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Tutorial: Various ways you can edit video in Final Cut Pro

Oct, 2001

"Slice and Dice"
Various ways you can edit video in Final Cut Pro-

By Tom Wolsky

About this article:
There is no right way to edit a scene or a sequence or even a whole film or video; there are only bad ways, good ways and better ways. What we're going to do in this lesson is to look at some video and edit it. I'm going to give you a number of different ways of working with it, and a few different ways to cut it up; call it Slice and Dice.
The article is adapted from the book Final Cut Pro 2 Editing Workshop by Tom Wolsky.

Cutting Up Those Shots

There is no right way to edit a scene or a sequence or even a whole film or video; there are only bad ways, good ways and better ways. What we're going to do in this lesson is to look at some video and edit it. I'm going to give you a number of different ways of working with it, and a few different ways to cut it up; call it Slice and Dice.

There are basically two strategies for cutting long pieces of video. The first is to create short clips while leaving the whole material intact in each clip. I call this the Slice method. The second is to make subclips, which divide the master clip into shorter sections, each only the length of the selection. We'll call this the Dice or Subclip method. They both have advantages and disadvantages. It's important to understand the distinction between different types of clips. First there is the source media, the actual digital material on your hard drive. It may be a whole reel of tape, or it may be shorter sections, either way this is the master clip for your video. It contains every frame of the source media available to you. A Sliced clip is the same as the master clip it's taken from, except that a start point and an end point are defined for a particular shot. In a Diced clip not only are the start and end points defined, but the media that's useable by the clip is limited and does not have all the media in the original.

Slice 1

There are two methods of Slicing up your material, either in the Viewer or in the Timeline itself. Let's start in the Viewer. Begin by creating a new Bin in your Browser, then double click on the master clip in your Browser to open it in the Viewer. Play the clip in the Viewer to find a shot. Use the left and right arrow keys to find the first frame of the shot and hit I to mark the In point. Play the clip and find the end of the shot. When you've found the end hit O for Out point. Grab the picture in the Viewer and drag it into the Browser and drop it on the new Bin you created. You've now made a new clip in the Browser. You can, and probably should, rename this clip something appropriately descriptive. Twirl open Bin and double click on the name, which will highlight it and open a renaming box. Type in the new name. This is a copy of the master clip that is still in the Viewer. Double click the newly named clip in your bin to bring it back into the Viewer.

At this stage your Browser, in list view, together with your Viewer, might look something like this.

Figure 1

Browser and Viewer with the Sliced Clip

Notice that the clip that's been named Stone Basin comes in with an In and Out point marked, and notice also that the clip contains all the video that's in the master clip called The upside of this is obvious. The master clip is made up of a long length of material, perhaps even a whole reel of film, or even a roll of video tape, though I would advise against this. Because a Sliced clip is a copy of the master clip, you can now access any shot in the reel from inside any Sliced clip you make from the master. That's the upside; the downside is scrubbing. It's very difficult to do in the Viewer because even a tiny movement will move the Playhead a long way up and down the Viewer Scrubber Bar. Unfortunately FCP does not allow you to zoom into the Viewer Scrubber Bar, or change the scale of the Scrubber Bar, as you can the Timeline. It would be a very beneficial addition to FCP, and is a feature available in a number of other non-linear editing systems.

A note on where edit points occur. The shot change between edits actually takes place between the frames, that is, you see one frame and then the next frame you see is the first frame of a different shot. So when you're marking In and Out points you should know where the shot change is actually taking place. If you mark the In point for a frame that you're looking at in the Viewer, that will be the first frame of the new clip. The edit will take place in the space before that frame. If you mark as an Out point the frame you're looking at in the Viewer, that will be the last frame in the clip, and the edit will take place after that frame.

Slice 2

The second Slice method is in the Timeline. This is where you really are slicing with a digital razor blade.

Open up your master clip from the Browser into the Viewer. It'll probably have an In and Out point marked already. We need to clear those. If you control-click on the Scrubber Bar at the bottom of the Viewer you will evoke a contextual menu. Select Clear In and Out. This will, surprise, surprise, clear the In and Out points.

If you've opened a clip from the Browser and want to clear it's In and Out points, you can also use the keyboard shortcut Opt-X. You can't however clear the In and Out from a clip that's been opened from the Timeline. By definition a clip that's in the Timeline must have marked In and Out points.

Open a new empty sequence and drag your master clip into into the Timeline. When you place a clip in the Timeline the playhead automatically jumps to the end of the clip, ready for you to place another clip in position. In this case we don't want to do that, so simply click in the Timeline window to make it active and then hit the Home key on your keyboard to take you back to the beginning of the Timeline.

Press the spacebar to play the master clip in the Timeline. The video plays in the Canvas. Again use the spacebar to stop and the left and right arrow keys to find the start of the shot of the stone basin. When you've found it hit Control-V. This will cut the video and audio on the clip as if you were cutting it with a knife or a razor blade, which is what used to be used to cut film and audio tape, and even videotape when it was first edited. What you are doing is the digital metaphor for the same process. Now that you've made one cut, find the end of the shot and again use Control-V to cut the shot.

A moment we talked about where the cut takes place when you're editing, that the In point cuts the space before the frame you're looking at, and the Out point cuts after the frame you're looking at. Well, the razor blade always cuts on the gap in front of the frame you're seeing in the canvas. So in this Slice method to get the last frame of the shot you want you have to be looking at the first frame of the shot after it. If you control-V on the last frame of the shot, the next shot will have one spurious frame at its head.

After you've made your two cuts with the digital razor blade in the Timeline window, grab the shot in the Timeline and drag it into a Bin in the Browser.

Using Control-V cut out a section that you don't want to keep. After you've made the slices click on the piece that you've cut from the master clip. This will highlight the edited section. Hit Delete. This will remove the clip from the timeline, but it will also leave a gap in the timeline. So let's undo that using Cmd-Z. The undo will make the shot reappear in the hole in the timeline. Instead of simply deleting it, we will do what's called a Ripple Delete. Select the clip, now hold down the Shift key, and hit delete. In addition to removing the clip, the Ripple Delete also pulls up all the other material shortening the timeline.

This is a good point to explain a bit about the relationship between the clips in the Browser and the clips in Timeline. Quite simply, there is no relationship, no direct, linked relationship anyway. They are two separate and distinct items. They may be copies of each other, but they are quite separate clips that share the same media. So in the first Slice method, when you mark up the master clip with In and Out points, you are marking one clip and making copies of it in the Bin. When you drag the master clip from the Browser and place it in a Timeline, what you are placing there is a copy of the master clip. So when you razor blade and ripple delete the clip in the Timeline, you are not in any way affecting the master clip that remains untouched in your Browser.

In addition to the keyboard shortcut, Control-V, for cutting the clip in the Timeline, you can also cut it up with the Razor Blade from the tools. The letter B for blade will call up the Razor Blade tool.

Now as you move along your clip in the Timeline, your cursor will show the Blade tool, rather than the Selector. The letter A is the shortcut that will return you to the Pointer tool. Of course with the cursor in Blade mode you cannot select a clip. Trying to select a clip will simple cut it, so to do your Ripple Deletes you would need to switch back and forth between the Blade and the Pointer. This can be done quickly using A and B. Or you can leave your cursor in Blade mode, and instead of clicking to select a clip, hold down the Control key when the cursor is above the clip you want to remove. Holding down the Control key will change the cursor from the Blade to the Contextual Menu. Mousing down will open the menu, and from the menu you can select the function Ripple Delete. Neat isn't it?

Slicing, whether in the Viewer or the Timeline, has the advantage of being a quick and easy method to access all your material while still cutting it up into shots for editing. It has a couple of disadvantages; one is the problem in the Viewer as we discussed earlier of not being able to scrub the video easily. The other disadvantage is the problem of transitions, but I'll talk about that a bit later after I show you the Dice or Subclip method.


I call it Dicing because, as you'll see, we're making clips, which, though the same size as the clips in the Slice method, are more finely honed so only the clip's defined duration remains with each clip. Once again open your master clip into the Viewer.

In the Viewer find a shot you want to keep. Mark up the In and Out points as you did in the first Slice method. Now instead of just dragging the clip into the Browser, hit Cmd-U. Why U I don't know, but U it is. Cmd-U creates a subclip that automatically appears in the Browser with the same name as the clip it was taken from and with the name highlighted. You could also use the Modify menu and go to Make Subclip. Notice the different icon created for subclips, indicating that they are torn out of another clip.

Figure 2

Subclip in Bin

Let's see how the Dice method is different from Slicing. Open the newly created subclip into the Viewer. Unlike a Sliced clip that has its In and Out as a small portion of the master clip, in the subclip the In point and Out point do not appear at all.

Figure 3

Subclip in the Viewer

The subclip is treated as a separate piece of media, though in reality it's not. Notice the film sprocket holes on the left side of the frame in Figure 3. Whenever you see this, on the left or right edge of the frame, it's the indicator that you're at the limit of the media for that clip. Though the Subclip is only a portion of the piece of media on your hard drive for your master clip, it's treated in FCP as a complete, self-contained piece of media, hence the film sprocket indicator. The real advantage to working in the subclip method of editing is that it's of course very easy to scrub the clip, running the mouse along the length of the media, but if you need to access more of the media within that clip it's a little more difficult. All you have to do is select from the Modify menu Remove Subclip Limits.

When you do this the clip, if it's in the Viewer, will suddenly disappear and a Slug will be loaded in its place. I'm not sure why the application does that, but it does. If you again open that clip after the subclip limits are removed, the clip has reverted to its whole length. You can also remove subclip limits from a shot or a whole bin of shots if you wish directly in the Browser. Just select the bin and pull down Remove Subclip Limits from the Modify menu. All the subclips will revert to full length clips.

The fact that you can't normally exceed the limits of the subclip is also an advantage, while being a problem with the Slice method described earlier. The problem is transitions. These take extra media, extending the shot to create space for themselves. Transitions will take any available media. In the Slice method that media may include sudden zooms, garbage frames, or bits of another shot. These will appear as a sudden flash during a transition, barely noticeable, but disconcerting. Because subclips can't extend the media beyond their duration, this will never happen with a subclip. The trick to Dicing is to make sure that you include in your subclip not just the really good bit of the shot you want to use, but extra material, in fact probably as much material as you can safely without including any garbage or spurious frames. This will allow the transition room to extend the material as long as required.

c)Organizing the Clips

Once you've got your material diced up you should spend some time getting it put away in some fashion that lets you find things again. There are no firm rules about this, and I find each project tends to dictate it's own organizational structure. Usually I begin with one bin that holds all the master shots. These are usually pretty big chunks of video, 10, 20, 30 minutes, sometimes smaller, usually not. From the master shots the material is separated out into bins. Keeping the master shots has the advantage that you can go back to the bulk of the material to look through it. I like to do this as the project nears completion, to see if there is anything I overlooked, which might be useful in light of the way the material gets cut together.

The separate bins can be organized in a variety of ways. Narrative projects tend to have material broken down in scene bins, with sub-bins for different types of shots or characters depending on how complex the scene. Documentary projects tend to break the material down into subject matter, a bin for all the forest shots, another for logging scenes, another for road work, another for weather perhaps, another for all the interviews, another for sound, another for narration tracks, another for music, another for graphics. As I said there are no hard and fast rules on how material is organized. It's a bit like the Eskimos, if your subject is snow, you may have 20 different bins for different types of snow, but if your project is weather in general, there may only be a single generic snow bin.

The real trick is to break down your material into enough bins so that your material is organized, but not too many bins so it becomes difficult to find material. As you move clips into bins add notes, lots of them. The more information on the clips you can include the easier it will be to find material.

This part of the editing process, cutting up your shots and organizing them into Bins is critical to working efficiently, particularly for long form work. The longer the project, the more tapes you have, the more sequences you, the more complex everything becomes and having your material well organized is crucial. Fortunately FCP provides ways to help you organize what you're doing. Principally you have Bins, and Bins within Bins. But at the most visible level you have labels, color-coded and user definable as we have seen in the Browser. The Browser also provides a number of Comment fields, a Label field, a Description field, Log Notes and well as a Good check mark. Do not overlook or hurry through the note taking and entering process. Every editor will have his or her own way of organizing material, loading information into the computer, and keeping it consistent. However you do it, it opens up to you one of computer-based editing's great boon, the computer's ability to search through huge amounts of data almost instantly. To be able to use these search capabilities you have to enter the information first. You can enter it either directly in the fields in the Browser, or by Control-clicking and selecting Item Properties, in the tabbed Logging Info panel.

copyright©2001Tom Wolsky

The article is adapted from the book Final Cut Pro 2 Editing Workshop by Tom Wolsky. To purchase this book or for more information, click HERE.

About Tom Wolsky
Tom is the author of Final Cut Pro 2 Editing Workshop, He graduated with honors from the London School of Film Technique, spent several years as a screenwriter; then worked at ABC News' London Bureau and in New York as a producer and operations manager for nearly 20 years at World News Tonight, World News Now, and Good Morning America. He's been teaching Television and Video in Northern California since 1992 and added Final Cut Pro to his editing repertoire 2 years ago.
He has his own production company, South Coast Productions, which is based on the Media100, and is currently working on a short documentary for the Mendocino Land Trust.

About the book Final Cut Pro 2 Editing Workshop
Final Cut Pro 2 has been extensively documented by Apple with a 1,400-page manual. Final Cut Pro 2 Editing Workshop is designed to complement this software documentation with a series of tutorials that provide practical lessons in using the application. Through demonstration projects, entry-level editors and Final Cut users learn editing principles and how to realize them with Final Cut Pro 2. The book teaches readers how to edit using FCP - with the same tips and principles given in film schools. The companion CDROM contains all of the necessary materials, including raw footage and sequences the reader needs to gain a working knowledge of FCP.

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