Timeline Basics

After you import and organize your media in the Event Library you can than begin creating a rough cut.

First make sure that you have a new project open. Each project corresponds to one timeline and will be saved in an event inside your main library.  Make sure that all projects are appropriately named and saved in the same Library as the media you will be using in the project.

With your project open you can select parts of clips, whole clips or groups of clips and bring them down to the timeline using multiple methods.  In addition to dragging and dropping you can also use the three edit buttons at the bottom of the Event Library seen in the image below.

1. Drag and drop – This is the simplest, but also least efficient way of bringing down media from the Event Library to the Timeline.  The media can be placed on the Timeline either directly on the Storyline or as Connected Media.

Edit Down

2. Connected Edit (Q) – places the clip from the event library above or below the main storyline creating what is called connected media.  This media is connected to a certain point in the main storyline denoted by a small line connecting the two.  By default, video is always connected above the Storyline while audio without video is connected below the Storyline.

3. Insert edit (W) – cuts clips already on the timeline where your playhead or skimmer is and inserts the clip from the event library onto your timeline pushing the rest of the timeline media further down.

4. Append Edit (E) – places the clip from the event library at the end of your timeline.

Note that the main storyline is a magnetic timeline and the video will always come together automatically closing any gaps unless you insert Filler or use the Position tool.



There are seven basic tools you can access from the Tool Palette just below the Event Library.

1. Select (A) -This is your primary tool.  It allows you to do selecting, moving and basic trimming of clips on the timeline.  You can also create keyframes on audio levels to raise or lower audio levels at a certain point.  To create a keyframe Option Click on the audio level indicator on the audio or video clip.

2. Trim (T) – With the trim tool active you can trim away extra media on a clip or add extra media from the original clip.  You can also trim two adjacent clips simultaneously moving the edit point in between them. Lastly, you can also access Slip and Slide commands by clicking on the center of a clip with the trim tool or command clicking on a clip.  Slip will allow you to change the content of clip moving the in and out points for the clip while maintaining the duration.  Slide will trim the previous edit point before a clip and the next edit point after a clip. Note that all of these actions can be done in a variety of ways, but using trimming tools can be a very efficient way to refine your timeline.


3. Position (P) – This tool will automatically create Filler when you move a clip to a later time in the timeline.  This is one way to temporarily ignore the magnetic timeline.

4. Range Selection (R) – This is a very useful tool that allows you select a part of a clip or multiple clips on the timeline.  One use for this is to adjust audio levels within the range automatically creating dynamic keyframes.

5. Blade (B) – This tool will divide a clip on the timeline allowing you to separate them or delete unneeded media.

6. Zoom (Z) – This tool is one way to adjust your timeline view settings.  You can also use keyboard shortcuts Command – and Command = as well as Shift Z to adjust your timeline view.

7. Hand (H) – This tool allows you to move your frame of reverence within a frame of video or up and down the timeline.



Click the image above to see a larger version of it. Types of media along with several useful buttons and other areas of interest are labeled in the image.

1. Timeline Index – This button opens up a small section to the left of your timeline which will allow you to view a list of clips, markers, and other notes related to the media on your timeline.

2. Skimming – These buttons toggle on and off video and audio skimming allowing you to see and listen to your timeline media while moving your playhead through it or rewinding or fast forwarding using J or L.

3. Snapping – This will toggle on and off the snapping function which allows your curser and tools to snap precisely to edit points or the playhead.

4. View Settings – These settings will adjust the timeline view level, and also the clip height, waveform display, and other timeline display options.

5. HUD Display – This display allows you to access the Background Task Monitor or large VU meter, by clicking on the percentage wheel or the mini VU meter.  This display also shows the current timecode of your playhead or curser.

Background Tasks Monitor

6. VU Meter – This will show you the level of the audio while playing or skimming through your clips.  If the level peaks, hitting +6 db, than you audio is too loud and will distort on many sound systems.  Most audio should be averaging around -12 db and going no higher than -6 or 0 db.  You may have to dynamically adjust some audio levels by using Key Frames or the Range Selection tool.

VU Meter

Now that you have brought your media down to the timeline you can begin adding titles, transitions and other elements from within FCP.

This page was written by Kevin May for the University of Oregon Cinema Studies Program and is published under Creative Commons license (CC BY NC SA 3.0)

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