Edit At The Speed of Thought With FCP X Shortcuts

Edit At The Speed of Thought With FCP X Shortcuts

Summary

Shortcuts save time, everyone knows that. But in this article, we’re going to show you why they can transform your creative workflow. We’ll highlight individual shortcuts. We’ll start with the basics and progress to ones that you may not know. But more importantly, you’ll learn how to chain them together into powerful sequences. Master these moves to edit more fluidly, and enable your mind to think more creatively.

Shortcuts to the Shortcuts

They say that a state of flow is a “complete absorption in what one does, and a resulting loss in one’s sense of space and time.” I think that pretty well describes the feeling when you’ve mastered the shortcuts in your favorite NLE. Instead of thinking about the tools, your mind can focus entirely on the creative choices.

We’re going to highlight Final Cut Pro X in this article, but really these principles can apply to any professional NLE. It’s important to master shortcuts so that you reach for the mouse less often.

FCP X is already fast, but it is still an important discipline to identify repetitive tasks and create your own shortcuts. That’s one mark of an editor who has separated themselves from the crowd.

Top shortcuts for FCP X Beginners

It can be overwhelming to try to remember the dozens of shortcuts available to you, so start with just a few at a time. Take them, play with them, and learn how they can speed up your editing. Eventually, they will become muscle memory, and then you can add a few more. Pretty soon, your fingers will be flying over the keyboard.

If you are just getting started with FCP X here are some of the top shortcuts you should know about.

The first four enable you to change the “focus” area of your commands.

  • CMD-1: go to Library Browser
  • CMD-2: go to Timeline
  • CMD-3: go to Viewer
  • CMD-4: show/hide Inspector

If you need to find a certain clip in your timeline, this sequence will open the timeline index and highlight the search box:

  • Shift-CMD-2: go to Timeline and open Index
  • CMD-F: gind

Screen Shot 2018 02 24 at 9.30.27 AM

And if you need to find a clip in the browser, instead of clicking on the search box, try these two in quick succession:

  • CMD-1: go to Browser
  • CMD-F: find

Screen Shot 2018 02 24 at 9.57.51 AM

A good example of keyboard shortcuts for manipulating the viewer is changing zoom level—a little red box appears in the viewer to indicate your zoom level. In the viewer it will zoom in on the picture, but if you do it while in the timeline, it will zoom in on the playhead. And then “Zoom to Fit” to see the entire timeline or picture in the viewer.

  • CMD-3: go to Viewer
  • CMD-+/-: zoom in/zoom out (hold to affect the zoom level)
  • Shift-Z: zoom to fit

Screen Shot 2018 02 24 at 10.11.49 AM

Last but not least, I would be remiss not to mention the keyboard shortcuts for the cursor/selection tool.

  • A: the regular selection tool
  • P: the position tool (allows you to move clips without the magnetic snapping effect)
  • T: trimming tool
  • R: range selector
  • B: blade tool
  • Z: magnifier
  • H: hand tool

cursor shortcuts

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Commands Menu

Every NLE comes with a set of key commands already set. Many are standard across not only NLEs (e.g. JKL), but across all kinds of programs (CMD-N to create something new; CMD-X and CMD-V to cut and paste respectively).

But every great editor will have their own set of key commands they like to use that helps them work faster and more efficiently. Most NLEs will have a way to customize these commands. In FCP X, it’s in the “Commands” menu (Final Cut Pro > Commands > Customize)

Screen Shot 2018 02 24 at 10.07.34 AM

The Commands menu allows you to customize commands to fine-tune the app to your liking. You can save multiple command sets, and import/export them when you move between computers.

Many editors spend years fine-tuning their muscle memory. Your fingers might know all the shortcuts for FCP 7 or Premier Pro better than your brain! So a common approach for users switching between apps is to adjust the keyboard shortcuts to be a bit more familiar.

Shortcuts for Premiere
Shortcuts for Final Cut Pro 7

A good example of this is setting your default transition. If you’re a Premiere user, you’ll know that Premiere’s default transition shortcut is Command-D, while FCP X’s is Command-T.

In the FCP X command editor, go to the “Main Menu Commands” group and select “Add Default Transition” press (CMD-D). FCP X lets you know that CMD-D is already assigned to a function, in this case “duplicate”. Confirm the change. Now you have re-assigned the same function to a more familiar shortcut if you’ve come from Premiere.

Screen Shot 2018 02 24 at 10.56.45 AM

So find your most used shortcuts and map them in FCP X to give yourself an edge when making the transition. One of the nice aspects of this feature is that you can save custom sets of commands. That way if different people use FCP X on that computer, each can use a customized set of short-cuts that suits their style. Those saved sets can also be moved to other computer systems.

Final Cut Pro X introduced some new techniques to editing. So it has some shortcuts that don’t directly correspond to other NLEs. So I want to share with you some of my favorite ttime savers.

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Making Edits from the Browser

FCP X uses the traditional keys to review clips in the browser or to set In and Out points. I often use the “append” command (E) to quickly add a clip to the end of your timeline without touching the mouse (think of “E” for “end”). Or if you navigate the playhead in the timeline to a spot you can use (Q) to connect some b-roll above the main storyline (think of the little curly tail on the letter “Q” being the connection to the storyline).

  • J,K,L: navigate playback in the browser
  • I: set an in-point
  • O: set an out-point
  • E: append to end of primary storyline

Screen Shot 2018 03 01 at 6.54.36 AM

Another variation on this “3-point edit” is to use the Range tool to draw a “range” in your timeline.

Screen Shot 2018 03 01 at 6.57.20 AM

Then navigate in the browser to the beginning of the portion that you want to connect and hit (Q). The clip will only cover the section that is selected. The range tool is very interesting because it allows you to make selections in your timeline that go beyond clip boundaries. You’ll find that it unlocks all sorts of interesting editing techniques. You can perform traditional overwrite edits (D). Or try using the Shift key and experiment with a back-timed edit.

Screen Shot 2018 03 01 at 6.57.36 AM

  • R: select the Range Tool
  • Q: add a connected clip
  • D: overwrite edit
  • W: insert edit (think “W” for “wedging in a clip”)
  • Shift-Q, D, W: back-timed edit

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Selecting, Enabling, and Disabling Clips

Sometimes you’ll want to turn a clip “off,” and you can do that by disabling it. Hover over a clip with your cursor or the skimmer (enable or disable your skimmer with “S”) and press “C” to select the clip. Then press “V” to disable the clip. This technique lets you quickly see how a scene plays with or without a particular shot of b-roll. If your skimmer is turned off, pressing “V” disables the clip below the playhead, a little circle on the playhead lets you know which clip your key commands will be applied to. Enabling or disabling clips is also a great way to try out different bits of music or sound effects.

Screen Shot 2018 03 03 at 8.51.47 AMOnce you have selected a clip, your shortcuts will apply directly to that clip. For instance, press Control-V and open the video animation properties of the clip. Click on the arrow in the box under “Compositing: Opacity” and adjust the fade in of the clip without the need to apply a transition.

Screen Shot 2018 03 03 at 9.04.59 AM

  • C: select a clip
  • V: enable or disable a clip
  • S: toggle Skimmer on/off
  • CTRL-V: video animation pane

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Adjusting Speed with Shortcuts

FCP X features amazing retiming features. Select a clip and hit CTRL-OPT-R to see the custom retime menu. Now you can easily enter a new percentage value, or enter a duration value, in order to speed up or slow down a clip. With this window activated, a grab handle appears at the end of the clip and you can drag that handle to fine tune the duration. Of course, if the clip is located in the main storyline, the FCP X magnetic timeline ripples the entire timeline’s duration to match the your clip’s new speed. Screen Shot 2018 03 03 at 9.08.56 AM

It is important to note that you are setting the speed of the clip, rather than the length of the clip. So 200% means the clip is now twice as fast, resulting in a clip half as long in duration. CTRL-OPT-R returns your clip to its original speed.

Screen Shot 2018 03 03 at 9.19.19 AM

When you are doing transitions, it can be fun to ramp a clip’s speed from fast to normal. Shift-B blades the speed of a clip without splitting it into two separate clips. Now you can do a simple adjustment to the speed of the first or second half of the clip. FCP X automatically provides a range that does the “easing” for you, and you can adjust its duration as well.

Screen Shot 2018 03 03 at 9.33.01 AM

  • CTRL-OPT-R: custom speed panel
  • SHIFT-N: normal speed
  • CMD-OPT-R: reset speed
  • SHIFT-B: blade speed

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Quick Shortcuts from the Timeline

Rather than clicking around menus, you can use shortcuts to quickly reveal info about your clip in the timeline. Adjust the color, check your scopes, switch multicam angles or reveal your clip in the browser with a keystroke.

Screen Shot 2018 03 03 at 10.10.18 AM

  • SHIFT-F: reveal clip in Browser
  • CMD-4: open Inspector window
  • CMD-5: toggle Effects window on/off
  • CMD-6: open color Inspector window
  • CMD-7: show scopes
  • CMD-SHIFT-7: open multicam viewer

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Create a set of Shortcuts for Audio Fades

A really handy set of shortcut commands to create in FCP X is for audio fades. The commands for adding fades to one or both ends of a clip is under the Modify > Adjust Volume menu. However, you can go into Final Cut Pro > Commands > Customize menu to create your own set of shortcuts. At the top of the window you can select the keys for Control and Option and search for the word “fade”. Now you can see which keys are unassigned. I set up three custom commands.

Screen Shot 2018 03 03 at 10.23.59 AM

(Note: In the picture at the top where the selected keys are displayed, you will see Command and Shift highlighted. This is because they needed to be pressed to create this screenshot).

  • CTRL-OPT-X: apply audio fades (custom)
  • CTRL-OPT-Z: toggle audio fade in (custom)
  • CTRL-OPT-C: toggle audio fade out

Now your custom shortcuts will even show up in the menus.

Screen Shot 2018 03 03 at 10.32.27 AM

Then you just select your audio clip and use your new set of shortcuts to apply your audio fades.

Screen Shot 2018 03 03 at 10.24.27 AM

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Paste/Remove Attributes & Effects

Pasting attributes and effects between two clips is basically two ways of doing the same thing. Select a clip and press “Command-C” to copy it. If you choose to paste “attributes,” you’ll get a menu asking you which attributes to paste. If you paste “effects” then all those settings get immediately applied without the dialogue box that asks for confirmation.

Screen Shot 2018 03 03 at 10.43.19 AM

  • CMD-C: copy clip
  • CMD-OPT-V: paste all effects
  • CMD-SHIFT-V: paste attributes (so you can select which attributes to apply)
  • CMD-OPT-X: remove effects (all effects)
  • CMD-SHIFT-X: remove attributes (allows you to select which ones to remove)

If you want to remove clip attributes you get a similar dialogue box. You can even do this to a group of clips by selecting them all.

Screen Shot 2018 03 03 at 10.50.12 AM

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Overriding Clip Connections

The Tilde key (~) sits next to the number 1 on your keyboard. That key enables you to override clip connections in you timeline. With this key you can move a clip around your timeline with the Position tool (P) or the Trim Tool (T). You will see a little orange icon letting you know that the override is active.

Tilde

  • Tilde: override clip connections
  • P: position tool (a popular tool to use when you want to “turn off” the magnetic timeline properties and move a clip around with the magnetic snapping).
  • T: trim tool

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Inserting Gap Clips

An indispensable shortcut is inserting a gap clip (Option-W). Other NLE’s refer to this as a slug. I often insert a gap clip right in the beginning of a timeline to serve as a place to attach the opening music and provide a beat for a fade in. A gap clip is also created when you push a clip in the primary timeline up to become a connected clip (CMD-OPT-Up Arrow).

Screen Shot 2018 03 03 at 11.34.52 AM

  • OPT-W: insert gap
  • CMD-OPT-Up Arrow: life clip from Storyline
  • CMD-OPT-Down Arrow: overwrite clip down into Storyline

You can push a connected clip down into the primary storyline using CMD-OPT-Down Arrow. This is handy when you are cleaning up your timeline. If there is any audio attached to clips in your primary storyline, that audio will be automatically pushed below the primary storyline.

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Managing Your Workspace

Another great use for shortcuts is the management of your workspace. FCP X was created to work really well on single screen systems like laptops. So instead of floating windows, it relies primarily on panes that slide in and out—and recently they have introduced different workspaces for organizing clips or working in color.

Screen Shot 2018 03 03 at 11.51.36 AM

I cannot stress enough how much time can be saved, and how much expedient and efficient your editing will be if you memorize just these twelve commands. Spend 30 minutes to an hour customizing and memorizing them. It’ll be the best time you spend learning your NLE.

  • CMD-0: default workspace
  • CMD-SHIFT-1: organize workspace
  • CMD-2: color and effects workspace
  • CMD-~: show/hide sidebar
  • CTRL-CMD-1: show/hide browser
  • CTRL-CMD-3: show/hide event viewer
  • CMD-4: show/hide inspector
  • CTRL-CMD-2: show/hide timeline
  • CMD-SHIFT-2: show/hide timeline index
  • CMD-SHIFT-8: show/hide audio meters
  • CMD-5: show/hide effects
  • CMD-SHIFT-5: show/hide transitions

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Markers and Shortcuts

A quick tap of “M” sets a marker, but I prefer OPT-M. That shortcut not only sets a marker on your clip, but also opens the dialogue box that lets you name it. That way you can search for the marker later. It’s worth mentioning that if you type “M” while the playhead is on a marker that already exists, that will bring up the marker dialog box too. So double tapping “M” when creating a new marker will do the same thing as typing OPT-M.

  • M: add a marker
  • OPT-M (or double tapping M): add marker and open modify window

Screen Shot 2018 03 09 at 8.43.46 PM

In the browser you can set a range using the “I” and “O” keys. Then tap “F” to favorite that section of a clip or “Delete” to reject that section. Now you can sort by favorites CTRL-F or hide all rejects sections (CTRL-H). Think of this as a big improvement over making “sub-clips” in traditional NLEs.

Screen Shot 2018 03 09 at 8.44.41 PM

  • I: set in-point range
  • O: set out-point range
  • F: favorite a clip or selection
  • Delete: reject selected section
  • CTRL-F: show all favorites
  • CTRL-H: hide rejected clips
  • CTRL-C: show all clips

For a quick method of navigating your timeline, hop from marker to marker with (Control-‘) and go backwards with (Control-;) You can even use this method for navigating between markers on clips in your browser.

  • CTRL-’: next marker
  • CTRL-; : previous marker

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Inserting Only Audio or Video

Sometimes you have a clip in your browser that has both audio and video, but you only want to connect one or the other. SHIFT-2 will make it so that adding a clip from the browser will drop only the video portion into your timeline. SHIFT-3 selects only the audio for insertion. And when you want to go back to normal hit SHIFT-1. I use this technique all the time for inserting b-roll as connected clips. It helps keep everything tidy.

Screen Shot 2018 03 09 at 8.45.14 PM

  • SHIFT-1: video and audio paste setting
  • SHIFT-2: video only
  • SHIFT-3: audio only

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Making Little Edits Faster

Sometimes it is all about the little fine points of editing.

  • Click on an edit and use “,” and “.” to nudge the edit point over a single frame.
  • Click on an edit point and press CTRL-E to go into the Precision Editor. This seldom-used feature is handy when you are trying to see what you have to work with on both sides of the edit point simultaneously. Then use the down and up arrows to jump to the next point. (The Precision Editor can only be activated on clips in your Primary Storyline.)Screen Shot 2018 03 09 at 8.45.54 PM
  • When you have made a selection in the browser, that selection will remain highlighted. If you OPT-double-click or OPT-X, you can clear the selection.
  • Select an audio clip and use OPT-, or OPT-. to move the audio clip left or right by one subframe. That is perfect for syncing audio.
  • Press “N” to toggle snapping on and off. I love the feeling of snapping, but sometimes you need to make precise edits very close to another edit point without the playhead snapping away.
  • And when you need a quick cross fade just hit (Command-T) and FCP X will drop it right in.
  • ,: nudge left
  • .: nudge right
  • CTRL-E: precision editor
  • OPT-double-click (or OPT-X): clear range
  • OPT-,: nudge left by subframe
  • OPT-.: nudge right by subframe
  • N: toggle snapping on/off

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Conclusion

I hope you’ve been able to find some of these shortcuts helpful. My advice is the next time your mouse reaches for an often-used menu item, look at the shortcut next to it. Return your mouse to where it was and force yourself to do the shortcut. After just a few times you will have memorized it and you’ll be editing as fast as you can think.

Thank you to Reuben Evans for contributing this article.

FCP X veteran, filmmaker and Executive Producer at Faithlife TV/Faithlife Films. Reuben is currently in post production on his fifth feature-length documentary. And he is a co-writer on the upcoming narrative film "The Farmer and the Belle," due in theaters Thanksgiving 2018.

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