Long ago, in the early ages of digital video editing there was a historic battle between two great tribes: Adobe Premiere and Apple Final Cut. And when all the dust settled, Premiere appeared to emerge victorious as it became the industry standard for professional video editing.
However, Final Cut Pro did not disappear; instead Apple relaunched its flagship non-linear editing (NLE)app as Final Cut Pro X and has quietly continued on as a reliable and accessible video editing platform that is just as worthy and powerful as its perhaps more popular counterpart.
And in fact, for those getting started in video editing for the first time, FCPX could actually be seen as the more intuitive and easy-to-adopt of the two, and a great program to hone your editing chops. Here’s your friendly guide to Final Cut Pro X for beginners, plus those who might be curious to see what this industry titan still has to offer in the world of video editing.
How to add text in Final Cut Pro X
Adding text to your video can up its professional value immensely. Lower thirds, titles, and end credits all bring helpful context to your storyline. Plus, they’re pretty easy to incorporate in post-production; you can do it all directly in Final Cut Pro X (FCPX). In this tutorial, we’ll walk you through the process.
How to place your text
- Drag your playhead to where you want to place your text.
- Go to the Titles and Generators sidebar. If it’s not already displayed, choose Window > Go To > Titles or Generators. This will open up the panel.
- Next, you’ll see premade titles, lower thirds, credits, etc. You can use one of these presets or make your own.
- For the premade titles, preview the graphics by scanning over the thumbnail. Double-click to insert it into your timeline. Then, adjust the length by pulling on the clip itself.
How to customize your text
Follow steps 1-4 above, then:
- In your storyline, double-click on the text clip to open the Text Inspector panel. This is where you can change the text’s appearance, including color and simple effects like glows and drop shadows.
Pro-tip: None of the presented options will change the way the text animates, so you’ll want to keep that in mind when you make your initial text selection.
If you need your title to be completely customizable, effects and all, go for the Custom title. You’ll find that hidden in the premade titles.
How to put it all together
- Now, add the title to your sequence. Double-click the Custom title option. And to customize, double-click the title in your sequence.
- Finally, add effects and transitions, if you want ‘em. For example, to add a crossfade, click the edge of a clip in the storyline. Choose Edit > Add Cross Dissolve (or press Command-T).
If your title design needs go beyond FCPX capabilities, you can make them in other programs (like Adobe Illustrator) and import them to your piece.
How to reverse a clip
Reversing a video clip makes it so that the last frame plays first and the first frame plays last. You may want to reverse a clip in your project for a myriad of reasons, and we’re going to walk you through how to do it in Final Cut Pro X.
This feature can simulate a rewind effect or change the direction of a moving object; like reversing a sunset if you were too lazy to get up at 5 AM to catch the sunrise.
The exciting news: Accomplishing a reverse clip is fast and easy! Let’s get started.
- In your Timeline, select a clip or multiple clips that you’d like to reverse.
- Now choose the Retime button. It looks like a little stopwatch.
- Now click on Reverse clip. Once you see a green bar with little arrows pointing to the left above your clip, you’ll know it has been reversed.
Optional: Adjust your clip’s speed. If you want to speed up or slow down your reverse effect, you can do that by grabbing the retiming handle at the edge of the colored bar. Dragging it to the right increases the speed and dragging it to the left will decrease it.
How to stabilize a shot in Final Cut Pro X
So, you drank too much coffee and now your handheld shots are a bit shaky. Fear not. You can still stabilize your shot in post. Final Cut Pro X has a built-in image stabilization feature that helps you smooth out that unwanted shakiness.
Bonus: It’s really easy to use.
Let’s get started.
How to stabilize your shot
- Drop the clip that you want to stabilize into your timeline.
- You can only stabilize an entire clip, and not a portion of a clip. So you’ll need to use the Blade tool to trim the exact portion you want to stabilize.
- Choose the Inspector button. If you don’t see it, hit ⌘4 on your keyboard.
- In the Inspector window, choose the Video button.
- Next, check the box next to Stabilization. Automatic settings are applied and Final Cut Pro X begins stabilizing your footage. Good robot.
Now, if you’re happy with the results, you’re done. You can also tweak your settings further. Click on Show (next to Stabilization). From here, fine-tune your video’s stabilization based on your preferences. The higher you move the sliders, the more aggressive the stabilization correction is.
The translation smooth slider affects movement on the x and y axes (left, right, up, down). The rotation smooth slider affects rotation around the center point. Finally, the scale smooth slider affects movement on the z axis (that’s forward and backward movement).
How to add closed captions
Moving on, another great feature included in Final Cut Pro X is the ability to easily add closed captions or subtitles to any video. In general, if you haven’t considered using closed captions for your videos before you absolutely should.
Not only do they help the hearing-impared, adding closed captions can give a huge boost to a video’s ability to perform well online – as well as provide subtitle options for films or other projects looking to screen in front of audiences which speak a different language.
Here are the basic steps for adding closed captions to follow:
- Position the playhead where you want captions to appear
- Choose Edit > Captions > Add Caption
You can also simply press Option+C (or Control+Option+C if the Caption Editor is already opened).
Once you’ve added a caption, you can use the Caption Editor to add in whatever text that you might like. You can also make other adjustments to how and when the text will appear on screen for your project.
H2 How to merge clips together in Final Cut Pro X
Another helpful trick to consider when working in Final Cut Pro X is to quickly and easily merge or connect clips together. This function is super helpful when trying to add effects to multiple clips at once, or to clean up your timeline when you have too many disconnected clips and assets.
Here are the basic steps for merging clips together in Final Cut Pro X:
- Select the clips which you’d like to merge (make sure they are next to each other)
- Click Trim > Join Clips
You can also choose to create a Compound Clip by highlighting multiple clips (even if they’re not adjacent) and right clicking to select “New Compound Clip.” You can also simply press Option+G as well.
How to cut your clips in Final Cut Pro X
If you want to remove footage from your clip in Final Cut Pro X, and you don’t want to adjust its duration, the Blade tool is handy, any way you slice it. This tool lets you remove footage from your clip you don’t want to use or to adjust duration.
Here’s how it works.
How to cut your video clip
- Move the clip you want to cut to the timeline.
- Click the tools menu in the top left corner of the timeline and choose the Blade tool. For an easier way, just press the B key on your keyboard.
- Move your skimmer over where you want to make your cut and then click.
That’s it! It’s really that simple. There’s a bit more functionality built into the Blade tool so here’s a couple of helpful tips.
How to get the most out of the Blade tool
Tip 1: If you want to just use the Blade tool momentarily, press and hold the B key while performing the cut. After you make the cut, the tool will revert back to the one you were previously using.
Tip 2: If you have multiple audio and video tracks on top of each other, you can cut them all at once by moving your skimmer to the location where you want to cut and then hitting Shift-Command-B on your keyboard.
Tip 3: If you want to undo a cut you made, select the two clips you want to turn back into one and then go to Trim > Join Clips.
Now that’s cutting edge technology.
How to create a freeze frame
Creating a freeze frame holds your chosen clip in place, stopping any movement in your video like a photograph. There are a number of reasons you’d want to use this technique: to emphasize a jump or high five, or to pause the action in order to add some additional narration.
The good news? It’s super easy to do.
- Move your playhead to the frame you want to freeze.
- Go to Edit > Add Freeze Frame. You can also use the shortcut Option-F.
That’s it! Seriously, you’re done.
One last thing: The default duration for your new, still clip is four seconds, but you can adjust that. On the menu bar click Final Cut Pro > Preferences > Editing. From there, adjust the freeze length using the “still image duration” selector.
How to sync audio in Final Cut Pro X
If you’ve ever been on a video shoot and recorded footage with multiple cameras (or even added in a channel or two of audio from a separate audio recorder) then you’ll know the pains of trying to sync together so much audio and video.
Getting the various files and wavelengths to match up can be quite infuriating and time consuming. And while there are some functions and third-party options for syncing audio to video in Premiere Pro, Final Cut Pro has always outdone its counterpart in this realm.
So, if you do find yourself in this situation and want to quickly and easily sync your audio and video files together, Final Cut Pro X has you covered. Just follow along with the video and basic steps below to get your audio and video perfectly in sync.
- In the FCPX browser, select all the audio and video clips you want to sync.
- In the menu bar, choose Clip > Synchronize clips. A window will pop up and this is where you set up the sync.
- Type in a name for your newly-synced clip, check the box for Use audio for synchronization. Pro-tip: If you want to remove your reference audio from the video track, just check the box to disable audio components on AV clips.
- Click OK. Now sit back and let the FCPX perform actual miracles!
- Once it’s done syncing, Final Cut Pro will generate a synced clip with the name you specified earlier. Simply click and drag the newly created clip into your timeline and you’re done!
How to export in Final Cut Pro X
Exporting video files from Final Cut Pro X (FCPX) is one of the most searched-for tutorials. That’s because in many ways it’s the final stage of post-production. If you intend for the world to see your amazing new video, you have to export your video file from your editing software to its proper viewing platform.
While exporting video files from Final Cut Pro X is fairly simple, people search for it all the time. That’s because Final Cut Pro X went the way of iMovie and changed Export to Share. So, forget the word “export.” We’re going to show you how to share your video from Final Cut Pro X. Keep scrolling for the step-by-step below, or watch the on-screen video tutorial above.
- You’ll find Go to File > Share. In my opinion, the best option you’re given is to share a Master File. It gives you the most freedom to export from Final Cut Pro X the way you want it, and in choosing its destination.
- Give your video a name and description, choose the best settings, and select its export destination from the available menus. (Pro tip: While it’s exporting, you can check the status of your file by opening the background tasks window.)
- When your video is finished exporting, it’ll show up wherever you directed the file to be saved.
Bonus: Upload directly to Vimeo (in 3 easy steps!)
There are other options for sharing your video. Another method is to upload it directly to Vimeo. Be aware that when you share directly to any platform, no file will be saved to your computer. But if you want to upload a rough cut quickly without clogging up your computer with a dozen unfinished versions, this is the way to go.
- To share directly to Vimeo, you’ll find the option under File > Share.
- Give your video a name and description. Choose your settings. Make sure to change your privacy settings if you want them to be private!
- You’ll be prompted to log in to your Vimeo account and agree to our terms of service, so make sure the video is yours to share.
If you have Final Cut Pro X notifications turned on, you will be alerted when your video has been successfully shared to Vimeo.
Handy keyboard shortcuts for Final Cut Pro X
Finally, as is the case with most video editing software and apps, if you really want to ramp up your workflow speed and output, the name of the game is keyboard shortcuts. Final Cut Pro X is no different and actually offers some of the more sophisticated, yet easy to remember, shortcuts of all the NLE platforms.
Here are some of our favorite FCPX shortcuts to help speed up your editing game.
- Create a New Project: ⌘N
- Import Media: ⌘I
- Export/Share Project: ⌘E
- Turn Snapping On/Off: N
- Play Timeline: Space Bar
- Skim Timeline: Hold S and move cursor
- Undo Last Action: ⌘Z
- Redo Last Action: ⌘⇧Z
- Zoom In: ⌘=
- Zoom Out: ⌘-
- Mark In Point: I
- Mark Out Point: O
- Expand Audio: ^S
- Collapse Audio: ⌃⇧S
- Add Title: ^T
- Add Lower Third: ⌃⇧T
Those are just some of our favorites though, you can check out the full list of Final Cut Pro X keyboard shortcuts on the official Apple website.
There you have it.
Apple’s Final Cut Pro X is indeed a worthy challenger to Adobe’s Premiere Pro (as well as any other NLE platforms for that matter). The real question for any beginners or those starting off in video editing for the first time isn’t really about functionality at this point, but about familiarness and comfort.
For instance, if you’re already familiar with iMovie or other Apple products and softwares, Final Cut Pro can be a great option to keep everything interconnected. Final Cut Pro X is also perhaps one of the most accessible and easy-to-learn, so you should expect to be up and running in a matter of days over weeks or months.
Also, if you’d like to further develop your skills and learn some other NLE editing tricks and techniques, check out these additional video editing resources:
- Looking for the best video editing software in 2021? Start here
- Video editing 101: Here are 6 basic tips every beginner needs to know
- Bookmark this guide to Adobe Premiere Pro from the pros
- Not sure how to use After Effects? Start here