10 Things You Should Be Doing in Final Cut Pro X to Speed Up Your Workflow

Final Cut Pro 09/07/2022 4 min read

The more time you spend editing, the quicker you’ll be able to piece together and polish your videos. There will come a stage for every editor, no matter the software they use, where they think ‘there must be an easier way,’ and for the most part, there is – you just don’t know about it. Editing software is complex, so you might have only learned what you needed to achieve the desired results. So, in this article, we’ll show you 10 things you can do in Final Cut Pro to speed up your workflow.

10 Tricks to Help your Editing Technique in Final Cut Pro

Organizational Tricks

A well-organized project is a fantastic base from which to start any edit. While you may be familiar with the FCP file structure, there is a couple of cool, sort of hidden tools you can use.

1. Use Keywords

Your footage will be labeled based on the name of the file imported, so there is plenty you can do to organize your clips before they get anywhere near Final Cut Pro. Once you’ve imported your clips, you can use Events to further divide your footage. Then, when reviewing your clips, use the Favorite (F) and Reject (R) keyboard controls.

Final Cut Pro allows you to add keywords to your clips, and you can create your own in a couple of steps.

  1. At the top of the FCPX interface, click the Key icon; a pop-up box will open.
  2. Type in your keywords and note the Shortcut keys; when you have added all of your keywords, close the box. 
  3. Select a clip in the browser and use the corresponding controls (Control + a number) for your keyword. 
  4. Drop down the Event menu to reveal your new keyword categories.

2. Use Snapshots

Snapshots are a fantastic tool for freezing your project in a specific state, allowing you to return to a past edit at any time. Many editors will create Snapshots of their projects between revisions to preserve previous versions. Creating a Snapshot is different from creating a duplicate of a project, and knowing this difference can save you hours of frustration.

Compound clips are amazing for organizing your timeline, but they behave differently depending on whether you’ve created a Duplicate or a Snapshot. If you edit what is inside a compound clip, all Duplicates will also be updated. This is ideal for making mass changes to multiple projects, such as changing an Indent or Title Card. When editing the contents of a compound clip in a Snapshot, however, the other Snapshots or Duplicated will be unaffected, ideal for creating templates.

Better Playback Tricks

Playback can be frustrating, especially when working on complex projects with large file sizes. The last thing you want, as an editor, is your machine slowing you down, but fortunately, there are a few things you can do.

3. Background Rendering

Background rendering seems beautiful, and for short, simple projects, it can be. However, it can drastically slow your machine down for longer projects or those with lots of effects and animations.

Turn off Background Rendering in the Playback Preferences menu to prevent FCP from trying to render the project anytime you stop working. Instead, choose when you render with the Control+Shift+R shortcut.

4. Using Proxy Media

Some fantastic cameras on the market can create incredibly detailed footage; however, the resulting clips are often vast and challenging to playback. Proxy media is a copy of your clip at a slightly smaller size, allowing for easier FCPX playback without losing quality in the final video.

  1. Select the clip in the browser and Right-Click > Transcode Media; in the box, choose Proxy Media and a new frame size.
  2. Go to the View menu and select Preferred Proxy; this will play through any clips for which you have created a proxy version.
  3. Edit your project as you usually would, enjoying a more consistent playback speed.
  4. Before you export your project, make sure you change the View setting back to Optimized/Original.

5. Playback Short Sections

If you’re doing some finetuning to your project, you’re probably playing back the same section repeatedly. Rather than moving the playhead back and forth, FCPX has a simple shortcut that will allow you to Playback the section.

Hit Command + ? On your Keyboard, FCP will playback for 3 seconds on either side of your playhead without moving the playhead from its spot, perfect for checking transitions and effects.

Shortcut Tricks

Shortcuts are an editor’s best friend and can drastically improve your work speed. You should be able to learn the shortcuts over time, picking the ones you use the most, but here are a couple of tricks to try.

7. Shortcut Audio Editing

Audio editing is a fiddly and frustrating process. At first glance, Final Cut Pro’s audio editing tools are a bit limiting. For example, dragging the Audio Line to change the volume is imprecise and difficult to move.

A little-known trick is to hold Command as you move the line; rather than scrolling aimlessly from -2 to -30, you can finetune the movements. Whatsmore, with the Range Selector tool, you can adjust portions of the audio, and FCP will create the keyframes automatically.

Templates and Presets

Templates and presets are a fantastic way to save time in your edits and allow you to be even more creative with the look and style of your videos.

8. LUTs

LUT presets are tiny files that add color grades to your Final Cut Pro Effects panel and Color Board, and you can create hundreds of different looks by adding LUTs to your footage. Having a library of available effects will save you a ton of time. If you’re looking for more information about LUTs, check out this handy Final Cut Pro color grading guide.

9. Title and Transition Presets

Title and Transition presets are a fantastic way of increasing your animation and motion graphics capabilities without learning Motion or After Effects. Once installed, the drag and drop Titles, Generators, and Transitions work exactly the same way as FCPX native effects. Plus, Motion Array has a huge range available for Final Cut Pro, so check out this list of best Final Cut title presets.

10. Overlays

Overlays are another incredible asset you can use to create a look for your videos. Overlays come in all shapes and sizes, from stunning light leaks and flare effects to cute animated badges for your Instagram videos. Overlays, like these Final Cut Pro filters, allow you to add a trendy flourish to your videos, making them eye-catching and engaging.

Every editor will have a preferred workflow in Final Cut Pro, but with such an expansive piece of kit, there will always be things you miss. Even the most experienced editors can learn new tricks and tools to speed up their editing workflow. If you’re looking for more information, check out this fantastic Final Cut Pro shortcuts guide.