06 Sep 2011

Editing Mouse-Free

Editing, Post Production No Comments

I often interact with others that are just getting started with Final Cut Pro.  Maybe they’ve only used FCP a few times or they are moving from iMovie or Final Cut Express.  Either way, I find that they are tied to the mouse for most of their editing functions.  This is typical for anyone learning a new program.  Since speed translates to cash when it comes to editing, I wanted to offer what I think to be the most helpful keyboard shortcuts for beginners learning Final Cut Pro.

No matter what type of material I’m editing, I find that I always perform the same basic functions when editing (scrubbing the footage, marking in and out points, toggling the snapping and linking features on the timeline, etc.) so here is a brief overview of what I think are the most basic functions and their corresponding keyboard shortcuts.  Commit these to memory and you will quickly cut your editing time in half.

  • J, K, L – Rewind, Stop and Forward. These are indispensable. Instead of scrubbing through footage with the cumbersome mouse, use these keys to quickly and more accurately get to where you need. The really nifty part is, the more you press them, the fast your playhead moves (up to 4x).
  • Spacebar – In case you didn’t know, you don’t have to waste time moving the mouse up to click on that play button.  The spacebar stops and starts playback with the tap of your thumb.
  • I, O – Marks in and out points.  When you are scrubbing through that footage in viewer and find the perfect beginning and ending, you want to mark those spots with an “I” for in and “O” for out. Then, when you drag it to your timeline (or better yet use your F9 key), you have only what you need. “Ah Ha!” you say.  You’ve just experience the beauty of 3-point editing.
  • Arrow Keys – Your left and right arrow keys move you frame by frame. When you want to start your in point right after the person says, “Umm….” and right before their eyes blink, use these to find that perfect sweet spot.  The up and down arrow keys will take you to the next edit point, which is a great way to quickly navigate your timeline without the danger of accidentally moving something around with that pesky mouse.
  • Shift Z, Command – + – Speaking of navigating the timeline, Command + will zoom in and Command – will zoom out.  Want to see your entire timeline in the window without scrolling? Try Shift Z.
  • Home, End – Sometimes you need to jump back to the beginning or go all the way to the end.  These two keys were made to do just that.
  • Shift L – This is a handy one to know.  When you get into some real editing, you are going to want to split your audio and video. Editors know that typically audio leads the video cut and if you don’t unlink the two; you are going to be frustrated trying to pull that off.  This is a toggle feature so, just hit the key combo again if you want to make changes and keep your audio and video together.
  • N – Turns snapping on and off.  If snapping is on, everything is going to snap to your playhead or the nearest edit point.  Turn it off and you have freedom to move things wherever you want. It’s also helpful to know that you can hit this key after you’ve started dragging something and just enable snapping for your current edit–it will go back to where it was once you let go of the mouse.
  • A – Your selection tool (for grabbing things).
  • B – Your blade tool (for cutting things).
  • R – Your roll tool (for extending / shortening things).

There are about a million more shortcut keys for doing things like making ripple edits, stretching time, doing split edits, etc. but I’ve found that with these in mind, 90% of my edits can stay mouse-free, which means more time to….edit?

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