Final Cut Pro Speed Tips

You know how it is. You want to be fast editor, but you also want to deliver high quality work. Can you do both? Absolutely! You don’t need to be somehow supernaturally gifted. You just need to develop techniques that work for you and repeat them until they become part of your muscle memory.

In this video you’ll find general speed tips and some that are more specific to working with Generators and Titles.

While we’re on the subject, one of the biggest time savers with Titles and Generators is making custom templates in Motion for Final Cut Pro. I’ve covered this in other videos. Check out these articles:

Here’s the video version of this article:

Safe Zones and Grids

The first thing I’m going to talk about is safe zones and grids. Probably not an obvious speedy tip, but I’ll explain why. For consistency between videos, it’s a good idea to have titles and graphics in the same places on the screen. Getting this right can be time consuming, but if you’ve got grids and safe zones it becomes much quicker. Below is what I use. It’s something I’ve made with modern safe zones, a three by three grid and centre marks.

The safe zones are two boxes, the outer one is picture safe and the inner one is title safe. So it’s the inner box we’re interested in when we’re talking about graphics. The centre marks give you the horizontal and vertical centres. This makes it easy to centre a subject. Or you can divide the image in halves or quarters. The rule of thirds grid divides the image into a threes, both vertically and horizontally. You can position a subject where lines cross. Or you can use the grid to separate the image into blocks.

It speeds up your work, because all you need to do is keep your graphics within the title safe box and use the grid as a guide for positioning elements. And if you stick with this, you know your projects will be consistent. If you want this as an overlay you can use, download the Framing Guide from the Resources page.

Anchor Points

The next Final Cut Pro speed tip is making use of anchor points. The anchor point of an object is where it scales and rotates from. When you drop a video or generator on the timeline, the anchor point defaults to the centre. So when you scale or rotate it’s always from the centre of the object. Sometimes this is what you want, but it can also be inconvenient.

So let’s change the anchor point. By default it isn’t visible. You need to activate the on-screen Transform controls by clicking the button beneath the Viewer. If you’re not seeing the Transform icon, click on the arrow just to the right and select it. The arrow also gives you access to the Crop and Distort on-screen tools.

the Transform tool is the icon on the left

The anchor point is this small circle in the centre with the rotate arm. To adjust the position of the anchor point, change its X and Y settings in the Inspector.

Transform controls in the Video Inspector

If I’m placing an object at the top-left of the screen, I’ll move the anchor point to the top-left of the object. Then I’ll use the on-screen controls or the Position settings in the Inspector to move the object into place. Then I can scale the object without needing to adjust the position. This is because it scales from the top-left corner.

You can switch off the on-screen Transform controls if the Viewer becomes cluttered.

Compound Clip

You use Compound Clips to group objects such as graphics. Once grouped they behave as a single object. It’s much quicker to manipulate a Compound Clip than each of the objects individually.

This is how you create a Compound Clip:

  • Select the clips you want to group together.
  • Right-click one of them and choose New Compound Clip.
  • Give it a name and click OK.

The graphics are grouped into a single clip. And with the Compound Clip selected I can change the scale, the position and the rotation. So these elements now behave as a single object. Just as we did with a single clip, you can change the anchor point of a Compound Clip.

To edit an individual element, double-click the Compound Clip and it opens in its own timeline. You can edit the individual clips inside the Compound Clip. Click the left arrow to return to the main timeline.

click the left arrow above the timeline to return to the previous timeline

If you want to revert back to your separate clips:

  • Select the Compound Clip.
  • And from the Clip menu, choose Break Apart Clip Items.

There is one gotcha with Compound Clips and that’s to do with copying and pasting. I’ll cover that later in this article.

Copy and Paste

When I’m working on a project where there’s repetition, I do a lot of copying and pasting. This really speeds up my work in Final Cut, as I don’t need to make everything from scratch. If things like titles, text boxes and graphics are similar I’ll copy them from earlier in the project and paste them where they’re needed. I can them make alterations, like changing the text, transforming or scaling.

You can also copy elements from different projects or libraries.

  • Select the clips you want.
  • Use the Command C shortcut to copy.
  • Position the Skimmer or Playhead where you want them to go.
  • Hit Command V to paste.

The Skimmer always takes priority. To make sure it pastes to the Playhead instead, you can either toggle the Skimmer off or lift the mouse out of the Timeline, so the Skimmer isn’t visible.

Skimmer toggle, top-right of Timeline

If you’ve copied a clip from the Primary Storyline it will be pasted to the Primary Storyline. If you want to paste as a Connected Clip, select Paste as Connected Clip from the Edit menu, or use the Option V shortcut. The clip appears as a Connected Clip. If the Primary Storyline beneath is empty, it will be filled with a Gap generator.

Copy and Paste Compound Clips

Now, there’s an issue with Compound Clips. When you copy and paste, you’re not actually making a copy, you’re creating a clone. If you edit one version, it will change all the others. This has caused me real problems in the past!

There’s a simple step to prevent this. After you’ve pasted the Compound Clip, do this before making any changes:

  • Select the Compound Clip.
  • Open the Clip menu and choose Reference New Parent Clip.

Doing this breaks the connection with the previous one. And the name is updated with the word ‘copy’. I can edit the shots within the Compound clip knowing it won’t affect the others on the timeline.

Change Animation Timing

When I copy and paste elements, they sometimes have animation. Imagine I want to keep the animation, but I need to change the timing slightly.

You can reset the animation and start again, or you can move the existing keyframes. Once you’ve pasted a clip with animation, do the following:

  • Right-click on the clip and choose Show Video Animation.
  • Shift-click to select the keyframes.
  • Change the timing by moving the keyframes left or right.
the keyframes are represented by small diamonds

If you want to speed up or slow down the animation, I can change the spacing between the keyframes.

If you want to change the position of an element, select a keyframe and activate the on-screen Transform controls. You can position, scale and rotate the object in the Viewer.

Copy and Paste Attributes

The next of these Final Cut Pro Speed Tips is copying and pasting attributes. You can use this technique to copy any setting from one clip to another. It could be video effects, audio effects, position, scale or even sound levels.

  • Select a source clip with the attributes you want.
  • Use the Command C shortcut to Copy.
  • Then select the target clip. To select a few clips you can either drag a box or hold down the Command key and click.
  • From the Edit menu, choose Paste Attributes.
  • In the dialogue box, you have the option to de-select the attributes you don’t want.
  • Once you’re happy, hit Paste to apply the settings.
Paste Attributes dialogue box

Markers

I use temporary Markers to speed up my workflow. They’re very useful when I’m lining up clips for timing purposes. A lot of tutorials on Markers talk about naming them and using the Timeline Index. I do that sometimes, but most of the time I’m using them just to remind myself where I’ve set a keyframe or where another clip needs to come in.

  • Select the clip you want to mark.
  • Place the Playhead or Skimmer where you want the Marker to go. The Skimmer has priority.
  • Hit the M key on the keyboard to create the Marker.

If Snapping is active, elements on the timeline will snap to the marker. The edge of clips, the Playhead and markers on other clips will all snap.

To delete a Marker, right-click and choose Delete.

To move a marker, right-click and choose Cut. Then use the Command V shortcut to paste.

Keyboard Shortcuts

My next Speed Tip is keyboard shortcuts. I don’t use many, however there are a few I rely on to make my edits faster in Final Cut.

Choose a Tool

I use keyboard shortcuts to select different tools. The ones I use most are:

  • B for Blade
  • R for Range
  • T for Trim
  • A for the default Select tool

If you want to change tools temporarily you can press and hold the shortcut key. Imagine you’re using the Select tool and you need to Blade a clip:

  • Press and hold the B key to temporarily switch to the Blade tool.
  • Make that cut.
  • And then release B to go back to the Select tool.

Open the Tool menu for a full list of tools and their shortcuts.

Tools menu

Edit Shortcuts

The edit shortcut keys are super useful and increase your speed when editing. Once you’ve selected a range in the Browser, click one of these to edit it to the Timeline. Going from left to right on the keyboard:

  • Q does a Connect edit
  • W will insert a clip
  • E makes an Append edit
  • D creates an Overwrite

For Connect, Insert and Overwrite, you need to position the Playhead or Skimmer where you want the clip to go. As always, the Skimmer takes priority.

Extend Edit

Once a clip is on the Timeline, you can perform an extend edit with the Shift X shortcut.

  • Select the in or out edit point of a clip.
  • Position the Skimmer or the Playhead.
  • Hold the Shift key and press X.

As the name suggests, you can extend a clip longer. But you can also use Extend edit to shorten a clip. The Skimmer takes priority over the Playhead.

Nudge Connected Clips

I spend a lot of time repositioning Connected clips. As well as dragging, you can use the angle bracket keys to make small adjustments. Left bracket nudges one frame left, right bracket nudges right. If you hold down the Shift key while you nudge it will move 10 frames.

Angle bracket keys
angle bracket keys

Disable Clips

Another shortcut I use all the time is the V key to disable clips. If you’ve got a lot of graphics on the screen and it’s getting confusing, you can hide some of your clips while working on others.

Select the clips you want to disable and hit the V key. The disabled clips disappear in the Viewer and appear darker on the timeline. To bring them back, toggle the V key again.

Dipping Sound

When editing, there’ll be times when you want to dip the music, so you can hear the dialogue. Doing this can be fiddly, but there’s a technique to speed up the process.

When you look at a clip with audio, you can see a thin line that represents the volume. You can Option-click on the line to create four keyframes. Two at the beginning of the dip and two at the end. Then drag down on the volume line to create the dip.

Dipping sound
you need four keyframes to create a dip

There is a faster method:

  • Press R to select the Range tool.
  • Drag over the clip to select the audio you want to dip.
  • Then within the selected range, drag down on the Volume line.

You can see that four keyframes are automatically created and you can drag the Volume line up and down to adjust the dip. If you hold the Command key while you drag, you can make very fine adjustments. Drag individual keyframes left and right to change the fade-in and fade-out speed.

Remove Background Noise

Sometimes dialogue isn’t recorded in ideal conditions, so you need to remove background noise. You can dip audio between speech using the method I’ve just described. But that can be time consuming if you have a lot of media. Also background noise might be noticeable while your talent is speaking.

A good option is Voice Isolation, which became available in version 10.6.2. You also need MacOS Monterey 12.3 or higher for Voice Isolation to show up in the Inspector.

Voice Isolation control in the Audio Inspector
  • Select the clip needing noise reduction.
  • Switch to the Audio Inspector.
  • And check the Voice Isolation box.

The default level is 50%, but you can increase it to 100. Just check the dialogue doesn’t sound choppy.

Selections for Sharing

When you need to show changes to a client, you don’t always need to send the whole film. It’s much faster to send them a small section or even a still image. Both of these are very easy to do. To send a small section of video:

  • Select the Range tool from this menu or hit the R key.
  • Drag along the Primary Storyline to select a range. Connected clips are also included in the selection.
  • Open the Share menu and choose a preset. In the Export window, you’ll see a Range icon with the duration of your selection.
  • Hit Next to choose a save location.

If all you need is a still image, that’s easy too:

  • Position the Playhead on the frame you want to use.
  • And then from the Share menu, choose Save Current Frame.

If you don’t have that as an option in the Share menu:

  • Click Add Destination.
  • Drag Save Current Frame from the area on the right into the Destination list.

Once you choose Save Current Frame, the Save window appears:

  • In the Info tab you can change the name of the image you’re sharing.
  • In the Settings tab you can choose an image format from the Export menu.
  • Click Next.
  • And choose a save destination.

Watch Your Edit

And my last speed tip is… always watch your edit before you submit it. The aim of this is to spot little mistakes and fix them before you share the video with your audience or your client. When you’re in a rush you might think this will slow you down. But in the long term, this will speed up the process as there will be less hassle fixing problems later. If you’re genuinely pushed for time, watch the film at double speed. You’ll still be able to spot issues:

  • Tap the L key once to start playback.
  • And then tap it again for double speed.

Summary

In this article we looked at a few Final Cut Pro speed tips. I’ve covered some different techniques to make you a faster editor. If you’ve got your own tips for speedy editing that you’d like to share, please comment below.

Go Further

Get the latest videos, guides and filmmaking resources sent straight to your inbox. Sign-up free for exclusive emails from Indigo Film School.

If you found this useful, check out the rest of my fantastic Postproduction training articles:

Return to Training page.

Scroll to Top