame you want. Select a range (R), zoom in or out to a certain clip or section (Z/option + Z, respectively), and use the hand tool (H) to grab and move the timeline one way or the other.

Although you may not use every one of these methods or operations in every project, learning these basic functions is the first step to becoming a better editor, and will also help you step up your efficiency and allow you more freedom to make better projects.

Also, be sure to download the free Pond5 App for Final Cut Pro X to bring the power of the Pond5 marketplace into your workflow, including supercharged search, batch downloads, and 50 free pre-selected files to try out in your projects.

Have questions about working with Final Cut Pro X or the Pond5 App? Let us know in the comments below!