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Examining Clips

Now that you have control over sorting your clips, it’s time to actually watch your media. The process of reviewing or skimming your footage will make it easier to tag footage with keywords and roles, as well as help you find the best shots.

Taking the time to review your footage and annotate it greatly improves your end results. When an event is selected in the Event Library, you can view its clips in the Event Browser. This is the first step toward viewing and organizing your footage.

Viewing Individual Clips

When you’ve located a clip in an event, you have several ways to view its contents. It’s important that you learn how to use the dynamic preview capabilities of Final Cut Pro X to speed up your edit workflow.

There are two primary tools that you’ll use for playback and previewing: the playhead and the skimmer.


The J-K-L keys will quickly become an integral part of your keyboard controls.


The playhead indicates your current position within a project. The playhead appears as a thin, gray vertical line. Generally, the playhead is static, but you can reposition it by clicking in a clip or your Timeline. The playhead does move when you click Play to indicate progress as a clip or Timeline plays back.

Here are a few tips to control playback:

  • Press the spacebar to start or stop playback.
  • To play a clip from its beginning, press Shift+Control+I.
  • To play just a part of a clip, click and drag the yellow handles to define a frame range. Press the Forward Slash (/) key to play just the selected part of the clip.
  • If you do not select a range, you can still press Shift+Forward Slash (/) to play two seconds before and after where the playhead is parked.
  • You can use the J-K-L keys to control playback:
  • Press L to play forward.
  • Press J to play backward.
  • Press K to pause the video clip.
  • To double the playback speed, tap L or J twice. Tap again for further incremental speed changes.
  • To move the playhead one frame at a time, hold down the K key and tap J or L.
  • To move the playhead in slow motion, hold down the K key while pressing down J or L.


Another method for previewing clips is the skimmer. Using the skimmer lets you move the mouse to freely preview a clip without affecting the playhead position. The benefit of the skimmer is that it lets you quickly review several frames in a clip by simply moving the mouse (all without losing your current position).

The skimmer appears as a thin, pink vertical line as you move the pointer across the clip. The skimmer temporarily turns orange if snapping is enabled and the skimmer snaps to a position. Snapping makes it easier to drag between markers and In points, for example.


Renaming Clips

By default, DSLR media has pretty useless filenames (they’re not unique, and it’s very easy to have duplicate filenames). Even if all your files have different names, how useful is a name like Fortunately, you can easily rename clips within your event. You can rename clips in the Event Browser or in the Info inspector anytime you want. Note that when you rename a clip in Final Cut Pro X, it does not rename the source media file on your disk. Here are a few ways you can rename clips:

  • Rename a clip in the Event Browser in Filmstrip view. If you’re in Filmstrip view, simply select a clip’s name and type a new name.
  • Rename a clip in the Event Browser in List view. If you’re in List view, simply select a clip’s name, press Return, and then type a new name.
  • Rename a clip in the Info inspector. Select a clip in the Info inspector by clicking the Inspector button in the toolbar. Click the Info button at the top of the pane that appears. You can then click in the Name field and type a new name.

Organizing Clips with Roles

When you import clips into Final Cut Pro X, the application automatically assigns metadata text labels. These labels are based on one of five default roles: Video, Titles, Dialogue, Music, or Effects. You can also create custom roles and further refine with subroles that you can manually assign to clips. For example, you can assign the role of Interview to all of your sound bites to easily separate them from the rest of your footage.

Apple has positioned roles as the primary way to identify related elements when working in the Timeline and when exchanging data with an XML file. Roles should continue to play a more important part as Final Cut Pro X continues to evolve and share media with other applications.

Setting Up Roles

A good place to start to set up roles is to open the Roles Editor. Choose Modify > Edit Roles to see the current roles and subroles you’ve set up. Roles are globally defined for the application, so you cannot have different roles for different projects.

To create a new role, follow these steps.

  1. To add a new role, click the Assign New Role button at the bottom-left corner of the Role Editor window.

  2. Choose to add a New Video Role or New Audio Role.
  3. Click on the new role and enter a new name.

You can also add subroles to further refine a role category. For example, you can split the Video role into smaller categories like b-roll, behind the scenes, reenactment, and so on to make it easier to categorize your footage. Creating subroles is easy.

  1. Click a role to select it.

  2. Click the Subrole button at the bottom center of the panel.
  3. Click on the new subrole and enter a new name.

The Rules

Keep in mind that there are a few rules when it comes to using roles:

  • Every clip must have at least one assigned role.
  • If a clip has audio and video, it will always have one audio and one video role.
  • You cannot assign a video role to audio-only clips or an audio role to video-only clips.
  • Roles cannot be assigned to a clip range or a portion of a clip.
  • You can assign different roles to each instance of a clip. For example, a clip in the Timeline can have a different role assigned in an event.
  • To delete a subrole or a custom role, just click to select it and press the Delete key. You cannot delete the original five roles, however. You’ll also need to make sure that no clips are assigned to a subrole in your events. Once cleared, the role or subrole will no longer appear as an option when you relaunch the application.

Assigning Roles

You can assign roles to clips at any point in your editing. In fact, you can assign a role in the Event Browser, the Info inspector, the Modify menu, or the Timeline Index. Here’s how:

  • View and reassign roles in the Event Browser. With one or more clips selected in the Event Bowser, you can use the Roles column. Make sure you are in List view and that you can see the Roles column (if it’s not visible, Control-click a column head and choose Roles). You can then click the assigned role for a clip to see a shortcut menu listing the available roles. Simply choose additional roles that you want to assign.

  • View and reassign roles in the Info inspector. With one or more clips selected in the Event Bowser or Timeline, you can use the Info inspector. If it’s not visible, click the Inspector button in the toolbar and click the Info button at the top of the pane that appears. You can click in the Roles field to choose from available roles.

  • If the Roles metadata is not visible, click the View button at the bottom of the pane and choose Edit Metadata View. You can then use the search field and enter roles. Select the Roles field to add it to your view.
  • View and reassign roles in the Modify menu. An easy way to assign roles is to use the Modify menu. With a clip selected, simply choose Modify > Assign Roles, and choose a role from the submenu. Once selected, a check mark appears next to the roles in use.
  • Use keyboard shortcuts. If you want to assign roles using the keyboard, that’s possible too:

    • Video (Control+Option+V)
    • Titles (Control+Option+T)
    • Dialogue (Control+Option+D)
    • Music (Control+Option+M)
    • Effects (Control+Option+E)
  • View and reassign roles in the Timeline Index. After you’ve added clips to a Timeline, you can assign roles. This function is often used to help assign track-based output for files (such as when going to tape). You can also use roles to help you isolate clip types in your Timeline (even making entire roles invisible by deselecting them).
  • Open the Timeline Index by pressing Command+Shift+2. View your clips in use by clicking the Clips pane at the top of the Timeline index. Use the Roles column to add roles to your clips (if it’s not visible, just Control-click on the heading and choose Roles from the menu). You can then click on a role and add or edit assigned roles.
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