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Final Cut Pro X Notes and Tips

essay by Bettina + Uwe Steinmueller




Setting up your Preferences

Understanding Events and Projects

Importing clips into FCPX

Using Keywords and Range-Based Keywords: Soon

Known Issues


Known Bugs



10/21/2011 FCPX and AVCHD V2.0

Some newer cameras (like the Sony NEX-5N and NEX-7) can record at 1080p60p. This is part of the new AVCHD V2 standard. FCPX right now cannot import these files as it did not yet implement AVCHD V2.0.

We use ClipWrap to transcode the file to ProRes LT (it stays at 1080p60p) and then import these files into FCPX without any problems. You may also consider to place the files into 30p Project (timeline). This would allow to slow down the footage by 50% and still use real frames.

09/28/2011 FCP X update 10.0.1

We don't know any good information which bugs are fixed or not.

  • It seems that Apple fixed the bug where you got ugly green artifacts on rendering if you Mac had more than one graphics cards (ours has). For moredetails visit the bugs section of this article.
  • For our level of work Final Cut Pro X is easy to use and has become our main video editor.



FCPX is a new product with some great new features:

  • 64 Bit
  • Background rendering
  • Improved media management
  • Magnetic Timeline
  • Keywords
  • Range-Based Keywords
  • Compound Clips
  • Precision Editor
  • Tight Motion integration (Motion costs $50 extra)
  • Price $299 (only in the Mac App Store)
  • Faster startup

There has been a very mixed reception of FCPX in the Mac App Store with a strong negative majority:

Rating as of 6/23/2011

Apple could have avoided some of the negative comments by better communicating what to expect and what not.


Here are some misconceptions:

  • FCPX is a next release from FCP 7. Apple is not communicating the fact that there is no upgrade path from FCP 7.
    • Import of old projects is not possible
    • Old plugins don't work and new plugins are not ready in the market (why did Apple not get these developers earlier on track?)
    • Features some pro editors urgently need are not implemented: XML support, EDL support, Export to tape, pass-through to a broadcast monitor

    In reality Final Cut Pro X (FCPX) is a completely new product which has the same name as an older product.

  • FCPX is more like an iMovie Pro: If it means that it is more visual than FCP 7 then yes but not if it means this is not a serious editor. FCPX has a way better management of the media than iMovie and much more pro editing capabilities. For us there is no doubts that FCPX is a very serious video editor.
  • Pro or not Pro: There is no doubt in our mind that FCPX is a professional editing tool. But for some pros it may miss features that it makes not a tool for them. Lets wait some months and see how 3rd party companies fill in the blanks and Apple updates the product. There are many different kinds of pros out there. For some pros it may work and for others not. Lets see how it looks in a year.

This is a version 1.0 software and you should know the risks to use such a software for critical work. We are very optimistic that the new Final Cut Pro X will evolve again to an important tool for editing videos. This time with a much broader user base (from hobbyist to pros).

Things we would like to be improved:

  • Allow to display selected windows/panels on a second monitor (e.g. Scopes)
  • Create snapshots of our Projects to have an easy way going back. Fortunately you can duplicate your project at such a safe state.

Setting up your Preferences

There are fewer preferences than in FCP 7. This is good but also has other implications. Good because making things simpler allows a better understanding of a program. But this also allows less control e.g. about scratch disk space and disks. Likely some clever people will figure out what is going on under the hood.

Here is how we set it up (still experimenting)

Editing Preferences

Playback Preferences

We use "Best Performance" because "Best Quality" may slow your processing down. Good to know when your system does slow down and cannot play all frames. If the "Dropping Frames" dialog pops up too often then you should disable this feature.

Import Preferences

You can control the Import settings later again during the actual import process. We cover the first four properties later. The rest we leave off because we control this on a clip by clip basis later.


Understanding Events and Projects

There are actually three aspects we have to consider:

  • Original camera clips
  • Events
  • Projects

Original Camera Clips

We always store the original camera clips on our disks outside of FCPX. It is advised (especially with AVCHD files) copy the entire content of your cards to your disk. Always one folder per card content. Have a good naming convention for these folders so that you can find them back later. Backup the content of these folders on backup disks.

We use a program called ShotPut Pro to copy our cards. ShotPut Pro verifies that the copy on disk matches the card content. If the card also contains still images we import these via Lightroom and may delete the images from the video folders.

Here is a typical structure for AVCHD:

Sample AVCHD Archive (card image copy)


As we understand Events are the same as in iMovie and are more like what was called "Projects" in FCP 7. It is not really the same. Events are a collection of imported media that you collected from an event (client project, for a movie. ...). All media get into the Events by import (see later). Here is the Events Library Panel that shows all your Events and your imported media:

Events Library Panel


Events Storage

You better understand where FCPX stores your events because their content can use up a lot of disk space.

The default location for all Events is a folder with the fixed name called "Final Cut Events" inside the user's Movies folder on the OS disk. Unless you don't want or have a second disk (best a FW800 drive or Thunderbolt in the future) the OS disk is a bad place to store your Events for at these reasons:

  • The Events folder can contain lots of data and you don't want to fill your OS disk. A disk overflow on the OS disk can be very problematic.
  • The OS uses the OS disk for its virtual memory and this can slow down access to your videos.

Fortunately you can create Events also on other disks. If you did not have any events on a non-OS disk. It will create a folder called "Final Cut Events" at the root of this disk and create Events there. If FCPX starts up it checks all your attached disks for the standard locations of the "Final Cut Events". Therefore it is best practice not to move anything in these folders with the Finder. All you need to do can be done inside FCPX.

Here is how the content of the "Final Cut Events" folders look like:

Events Folder with one Event "FCP_X_Test1"

  • Analysis Files: e.g. stores info about the clip stabilization analysis
  • Original Media: Here are the imported files. They are often not really the original clips but unchanged copies instead. The folder also can hold links to video clips at other locations (if FCPX understands the format natively - e.g. using one of the ProRes codecs.
  • Render Files: FCPX creates temporary files to speed up rendering and editing. If the Event is not used anymore FCPX provides functions to remove them.
  • Transcoded Media: For fast editing FCPX needs transcoded or proxy files. These files are stored here.

There is a lot more to the Events organization and we will show this later when we cover import. Don't ever change data in the Events Folders from your Finder.

No Folders for Events?

We don't understand why FCPX allows to create Folders for Projects and not for Events. Both need ways to structure large amounts of data.


Projects are more like a Sequence in FCP 7. The Project is actually one edit in the Timeline. Projects are linked to an Event but can use clips from all Events imported into FCPX.

All your Projects show in the Project Library Panel (lower left):

Project Library Panel

Project Storage

The storage is completely analog to the logic of storing Events. The folder name is just "Final Cut Projects" instead of "Final Cut Events". Again we try to avoid using the OS disk for storing our Projects.

Here is how the content of the "Final Cut Projects" folders look like:

Projects Folder Structure

Because these are all only helper files there is no real need to understand the details. Again it is good practice to never ever change the content in the Finder. All you need to know can be done inside FCPX.

Project Folders

Because you can have many Projects the Projects folders would get cluttered in no time. To avoid this you can create folders inside your Final Cut Projects folders.

About saving Events and Projects

Events and Projects are auto-saved by FCPX. This again is nice but you also need to watch that you did not make bad changes to your projects or Events.

A too simplistic way to store data?

We don't think the new way to store Events and Projects is very helpful for people who know what they do. With FCP 7 it was very easy to store temporary Projects any time. In case of a crash (or if FCPX is messing up, see bugs) you may lose your entire Project.


Importing Clips into FCPX

The first step is to import media into your Events. There are in principle two ways:

  • Import from Files
  • Import from Camera

At first this sounds to be well defined but it is likely confusing for some.

Import from Files

Seems to be simple, you import media files (mainly clips) from your disk. That is generally true but unfortunately not for AVCHD .MTS files (read this article to learn more about codecs). If your media files (clips) are supported for "Import from File" the step is simple:

  • Select the media file(s)
  • Check the right import options (see also in Preferences section of this article)

After import the media are part of you event.

Why no direct import of MTS files?

Strictly speaking MTS files are part of a well defined AVCHD folder structure. Although only few AVCHD cameras support metadata these would not be part of the MTS files but stored in other folders. We advise to copy the whole AVCHD structure to your disk and make no changes at all (also not to any of the file names).

AVCHD maybe not the most user friendly structure if it comes to editing and import but we just live with it.

Import from Camera

This is the way to import AVCHD clips. Didn't we just say to copy the whole structure to your disk? That is true but we use "Import from Camera" not to import from the camera but from the Media Archive instead.

Note: Yes, you also can directly import from your camera but we don't think this is the best way to handle your clips. Copy the structure to your disk and make also backup copies before you even think to format the card again. It is even better to check the clips on your computer first before formatting your cards.

We use a program called ShotPut Pro to copy our cards. ShotPut Pro verifies that the copy on disk matches the card content. If the card also contains still images we import these via Lightroom and may delete the images from the video folders.

Here is how you import your AVCHD clips from your disk archive.

  • Select "Import from Camera"

  • Click button "Open Archive" (bottom, second left)
  • Select your Archive

We choose a folder just above the AVCHD folder. Give this folder a meaningful name because this name will be added to your keywords.

  • Select this archive in the recent archive list showing at the left top of the window.

If you did not preview your clips before with other tools then this is the time to check all your clips. This window allows you to play all the clips in that archive. This is a major advantage over the "Import Files" procedure. You can even trim clips and only import this trimmed part into your event.

Notes: Importing only roughly trimmed clips saves you space in the Events Library. We always try to import pre-trimmed clips. If you found a trimmed selection for a clip then import it right away because if you select a different clip the previous trim is lost (feature of bug?).

  • For each import you see again the import options dialog (see Preferences)

If you check "Create optimized media" FCPX copies the original untouched clips (actually a special wrapped .MOV version of your .MTS media) and also creates a ProRes 422 optimized copy for better editing. This has a price because the optimized clip is about 6x in size compared to the original MTS file (here it pays off if you pre-trim your clips). The wrapped .MOV clips are about the same size as the original MTS files and can also be played with QuickTime.

  • The import of trimmed clips or multiple selected clips does not close the import dialog. Take your time to carefully view all the clips you got from your camera because you need to do this anyway to use your footage for your movies.

Once you have imported your clips or trimmed clips they are all part of your FCPX Event.


Using Keywords and Range-Based Keywords

  • Coming soon

Known Issues

  • Lets repeat: This is a version 1
  • You cannot store Projects and Events on FAT32 disks (they are also limited in terms of maximum file size)
  • Cannot display single windows (e.g. Scopes) on a second monitor
  • Plugins from Final Cut 7 don't work (because of 64 bit architecture) and replacements will take a while.
  • No batch capture from tape


Missing the second viewer window

Final Cut Pro has 2 viewer windows, one for the time line and one for the current clip. The downside is that more space is needed on the screen which can be a problem with lower resolutions screens (e.g. Mac Books). So having only one viewer window is not bad idea in general.

Here is a situation that happens to me quite often.

The play head is not on the selected clip (on the clip right to the selected clip). The properties shown are also the properties of the selected clip and not the ones at the play head location. Now I often start changing parameters and wonder why the preview does not update. Then I realize that in this scenario actually the settings are changed for the selected clip and not the ones shown. Yes, you can go back in history but you first have to find out what you did. An extra history palette like in Photoshop or Lightroom would be very helpful here.

If we use "Detach Audio" it just works fine.

Known Bugs

  • "You may notice green artifacts when you export a QuickTime movie. This can occur on a system that has two graphics cards installed and a display attached to a DVI port on each card." (acknowledged by Apple Support). We have such a Mac Pro. It seems to be ok if we turn the second monitor off during rendering.

Maybe fixed in 10.0.1 (at least it seems to work here).

  • We encounter our share of crashes and application freezes. Most of the time not much data loss.
  • We found at times that our correction to a clip were gone. Here is the likely bug. We added some color corrections, skew and a sharpening effects to a clip. Then we separated video and sound. The corrections were all gone.
  • Note: I have two graphics cards installed. Export normally works fine (some users have seen issues here). Here is the problem (bug). I have 3 clips: first two with sound and the last one without sound. After export as a Quicktime movie the last clip shows garbled green artifacts. Using the 3rd clip with sound (-96db) all is fine. MAybe fixed in 10.0.1.
  • Here is a bug we found and posted to Apple: We have an always attached backup disk that mirrors our main working disk multiple times a day. Then FCPX sometimes only finds events on the backup disk and never on both.
  • We started a Project and at some point we were going back in history. We then planned to go forward (redo) in history. But at some point we got the warning that FCPX cannot save the state and we should quit. After quit and re-start the entire project was gone. Very scary!
  • Losing links to media

    Here is what I do:

    1. Import ProRes 422 media without(!) copy
    2. FCPX creates links to the original meadia
    3. All works fine
    4. Use a different app to read the media (e.g. FCP7)
    6. Close the other app
    7. FCPX has lost the links to the media
    8. Physically the links still work fine and the media can be played in QT7

    In consequence the import without copy does not work properly.

    Cannot see any UI to fix the links which are not really broken. Maybe FCPX uses a timestamp?








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