Speed Up Final Cut Pro with CommandPost
Efficiency is everything when editing on a deadline. In the world of quick turns, same-day edits, and the insatiable cycles of social media audiences, we’re always looking for ways to optimize our workflows.
And that’s where CommandPost comes in. CommandPost is a powerful, free, open-source helper app that opens up a vast array of optimizations for Final Cut Pro, including connecting to your hardware control surface. It also works with Adobe After Effects, in case you find yourself bouncing back and forth between these two applications.
So in this article we’ll see how you can use CommandPost to optimize your workflows, particularly for specific, repeatable processes that editors encounter on a daily basis. Then we’ll take a look at the benefits of using a control surface for editing with a look at some of the more popular devices, and how CommandPost takes them beyond their standard functionality.
Along the way, I’ll link to helpful hands-on tutorials so that you can compare the different products out there for yourself.
Using CommandPost in Final Cut Pro
CommandPost uses a clever contextual menu system that displays options specific to the active application. So when you’re in Finder, you’ll see one set of option, and in Final Cut Pro, you’ll see another. For example, here’s the FCP menu.
(We’re currently in production for a documentary film celebrating the 250th anniversary of the song Amazing Grace. The behind-the-scenes shots in this screengrab are from our location in Olney, England.)
You can see that I’ve got Enable Scrolling Timeline selected in the menu, which allows for the timeline to scroll by instead of the playhead. (It’s a popular use of the app, demonstrated in the video below. But to be honest, I actually prefer the default timeline behavior.)
Batch export from the FCP timeline
Another helpful feature is to batch export clips from your timeline. FCP allows you to batch export from your browser, but it doesn’t have an automated process to do this with the clips in your active timeline. This could come in handy for sending clips for color correction, VFX, placing watermarks, and more. In this case, I’m sending over the clips to Apple’s Compressor app for export.
You’ll also notice Frame.io destination presets. This is because I have the Frame.io app installed. However, the CommandPost team recommends the Frame.io app, batch exporting to a Frame.io watch folder.
To create a Frame.io Watch folder, just go to the Frame.io icon and designate a folder and a project. Now the Frame.io app will watch that folder, and when you export a movie to it, the video will automatically upload to your Frame.io project.
Turn CommandPost actions into shortcuts
Pressing Ctrl+Opt+Cmd+Space opens up the search console for CommandPost where you’ll find actions that combine several mouse clicks. Here, you can assign those actions to keyboard shortcuts. Let’s say you shot some video on an iPhone and it comes into FCP as HDR, it might look like this.
You’ll want to apply the HDR tools filter to it. But that takes a few clicks if your inspectors are closed up. But that entire sequence can be turned into a single shortcut in the Control Surfaces window under the keyboard tab.
Click the “Select” button to choose a CommandPost action.
Type “HDR” into the search console, and press enter.
Now choose your own shortcut by selecting a modifier(s) and a key.
Now, when your playhead is over a clip in FCP, you can just hit your new shortcut Shift+Cmd+2 and CommandPost will automatically apply the HDR Tools filter to the clip, open your inspector and highlight the tool. That just leaves you to choose the HLG to Rec. 709 SDR setting, and you’re all set.
Now that we’ve seen how powerful CommandPost actions are, let’s see what happens when those get combined with a control surface that isn’t just your keyboard.
By using CommandPost to assign an action to a dedicated button on your control surface, you can find exponential productivity gains.
Using CommandPost with a control surface
Control surfaces with jog wheels, knobs, and dedicated buttons have a long history in the edit bay. Editors used to use them to navigate through tapes, and there are still significant benefits to using a dedicated control interface, even in digital-only workflows. Just ask a colorist.
Colorists have used control surfaces to attain the kind of granularity that you can’t easily achieve with a mouse. Colorists also use tracking balls and wheels to manipulate multiple parameters simultaneously—for example, you can adjust saturation and midtone contrast at the same time so that you can explore the interplay between those two parameters. Also, having dedicated controls allow you to program macros and looks.
And a control surface isn’t just for color. When it comes to audio, you can program commonly used actions and significantly reduce the number of mouse clicks. So let’s look at these use cases and see how CommandPost can combine with control surfaces to smooth out your workflow.
Benefits for editors
Eliminating two-handed shortcuts is the first benefit you may see from a control surface. The main idea is that you can use the control surface in combination with your pointer device (mouse, trackpad, or even Wacom tablet). For instance, when you want to increase the volume of a clip in FCP, select it with the mouse and then use the shortcut “Ctrl+=”. That removes your hand from the mouse, and then you return to it. It’s just a second, but over time, those seconds add up.
“It’s just a second, but over time, those seconds add up.”
The next benefit of a control surface is direct access to settings that take several clicks. It takes a couple of shortcuts and a couple of mouse clicks to add a color board, open the video scopes and begin adjusting one of the pucks. On a control surface working with CommandPost, you can program all that into an action (which is basically a macro) and assign it to a button.
Specific control surfaces
CommandPost is compatible with a whole slew of control surfaces. But most of these ship with their own software. Some are more focused on specific apps, like Blackmagic Design’s DaVinci Resolve Speed Editor.
Some work better in certain apps, and some have higher or lesser degrees of compatibility with CommandPost. So here’s a quick look at which of the available control surfaces offer a high degree of compatibility with Final Cut Pro and integration with CommandPost, with an eye on DaVinci Resolve compatibility.
Monogram Creative Console
First up on the list is the Monogram Creative Console. Monogram is an innovative modular control surface that lets you snap various controls together like Lego bricks. It checks both of our boxes in regard to deep integration with both Final Cut Pro and CommandPost. They even have a support page and a video to help get you started.
They show you how to use the knobs to control parameters like scale and position. The “orbiter” dial can control the master color wheel. Ripple Training’s Mark Spencer demonstrates how to use 3 orbiter dials like color grading trackballs.
At the same time, some Windows users wish for even more flexibility in the UI provided by Monogram. It’s worth noting that “orbiters” don’t work for color grading in DaVinci Resolve. Newly developed features are available via annual “console packs.”
If you want to take a look at tight integration with CommandPost, Tangent comes out looking brilliantly. They actually worked with the CommandPost team to make sure that their control surfaces integrated tightly with Final Cut Pro.
FCP users looking to add precision to the color grading workflow might want to take a look at the Tangent Wave or Ripple. At around $900 and $330, respectively, the Tangent panels offer some distinct advantages.
The trackballs are high quality and very precise, in the past, I’ve used them with DaVinci Resolve. The integration with FCP is really solid, making Tangent’s products a great choice for FCP users.
The panels work well for the color page in DaVinci Resolve, but Blackmagic’s panels have tighter integration. They do focus on color, though, while the Monogram system embraces an array of functions. It’s been pointed out that you can combine multiple surfaces. For instance, you could have the Tangent Wave2 and alongside it have a Streamdeck with additional dedicated buttons. So just keep in mind that you don’t have to be forced into an either/or scenario.
CommandPost offers a great interface for customizing your Streamdeck, which is a compact device with customizable buttons. I’ve used it for live streaming and it works well. However, CommandPost warns that the official Streamdeck app is not compatible with CommandPost and can’t run at the same time.
So here’s a situation where you could get the advantages of using a control surface through their dedicated hardware or mobile app. But you’d lose out on the advantages of CommandPost that aren’t related to control surfaces.
Stepping outside the video world and into gaming, you’ll find some great hardware from Razer. Like the Razer Stream Controller and Tartarus 2. CommandPost lets you put these devices to work right in FCP.
Now you might be thinking that it looks a little wild for your edit bay. But maybe the price tag of $77 might change your mind. Now there aren’t trackballs, orbiters or knobs, or OLED screens, but using CommandPost you can map actions to its 20 custom buttons, wheel, and joystick.
So if you’re on a budget, it might be worth giving it a try. CommandPost also supports other Razer input devices, too.
Loupedeck developed their hardware and plugin with FCP users in mind. Loupedeck is reasonably priced around $297 and gives you many of the advantages of the higher priced control surfaces.
CommandPost integrates into the LoupeDeck plugin, so you aren’t stuck in the position of having to choose, like you are with the Elgato Streamdeck. However, the Streamdeck lets you customize the appearance of buttons, while you’re stuck with some awkward labels with the Loupedeck+.
And that’s where the Loupedeck CT comes in. At $559, it’s double the price of the Loupedeck+. But there’s a reason why this is becoming a favorite tool of YouTubers.
Customizable buttons, knobs, and a dial really make this a valuable tool for the editing process. The Loupedeck CT can help you with color correction as well, but you don’t get the advantage of moving multiple balls like you do on the Tangent panel or the Monogram.
When you dive in this deep, you can begin to see how certain surfaces favor one part of the post-production process over another. But Loupedeck should be commended for their deep integration of CommandPost into their plugin. It makes for a powerful combination in FCP. But keep in mind that it won’t help you on color grading in Resolve.
DaVinci Resolve was made for control surfaces. So it’s no surprise to find that Blackmagic Design has some of the best around, as well as additional panels like the Editor Keyboard and Speed Editor.
CommandPost can put these panels to work in Final Cut Pro. However, they warn that “DaVinci Resolve will totally override CommandPost when running, even if DaVinci Resolve is just running in the background.”
So if you’re accustomed to a round trip workflow with both apps open at the same time, you won’t be able to use the control surface in FCP until you close Resolve, which is a significant drawback for some.
Control surfaces and audio
We’ve focused mainly on video editing and color grading. But these control surfaces are great for audio editing too. For instance, Monogram’s panels can be used in Logic Pro. Those sliders operate just like faders.
So if you’re an FCP and Logic user, you’ll find that the console will fit your workflow well.
Removing friction from your workflow
Anything you can do to remove friction from your workflow is worth considering. You want to work at the speed of thought and you want to maximize your creative energy and I think that CommandPost helps you do that, whether you have a hardware control surface or not.
There’s so much more that CommandPost can do, including deep integration with After Effects, midi devices, gamepads, and even the Apple Touch Bar. So I’d encourage you to download it, join the community (thanks to admin Chris Hocking for his help with this article) and maybe even consider a donation to help further this amazing open-source app.