How to Make Final Cut Pro X More Like Final Cut Pro 7

August 4, 2011

by J.R. Bookwalter, MacLife


Final Cut Pro X vs. Final Cut Pro 7

Apple unleashed a firestorm of controversy following the release of Final Cut Pro X, with professional video editors up in arms over missing features and the inability to open legacy project files. As it turns out, some of the so-called “missing features” are simply tucked away in the new FCPX user interface, which has created confusion for legacy users. Here are some ways to make the revamped app function a little more like Final Cut Pro 7.


How To Get a Dual-Monitor Display

Final Cut Pro X dual monitor display

Early reports claimed Final Cut Pro X couldn’t display video on a second monitor, which isn’t entirely true. While we wait for third-party hardware manufacturers to provide solutions for getting broadcast video to external monitors, users with two computer displays can at least get a full-screen view of their work right now.

After selecting Window > Show Viewer on Second Display, you’ll notice the entire Viewer window has moved to your extra display, including playback controls. Click the “Play full screen” button in the bottom right corner and your current selection will start playing back full screen, just like FCP7. To get things back to normal, press the Esc key to get back to windowed mode, then Window > Show Viewer in the Main Window.

Final Cut Pro X full-screen display button

Single-monitor users can also join in the fun with a full-screen preview of your timeline or clip by clicking the same “Play full screen” button in the Viewer. Now you’ll see a clutter-free view of your work on your display so you can make sure things are working the way you want.


Making the Timeline Look and Feel More Familiar

Final Cut Pro X skimmer turned off

Longtime Final Cut Pro users are rightfully frustrated by FCPX’s new Skimmer tool, which skims through audio and video on the timeline as you move across it. While you can easily turn audio skimming off to make it a less noisy affair, the better solution is to turn skimming off entirely in the upper right corner of the timeline window for a more familiar editing experience. Now grab the playhead or use the traditional J, K and L keys to move across your timeline like it’s 2010.

Final Cut Pro X Clip Appearance

If you prefer FCP7’s classic sequence look, you can use Clip Appearance at the bottom of the screen to get things looking familiar again. In addition to turning Clip Connections on or off and adjusting clip height, users can also select from six timeline presets, including audio waveform only, blank clip or any combination of the two.


Reclaim the Audio Meters

Final Cut Pro X show audio meters

By default, FCPX hides the audio meters to keep the user interface clean. Thankfully, a visit to Window > Show Audio Meters bring them back again, in their comfortable lower right corner spot on your display.

While Apple has eliminated audio track assigning in this initial version, you can use the Pan Mode to move a clip around in either stereo or 5.1 surround. Select a clip and visit the Audio tab in the Inspector, then look for Pan Mode under “Volume and Pan.” If you have music or ambient effects, Apple has included presets to put them in just the perfect space in your surround mix – or you can break out the Surround Panner to push audio anywhere you’d like.


Keep Your Media In Place When Importing

Final Cut Pro X import options

Apple’s simplified FCPX media management has bewildered many longtime users, but you can retain some control over your media if you know how. When importing existing media on a drive you already use for editing, simply choose File > Import > Files and make sure “Copy files to Final Cut Pro Events folder” is unchecked under Organizing, which will assure your media stays where it is – FCPX will simply link to the location in question. Likewise, “Create optimized media” under Transcoding should also be unchecked so FCPX doesn’t create new media files when you don’t want them.

Older versions of Final Cut Pro used scratch disks to determine where render files wound up, while FCPX keeps them together with your project file. You’ll want to make sure to select a large, fast drive when starting a new project, which may not be the internal hard disk on your computer as you’ve probably done in the past.


How To Get the Slug Function Back

Final Cut Pro X insert gap

Veteran Final Cut Pro editors get plenty of use out of the Slug function for filling out gaps in a sequence. Sadly, the Slug function (not to mention the sequence!) is gone in FCPX, but fear not: You can evoke the spirit of that tool by choosing Edit > Insert Gap, which places three seconds of black in your timeline at the playhead location. Even better, Edit > Insert Placeholder can be used for roughing out missing scenes, complete with options for framing, people, gender, background, sky and even interior or exterior locations.


How To Display Event Media with List View

Final Cut Pro X Events list view

Final Cut Pro X defaults to displaying Events in iMovie-like strips, but pros generally prefer to see more details. Select “Show clips in List View” at the bottom of the Events pane to get a more familiar, detailed list view of your media, which can be grouped or arranged in a number of different ways with the Action pop-up menu.


Emulating Multicam Editing with Compound Clips

Final Cut Pro X Compound Clip

Multi-camera editing is MIA from Final Cut Pro X, although Apple promises the real thing is coming in the next major update. In the meantime, you can simulate multicam for simple workflows by using automatic clip synchronization, which uses the audio waveforms of multiple video and audio clips to create a Compound Clip that can be edited in a similar style.


Get Back Those Lost Keyboard Shortcuts

Final Cut Pro X Command Editor

Unhappy that Apple changed your favorite Final Cut Pro keyboard shortcuts? You can get most of them back with a visit to Final Cut Pro > Commands > Customize, which opens the Command Editor window. Here you’ll get a view of all assigned keys on your attached keyboard, and you can configure them to your heart’s content or even save them for others to import into their own workflows.

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