July 19, 2018

10 Useful Features That You'll Only Find in FCPX

Here are 10 reasons FCP stands out from the NLE pack.

Final Cut Pro X has been churning out some great, pro-focused updates in the last year or so. With the addition of some killer color tools, HDR, and now ProRes RAW support, FCPX is shaping up to be a real contender in the world of NLEs. However, it’s not always about the new fancy codec support or the robust new finishing tools and motion graphics. Sometimes editing is about the everyday, mundane tasks you end up doing with most of your time. Organizing your media, doing temp mixes of audio, animating photos, utilizing effects to create different styles and just plain watching the footage.

With all this in mind, I wanted to take a look at some of the more day-to-day tasks an editor may be called upon to do on any given project and explore 10 ways in which FCPX sets itself apart from the other NLEs on the market in order to achieve some of these things. Check out the video tutorial below, skim through the article for the highlights, and see if you can spot the one feature that is available in other NLEs.

1. View clips as filmstrips in the event browser

Whereas most NLEs give you the option to view your clips as either a list or a thumbnail, Final Cut's view options give you the ability to see the entirety of your clips all at once as a filmstrip, without having to open them up individually and scrub through them in the source monitor. This is incredibly helpful for hunting down specific moments of b-roll in those long, exploratory clips so prevalent in documentary shooting or finding start/stops for multiple takes on a shoot where the camera was left running.

Final Cut Pro Training NO FILM SCHOOL - filmstrip

2. Power of Skimming

With the Skimming function turned on (keyboard shortcut: S) your cursor is essentially a mobile playhead that can skim footage in the browser, the timeline—or even skim over pre-sets in the effects browser to preview them (more on that later). Also if you head up to VIEW —> BROWSER and select SKIMMER PREVIEW, when you hover over a clip in the Browser you'll now get a little pop up revealing its keywords. This is useful when you want to keep your clips in filmstrip view and don't have access to the triangle drop-down to reveal your keywords for a particular clip. Also if you know the precise timecode in a clip you are looking for this is a quick and easy way to skim through and find that too.

3. The Range Tool

Final Cut Pro's nifty Range tool is essentially a quick way to create four keyframes simultaneously in order to lower or raise the volume of a portion of a clip. Simply hit R for range tool, lasso the portion of the audio you'd like to lower or raise and voilà! Instant keyframes. You can also use the Range tool to lasso various Video Effect parameters in the Video Animation Editor in the same way. You can check out a quick video tutorial on the Animation Editor in FCPX right here.

4. Collapsing/expanding audio components

FCPX organizes audio channels embedded in the same video clip into what is known as a Component, essentially multiple audio channels wrapped up together into one container of sorts. This is a great way to get to your rough cut without having to worry about all the different ISOs, or isolated audio tracks, that were recorded on set. In Avid, for instance, assistant editors often set up this quasi-complicated workflow where you can double match-frame back to your original sequence with all the audio tracks when you are ready to send your audio out to Pro Tools. Final Cut Pro's ability to group these channels into a single component that can be expanded to edit and collapsed again to simplify editing is one of its best seemingly invisible features.

Final Cut Pro Training NO FILM SCHOOL - Audio Components

5. The Ken Burns effect

For anyone dealing with documentaries—and with its organizational tools, FCPX is made for documentaries—having access to an 'image pan and zoom' pre-set ala Ken Burns is a great little feature to help editors add initial, temp animation to their photos without having to waste too much time on it. The majority of these moves are going to be refined and changed later anyways but using the Ken Burns effect built into FCPX gets you up and running quickly and is sufficient enough to show a cut to a producer or director in order to give them a rough idea.

Final Cut Pro Training NO FILM SCHOOL - Ken Burns

6. Previewing effects with the Skim tool

Don’t you wish you didn't have to apply an effect to a clip in the timeline in order to see what it looks or sounds like on it? Well in FCPX that's exactly what you get with the versatile Skim tool.

All you have to do is hover over the effect in the effect browser with your skimmer and it will automatically be previewed on the clip selected in the timeline. If it's an audio effect you can start to skim over the effect icon and then hit the spacebar to play the preview in real time. And what's even cooler is that, if you hold down the option key and skim back and forth over a video effect in the browser, it will show you a preview of the clip with various percentages of the effect applied to it.

7. Hold

The next four little tricks are sweet and quick and are all great examples of FCPX's ability to provide you with these tiny little gems of editing functionality. Final Cut's Hold feature allows you to let an audio effect continue to ring out even if you've run out of media. In normal situations, the audio stops playing once it reaches the physical end of the clip, even if an echo or reverb effect has been applied. But with the Hold function applied, the effect now rings out beyond the limits of the clip itself. Super useful for dramatic reverbs at the end of trailers or montages.

8. Flow Dissolve

For anyone working with interviews, the Flow Dissolve is a quick and easy way to avoid having to find yet another shot of b-roll in order to hide a cut you made in order to edit out all the "uh's, um's" and dead space in a subject's interview. Just drop it on like you would another dissolve and wait for it to render out its job.

9. Placeholder Generator Clip

This is fairly simple but for some reason it makes me smile that you can actually insert what is called a Placeholder Clip that you can populate with a visual representation of your missing shot. Or at least, sort of. All you do is go to Edit —> Generator —> Placeholder and put it where your missing shot is. Up in the inspector, you can change the settings of what the missing shot is and even add notes to it. Simple but useful.

Final Cut Pro Training NO FILM SCHOOL - Placeholder

10. Find and replace text in titles

Last but not least, this is another great feature. Let's say you've gone through and done all the lower thirds for a feature-length documentary only to find out that you were given the wrong spelling for Steven (it’s supposed to be Stephen). Rather than go through and change absolutely every instance of that person's name one by one you can simply go to Edit —> Find and Replace Title Text, type in the text you want changed, what you want it changed to, and click Apply. Boom. Every instance of that misspelled name is now fixed.

While none of these features are earth-shattering in and of themselves, it’s good to know FCPX helps you out a little here and a little there by providing you with thoughtful, innovative features that help you better organize and edit your footage.     

Your Comment


So, not to nitpick, but Avid has SEVERAL of these. And if you think you like #8 Flow Dissolve, I would invite you to instead try "Fluid Morph" in Avid. I believe you will be completely floored by how much better it is in Avid.

July 19, 2018 at 2:27PM, Edited July 19, 2:40PM


For sure, Mike. I love controversy though! Premiere also has a morph dissolve transition I know. What are the other features available in Avid though? Is it the replace text and audio hold functions? I know Avid decently-- but am no expert on it by far. Always love to learn new tricks across the board though. Thanks for the feedback!

July 19, 2018 at 6:14PM


I e actually found that the Resolve version of the fluid morph is the best of the four. Main NLEs. I found FCPX's Flow so terrible that I bought the mMorph plugin. It's not as good as Davinci or Avkd, but it's definitely better than ow and is relatively successful in covering some of my cuts.

July 19, 2018 at 10:12PM

Joe O

Avid is so much better..blah, blah, blah! Who cares!
This is about FCPX. Always with the Avid is better, Sony is better than Canon, blah, blah, blah. Just for once can I read an article without narcissistic comments attached to it, please!

July 28, 2018 at 6:39PM

James Manson

I feel like just a few years ago there were all kinds of articles about how bad FCPX was, and I'm pretty sure a couple of these were listed as reasons. It's funny how the times change.

July 19, 2018 at 10:13PM

Joe O

Seriously, I remember those times. Anything to forward the "FCPX is just iMovie" sentiment that was in at the time. I'm happy the program is finally getting the respect it deserves.

July 23, 2018 at 9:56AM


I use FCPX at work (news) and I've grown to really like it. It's fast and I love the auto save more than anything. The Ken Burns is slightly easier than Resolve's but they are very similar. I've also worked with Avid but that would crash and have issues a lot in the field although I liked the real time audio mixer alot. Resolve is amazing what you get for
such a low price. All in all an NLE is an NLE, they are all pretty solid but I really really hate the Adobe subscription model. I'm surprised there are so many Premiere fanboys, that's just a major turn off especially considering with Final Cut you get solid updates and with Resolve you get Fusion, grading, audio, editing and can actually own all of it for a few hundred bucks versus potentially thousands.

July 20, 2018 at 4:10AM, Edited July 20, 4:11AM

Stephen Herron

I learned some things here. Thanks!

July 20, 2018 at 11:16AM

Richard Krall

I'd like to add that X can do turnovers far more efficiently than any other NLE. It also round trips with Resolve quite beautifully as the xml from X is far more advanced than the older xml that came out of FCP7. There is a great example of the turnovers workflow here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ypNttDDrDBs

July 20, 2018 at 12:43PM

Brad Jones

Also, the timeline index is a pretty unique and amazing feature in X. Being able to have a searchable timeline is great and being able to highlight all of your text at once and either move it all up or resize in a few key strokes is also magnificent. The audio plugins in X are also really fantastic as they have been ported over from Logic X and they are all really high quality and give you really great results without having to roundtrip to motion or pro tools.

July 20, 2018 at 12:46PM

Brad Jones

Initially I didn't use the Timeline Index but at some point an editor I was working with showed me how it works. Now I use it all the time. I recently assistant edited on a feature and while preparing the files for online, I was able to quickly find clips that I needed. What would have been in the past an entire day of preparation for that, now takes about two hours total.
Working with closed captioning it's so fast to find a certain caption with the Index.
It's an example of good design. Well thought out, practical, simple, useful.

July 20, 2018 at 1:16PM, Edited July 20, 1:18PM