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Le présent article n'est pas disponible en Français
July 2008

Final Cut Pro (FCP) hit the market way back in 1999 when the Mac ran on the Classic operating system, OS9, and the very first version worked on Mac OS 8.5. The software quickly became established as a popular editing system for a few fundamental reasons: it was reliable, affordable, and easy to use.

This is important – many people get ‘techno shy’ at the thought of driving a complicated programme. While FCP is powerful and certainly functions on many complex levels – the basic operation of the software is quite simple. I always tell people that you only need to know 10% of Final Cut Pro to make it work. The rest is added functionality which will let you do a whole lot more – but to edit using Final Cut Pro you can get away with nothing more than the fundamentals.

Here’s what you need to know to make Final Cut Pro work for you:

  • Set up your system
  • Capture
  • Edit
  • Mix your sound
  • Output

It really is that simple. While FCP may appear complex to those who have yet to get to grips with it – the above steps are the areas which one needs to master to output a film. For the purpose of these tutorials I’ll provide a quick overview of all the essential information one needs to achieve the above.

Don’t be scared off. This is not a technical minefield – it’s more like a bike ride with a few hills along the way. Nothing is insurmountable.

Having worked with at least seven or eight editing systems in my time – including multi–machine tape suites, I can genuinely say that Final Cut Pro is one of the easier systems I have had to learn. What’s more it is also one of the most powerful.


The first thing you need to be able to do is set up your system. This is a remarkably simple process. But before we get on with this let’s have a quick overview of the interface.

If you are working with a FireWire camera, such as the Canon XL H1, you need to plug your camera into a Mac via a FireWire cable. FireWire cables come in many different configurations - the most common for digital editing is a FireWire 400 large six-pin connector to a smaller four-pin connector. There are other FireWire cables such as FireWire 800 which is double the speed of FireWire 400 - however, the most common cable to link camera to Mac is a six-pin to four-pin FireWire 400 cable.

Once your camera is switched on and set to the video standard you plan to edit, i.e. DV or HDV, make sure it is plugged into your Mac and then launch Final Cut Pro.

© Rick Young

Click to watch how to connect via FireWire.

When it opens the interface of the software will greet you. Essentially there are four windows that make up the workspace:

  • Browser – where clips and other media are stored - think of the Browser as being where you file the media away: the video, audio and graphic files are recorded to hard drive. The material in the Browser references to captured files that are stored on the hard drive.
  • Viewer – this is where you watch your clips, listen to the sound, or look at your graphics.
  • Canvas – the Canvas is where your edited material will appear. Material is watched in the Viewer (‘in’ and ‘out’ points are set) and this is then dragged from the Viewer into the Canvas where the editing takes place. You watch your edited Sequence in the Canvas.
  • Timeline – here each of the edits that you perform are represented by blocks. Each of the blocks in the Timeline represents individual shots. The upper portion of the Timeline is used for Video and Graphics – while the lower portion is home to your audio tracks.

Also note – the Toolbar and Audio Meters

The Toolbar is home to the tools you use throughout the editing process. Here you access the individual tools needed to finely craft an edit. The audio meters display the sound level enabling you to make sure the sound does not distort.

That’s a quick overview of the interface, made up of four main windows: the Browser, Viewer, Timeline, Canvas, and Timeline. And, in addition to these, the Audio Meters and Tools.


© Rick Young

Click to find out more about the Final Cut Pro user interface.

System Set–up

Now onto something practical – setting up the system.

This is an extremely simple procedure:

  1. Choose the Final Cut Pro menu top left of screen.
  2. Scroll to Easy Set-up and click.
  3. Select the Format – either HD or PAL/NTSC – you can also choose any of the options listed below.
System set-up on screen

System set-up on screen.

Choosing HD as a format

Choosing HD as a format.

Note: NTSC is used throughout the USA, Canada, Japan and many other parts of the world, while PAL is used throughout Europe, Australia and much of Asia. You need to know the video format you are working with to set up your system. For the most NTSC runs at 29.97 frames per second (fps), though 23.98 fps is also used to emulate the frame-rate which film runs at. PAL runs at 25 fps. High Definition can be 60i (NTSC countries) or 50i (PAL countries).

You set the frame-rate to the standard you are working under RATE.

Choosing 25 fps frame rate on screen.

Choosing 25 fps frame rate on screen.

Selecting format under the Use menu.

Selecting format under the Use menu.

You select the standard or format you will be working with in the Easy Set-up under the Use menu. The formats offered are determined by what you specify in the Format and Rate menus. Once you have located the format you are working with click to select and press OK. That's it - Final Cut Pro is now set-up and you are ready to move onto Capture.

© Rick Young

Click to watch how to set up your system for Final Cut Pro.

Just to jump ahead for a moment. If you were to work with a format different to that which you chose in the Easy Set-up this is not a problem. When you drag a clip into an empty Timeline - if this clip is of a different format to the Set-Up you have chosen within Easy Set-up, then Final Cut Pro will prompt you to change the format to match that of the clip you are working with. Of course, it is wise to know your output format rather than to blindly agree to what FCP suggests.

It is well and truly possible to mix formats within a Final Cut Pro Timeline. Therefore, even though one piece of media may be different to another, it is important to set your Sequence to that which you need for final output - otherwise you will need to convert the final output to another format once the edit is complete. The less converting between formats the better. It is always best to edit natively - which means in the original format which the material was shot.


Now that we have set up Final Cut Pro it is necessary to capture your material to hard drive. This is achieved using the Log and Capture window - accessed via the Log and Capture command found under the File menu - the shortcut to open Log and Capture is Apple + 8.

Log and Capture command is sourced from the File menu.

Log and Capture command is sourced from the File menu.

Log and Transfer option is for tapeless working.

Log and Transfer option is for tapeless working.

It is also worth noting - if you are working tapeless the Log and Transfer option provides a means to bring footage into Final Cut Pro. Log and Transfer is located immediately below the Log and Capture window from the File drop down menu.

For the purposes of this tutorial we will be working with tape-based media. Make sure your camera is connected via FireWire and that it’s in VTR mode - and, also very important, that it is switched on!

You will know straight away if your camera is being seen through FireWire because the Log and Capture window will show that the tape is threaded by displaying the words ‘VTR OK’. If not, you will get a warning that says ‘UNABLE TO SEE INITIALISE CAPTURE DEVICE’.

If your camcorder isn’t being ‘seen’ you will get a warning notice popping up.

If this is the case, close the Capture window and switch off your FireWire device. Then switch it back on and select ‘REFRESH AV DEVICES’ from the VIEW menu in Final Cut Pro. If this doesn’t work quit Final Cut Pro, turn off your FireWire device, restart your computer and see if this fixes the problem. I’m not saying to expect massive problems, however should these problems occur then these tips are the most likely solution.

The Log and Capture window we are looking at below is for HDV capture. The HDV capture window is more modern and streamlined than that used for other formats. Note that the Capture window presented for you to work with has been/is determined by the set-up that you chose in Easy Set-up.

The Clip, Now and Batch button in the Log and Capture window.

Before we begin capturing any footage lets have a quick overview of what the Capture Window provides:

Top Left - is Clip Duration. Bottom left is the timecode of your ‘in’ Point to the right is the timecode of your Out Point - and further to the right are three buttons titled Clip, Now and Batch.

These buttons refer to the three methods of Capture possible in Final Cut Pro:

  • Capture Clip - where you mark the ‘in’ and ‘out’ of a clip and then a single clip is captured.
  • Capture Now - for immediate Capture - where no ‘in’ or ‘out’ points are marked and one can capture straight away.
  • Batch - where many clips are captured in succession. The clips need to be Logged and Named. By invoking the Batch Capture facility many clips will then be captured as the camera cues up each clip according to the set ‘in’ point and then stops according to the set ‘out’ point. The computer will then instruct the camera to move onto the next clip until all logged clips have been captured.

Setting up Scratch Disks

There’s one more crucial point before we begin the Capture Process - you need to set your Scratch Disk or Disks. This refers to the hard drive where you wish for your media to be stored. It is simple to set a hard drive or several hard drives - and Final Cut Pro will then record the media to the location which you have specified. If you set more than one scratch disk, once the first drive in the list fills up then automatically and seamlessly capture will continue onto the next drive in the list. It is possible to set up to 12 drives as Scratch Disks and these will fill up with media sequentially until all drives are full.

Setting a Scratch Disk is simple:

Click the third Tab in the Log and Capture Window titled Capture Settings:

  1. Click Scratch Disk.
  2. Choose Set.
  3. Select a Hard Drive where you wish for your media to be stored and click the Choose button.
  4. Click OK.

Click on Capture Settings to source Scratch Disk.

Choose Set in Scratch Disks.

Select a hard drive where you want the media to be stored. In this case the external Champion hard drive.

You have now defined where you want your media stored. You will notice, in the image at the bottom of this page, that the top left of the Log and Capture window will display the amount of free space on the hard drive (in this case Total Free Space: 379.0 GB) and to the right hand side of the window what this free space equals in minutes (in this case Total Free Time: (AV) 1759.0 min).

The top left of the Log and Capture window shows the free space on the hard drive and the right tells what this space equals in minutes.

We are almost there - ready to capture - but just before we begin you need to know how to control your camera or VTR from within Final Cut Pro.

© Rick Young

Click here to watch the setting up process for video capture.

On your keyboard the Space Bar is used to play or stop the video. Press the space bar and video plays - press it again and video stops. Simple.

There are also some keyboard shortcuts:
J - is for shuttling backwards through your material.
K or spacebar is to stop.
L - is for shuttling forwards.
Press the letter ‘i’ to mark an ‘in’ point.
Press the letter ‘o’ to mark an ‘out’ point.

Note that when you press the ‘J’ or ‘L’ keys the tape will speed up incrementally as you tap either of these keys. Five taps is the maximum before you are shuttling at full speed.

It is worth getting used to these keyboard shortcuts as these are used throughout the editing process with Final Cut Pro beyond Log and Capture. Once you have the feel for these and how they work you are then ready to capture.

To find out more about the Canon video products mentioned in this article or to try out or purchase Canon video products, contact your nearest Canon video dealer. For contact details just click here.