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This chapter is from the book

Special Cases

Here are some special cases of importing media that require a different approach.

Importing iMovie Projects and Events

Final Cut Pro X finally fulfills a long-held dream of iMovie users that there be some way to get their iMovie Projects and Events into Final Cut Pro. And, in fact, it is very easy.

If all you need is access to your iMovie media, import the iMovie Event Library. This brings in all your iMovie media, allowing you to reedit it using the full power of Final Cut Pro X. Or, if you want to bring in your iMovie Project, you can do that as well.

Here’s how these both work:

  1. To import an iMovie Project, choose File > Import > iMovie Project.
  2. Navigate to where your project is stored; typically, this is in the Movies folder in the Home directory of your hard disk. Then click Import.
  3. By now, you are an old hand at navigating the Import Files dialog. Once you import your files, the project will open and all associated iMovie Events and media are loaded into the Event Library.

To import all your iMovie media, choose File > Import > iMovie Event Library. This loads all the media that you captured in iMovie into Final Cut Pro.

Using Photos Browser or Music and Sound Browser

Built into Final Cut Pro X is access to your iPhoto, Aperture, and iTunes libraries. This means you can easily access any image, or sound they contain, without even going to the process of importing.

Here’s how.

The Browsers—for images and effects—are all located on the right side of the bar running across the middle of the FCP X interface (Figure 4.30).

Figure 4.30

Figure 4.30 Click this icon to display the contents of your iPhoto or Aperture library.

Click the icon for the Photos Browser, and it opens to display images from your iPhoto or Aperture library. These images are always available to you for every Project. You don’t need to import them. Whenever you want to use one of these images, simply drag it from the Browser onto the Timeline. You don’t need to move it to the Event Browser first.

To open the Music and Sound Browser, click the icon with the musical note on it (Figure 4.31). This opens your iTunes library. In addition to iTunes, if you downloaded the extra material from Apple after you purchased FCP X, you also have access to thousands of sound effects and music cues—all royalty free and stored in this Browser.

Figure 4.31

Figure 4.31 Click this icon to display the contents of the Music and Sound Browser, including your iTunes library.

Again, like the Photos Browser, you don’t need to import these files. If you find one you like, simply drag it from the Browser into the Timeline. (I’ll show you how to do that when I cover editing, in a couple of chapters.)

Importing from an (H)DSLR Camera

(H)DSLR cameras shoot a video format called H.264. This is a very compressed, and mathematically challenging, video format. H.264 is a good format for shooting, it is an excellent format for distribution on the Web, but it is not a good format for editing.

Still images can be directly imported into Final Cut Pro—see the “Dealing with Still Images” section to come—or you can import them into Aperture or iPhoto. Then use the Photos Browser to import them into Final Cut Pro.

Video files are imported directly from the DCIM folder created by the camera, which you need to copy from the camera card into a folder on your hard disk or from a disk image of the card. Don’t use Import from Camera; use Import > Files. DSLR audio and video files, which are often separate, can be synchronized using Clip > Synchronize Clips. And syncing does not affect source files, only the clips in the Event Browser.

Since audio files are imported using File > Import > Files, you don’t need to cover that process again.

To import (H)DSLR footage, choose File > Import > Files. Navigate to where you stored the contents of the (H)DSLR card on your hard disk. In this example, I’m about to import some files shot by Chuck Spaulding. Notice that the DCIM folder is selected but not the contents of the folder (Figure 4.32). If you select a folder, FCP understands that you want to bring in the contents of the folder.

Figure 4.32

Figure 4.32 Importing media from an (H)DSLR camera involves navigating to where the actual media is stored, ideally in a folder on your hard disk.

When importing (H)DSLR footage, be sure to check “Create Optimized media” as part of the Import dialog. While FCP can, and will, edit H.264 video natively, you’ll get faster renders, higher-quality effects, and faster exports by optimizing. The only downside is that the optimized files take more space to store.

Once you have your preference settings to your satisfaction, click Import. An error dialog may pop up saying that FCP can’t import all the files in this folder, specifically, those ending with .THM (Figure 4.33). This is OK. When you import files directly from the DCIM folder, you may notice that there are both .MOV and .THM files. Just select everything in the folder.

Figure 4.33

Figure 4.33 Don’t panic. This message simply means that FCP could not import all the files it found in that folder.

Click OK, and Final Cut Pro will import just the .MOV files and ignore the .THMs. This is much faster than just selecting each movie file individually. You are taking a shortcut so that only the .MOV files are imported.

Sync Double-System Audio

Because the audio recording capability on almost all (H)DSLR cameras is really poor, you often record audio using a “double-system”: The camera records video and a digital audio recorder records audio.

Now, you need to get them in sync. This means during production you need to create a sync point. A sync point is a common point of reference between multiple cameras or between audio and video. Professional movies always use clapper slates. However, you can use a pair of clapping hands, dropping brick, or anything else that has a rapid movement coming to a quick stop and making a sharp noise.

You find the point in the video where the movement stops and the same point in the audio where the noise is made. That point is your sync point, the point that is the same for both audio and video.

Clips are always synced well before the start of action in a shot. So, once you have the sync point set, you still need to set a Start and End (In and Out) for your shot before you edit it to the Timeline. Final Cut provides built-in syncing capability, based upon the following:

  • Matching markers
  • Matching timecode
  • File creation date
  • Audio content

Most of the time, the production team will use a clapper slate to mark the start of a shot for both audio and video. So, I’ll show how to sync two clips using markers that you set to match the position where the clapper slaps down.

To create a marker, put the skimmer or playhead on the frame of the video clip that marks the sync point of a shot, and press M. That blue shape at the top of the clip is a marker. (I’ll talk more about markers in Chapter 7.)

Do the same for the audio clip. Put a marker at the sync point by positioning the skimmer or playhead at the exact point where the audio matches the video, and press M.

Select the video clip you want to sync; then, while holding the Command key, select the audio clip. With both clips selected, choose Clip > Synchronize Clips or press Option+Command+G (Figure 4.34).

Figure 4.34

Figure 4.34 Notice how both audio (green) and video (picture) clips are selected and both have a blue marker set at the top of the clip, which marks the sync point.

This creates a new, synchronized clip in the Event Browser with a little sync icon in the top-left corner (Figure 4.35). Remember to use this clip, not the two source clips, when the time comes to edit.

Figure 4.35

Figure 4.35 This is the symbol in the top left corner of the synced clip.

Dragging Files in from the Desktop

You can even import files by dragging them in from the Desktop. There are only two places you can drag clips from the Desktop: onto the name of an Event in the Event Library or into the Timeline.

To import a file by dragging, grab the title bar of Final Cut Pro and drag it to the side so you can see the image, or images, you want to import on the Desktop. Notice when you drag a clip from the Desktop to an Event, a white ring appears around the name of the Event. This tells you where your media will be stored. You can also drag directly into the Timeline. I discuss the Timeline in detail starting in Chapter 5 and continuing for the rest of the book.

Dealing with Still Images

I’ve saved this section for last because it causes more confusion than any other. Apple has simplified the process of importing, sizing, saving, and exporting still images. Final Cut Pro works best with bitmapped images, like those taken with a digital still camera or created inside Photoshop, and it supports a wide variety of image formats, though some formats provide higher quality than others.

With the latest version of Final Cut Pro, there does not seem to be a practical limit on image dimensions within Final Cut Pro. If you choose the Import preference to optimize media, images without transparency (called an alpha channel), are converted to JPEG, while those that do contain an alpha channel are converted to PNG. If you don’t choose to optimize media, still images are imported in their native format. PSDs (Photoshop documents) import with all layers flattened but with transparency information retained.

Images are measured in total pixels across by total pixels down, not by dots per inch (DPI). DPI is a printer reference and doesn’t apply to video. Also, you always want to create your images using square pixel dimensions.

If your still image is larger or smaller than the video frame, then the image will import correctly. However, if your still image is exactly the size of the video frame, then you need to size it using specific dimensions in order for the image geometry to be correct after import. The problem of image sizing is caused by the fact that video uses rectangles to describe image pixels, while computers use square pixels. And this difference has caused ulcers in the industry for years.

By default, stills import with a duration of four seconds. Here’s how to modify the default duration for an imported still image:

  1. Choose Final Cut Pro > Preferences (or type Command+[comma]) and click the Editing preference icon at the top.
  2. Toward the lower portion of this screen is the default duration assigned to imported still images. It’s four seconds by default, but you can change it to anything. The decimal point after the four is not frames but hundredths of a second. So, if you wanted your stills to import at three-and-a-half seconds, enter 00:00:03.50.
  3. Close the preference window to accept your changes.
  4. Import the files you need using File > Import > Files and select the files you want to bring in.

You remember I mentioned earlier that when images were the same size as the frame, you have problems? Well, Figure 4.36 illustrates that.

Figure 4.36

Figure 4.36 Importing still images drives all of us nuts. Here’s the problem you often have with trying to get imported still images to look correct.

As you may know, NTSC DV video is 720 pixels across by 480 pixels high. These pixel dimensions are the same, surprisingly, for both 4:3 and 16:9 video. (While the pixel count does not change, the pixel shape does!) These aspect ratio issues exist in NTSC, PAL, and many HD video formats, but the numbers are different.

In Figure 4.36, the black circle was created in Photoshop using square pixel dimensions and imported into FCP, where it got squished. The red circle is generated in FCP and is a perfect circle.

The reason for this is the differences in aspect ratio between the computer and video. Video uses rectangles for its default pixel shape, while the computer uses squares. You’ll see a solution for this in Table 4.1.

Table 4.1 Creating the Right Sizes for Still Images*

Video Format

Fill the Frame

Fill the Frame and Move Around

NTS C DV 4:3

720 x 540

1800 x 1350

NTS C DV 16:9

852 x 480

2130 x 1200

PAL 4:3

768 x 576

1920 x 1440

PAL 16:9

1024 x 576

2560 x 1440

720 HD

1280 x 720

3200 x 1800

1080 HD

1920 x 1080

4800 x 2700


2048 x 1024

5120 x 2560


4096 x 2048

8192 x 4096

* All images should be created at 72 dpi, because video just pays attention to the total pixels across and down. Only printers use DPI. Also, save files as PNG or TIFF to retain the highest quality.

However, when you properly size graphics in Photoshop before importing into FCP, circles come in as circles and squares look like squares (Figure 4.37).

Figure 4.37

Figure 4.37 This is what your images look like when you do it right! Whew!

Table 4.1 provides dimensions you can use to determine how to size your graphics. The left column indicates the video format. The middle column indicates the size you should create if you want the entire image to completely fill the frame, without doing any moves on the image. The right column indicates the size you should create if you want the image to completely fill the frame and you want to do moves on the image, which is also called the “Ken Burns Effect” (see Chapter 12).

You’ll be working with stills throughout this book. Chapter 6 shows how to edit and size them to fit the frame, while Chapter 12 illustrates how to do moves on stills. Chapter 15 explains how to export stills for use in other applications.

New Feature! XML Import

New with version 10.0.1 is the ability to import XML, an interchange language that lets applications share data. The process is simple. Once another application has created an XML file, choose File > Import > XML and find the file you want to import. Pick a hard disk to store the data from the Storage Location pop-up menu and click Import. That’s it. What you do with that data depends upon where it comes from, and that varies by application.

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