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Final Cut Pro's Interface Part 1 - The Main Interface

This is the typical interface you will be presented with upon launching Final Cut:
(this is a standard layout for a 1024x768 screen) There are 6 main windows which you will be using for most editing tasks in FCP:
1. The Browser
This is where you organize and manage your media.
2. The Viewer
If you double click an item in your browser or on your timeline it will open up here so you can view or edit that individual clip.
3. The Canvas
This window is very similar to the viewer except that instead of working with an individual clip you can view and edit your entire timeline video.
4. The Timeline
this is where you place your video, audio and graphic clips in order, edit them and apply effects or transitions.
5. Tools and Audio Level Meters
These are actually two small windows but they are usually grouped together as one. The toolbar on the left gives you access to a wide variety of tools for manipulating video and audio clips on the timeline. The audio level meters let you see the audio levels at the current point on the timeline.
Lets take a closer look at some of the elements of the individual windows:


1. The Project Tab
Final Cut allows you to have multiple projects open at once - each one will have a tab at the top of your browser window so you can jump easily between them.
2. Clips
These are your source materials - video, audio, or graphics files.
3. Bins
Bins are like folders and allow you to group your clips to keep things organized. If you only have a few clips you probably won't use them, but once your projects get more elaborate you'll find it useful to use bins to group clips by scene, location, etc.
4. Sequences
Sequences are your workspace in FCP. Each sequence has an associated timeline on which you can edit your videos. You can have as many sequences as you like in a project, which can be useful for creating multiple versions of a video. Sequences are also treated like clips in FCP, meaning you can drop one sequence into another and edit it on the timeline like it was a single video clip - however any changes you make to the original sequence will also be reflected in the sequence you've dropped it into.
The browser window has a number of columns which let you view information about each clip - only Name, Duration and In Point are visible in this window but if you scroll to the right you can see many more. Clicking on the column headings will sort your clips by that criteria.

As your projects become larger and incorporate potentially hundreds or even thousands of clips it becomes difficult to manage your project in a tiny browser window like the one in the screenshot. This is where having multiple monitors comes in very handy - I usually devote one monitor to the browser alone so that I can open it wider and view more columns and clips. I highly recommend considering dual monitors if you are getting yourself a Final Cut system - the second monitor doesn't even need to be high quality or have a fast graphics card, it just needs to give you more room to display your browser window and it's contents. Once you get used to dual monitors you'll wonder how you ever worked without may even find yourself considering a third monitor....


Here we are looking at a single clip - it can be from either the browser or the timeline, but either way any changes we make in this window (i.e. setting in or out points) will only apply to the clip we are currently viewing.
1. Playback Controls
These work like a VCR with a few extra features. You can play and pause your clip, jump to the in or out points, etc. To the left of the buttons you have a 'shuttle' controller drag it right and the video plays forward, drag it left and it goes backwards. The farther you go in either direction the faster the video will play. On the right you have a 'jog' controller which lets you view your clip frame by frame as you drag it right or left.
2. Clip Duration
This window shows you the current length of the clip from the in point (not necessarily the beginning of the clip but a point you've marked for the clip to start from) to the out point (again, one you've set). This uses the standard SMPTE timecode format which is read as hours:minutes:seconds;frames.
3. Current Clip Timecode
Each clip has it's own associated timecode which usually comes from the tape it was originally recorded on. This window shows you the timecode for the frame displayed in the window.
4. Scrubber Bar
This bar represents the length of the entire clip. The tiny yellow triangle is the playhead, and you can drag it back and forth on the bar to jump around in the clip. The two blue triangles represent the in and out points which you have set for this clip, and the lighter area of the bar in between them represents the duration of the clip.
5. Media Tabs
Clips often contain both video and audio, and these tabs let you change between viewing the other channels. If you've added filters to a clip you can use the Filters tab to access controls for those filters, and the motion tab lets you change settings for things like the size of your video clip, it's rotation, speed, position on screen, etc.


The canvas shares many of the same controls with the Viewer because it does many of the same things. But the primary difference to remember is that the Canvas always shows you the current sequence rather than an individual clip.
1. Overlay Menu
Overlays allow you to see information or guidlines superimposed on top of the video playing in the canvas. This menu allows you to choose which overlays (if any) you want to see.
2. Title and Action Safe overlays
Televisions actually cut off the edges of your video because the picture tube has to go past the frame to get an edge to edge picture. These overlays give you an idea of how much will be cut off when you play your video on a tv. The outer one is the minimum that will be cut off and is called the "action safe" area. Anything which is important to your video should be within this guide to make sure it doesn't get cut off. The inner one is called the "title safe" area and represents the most that is likely to get cut off(not all televisions cut off the same amount). To be on the safe side any onscreen text should be within this are so that you can be sure none of the letters will get cut off.
3. Timecode overlays
These show you the timecode specific to the current clip which is on the timeline(remember that clips can have their own timecode which is specific to the tape they came from).
4. Color/Brightness overlays
The exclamation mark and the green lines which are just visible on the actors face tell you that the spot is at maximum safe brightness. This is important for television work because pure white can cause problems when broadcasting the video. Down in the lower left corner you can see a few red stripes as well which indicate that that spot has exceeded broadcast safe brightness levels. You can adjust things like this with the color correction filter which we'll cover later, but once they're all within safe ranges the yellow warning icon turns into a green checkmark.
5. Zoom Level menu
This lets you zoom the video in or out in your Canvas or Viewer windows. This doesn't create a zoom effect in the video - it's just so you can get a closer look at your video clip.
6. Editing Functions
These allow you to take the current clip from the viewer and edit it into the timeline in a variety of different ways, such as cutting it into the current point on the timeline or laying it over the current video. These buttons are just one way of several to edit in FCP - we'll discuss these later as we get into the actual process of editing.


The Timeline is where you'll do most of the work of editing and rearranging your clips.
1. Sequence Tab
Because you can have multiple sequences in each project, each time you open a new sequence it will get a tab here. This way you can quickly jump between sequences by clicking on the appropriate tab.
2. Playhead
This represents the current time on the timeline - whatever frame this is on will be displayed on the Canvas. You can drag the small yellow triangle to change the current time and jump around to different points in the timeline.
3. Current Timecode
This shows the numeric time value for the frame that the playhead is on.
4. Track Controls
These allow you to turn tracks on and off, lock them, synchronize audio and video tracks, etc.
5. Video clip
This is what a video clip looks like on the timeline. You can see a small thumbnail of the first frame, and the length of the clip on the timeline is based on how long a clip is.
6. Transitions
When you add something like a dissolve or wipe between two clips it appears as this scroll-like overlay between the two clips on the timeline.
7. Audio clips
These represent audio clips on the timeline. You can see the waveform for the audio, and the pink lines with dots on them are used to set the audio levels over time.
8. Timeline View controls
These let you zoom in and out on your timeline as well as make the tracks taller or shorter.
9. Realtime/Rendering status indicators
The thin green bars at the top indicate effects that will preview in real time. When there are too many effects or transitions for your computer to do them in real time these will be red, indicating that you need to render that section to view it. Once they have been rendered they will turn blue.

Tools and Audio Meters

The tools bar has buttons for a variety of different editing tools - if you click and hold on many of the buttons a submenu will pop up with more tool choices. You may or may not use this toolbar very frequently - I find the keyboard shortcuts are a much quicker way to access the tools I use frequently, so the more you use the program the less you'll need this toolbar ( it can be closed if you don't want it)

The Audio Level Meters are similar to those on a stereo system - they show you how loud the audio is at the current frame. The important thing is that the levels don't go past zero as this will cause your audio to distort. This meter provides an easy visual way to ensure that your levels are consistent as well.

That covers the basics of the standard Final Cut Pro interface. Clearly there are a lot more things we haven't covered, but these are the things you will use most frequently. As we get into the process of editing with FCP we'll cover the additional features when needed.