Click the link for full PDF version of handbook with pictures included. Below is the handbook minus pictures and contents.


The following hand-book will cover the essential basics needed to create edited content from Capture to Export. While Final Cut Pro (FCP for short) is an unbelievable tool capable of editing the most professional productions, this hand-book merely covers the very basic tools and concepts.

Editing Overview

Editing is a process. Final Cut Pro is a tool.  When someone refers to editing they are describing the process of shifting through raw footage previously shot, manipulating it, and creating a product that is condensed into a polished production. Editing is done in the post-production stage. (The 3 stages of production: Pre-Production, Production, Post-Production and Distribution). It is important not be overwhelmed with the intimidating layout of Final Cut and to remain calm when things go wrong – because often things will. (Command + Z. This shortcut will be your friend, it is the Undo your last move shortcut)

While editing is a process it is also a skill that is acquired over time. You must first understand the entire process of production. When you are in your pre-production phase you must take into account the fact you will be using editing. This requires you to get the appropriate coverage on location so that when it comes time to edit you don’t have to run out every 10 seconds because your missing something vital. Knowing your going to edit ahead of time will also save you a lot of time on location. You will be able to shoot out of sequence meaning you don’t have to capture your footage in the same order you want it to appear. This also works in reverse, don’t think that just because you are going to be editing that you can plan on cutting corners.

Know that editing is a process. Something many people get caught up in is trying to get everything perfect on the first pass – DO NOT BE ONE OF THESE PEOPLE. Edit in stages.

  • A Rough Edit: basic assembly of useable clips in the timeline
  • A Re-Edit: move and remove parts that ‘do not flow’
  • A Polish Edit: fine tune clips in the timeline, also the time to add text and transitions and fix any audio inconstancies
  • A Final Edit: the smallest of adjustments and tweaks, all but ready to finalize.

Sometimes it will feel like it takes as long to edit the last 20% of your project as it did to edit the first 80%. Don’t be afraid to leave your favorite shot ‘on the cutting room floor’.

I have tried to include everything I felt necessary but inevitability there will be things I have missed or have not made entirely clear. If that is the case feel free to consult the entire FCP User Manual provided by Apple at: https://wcactv.wordpress.com/video-production/editing/ or under the ‘Video Production’ tab at www.wcactv.wordpress.com

-Sam Ruocco

WCAC-TV Production Coordinator

1. Setting Up and Saving a New Project to external HD

The first thing you want to do once you’ve open up FCP is to set up your system settings right away. This is important in the workflow process because you are essentially directing all items to a singular place or folder. Failure to properly set up a project can result in items going missing, a fractured workflow, and will ultimately lead to many problems down the line.

How to Set Up System Settings:

  1. Go to the very top left of the screen. There you will see: [Apple logo], Final Cut Pro, File, Edit, View, Insert, Format, ect.
  2. Click ‘Final Cut Pro’ and allow for the drop down menu to appear
  3. Click the 3rd option down: System Settings. The following screen will appear:

NOTE: The following picture displays the correct end result with all files being directed to drive: Production Manager with a project file named ‘Tutorial’. In your case, the file destination should read to your external Hard Drive.

  1. Make sure that on your top line under the Scratch Disks tab that Video Capture, Audio Capture, Video Render, and Audio Render all have check marks in them.
  2. Click ‘Set’ on that same line. You will be taken to a screen which asks you to ‘Choose A Folder’. It is here that you must find your external hard drive.
  3. Select your hard drive as the folder destination.
  4. The following process with take place 3 more times. Click ‘Set’ for your Waveform cache, Thumbnail cache, and Autosave Vault – each time selecting your external Hard Drive as its destination.
  5. Finish by clicking ‘OK’

Saving Project

Once you have properly directed your workflow its time to save your project and name it.

  1. Go to the ‘File’ tab
  2. Select ‘Save Project As’
  3. Go to the same location you saved all your previous files.
  4. Title your project

** IMPORTANT – delete everything in the selected field EXCEPT the ‘.fcp’ extension. If you delete the extension the computer will not recognize the file.

The picture above shows a save about to be done properly. I have selected the folder where I saved all my previous System Settings, selected the field EXCLUDING the .fcp text.

  1. Click ‘Save’ and you will be directed back to Final Cut.

You have now successfully set up your project and you are ready to begin importing footage. Once you have done the original ‘Save As’ from this point you only need to click ‘Save’ under the ‘File’ tab. Save your project often or whenever you make an important edit – computers freeze and unfortunately there is no cure to getting all your edits back.


2. Screen Lay Out and The Browser

Final Cut Pro works in 4 major sections: Browser, Viewer, Canvas, and Timeline. Each section is used to ultimately create your final product. The Browser is where all your raw clips are stored. The Viewer is a ‘preview’ of your raw footage – from there you select which parts of the clip you actually want to incorporate using the ‘mark in’ ‘mark out’ tools. The Timeline is where you assemble your clips. And your canvas is what your final product looks like. Below is a preview of your screen:

A metaphor I like to use to explain the workflow process is that of making an apple pie. Think of your Browser as the apple orchard – it has all the apples, good and bad (all your raw footage). The viewer is you in the orchard picking the best apples – the bright shiny ones that you want to eat (setting mark in/ mark out points and dragging to timeline). The Timeline is you washing and slicing your best apples (assembly of clips). Finally, the canvas is your apple pie – something you can share with everyone. You would never take all the apples from the orchard and throw them in the oven (i.e; using every second of every clip from your browser and putting it directly into the timeline).

Remember that whatever is done can always be undone and no edit is permanent until you burn it to a DVD.

The Browser

Your Browser stores all of your raw footage. You can label your clips whatever you want – usually I will label the clip in shorthand like ‘WS Apartment Building, MS Josh’. If you are editing a large project spread out across several shooting days with multiple tapes you are better off creating a bin (done by left-clicking in the browser and selecting ‘New Bin’).

Clips: (purple) contain video footage

Bins: (blue folder) store clips

Sequence: (yellow stripped) for basic editing, do not touch.

*NOTE: When you double click a clip in the browser, it will open in the Viewer

**NOTE: All of your raw footage will remain in the browser regardless of any edit made elsewhere in the viewer or on the timeline – so what is edited out is never lost.

*** NOTE: The Viewer, The Timeline, and The Canvas are explained later in the booklet

3. Import and Capture

Import and Capture is the name given to the process of transferring your video footage on tape into an editable computer file. The process is only used when you need to transfer footage from tape to computer. Often it is done in one session – importing in bits and pieces can lead to confusion of what has actually been captured and what still needs to be.

To Capture from a Tape:

  1. Go to ‘File’ à ‘Log and Capture’ (near the bottom of drop down menu)
  2. Rewind the tape to the beginning.
  3. Press the Rewind button on your VTR and cue the tape where you want the import to begin (leave about 5 seconds before your actual import point)

When you’re ready to begin capturing:

  1. Click the ‘Play’ button.
  2. Click the ‘Capture Now’ button.
  3. Final Cut Pro begins capturing    your media file to your scratch disk.

A second window will open showing what is on your tape and what is currently being captured to the computer.

  • Press the Escape key to stop capturing, or wait until Final Cut Pro automatically stops.
  • Once Final Cut Pro stops capturing, a clip appears in your logging bin (Browser).
  • The new clip refers to the media file you just captured.
  • Double-click the clip in the Browser to open it in the Viewer.
  • Review the clip briefly to see that it plays back properly, and make sure it contains all of the tracks you wanted to capture (video, multiple audio channels, and proper timecode).

Tip: You can easily find a clip’s RAW media file by selecting the clip in the Browser and choosing View > Reveal in Finder.

Once you have captured your footage click the far most left circle on the Capture Screen. This will remove the pop up screen and you can begin editing.

Importing Files, Pictures, and Music into FCP

To import a file that is already on the computer into FCP

  1. Right click on a grey part of the Browser within the project tab.
  2. A pop-up menu will appear with the first line highlighted in blue ‘IMPORT’.
  3. Click import à Files.
  4. After you click files simply find the file on the computer and click ‘Choose’.

4. Using the Canvas and Viewer

Although the Viewer and Canvas windows are very similar in appearance and use many of the same controls, the video displayed in the Canvas is not the same as that in the Viewer. In the Viewer, you open and play clips in preparation for editing, while the Canvas shows video from a sequence in the Timeline. You can think of the Viewer as the source monitor and the Canvas as the record monitor from a traditional tape-to-tape editing system.


The Viewer is extremely versatile. You can use the Viewer to:

  • Define In and Out edit points for clips before placing them in the timeline
  • Adjust audio levels and panning in the Audio tab
  • Open clips within sequences to adjust durations
  • Filter parameters
  • Adjust the motion parameters of clips to modify or animate such parameters as Scale, Rotation, Cropping, and Opacity

Mark in / Mark Out

These marks are used to designate the beginning and ending points of a raw clip before placing them into the timeline.

Note: Changes you make to a clip opened from a sequence are applied to the clip only in that sequence. If you make changes to a clip opened from the Browser, the changes appear only in the clip in the Browser.

More Viewer Tips

The Viewer is where you look at source clips from the Browser before editing them into a sequence. You can also open clips that are already in a sequence in order to adjust durations, In and Out points, and filter parameters. There are a variety of ways to open clips in the Viewer. You can choose the method that you find most convenient.

Tip: You can tell whether a clip in the Viewer has been opened from the Browser or from a sequence in the Timeline. Sprocket holes appear in the scrubber bar for clips opened from a sequence. You can also tell the origin of the clip from the name of the clip in the Viewer title bar.

To open a clip in the Viewer from the Browser, do one of the following:

  1. In the Browser, select the clip, then choose View > Clip.
  2. In the Browser, Control-click the clip, then choose Open in Viewer from the shortcut menu.
  3. In the Browser, double-click the clip.
  4. Drag the clip from the Browser to the Viewer.
  5. In the Browser, select the clip and press Return.

Note: In the Browser, pressing Enter is different from pressing Return. Pressing Enter allows you to rename the clip.


The canvas is the screen to the left of the viewer. They look identical.

  • Jog and shuttle controls: These controls let you navigate more precisely within your sequence.
  • Editing controls: The edit buttons and the Edit Overlay allow you to perform different kinds of edits when you add the clip in the Viewer to your sequence.
  • Playhead: The position of the playhead corresponds to the currently displayed frame. You can move the playhead to go to different parts of a sequence.
  • Transport controls:     You use these controls to play a sequence and to move the playhead within your sequence. The position of the playhead corresponds to the currently displayed frame.
  • Sequence marking controls:   These controls are used to add sequence In and Out points, markers, and keyframes.

5. Timeline

The timeline is where you assemble the clips taken from the viewer in a sequence.


The Razor Tool:

The Razor tool allows you to create separate clips out of one larger clip in the timeline. In the before and after picture below you can see how by placing the razor tool over the larger clip in the desired spot and clicking you in turn create two separate clips.

Razor Tool Cont. (step by step)

Figure 1: This is what your untouched clip will look like after dragging it down from your viewer. (you will have already set your in and out points in the viewer)
Figure 1 ^

Figure 2: Using the razor tool (not included in picture) the clip in Fig. 1 has been cut in half. This cut was done by placing the razor tool over that mark and clicking. (note: we have only made a cut on the video track)
Figure 2 ^

Figure 3: After the first cut has been made, in most cases you want to completely separate this newly created clip from the previous clip. Add one more razor click to where you want the new clip to end.

Figure 3 ^

Razor Tool Cont. + Audio (step by step)

Figure 4: Once all your razor cuts have been done on the video track, you’ll want to do the same with the audio. Place the razor over your audio tracks and cut.
Figure 4 ^

BE CAREFUL – Once you have made cuts on the timeline you could run into the problem of accidently separating your video and audio tracks. When you drag and select clips to move, be sure to include in the selection the video AND audio portions. If not you will end up with something looking like the picture below.

< In this picture you can see these small red boxes with times inside them. What this is telling you is that your video track has been moved 1 second and 21 frames off from the audio. This is a problem because the audio will not be synced with the video. This can be solved by selecting just the track that is off (indicated by the ‘+’ sign) and sliding it back to the left until the numbers disappear. It is best that you use the ‘snapping’ setting in the timeline.

Other Timeline Issues

To remove gaps – click in the grey area between the clips and click ‘Delete’ on the keyboard.

Timeline Controls:

Snapping button: Click to turn snapping on and off. This button appears in the Timeline button bar by default. When snapping is on, the playhead “snaps to” key areas in the Timeline, such as the boundaries of other clip items, sequence markers, and sequence In and Out points. This can be extremely useful when you need to quickly line up two clips without gaps in between, or to quickly move the playhead to a marker in preparation for an edit. You can also turn snapping on and off by choosing View > Snapping (or by pressing N).

Linked Selection button: Click this to turn linked selection on and off. With linked selection on, clicking a video or audio clip item selects all other items linked to that item. If linked selection is off, only the clip item you click is selected, even if it is linked to other items. This is useful for editing the audio In or Out point of a clip separately from the video, such as when doing a split edit. You can also turn linked selection on and off by choosing Edit > Linked Selection (or by pressing Shift-L).

The Timeline in relation to the Canvas (vice versa)

In this picture, where ever the playhead or marker is located on the timeline, the picture in the Canvas will be represented of that precise moment. By shuttling on the timeline you will alter the picture in the canvas – but shuttling in the canvas you will alter the playheads position on the timeline.

6. Adding Text

To add the text to the video, click back to the ‘Video’ tab in the viewer. Click and drag the text screen to you desired location on the timeline.

Note: depending where you drag the text and its relation to other video on the timeline you will either place the text OVER video, or place text before video and over black.

Text over video vs. Text over black

^ Text over black before video. As you can see the text is on the same video track as the video – thus when played back text will appear and then go into the first video clip.

Text over Video

^ Text over Video. As you can see, the text is on Video track 2 which will play over the video on Track 1. By layering the text you will have the video and text appear on the screen at the same time. Notice the difference between this and how the text appears in the ‘text over black before video’. The picture below shows how your canvas will appear when you layer the text over the video.

7. Audio

Audio levels are located in the Viewer under the Audio Tab. Must have an audio clip selected.

Note: You want your audio between -8 and -12 on the meter.

Levels in the Red & Yellow = Bad. Levels in Green = Good.

To Raise or Lower Audio

  1. Double click the audio segment in question.
  2. Open the ‘Stereo’ Tab in the Viewer
  3. Pan the audio to the center, or ‘0’ (zero) value. (dark purple bar)
  4. Use the ‘Level’ slider to either raise or lower the sound level. (light pink bar)
  5. Play back the segment to make sure the level is correct.

*Note: you can only raise audio to 12dB while you can lower the levels to infinity.

**Note: you can edit audio just like you would video by setting in and out points and using the razor tool.

Adding Music

Do the following to add music from a CD or iTunes into your timeline.

8. Transitions

Transitions are used to in-between clips that would otherwise not work next to each other with a simple cut and splice edit. There are many different types of transitions with the most common being a fade, dissolve, wipe, and slide. It is important to not over use transitions as it will make your production look less-than professional.

How to add a transition

  1. In your Browser select the ‘Effects’ Tab. (Fig Trans 1)
  2. A list of bins will appear. Find the one marked ‘Video Transitions’. (Fig Trans 2)
  3. Folders with different types of transitions will appear. When you have found the one you want to use. Click AND Drag the transition to the exact spot you want the transition to appear. Be sure to select the transition (yellow with a grey dot) and NOT the transition bin which is blue.

A transition between two separate clips will appear with an equal portion of the transition on either side of the clip. A transition lead in will appear entirely on one of the two clips. ( think of it as X|X for an equal transition, and XX| or |XX as an unequal transitions as depicted in the pictures below)

This transition (Additive Dissolve) is equally placed between the two clips. The result will be the first clip fading out while the second clip fades in ( The ‘X|X’ Concept)

This transition to the right is an unequal transition (The ‘|XX’ Concept). In this case, the middle clip will play in its entirety and then cross dissolve into the next clip. Because the transition was not placed as centered, it will not transition equally and will result in extra video being played that you may not have intended.

***TIP: make sure you Click and Drag the transition precisely where you want it to occur. Remember COMMAND + Z is Undo.

9. Exporting

This is the final step in production. Only select EXPORT after you have reviewed everything in your project, THIS IS THE FINAL STEP – there is no going back from here! Watch your project through in its entirety and make sure everything is to your liking.

How to Export

  2. Go to ‘File’ à ‘Export’ à ‘QuickTime Movie…’ (CONT. on next page)
  3. The following screen will appear
  1. Name your project and select its destination. In the picture above my file name is ‘Easter Kids Day.mov’ and my destination is the desktop. When naming your file be sure to NOT DELETE the .mov extension.
  2. Click ‘Save’
  3. For the next however many minutes your project will be processed. Depending on the length and sophistication of your project this will take anywhere between 5 minutes to 2 hours.

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