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Final Cut Pro: First Things First

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Follow Michael Rubin through a personal tour of Final Cut Pro and get comfortable with its interface and navigation.
This chapter is from the book

Before we start capturing and editing and maybe getting ourselves hopelessly confused, I want to take you on my personal tour of Final Cut Pro. In particular, we'll break down what you see on the screen (the interface) into understandable components.

Before the interface tour begins, however, I'll walk you through the most critical aspect of any editing tool: control over how you move and play the video. By the end of this chapter, you'll be on a first name basis with the FCP interface; it will be familiar and comfortable, and you'll be ready to learn to edit.

FCP and Post-Production

Shooting, organizing, and editing are generally seen as distinct tasks, although in truth they often blur and meld together—I think of the combination as "holistic video." No matter how good an editor you are or how skilled you are with editing software, it's almost impossible to have a positive editing experience with really poorly shot video. And even if you're the best videographer in the world, all that matters in the end is the product edited from your raw material. Shooting and editing are yin and yang—independent and yet intertwined. (Forgive me, I moved to California a number of years ago, and this kind of New Age metaphor has finally lodged itself in my thinking.)

Figure 1

This is a book about "post-production"—by definition, the things that happen to a film after it is shot. For us, post-production includes three steps:

  • Getting raw "source" video into your computer ("capturing it")

  • Editing the video

  • Outputting the finished cut sequence to a "master" videotape

Final Cut Pro manages all of these tasks. There are, however, other post-production tasks worth noting. At the front end of post-production I think it is important to create a logsheet outlining the material on a given videotape "reel." Editors usually log video right before or while they're capturing it. At the back end of the process, there are a number of output options available using FCP. I end this book with a section detailing how to record your final edits to a master digital video cassette, but many of you will want to have a compressed QuickTime version for use on the Web, and you may want to burn a DVD. Creating these versions involves time consuming (and computationally complex) software compression of your video. That compression produces lower-quality video than the DV video you started with. Once you have a high-quality digital videotape master, it is up to you what other formats you want to create, but I think it is critical to view the output of the master as the most significant "final" step of post-production.

Vocabulary: Master

The word master is used in special ways throughout the filmmaking process, which sometimes can be a little confusing.

  1. noun The final version of an edited sequence.

  2. noun The dedicated video monitor on which you watch the master (see 1). This "master" display is also sometimes called the "record" monitor. In this case, master is the opposite of source.

  3. noun The main shot of a particular scene, as recorded during production. The master (shot) tends to run the entire length of a scene, and is often—but not always—a wide shot. A scene may include a master and a series of closer shots.

  4. noun A tape or device from which the timecode drives other devices (known as "slaves") such that all devices are held in synchronization.

  5. verb To record the final version to an ultimate destination. People often master music files, for example, when they burn them on a CD-R device.

It would not be unusual, therefore, to say something like: "I noticed that my master (shot) dominates the edited master (version) that I am watching on my master (monitor) while I master (record) the project." Whew. (I take it back: Saying that would be a little unusual.)

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