Final Cut Pro X – Five Favourite Features

Let’s face it; Final Cut Pro X is a divisive piece of software. And it’s tough to deny that its release was, shall we say, fumbled.


But the reality is that, in the 4 years since it first debuted, it has steadily improved year after year through a number of considerable updates (all free I might add). Final Cut Pro X is now an incredibly solid, fast, and powerful non linear editing system.


While we could spend hours discussing all sorts of features, and various tips and tricks, I’d rather focus on five of my favourite features that make Final Cut Pro X so great, and my NLE of choice.



Magnetic Timeline

Using the magnetic timeline to move a clip, while other clips ripple around it.


There’s a lot to be said here, but what I love most about the magnetic timeline is how it simply “gets out of the way.” Re-arranging clips, or groups of clips, is as easy as dropping them exactly where you want. Everything magically pops out of the way to make room. This makes moving portions of your edit easy and painless, and ultimately will save you a lot of time.




Quickly retime your clips with a few clicks


Retiming in legacy FCP was awful. It was inaccurate, the results were a mixed bag at best, and good luck trying to get ramped speed effects. Retiming couldn’t be easier with Final Cut Pro X, especially with the new retiming header. You can easily pick from the preset speeds, enter a custom speed, or use my favourite option and simply grab the handles to adjust to whatever length you require. It’s fast, it’s painless, and when switching the quality to Optical Flow you’ll have truly impressive results.



Use optical flow to get impressive results


This feature was used extensively for our GANT Rugger F/W 14 campaign film, where we slowed down 30fps footage in a 24fps timeline for a dreamy effect. Sometimes the 20% slow-down wasn’t enough, and being able to simply grab the adjustment handle for more really sped up my edit.




Built in stabilization saves an incredible amount of time (and the results are great too)


Another great built-in feature of Final Cut Pro X is its new stabilization engine. It’s now easier than ever to enable stabilization of a clip, and the results are very good. While it’s not as powerful as a third-party tool, more often than not with a little trial and error you can get truly excellent results. It’s nice when I can avoid a roundtrip through After Effects, where our more powerful plugins live.


Stabilization came in very handy during the GANT Rugger S/S 14 campaign edit. Our shooters were running around a chaotic yacht party, grabbing little moments as they sailed down the Hudson River. The stabilization tool allowed me to use shots that otherwise wouldn’t be campaign-worthy, even though the content was great.




Background render means you can work while FCP X chugs away


This is probably one of everyones favourite features. The fact that you can apply an effect, and simply get on with your edit while it renders out in the background is truly remarkable. Finally FCPX is using all of the horsepower from our expensive 16+ thread edit suites!


It’s especially handy during colour grade sessions; Ivan can be rolling out colour across an edit while his previous setups are rendering in the background. By the time he gets to the end of a timeline, the whole project is already finished rendering and ready to go. No more “go for lunch and hope the render’s done when you get back”!




Adding audio keyframes has never been easier


One of the biggest headaches in legacy Final Cut Pro was working with audio keyframes. They were tedious to add, and even more tedious to manipulate. The new audio keyframe tools in FCPX make this a thing of the past. For starters, dipping audio is as easy as selecting the range where you want to dip and then dragging the volume controller down. FCPX will auto-generate the keyframes you need, saving you 4 clicks.



It’s also never been easier to grab multiple keyframes at once and then move them


But say your video footage has moved down the timeline and now your dip is in the wrong place. That happens all the time. Instead of having to move each keyframe individually, you can now select them with the range tool and move all four at once. Want to save even more time? You can simply cut those keyframes from the original location, and paste them into their new location. Have a new location that needs a dip? You can just copy and paste the dip you previously made and adjust accordingly. These kind of changes make your life so much easier and so much faster!



These five features may not seem overly exciting, but they really go a long way into speeding up the edit process. They help to set Final Cut Pro X apart from the other NLEs out there, and are just some of the features that make Final Cut my favourite tool to edit with.


– Adam.