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Editing tools

Usually I start a rough cut with a simple process - open a clip in the viewer, pick the approximate in and out point for the footage I want to use, and drag it down to the timeline. Then I move on to the next clip, and repeat as necessary until all my clips are placed in order on the timeline. Again, this is for the rough cut, meaning I'm not worrying too much about how smooth the cuts are or if the timing's perfect - I just want to get everything in the approximate order on the timeline.

The next step then is to begin refining each cut until I get it just right, trimming a few frames here and there on each clip until the video flows nicely from shot to shot. As with many things in Final Cut there are a variety of ways to do this. To start with we'll focus on the tools which allow you to do your editing right in the timeline.

All of these tools are located in the toolbar at the right of the timeline - you can click on the appropriate tool or use the keyboard shortcut shown in parenthesis.

Selection Tools

These allow you to select single or multiple clips so that you can move or delete them.
Selection or Arrow (a)
This is the default tool in FCP. It selects any clip that you click on on the timeline. Once you have selected a clip the cursor will turn into a 4-way arrow indicating you can drag the selected clip to a new position or track on the timeline.
Select Track Forward (t)
This tool selects the clip you click on and all clips on the same track that come after it on the timeline.
Select Track Backward (tt)
This tool selects the clip you click on and all clips on the same track that come before it on the timeline.
Select Track (ttt)
This tool selects all clips forward and backward from the clip you click on on the same track only.
Select All Tracks Forward (tttt)
This selects all clips on all tracks forward of the point at which you click.
Select All Tracks Backward (ttttt)
This selects all clips on all tracks backwards from the point at which you click.

Editing Tools

These are for changing the duration and/or in and out points of clips on the timeline. Whenever you use most of these tools (except for the razor tools) the canvas window will temporarily change to a dual-frame trim window showing you the new in and out points of the clips being affected by the tool you are currently using.
Roll Tool (r)
With this tool you can click on a cut between two clips and drag the cut. It will adjust the in and out points of the clips on either side of the cut simultaneously - so if you drag the cut forward you are adding frames to the end of the previous clip and taking frames away from the beginning of the next clip.
Ripple Tool (rr)
When you click and drag on a cut in the timeline with the ripple tool it will trim frames from only one of the clips on either side of the cut. If you hover the tool over a cut without clicking you can see that depending on which side of the cut you hover, the tool will point in a different direction - this indicates the clip you will be trimming.

As you trim, the entire track will 'ripple' meaning if you trim half a second from a clip all the other clips after that one will shift over half a second on the timeline. This way you can trim media from the beginning or ending of a clip in the middle of a sequence without creating a gap in the timeline.

Slip Tool (s)
This one's a little hard to describe, but it basically keeps the duration and start and stop times of the clip the same on the timeline while slipping the original media back or forth within the clip.

So if you have a 10 second clip which you trimmed down to one second before placing it on the timeline, you can keep the clip one second long while changing the portion of the original video which is played within that one second period on the timeline.

Slide Tool (ss)
The slide tool does just that - it lets you slide the clip forward or back on the timeline. However, it also trims/extends the clips on either side of the clip you are sliding to keep them lined up with the beginning and ending of the clip. Imagine three clips in a row together. If you use the slide tool on the middle clip to drag it down the timeline the first clip will get longer so that it still touches the beginning of the middle clip. Simultaneously the third clip will get shorter. It's hard to describe with words, but try it with 3 clips together and you'll get the feel for how it's working.
Razor Blade
The Razor blade tool will cut a clip in half wherever you click. You can then delete or move the two halves independently.

When you first click and cut a clip with the razor tool you will see two small red arrows on either side of the cut - these indicate that you have a cut on the timeline but the video itself is continuous. if you Control-click(or right-click) on the cut you can select "Join through edit" from the contextual menu and the clip will be rejoined into a single continuous clip.

Razor Blade All Tracks
This works just like the Razor blade except it will cut all tracks at once at the point where you click on the timeline.

Snapping and Linked Media

There are two settings for the timeline which affect how the tools work. The buttons for these settings are in the upper left corner of the timeline (just next to the toolbar): The first button, on the left, is the "Linked Selection" button. When this is on, clicking on a video or audio clip with a selection tool will also select any linked tracks - most commonly the audio you captured with the video, for instance. This is on by default and you usually will just leave it on because it keeps your audio in sync with your video.

The second button turns on "snapping" for the timeline. With snapping on clips will snap precisely to the in or out points of other clips on the timeline. Again this is usually on by default because it makes it easier to drag and drop clips to the correct spot on the timeline without any gaps. However, there are times when you may need to turn it off if insists on snapping a clip when you don't want it to. The keyboard shortcut for the is 'n' - each time you click it it will toggle snapping on or off.

When either of these options are on the button will be 'lit up' with green:

That covers the basic editing tools you will be using to adjust your edits on the timeline. There are a few more we haven't covered here, but these are the ones you will use most often.