Insider Tips: Easy Focus Pulls with Final Cut Pro’s Reverse Clip

Every week, Insider asks one of our expert contributors to share a tip, tool, or technique that they use all the time and couldn’t live without. This week, Reuben Evans demonstrates how to use Final Cut Pro’s Reverse Clip tool to make focus pulling easier.

Make focus pulling easier with Final Cut Pro’s Reverse Clip

When you’re shooting a video of someone handling a key prop, you often need to shift focus from your actor to the prop they are holding. This could be a mobile phone or a book that, when held by an actor or model, doesn’t always stop in exactly the same spot with each take.

This can make pulling focus difficult, and it wears out amateur talent in a hurry. But the script calls for focus to move from an actor to a specific point on a prop. So what can you do?

Think backwards

The solution is to plan your shot in reverse during production. And then use the Reverse Clip tool in Final Cut Pro to retime your shot during post. So start your shot with critical focus on the prop, maybe even a specific word on a page. Then tilt up to the talent.

When you’re in Final Cut Pro, drop the clip into the timeline. Select it and then click the drop-down menu next to the retiming icon in the viewer. Then select Reverse Clip.

Now your shot plays in reverse on the timeline, and your focus moves from the talent to the crucial spot of the prop. This technique is really handy when you’re shooting solo and you’re going to be the editor. But if someone else is editing the footage, make sure to let them know you shot it in reverse!

James Cameron famously pulled this trick off in Aliens (Called a “back to front” shot here), and now you can too.

Insider Tips are helpful weekly posts brought to you by’s awesome writers and industry experts. Come back for a new Insider Tip every Wednesday, or subscribe to our newsletter to get a reminder each week.

Screenshots from Amazing Grace (due for release in 2024). Courtesy of Visuals 1st Films, LLC.

Reuben Evans

Reuben Evans is an award-winning screenwriter, executive producer at Faithlife, and a member of the Producers Guild of America. He has produced and directed numerous documentaries and commercials. Reuben’s tools of choice are RED Cameras, Final Cut Pro, and DaVinci Resolve. He writes for Insider and is part of the Blade Ronner Media writers network. Reuben resides in Washington state with his wife, four kids, and one crazy goldendoodle puppy named Baker.

Insider Tips: Put Your After Effects Guides Right Where You Want Them

Insider Tips: How to Use FCP’s Segmented Exports for Long Edits

Insider Tips: Mastering the Premiere Pro Swap Edit