Top_Ten_newbie_errors

It seems that everybody now can work Final Cut Pro. To say you can't risks being overlooked for a job, not being able to join in "What Codec" chats down the pub or more embarrassing, having to ask for help when you've messed up the screen trying. Fear no more, Pro Apps expert Alex Snelling has compiled his top ten FCP GUI errors from his years of teaching fresh new editors.

By Alex Snelling

FCP is so intuitive that a lot of users teach themselves; often this works fine but there are hidden traps. Counting down from ten, these are those traps:

10. THE GREEN TICK

No it doesn’t mean you have received approval for your work of art from the internal FCP Gods.

ajs_a002_green_tick

It means you’ve been using a PC – you naughty person!! UNDO on a PC is control-Z and that is what you have pressed. In FCP it is the RANGE CHECK Excess Luma control, from the view menu.

This function tells you if your video contains any luminance over 100% (which is usually illegal for broadcast). In the picture below, we have luminance close to but not above 100%. If it goes over 100% you get the yellow warning triangle. Of course, you need to check the levels properly on external scopes for full confidence.

ajs_a001_range_check

Just press CONTROL-Z again to make it go away.

9. ZOOM

In a lot of applications, the command key with the plus/minus symbols allows you to zoom. This includes FCP (in the view menu).

ajs_a005_zoom

Unfortunately in FCP, if you have the canvas or the viewer selected when you press this shortcut, you will zoom in or out on those windows and not the timeline. In the vast majority of cases, you will want to zoom the timeline. And not the canvas.

I have seen many people working with tiny sequence windows (see below) as they don’t know to change this back.

ajs_a003_zoom

Press SHIFT-Z to get back to full screen viewing.

ajs_a004_fit_to_window

The real trick is to try using the alt (option) key (with plus/minus) to zoom. This will always zoom the timeline (unless you have the browser selected).

NOTE. I use these functions so much, I have them remapped to the numbers 1 and 2 on the keyboard.

8. THE INTERFACE KEEPS FLYING AROUND THE SCREEN

Two of the most important shortcuts in FCP are insert and overwrite (F9 & F10). Unfortunately these shortcuts are pre-assigned in OSX to Expose. This function will fly your windows around the screen. If this keeps happening to you, then go the System Preferences from the Apple menu at the top left of your screen and select Expose and Spaces.

ajs_a006_expose

From here you need to DESELECT all the functions in the pulldown menus for the shown functions below. Now the FCP functions will work as planned.

ajs_a007_expose_two

7. RIGHT CLICK

You can’t get far without right (or control click) in FCP but when you first plug in a mighty mouse, RIGHT click may not be selected. You need to choose SECONDARY from the pulldown menu if you want right click to work.

ajs_a008_mouse

This is also where you select BUTTON 3 if you wish to use the mouse to scroll windows and this is essential if you are going to use the COLOR application.

6. TIMELINE TRACK CONTROL

There are many many different functions to control your work in the timeline however the SOURCE DESTINATION controls (in red right) do only one thing. 

ajs_a012_source_destThey control which tracks you edit footage from the viewer or browser INTO the timeline. Once the footage is in the timeline, these controls do EXACTLY NOTHING.

The various controls for mastering working in the timeline are your mouse, autoselect, lock, linked selection, various audio controls, the pop-up menus at the bottom left of the timeline, snapping and more.

But really the controls above do nothing once in the timeline. Really nothing. Nada.

 

5. AUDIO TRACK CONTROLS

The audio mixer in FCP is a superb tool once mastered however doesn’t cover every need.

One thing that is confusing is that the individual faders on the left (in this case four of them), control individual clips on a track and NOT WHOLE TRACKS. There is NO function in the mixer to change the volume of a whole track.

ajs_a013_mixer

If you need to change the volume of an entire track, then use either the levels or the audio controls – both in the MODIFY menu. (You need to select the clips first of course)

ajs_a016_modify

4. WHERE HAVE THE EFFECTS GONE?

It is quite easy to close or hide windows in FCP. If you do lose a window and in particular the EFFECTS tab, you can call it up again from the WINDOW menu or even easier, press COMMAND-5.

ajs_a014_effectstab

Note that the Effects window is not ticked above.

3. MY TIMELINE HAS GONE ALL FUNNY

ajs_a015_tools

If your interface appears to be doing something unusual; like zooming, adding edits, selecting everything, trimming or just acting plain weird, it is most likely that you have selected a tool by accident or otherwise.

Always work in the timeline with the default selection tool (the arrow) unless you specifically want to use another tool. To choose this tool simply press the A key. (A for arrow)

NOTE: If you press A with the browser active, this will find a clip beginning with the letter A. Any other window will select the arrow.

 

 

 

2. DRAGGING TO THE TIMELINE

Within minutes of opening FCP, newbies will be dragging and dropping stuff all over the interface. This can be a mountain of spices in the right hands or a world of pain if you don’t know the rules. The rules are quite simple but the exceptions to those rules are not and will cause unexpected results, as below.

ajs_a018_dragging

The short answer to keeping a tidy timeline is to use the insert/overwrite and related functions in the canvas overlay.

ajs_a017_drag2

This may seem counterintuitive but will help you in the longrun especially with a complex edit.

NOTE: The perfect time to drag directly to the timeline is to spot a sound effect or add a video cutaway – in other words when you are using one clip with ONE track such as the video cutaway below on V2…

ajs_a017_drag3

… or adding a music track as below:

ajs_a019_drag4

NOTE: This edit is ignoring the source-destination controls. When you are learning, steer clear of this apparent timesaver, it will just confuse you.

1. WHY IS MY TEXT NOT CHANGING IN THE TIMELINE?

Finding the text generator is easy enough in FCP but when I change the letters, why does it still say “SAMPLE TEXT”??

Ever typed a whole paragraph or more into the controls tab of the viewer and watch it disappear before your eyes?

ajs_a009_text_6

This is the classic mistake. Still gets me from time-to-time. Unlike in Motion, for example, where the inspector loads automatically for your selected clip, in FCP you must DOUBLE CLICK the clip from the timeline into the viewer, in order to change it. If you don’t do this then you will lose all the text when you load another clip into the viewer.

The best steps for text (or any other generator) creation from the viewer are:

  • Load the generator into the viewer. 
  •  Edit it into the timeline (don’t worry that it says “Sample Text.”) 
  •  Double click the text clip in the timeline. (It will load back into the viewer.) 
  •  Now edit or write your text. 
  •  Press the TAB key to update the timeline. (If you press return you will get a carriage return in your text).

NOTE: If you drag the text from the effects tab you can go straight to step 3 above.

REASON: To modify a timeline clip in the viewer you must double-click. You will know that you have a timeline clip in the viewer if you see DOUBLE DOTS in the scrub bar.

ajs_a010_text_cu1

WRONG

ajs_a011_text_cu2

RIGHT

Double dots = double click.

That’s all folks, thanks for watching.

Alexander Snelling  © fcp.co 2011


Alex Snelling has been training pro apps around the world since 2004. He has also made a feature film using FCP that was released in UK and US in February 2011. http://www.tantrictourists.com/