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Speed editing

There is a great article currently up on the COW about ways to speed up your Final Cut Pro editing. This inspired me to add a few of my own. Of course, they're specific to the kind of work I'm doing (currently TV) and the way I work but other people might find them useful.

Playing things back at a faster rate
I think the purists will hate this one. For TV shows, I often get pre-cut footage from the studio (from the on-set mixer) and it's my job to cut out the parts where they screwed up. I normally get a wide cam as well, as something to cut between for safety. I've found that I can cut it very quickly if I play it at a faster-than-normal rate and use keyboard shortcuts.

If you press L once, it will play at a faster rate (1.5x?) BUT, crucially, you can still understand every word that is said. Go to Tools > Keyboard Layouts > Multiclip and you can use the Cmd-Numpad 1 and Cmd-Numpad 2 (and so forth) buttons for cutting between cameras. Then I press Ctrl + V when someone screws up so that a cut point is generated, which I later come back and delete. So I can get a rough cut done in less than the time it would take to watch it normally. This works very well for the kind of shows I'm currently working on, but this method obviously won't work for every situation such as drama and music videos.

Use Multiclips whenever you can
If you have two cameras shooting in sync, there is no reason to not use Multiclips. I'm a big fan of them because you sync them once and once only. Then the hard work is over and when the Producer demands that you change a shot to the other angle, you can do it in a matter of seconds.

Use keyboard shortcuts instead of tools where possible
Keyboard shortcuts for certain functions can save time. But what really saves a lot of time is using a keyboard shortcut to replace a tool. Here are a few of them -

Keep your timeline rendered as much as possible
If you go on a break or something, press Alt + R to render your timeline. That way, the majority of the timeline should stay rendered, with only the parts you change requiring a re-render. When your client asks you for a preview copy, you can very quickly render out a reference movie, plug it into Compressor and then continue with your work. The next time you do it, it will be even quicker. And when (if) you come to put it on tape, it will speed up the rendering process there too.

Use Motion projects instead of rendered movies
If you use Motion for effects, it is far quicker to insert the actual project into your timeline than it is to render out a movie clip. And if you want to make a change just Alt + Tab to Motion, make your change, save, Alt + Tab back to FCP and there it is. No exporting necessary. This method depends on you having a decent graphics card.

Use Master Templates where possible
Taking it one step further, if, say you have a standard animated namestrap format for a show. You could take it into Motion, change the name then save it as a new copy but this takes time and you end up with hundreds of files. Instead, create the template version and then in Motion go to File > Save as Template. Create a new folder and name your new template. Now go back to Final Cut Pro and in the Generators pop-up or the Effects window, click on Master Templates and select your new template. Go to the Controls tab and you can enter any text you like. Much quicker.

One final note - there is a fine line between a fast editor and a sloppy one. There is very much an art and a science to editing and I believe that you can speed up the science but rushing the art will make it suffer. Producers like to give me a lot of footage. I like this a lot because it gives me more to work with but for some reason, the more footage they give me, the faster they expect the end product. The more footage I have, the more decisions I can potentially make and so it takes longer to decide on the "right way" to cut it (there is no right way but you know what I mean). This can't really be sped up.

I'll probably think of some more later so keep your eyes peeled. And if you've got any speed tips of your own, I'd love to hear them.

Update: Thought of another one. When I'm cutting montages, I like to go through the footage finding short clips I like and putting them up the other end of the timeline so that they are easily within reach. I used to mark the ins and outs, manually drag the clip to the timeline, then click on the Viewer to select it again. You can do this much quicker with keyboard shortcuts. Mark the ins and outs (I and O) then press F9 to insert edit the clip or F10 to overwrite edit it (note: Tiger and Leopard have F9 and F10 bound to Expose by default). Then press Cmd-1 to re-select the Viewer. I can go through footage very quickly with this method.
Posted by Jon Chappell on Jul 22 2008 to Final Cut Studio, Video Editing