10 Things Every Final Cut Pro Editor Should Know

The sheer depth of Final Cut Pro features can intimidate new users. Apple’s plan was to take the video editing world by storm with their professional editing app. In order to shake Avid from its high horse, Apple had to cram an unbelievable amount of features in there.

We’ve assembled ten features that will help you master FCP and create the next great movie.

1. Keep Organized

Video files are large, and Final Cut Pro generates a lot of information using these files. If you are not careful, your hard drive will be full and you will need a CSI team to clear out all the capture and render files that have exploded across your system. To help keep David Caruso away from your computer and all its bits, watch the video below to learn how to keep your FCP files organized.

2. Toggle Clip Overlays

So you want to bring down your audio levels, fade out your video, or even super impose one layer of video over another while they both play at the same time?  Bold, very bold, we like how you think. Now stop thinking and start layering video.


In the bottom left corner of the timeline you will find the Toggle Clip Overlays button (Option+W), it looks like a mountain range with a couple of dots on it.  When you toggle this button, you will see red lines appear across your audio and a black line across the top of your video. Don’t panic, now you can increase or decrease the overall opacity of the video or volume of the audio with the selection tool, just “grab” the line and move it up or down.


For more precise control and track fading, choose the Pen tool (P) in the Tools Palette. Now when you click on the red line in the audio, or black line in the video, it will create a key frame that you can manipulate. Create a second key frame to the right or left of the first one, drag it down and you have created a fade in or out.  If you stack video clips on top of each other and bring down the opacity of the upper clip, you will be able to see through to the lower clip.

3. Snapping

Snapping is simultaneously the best and worst feature in Final Cut Pro.  Snapping, does this have anything to do with turtles? Unfortunately, no. When the snapping feature is enabled it pulls your playhead to the nearest edit, or when dragging clips, “magnetically” pulls them together. This helps to avoid flash frames, or tiny spaces between edits. All very helpful, until you want to precisely scrub video near an edit point or trim a frame or two off the end of a clip, suddenly your playhead is a possessed demon with a mind of its own, flying willy nilly toward the nearest edit point.


What you need is control, and the power to summon or exorcize that demon at will. That power is N, hit N on the keyboard to toggle snapping on and off as needed. You can also switch snapping on and off with the toggle button in the upper right corner of the timeline window.  An extra treat for the hard core control freaks, you can toggle snapping on and off while scrubbing or dragging clips in the timeline, just hit N while in the process of dragging, trimming or scrubbing in the timeline.



Like rotary phones, the buggy whip and good episodes of Heroes, VCRs are a thing of the past. Just because the VCR is gone doesn’t mean you don’t need to fast forward and rewind from time to time. To save yourself some mouse clicks and drags, mosey your hand over to that keyboard and feel the magic of JKL.  Hitting the J key will start moving “backward” through your footage, if you press it again it will increase the speed you are “rewinding”, keeping hitting it, it will go faster and faster. If you can press the key at 88mph you will go back in time, well, not really, that is a lie.
To move forward, and fast-forward, through your footage you’ll use the L key.
The K key brings everything to a grinding halt, just hit it once to stop the madness. In order to play your footage normally press the Spacebar. Pressing the spacebar a second time will pause the footage. These hot keys work within the timeline, canvas or viewer when active. This will also work with the Quicktime player application.
5. Paste Attributes

Just because the iPhone doesn’t have cut and paste yet, doesn’t mean the rest of the world has to suffer. If you are using the same multiple effects on clips through out your project, Final Cut has a secret weapon to help save you a lot of time.


In the timeline, right click or ctrl click on a video or audio clip that you have already applied effects to. In the contextual menu, select copy. Now move to the clip you would like to add the same effects to, and right click (ctrl click), choose the Paste Attributes selection.


In the window that pops up you will find quite a few helpful choices, you can transfer any of the available attributes from one clip to another by clicking the box next to the option. Hit ok, now your settings have been copied and can be adjusted independently on the new clip.