The Wonderous Gadget that is the Trim Edit Window

Ah the Trim Edit Window! I have traditionally only used this handsome tool precisely 4 times per year: once each semester when I was teaching Final Cut Pro at SFSU and it came up in the lesson plan. Now that I no longer teach, I never use it. Maybe I’m missing out on something good and I do think it’s kinda fun to play with, but as far as I’m concerned, I can trim just as precisely by using the trimming workflow that I discussed several weeks ago. At any rate, I have a feeling there are some Trim Edit Window aficionados out there and this shortcut goes out to them:

When you hit CMD 7, the edit point nearest your playhead will be used (no need to select it) and the magnificent, impressive Trim Edit Window will open in all its glory over your Viewer and Canvas. Mercifully, it is not in the scope of this shortcuts blog to cover the mechanics of this stupendous edit point trimming machine and why indeed should I bother when Damon Abacherli explained it so beautifully on the the always excellent Ken Stone FCP site. You can also bone up on it here in Apple’s official FCP 7 documentation.

Now having been so glib about this fine tool, I will point out what I think is the coolest thing about it and I’ll admit that I should use it more for this purpose: it will allow you to trim more than one edit point simultaneously! That sounds a bit confusing, so allow me to explain. Suppose you have video on two or three stacked tracks. The edit points for each may not be lined up, but they are on separate tracks (the Trim Edit Window cannot simultaneously trim different edit points on the same track and that would be crazy–it’d be like Vulcan Chess). Anyway, it’s easy to imagine how, since you’re trimming what’s happening on one track and it may have a ripple effect, it would be efficient to trim the stacked tracks at the same time, right?  Sure it would. To do this, simply select an edit point and then CMD-select the additional edit points and invoke CMD 7. You’ll only see one edit point in the Trim Edit Window, but you can choose which one you want to see in the Track pop-up menu at the top of the window. No matter which one you’re looking at however, all selected points will be trimmed. Pretty cool.

The other nice feature of this window is Job Security. It is so complicated looking, large and intense that, if you start using this in front of your producer, it will quickly put to rest any thoughts they may have entertained that what you do is easy (ha) and that they should start doing more editing themselves. Maybe I don’t use it because I’m a lone wolf freelancer.

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CTRL K for Setting Keyframes

Here’s one of the most useful “must memorize” keyframing shortcuts of them all: CTRL K

When the Timeline or Canvas has focus and a clip is selected, you can set keyframes for all the basic motion parameters at once by hitting CTL K. You can also use this shortcut in the Viewer.

You might also be aware that, if you only want to keyframe one motion parameter and don’t want to bother opening a clip in the Viewer and venturing into the rather unfriendly keyframing area of the motion tab, you can right-click the keyframe button (which you should never actually use) and you can then use the pop-up (see illustration at right) to choose a parameter.

Here’s where I use CTRL K all the time: for easily doing the old “Ken Burns” (or maybe the “Jack Cole Effect“) on photos right in my timeline. If I’m straight cutting from photo to photo, I just use Up or Down-Arrows to position my playhead on the first frame of a photo, select the clip and hit CTRL K.  Then I go to the last frame (or maybe earlier) by hitting Down-Arrow and then Left-Arrow (to back up to the last frame of the clip I’m working on–Down-Arrow always takes you to the first frame of the next clip). Then, I use my mouse to resize and/or reposition my photo directly in the Canvas and, since I laid a keyframe earlier, the new positioning automatically creates a new keyframe. Of course, if you are later adding transitions, you may need to reposition these keyframes in the motion tab.

I don’t worry about the fact that this command creates superfluous keyframes (i.e., rotation) because it simply won’t matter–that’s why I never bother with the pop-up window shown above.

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Subclips are Great for Dealing With Long Source Clips

When you do a “capture now” to bring an entire tape into your system and it winds up sitting in your Browser as a single long clip (i.e., camera starts and stops have not broken it into numerous distinct clips), you may find it awkward to work with. Same thing for long source clips you import. If a clip is anything more than 10 or 15 minutes long, it can be very awkward to set ins and outs and they will seem to be almost on top of one another. It is also cumbersome to quickly scrub such long clips.

When I am in this situation, I watch the entire clip in the Viewer with my finger on the M key to set markers. This gives me a chance to thoroughly review all the content and, since I hit markers at the start of each take and hit markers at the end of each take, I wind up with some rough clips marked out. Notice then how, in the Browser, you can twirl down the “disclosure triangle” (yep, that’s what they’re called) that now appears next to the clip and you can see all the markers. Select one or more of those markers and hit CMD U

You’ll see that for each marker you select, this shortcut will create a new subclip with head of the subclip starting at the selected marker and ending at the next marker (if there is no later marker, it will end where the original clip ended). If you have named your markers when you made them (or renamed them in the browser), these will now be the new clip names. These subclips can then be opened in the Viewer as if they were separate clips and they are much easier to work with.

Making it easier to wrangle clips makes your job easier and lets you work faster. Remember it this way: don’t let long unwieldy clips COMMAND YOU, take command of them with CMD U!

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Navigate Your Keyframes Within a Clip

If you have laid out several keyframes (maybe for audio levels, opacity, a motion parameter or some filter parameters) on a clip and want to move from keyframe to keyframe in order to make some tweaks, use OPT K (to go to the previous keyframe) or SHIFT K (to go to the next keyframe)

Now before you get too excited about the possibilities here, there is a pretty serious caveat:  when using these shortcuts on the timeline, you can only do this within a clip that has been selected–that is to say, you can’t just surf keyframes, on all tracks and clips, up and down the timeline (though I think it would be nice if you could). Note that these also work in the Viewer and Canvas and that’s acutally pretty handy and where they wil really come in handy.

The ideal use for this shortcut is a scenario where you have keyframed some motion or filter parameters and are trying to tweak them to perfection without changing the timing. You are likely to be working in the Viewer or Canvas, so being able to quickly and cleanly snap from keyframe to keyframe in a nice timesaver.

The fact that this shortcut uses K (for Keyframes) makes it easy to remember, but I find the OPT/SHIFT thing to be a bit harder to remember. Since I use my right hand for the K keystroke and left hand for the OPT or SHIFT, the fact that the modifier used for moving to the left is the rightmost of these two on the keyboard (and vice versa) is a bit counter-intuitive, so I tend to remember this by thinking of “downshifting” in a car:  the SHIFT modifier takes you down the timeline.

Anther related tool that is very useful in dealing with keyframes is the ability to “Toggle Clip Keyframes” via OPT T.  If you want to reposition various keyframes easily without having to open clips in the viewer, this one’s a winner.

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The Gain Adjustment Window Rocks

In situations where you cannot adequately adjust the audio levels via the clip overlays–i.e., you can’t raise the levels enough–you should use the handy Gain Adjust dialogue box. (Actually, if you are serious about audio and need to perform a careful audio edit for broadcast, you should probably be working your audio with round trips to Soundtrack Pro, but that’s another kettle of fish.)

To invoke this useful functionality, simply select the clip (or clips) in question and hit OPT CMD L

With this dialogue box (see illustration), you can “normalize” the audio to a reference point of your choosing (I set dialogue, for instance, to -6 db). You can then readjust the levels using the clip overlays.

You can also choose to make this adjustment either “relative” or “absolute” which means you can either simply raise or lower the levels by a specific amount (absolute) or readjust the levels such that the peak is at your desired level (relative).

Because this shortcut does not appear next to the menu command (though it does appear in the awesome Button List), many people do not even know it exists as a shortcut. Hence it’s status here as a “ninja level” shortcut and it’s one of my faves.

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Canvas & Viewer Overlays

The informational overlays that you can place over the Viewer or Canvas are the same: the “title and action-safe” guides and the timecode information (you could also consider the “excess luma,” “excess chroma” or both of those to be overlays, but we’ll discuss those in another post as they have their own quirks).

The way these work together is interesting, so let’s start with what is probably the most useful overlay for general editing, the title and action-safe guides. Note that these do not actually have an on/off toggle shortcut (but you may not care as they go away when you hit play anyway), so I would recommend turning them on and leaving them on. That being said, you do have a shortcut to toggle all “overlays” off and on and that is CTRL OPT W

So now you can turn your title and action-safe lines on and off. Good. The other shortcut is for turning the timecode overlay and it is OPT Z

So now you can easily add or subtract this (quite valuable) info with the OPT Z toggle. This means that, assuming you take my advice and leave the title safe guides on all the time, you have three possible states:

  • All overlays off (CTRL OPT W to do this, but hey, when you play, they disappear and that may be adequate)
  • Title and action-safe guide only on (just CTRL OPT W the overlays on and make sure you OPT Z the timecode stuff off)
  • Title and action-safe guides and timecode info overlays on simultaneously (CTRL OPT W and OPT Z to suit)

So yeah, when you have ‘em all on it’s a wee bit busy, but I find it pretty easy to live with and it beats mousing up to turn on and off the title-safe stuff, right? And really, you should be aware of title and action safe when it comes to lower thirds and critical action. Sure, they’re maybe a bit conservative with today’s non-CRT TVs, but the one time you really push the limit will be the time you’ll get burned and the client will call and yell that his grandma can’t see the 800 number for his law firm on her 1984 Magnavox console TV with the doily on top (and wedding videographers, can I get an amen here?)

Bottom line: Just learn these two shortcuts and use them together to get whatever you need overlay-wise. The key here is to just keep your title and action-safe guides turned on all the time. Play with this today and try to remember these great shortcuts–that’s all you need to do today on your journey to shortcutting efficiency.

NOTE: Since this was first written, I have also covered CTRL Z for toggling the Luma Range Check on and off, so be sure to read that article as well because it ties all of these overlay commands together.

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The “SHIFT-Q Lifestyle”

Consider the lowly SHIFT Q shortcut:

You probably know that it brings up the System Settings panel. Big deal, right?

Well, it really is a big deal to me and it’s the first command I hit every single time I open Final Cut Pro. In fact, using the System Settings panel effectively is, for me at least, one of the most important things I do in FCP for my sanity and my business. I call it the “Shift-Q Lifestyle” and here’s the deal…


As you may know, the first time you open a new project in FCP, the app creates a series of folders (see image at left). These folders are, by default, created in the following location: User/Documents/Final Cut Pro Documents and this is probably on your internal hard drive. This is where FCP will now dump your captures, renders and various other files it creates as you work on your project. If you don’t point your “Autosave Vault” away to another disk (which you should really do as you hate to put your safety copies on the same disk as your project in case that disk fails), it too will be located there.

This is a problem for a couple of reasons. First of all, it’s not a great idea to store all of these hefty project files on your main internal systems boot disk. You should have a separate disk for FCP projects (which might also be internal, of course, but I often have dedicated external FW800 disks for large projects and I use secondary large internal SATA drives for multiple smaller projects). Secondly, if you are working on several projects (who isn’t?) or especially if you are part of a team that has to pass projects back and forth or access them over a network, the way FCP nests all of your projects into this single set of folders makes separating and quarantining multiple projects very tricky and time consuming. For each project you start, FCP will create folders with that name within this same set of folders such that there is no way to quickly pull one project out by itself without a lot of surgery in the Finder.

In my days as an FCP instructor at San Francisco State, I can’t tell you how many times I had to help various of my students untangle a gordian knot of convoluted, nested folders that had swallowed up their projects. It can be a real mess.


Here’s what I have done to streamline the workflow in my own shop. I created a comprehensive set of nested folders that not only provide a place to point my projects (using SHIFT Q), but that accomodate all the related files for my projects in one neat clean package. You can download this set of folders for yourself here or you can access it via the “Goodies” link at the top of the page. It’s a small gift to you.

Here’s what you get: A complete set of folders that will provide a parking space for every conceivable element of your project in order to give you a consistent way to organize and manage your projects. No more saving things out to the desktop for lack of a better place to put it. This will make handing files off between members of a team a snap and give an organization a consistent way to manage files so that everyone knows where to look for the things they need.

Best of all though, it gives you a place to point all your System Settings options every time you open FCP (and that’s important). Make sure that you start work on every FCP project by hitting SHIFT Q then quickly pointing your captures and renders (the stuff in the check mark boxes at the top) and the Waveform and Thumbnail Caches all to the “Project FCP Folder” and here’s a critical note: do not point them down into the folders within the Project FCP Folder (even if the Thumbnail or Waveform Caches already exist there) because it will create a new set within those and things will get messy. Again: only point to the “Project FCP Folder” and let FCP figure out the rest. I have given this folder a distinctive icon to make it easy to hit.

I do recommend that you point your Autosave Vault to a separate disk (I actually do save them to my boot disk) for redundancy. If you do, god forbid, lose the drive containing your project, at least you can rebuild by using your autosaved files.

I save my Projects to the appropriate “Project Files” folder–there are some options within the “Project Files” folder you see above. In fact, there are sub-folders in most of those folders, so check the whole thing out a bit and see where things go. I think it is pretty self-explanatory and you can, of course, modify it to suit your own needs. I keep a zipped copy of the folder set on all of my FCP disks and I unzip a fresh copy for each new project as soon as a client calls or emails me about it.

Hopefully this folder set will help you keep your own FCP projects well organized and neatly contained in separate, easy-to-move buckets for each project and I also hope you will now see the importance of using SHIFT Q every time you open FCP and join me in living the “Shift-Q Lifestyle!”

Posted in Absolute Essentials, FCP 101 Stuff | Leave a comment

My Webinar Package 20% OFF For a Very Limited Time!

(Scroll down for today’s shortcut)

If you missed my Keyboard Shortcuts workflows webinar last week, you can now get 20% OFF on it through Tuesday, 8/17/2010 at 11:59pm (Pacific Time). The regular price for this package is $25, so the sale price will be $20 (that’s $5 off).

The package includes:

  • The complete HD version of the webinar (my presentation was 1 hour long)
  • A bonus video on how to multi-cam edit with shortcuts
  • A special 16 page PDF Shortcut guide that covers all the shortcuts from my presentation and many more, grouped by function and workflow
  • A podcast interview with Marcelo where we tackle a few more participant questions

If I may say so, that’s a lot for a mere $20!

In the presentation, I placed the best shortcuts into the context of organized workflows and provided groupings of shortcuts that give you the maximum payback.

To purchase at the sale price, click here and enter coupon code 20%OFF on checkout, but hurry as this sale ends on 8/17/2010 at 11:59 pm PDT.

If you were on the fence about purchasing this webinar, now is the time to take the plunge and elevate your game to the next level!

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Change Duration Great for Stills

The “Duration” dialogue can be called forth by selecting a clip or transition and hitting CTRL D

This one is pretty straightforward in that you type in the new duration (preferably by using timecode entry “shorthand” with numbers and periods to replace sets of zeros, i.e, “3.” for 3 seconds or “1..” for 1 minute), hit enter or return twice (once to flesh out the timecode and once to activate) and your clip or transition will be changed.

Note that if you are doing this to a clip or still, the effect will ripple–that is, all clips to the right of the selected clip will move accordingly and no gap will be left.

I particularly like using this with a series of stills where I need to quickly go through and change their durations. When it comes to changing the duration of clips, I prefer the Ripple edit tool as you can see the new final frame in the two-up display in the Canvas that appears when you use the Ripple tool (you do not get this if you use brackets to adjust a selected edit point).

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Gearing Down for Audio Adjustments

If you’ve ever tried making adjustments to the audio levels without knowing about the “Gear Down” modifier key, which happens to be COMMAND, here’s a little helper that’s worth remembering:

When you grab a levels clip overlay line with your Selection Tool (see below) and try to tweak an audio level by just a decibel or two, you may have noticed (by observing the little yellow pop-up indicator), that it can be pretty darn hard to make such fine adjustments. By “gearing down” with the addition of the COMMAND key (hold while mousing), you will be able to easily hit any desired audio level.

Note that the Gear Down function also works in the 3-Way Color Corrector when you’re trying to pull the “balance indicators” (see illustration below) in the center of each color wheel, but it kind of works in reverse. When you use the 3-Way Color Corrector, you have probably noticed that the balance indicators are very hard to move quickly–that’s because they’re very precise. Add COMMAND and you’ll find you can move them around easily.

By the way, if you’re intimidated by the 3-Way Color Corrector and missing out on its nearly miraculous shot-saving and creative capabilities, you should read legendary FCP guru Ken Stone’s excellent guide to its use.

Posted in Intermediate | 3 Comments