To recap… some people, coming from other NLE’s, find the FCP X Magnetic Timeline… disorienting. And that’s being kind. No tracks, crazy connection lines everywhere, clips jumping around by themselves, it’s a mess! Madness! But… there’s a method to the madness. And when you work with, not against, FCP X Magnetism, it’s quite nice to work in, warts and all.
Now, if you’re happily using X you probably won’t find this too interesting. Like all my babbling, this post is primarily directed at experienced folks who are trying to give X a shot and are getting stuck. And, as usual, I’ll probably skip important things, and dwell on minutiae. Feel free to ask for clarification in the comments.
Also,there will be a Part 3, on this topic. And 4 etc. It seemed like it would be a simple post when I thought of it. Oh well…
Since I usually have fairly uh, busy sequences, I figured the best way to talk about the Magnetic Timeline would be to talk a little about my workflow on a typical project. I fought against magnetism for quite a while, and it kinda sucked. But over time, I’ve stopped fighting it, and grown to (mostly) really like it. Your mileage may vary… 🙂 This isn’t a tutorial, just my experience, so forgive me if I gloss over some things as I go. And I assume you have at least a passing familiarity with FCP X. So… the first, and arguably most important thing you need to do is:
Set Up Your Roles!
Roles take on the majority of the organizational functions of tracks in other NLE’s. If you don’t set your Roles properly, your Project will quickly become an unmanageable nightmare. This is especially true for audio, as there is generally much more of it in the timeline. In fact, pretty much everything in this post pertains to audio, though what I’ll talk about is generally true of video as well.
The “built in” Roles in any new Event are Video, Titles, Dialog, Music, and Effects. You can create and assign as many Roles and Sub-Roles as you need. There are a couple custom Roles in the example above. The more detailed your Roles, the more precise your ability to interact with the Timeline will be.
When you import a clip to X, video automatically gets assigned a “video” Role, and any audio with the video gets assigned a “dialog” Role. Imported audio will often get assigned to “dialog”, no matter what it is. Always double check the Role of any clip after you bring it in to an event.
You can assign Roles to clips in the timeline via the Inspector, but it will only change the timeline clip(s). This is quite useful later in an edit for creating sub-roles etc, but do it first in the Browser and it’ll carry into every project in which you use that source.
Take a few seconds to do that as you bring in each clip. You can set Roles on multiple clips if you bring in a folder of music or effects or whatever. You’ll be glad you did. Since I generally get video with multichannel split tracks embedded in it, I need to set Roles for the embedded stems in my master source. Select the master clip in the Browser, open it in a Timeline, and set the proper roles for each channel.
In addition to allowing you to do a nice split audio output with the click of a menu or two, Roles allow you to Mute, Solo, Locate, Select and Manipulate clip(s) from the most overlooked (IMO) part of X, the Timeline Index. More on that in, I dunno… Part 3 or something…
I’ll skip over all the other stuff you normally do before starting a sequence… Selects, Favorites, Keywording etc. There are lots of actual tutorials on that. If done right though, it’s really really easy to find footage you’re looking for as you cut.
Starting The Cut
First thing I do is create a new Project, and set a usable view. No giant thumbnails, no connections, and the lowest basic clip height. The examples below are obviously an existing sequence.
I’ve also made custom shortcuts to switch between the “working” view, and a super minimized view that I use when I need to see everything in the timeline.
Anyway, back to the empty timeline… I cut a second or so of my main source video in as a connected clip to auto-set the resolution and frame rate. Just my preference, you can manually choose any Project Settings you want when you create your project. Then, I’ll drag out the Gap clip that gets created to some arbitrary length, generally longer than I expect the cut to be. I like to stash unused bits and pieces at the end of the timeline as I go, so this leaves some space to do so.
Next I’ll delete the random clip, cut in my handy slate generator (you can make useful things like this in Motion even if, like me, you have no idea what you’re doing) and start to build the cut.
Cutting in FCP X, surprisingly, is just the same as in any NLE. 😉 Just Don’t Fight The Timeline. Observe, see how it works, and go with it. It’s fun! lol I generally assemble things as connected clips, and “commit” them to the Primary when they’re done-ish. Forget about carefully getting the clips to line up horizontally. Let it go. Just stack and drag and trim ’til they’re good and then dump ’em into the primary for fine-tuning.
You can drag and drop clips if you want, but there are plenty of Keyboard Shortcuts. Many are the same as in FCP “Classic”. In FCP X, the biggies for me when cutting are Q (connect), W (insert), D (overwrite) and E (append). Use these in conjunction with SHIFT-1 (Audio and Video), SHIFT-2 (Video only), and SHIFT-3 (Audio only). Those’ll get what you want into the cut. In the Timeline, the main ones I use are V (disable/enable the clip), OPTION-S (Solo) , CMD OPTION-S (add to Solo group), CNTRL-S (expand audio/video), CMD-4 (open/close Inspector), CMD-5 (open/close FX Browser). There are a zillion more, and you can of course make your own. Spend some time with the command editor, there’s some great stuff in there!
Also, leave your sync audio connected to video. There are reasons to disconnect it, cheating dialog, using a sync effect in multiple places etc. But in general, don’t. I’ll talk about this more in a future post. 🙂
And with that tease, I guess I’ll stop Part 2 here. In later installments I’ll talk about The Timeline Index, Managing Connections in a complex timeline, Secondary Storylines (tracks!), Compound Clips, fun with Audio Components, and whatever other random, disorganized thoughts pop into my head.
Thanks for stopping by!