How to Add a Freeze Frame in Final Cut Pro X

Final Cut Pro November 17, 2019 5 min read

It would be fantastic if we could freeze time—imagine all the extra editing you could get done! While freeze-framing real life isn’t possible (yet), it’s an effect often used by video editors for several reasons. 

A freeze frame in Final Cut Pro adds a frozen image as a separate clip in your timeline. It can still play in much the same way as a frame hold, but the separation of the clip allows you to do some cool stuff that you can’t achieve with a simple hold frame.

You can use this effect if you want to pause on a video to show additional information, such as titles and descriptions, or to add a dramatic moment to your film. Fortunately, creating a freeze frame is both fun and straightforward to achieve. Let’s get started!

Part 1: Final Cut Pro Freeze Frame Tutorial

If you want to add a freeze frame to your video, you should consider both the frame you use and the reason you want to freeze on it. 

This effect is used a lot in action videos to highlight a specific move, like seeing a skier mid-jump, but the frame must be in focus and well-framed, or the shot may look clumsy. Shoot in a higher frame rate and the highest possible resolution to give you more options in the edit.

Step 1: Creating a Freeze Frame Clip

Before getting started on this effect, you need to edit your video. Don’t worry about leaving space for the extra frames, as when you add the effect, it will move the rest of your timeline down.

  1. Move your Playhead to the point where you want the freeze frame to be added.
  2. Select your clip in the Timeline.
  3. Go to Edit > Add Freeze Frame or click Option + F on your keyboard. Your clip will be split, and the frozen frame added in between.

Step 2: Adjusting the Duration of the Freeze Frame

When your freeze frame is added, the default duration is 4 seconds. You can adjust the length of the frame by dragging the end of it in the timeline, as you would any other clip. You can also change how long the default frame is in the preferences menu.

  1. Go to the Final Cut Pro Menu and click on Preferences.
  2. In the Preferences window, select Editing.
  3. Change the Still Image Duration setting to the length you would like and exit the menu, your freeze frames will now be added at the new duration.

Part 2: Creative Ways to Use Freeze Frames

Now that you know how easy it is to use this effect, it’s time to get creative! There are many ways you can use freeze frames in your video projects, for both narrative and technical reasons, the key is understanding the reason. Try one of these out in your next edit! 

1. Make a Moment Stand Out

Okay, so we’ve already discussed this one briefly with action videos, where an eye-catching moment of action is frozen to draw attention to it, but it can also be used to emphasize other less dramatic actions.

Freeze frames can be used for both comedic and shock purposes in a video, and you may have seen this technique used in fail videos to pause on a funny moment or reaction. You may have also noticed them used in crime documentaries and on the news to focus on specific actions or the faces of individuals in the video.

Action emphasis is the most common use for this effect and can evoke a variety of responses depending on the context and themes of your film.

2. Use Text with Freeze Frames

Freeze framing is also widely used to emphasize information, usually displayed on screen alongside the image. Opening titles for both films and TV shows often use still frames to allow time for character/actor names to appear on the screen.

In promotional videos and ads, the effect is often used to display information about the business, product, or service. The additional frames allow time for these titles without interrupting the visuals.

3. Speed Ramps

With freeze framing, your speed ramps can be taken to the next level, allowing you to combine slow motion and still frames. With speed ramping, you can gradually slow your clips down until the freeze, or start in a still and speed up to your clips. These effects are ideal for starting and finishing your video projects. Give it a shot to give your video more flow!

4. Solve Tricky Transition Problems

You can also use this method to help you out with transitions. Occasionally, there will not be enough of a clip for FCP to add a transition. Instead, you can freeze the last and first frame of two clips you want to move between, and add your transition effects to the stills, allowing you to keep every moment of your clip visible.

5. VHS Pause Effect

Since a freeze frame lets you technically pause your clips, they are perfect for using in VHS style videos. You can add the same effects to both your moving clip and your frozen image or separate effects to give the impression of a VHS tape being paused. 

6. Staggered Freeze Frame Effect

Finally, with a bit of creativity, you can use this style to create some dramatic looking effects that you might not have realized were done with frozen frames. Let’s have a look at a simple effect you can achieve with just a couple of frames. 

Step 1: Create Your Freeze Frames

For this effect, we’re going to create a couple of freeze frames from the same clip and lay them over your video. Firstly, you need to edit your sequence.

  1. Place the playhead on the first image you want to freeze in your clip, select video clip, and press Option + F.
  2. Move the playhead to the second frame you want to freeze and select your main video clip, press Option + F.
  3. Repeat this process for as many still images as you want to use.
  4. Move all of the still frames to above your video track, making sure each is still aligned with the point it freezes. Your video clip will move down the timeline with each still you move.
  5. Select all of your freeze frames and turn them off (press V on your keyboard) play through the video clip to check you’ve removed all the stills.

Step 2: Blend Your Still Frames

In this next step, we’re going to blend your still frames with your video clip to create a staggered freezing effect.

  1. Select all of your freeze frames and press V on your keyboard to turn the clips on.
  2. In the Effects Control panel, find the Blend Mode drop-down menu.
  3. If your clip has a darker foreground, choose Darken from the menu, if it has a darker background, choose Lighten. You can also play around with other blend modes to see the effects you can create.

Step 3: Add a Dissolve Transition

Finally, for this effect, we are going to add a dissolve transition to the end of each freeze frame, so it fades out.

  1. Select the end of one of your freeze frames so that the end is highlighted.
  2. Press Command + T on your keyboard to add a fade to the end of the clip.
  3. Drag the transition to the length you would like.
  4. Repeat for each of the freeze frames.

As you’ve seen, freeze framing has many more uses than creating a cool looking video. Whether you want to include additional information or add a dramatic touch, freezing a frame can create an impressive effect to engage your viewers further. Now you know how to use Final Cut Pro X freeze frames, try adding them to your next video project.