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Technique

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November 2008

In the second part of this series we explored the options for capturing video with Final Cut Pro editing software. Now for the fun part - we’re ready to edit our footage using a number of editing tools and techniques. Everything we have done up until now is the preparation needed for the editing process. Now we get to be creative and put sound and video together to tell a story using the film-making process.

While editing is certainly the creative part of the process you need to understand the basic mechanics of Final Cut Pro to do the editing. Essentially this isn’t difficult, but it does require a certain amount of knowledge to make everything work. Earlier we identified the four main areas of the Final Cut Pro interface - the Browser, Viewer, Canvas and Timeline.

© Rick Young

The four main areas of the Final Cut Pro interface – from left to right the Browser, Viewer and Canvas with the Timeline below.

© Rick Young

The Viewer, where you watch material, is on the left hand side here and the Canvas, where you edit, is shown on the right hand side here.


For now let us focus on the Viewer and Canvas. The Viewer is where you watch your material and the Canvas is where you edit the shots together. The process is actually very straightforward.

Cue a shot up in the Viewer and scroll through using the yellow scrubber bar - or using JKL. You will need to set an ‘in’ and an ‘out’ point. As with using the Log and Capture facility, this is as simple as pressing the letter ‘i’ for in and ‘o’ for out.

Once this is set look to the Timeline. At this point you will most likely be starting with an empty Timeline. The yellow scrubber bar in the Timeline will be parked at the very front of the Timeline. You can drag this and position wherever you want it to be. Wherever you position the yellow scrubber bar is where your edited clip will be placed.

So you have marked the in and out point in the Viewer, click in the centre of the Viewer and drag this clip over the Canvas. A selection of options will appear.

© Rick Young

Insert and Overwrite options need to be mastered before moving into more complex editing techniques.

The two we are most concerned about are Insert and Overwrite. Other choices give you greater control over the editing process but Insert and Overwrite are what you need to master before moving into the more complex areas.

Drop the shot onto either Insert or Overwrite and you will see that a block appears in the Timeline - this block represents your shot. The top portion (shown in blue) represents the video. The lower areas (in green), made up of two tracks, represent the audio. Repeat the process and you will see that another shot appears immediately after the first. Repeat this again several times until the Timeline has many shots all cut together.

It should be clear that the shots you have edited together, defined by the ‘in’ and ‘out’ points you marked in the Viewer, make up your edited sequence. You can watch this sequence by positioning the yellow scrubber bar anywhere within the sequence and pressing the space bar to play. You can then watch the edited shots play in the Canvas.

© Rick Young

The blue area denotes video content whilst the green areas represent audio content.

Notice that the Timeline and Canvas are tied together - as you scrub or play in the Timeline the Canvas follows (keep your eye on the yellow scrubber bar). As you play or scrub in the Canvas the yellow scrubber bar follows in the Timeline. Effectively the Timeline is where you build your sequence and the Canvas is where you watch it.

What we have shown here is the simplest video editing that one can do. Editing is more than simply cutting shots together - one needs to be able to fine-tune these shots, and order and re-order them - and adjust audio in relation to the shots. Once you have the hang of cutting shots together it is time to move onto the more complex areas.

© Rick Young

Click here to watch a video about Simple Editing in Final Cut Pro.

Insert and overwrite editing

Earlier I mentioned the two core choices that you need to make when editing are Insert or Overwrite editing. Look to the sequence we have just been working with. As you can see there are several shots edited together. The editing we have done so far has involved joining one shot to the back of another, in succession until the Timeline has many shots in it. You can also edit within the Timeline. You are not restricted to editing shots sequentially. This is where the term ‘non-linear’ comes from - the ability to edit anywhere within a sequence and to order and reorder these shots.

© Rick Young

Several shots edited together.

Park the yellow scrubber bar in the middle of the sequence that we have been working with. If you now edit a shot using either Insert of Overwrite the shot will be edited into the Timeline wherever the yellow scrubber bar is positioned.

You can also mark ‘in’ and ‘out’ points within the Timeline so that you can specify exactly where the edit will begin and finish. You only need to mark an ‘in’ within the Viewer when making ‘in’ and ‘out’ points in the Timeline. If you mark ‘in’ and ‘out’ points in the Viewer and Timeline the duration defined by the Timeline takes priority. As you mark the ‘in’ and ‘out’ points in the Timeline and they are also marked in the Canvas - and vice versa. Mark the ‘in’ and ‘out’ points in the Canvas and these points are also marked in the Timeline. The Canvas and Timeline are always related - they do not function independently of each other.

© Rick Young

In and out points shown on the Canvas, top of picture, and the Timeline, below.

Now we will find out the difference between Insert and Overwrite. Mark the ‘in’ point for a shot in the Viewer and then mark ‘in’ and ‘out’ points in the Canvas or Timeline. Use the controls at the bottom of the Timeline to make sure the Timeline is not condensed - the Timeline can be expanded or condensed by dragging these controls. You can expand right down to the individual frame level - or condense so that the entire edit fits into a very compact area. For now, expand so that the Timeline fills most of the space available with enough room to see the effect of the edits.

© Rick Young

An expanded Timeline.

© Rick Young

A contracted Timeline.

Insert a shot into the Timeline by dragging from the Viewer and over the Insert command. The shot will slot in where you have marked your ‘in’ point and it will push all shots within the Timeline further away from the where the edit has been performed. Insert several shots and the overall length of the sequence is increased - any material will be pushed further down the Timeline.

Now try the Overwrite command. Mark ‘in’ and ‘out’ points in the Viewer, and mark an ‘in’ point in the Timeline or Canvas. Perform the edit. Note that the length of the Timeline remains the same. What has happened is the video and audio within the Timeline is overwritten but the overall length of the overall duration remains the unchanged.

© Rick Young

The Timeline after Insert editing – notice the duration has increased.

© Rick Young

The Timeline after Overwrite editing – notice the duration remains the same as before the edit had taken place.

So, Insert editing will always increase the duration of the Timeline and push material further away from the edit point. Overwrite editing will never change the duration of the sequence - it will write the video and audio over what already exists. This is very similar to the days when film was cut and spliced, where the editor had the choice of removing film from a sequence and placing another piece of film over what had previously existed and removing the original. Alternatively the film editor could splice a piece of film onto another piece of film therefore adding to the overall duration of the edit.

© Rick Young

Please click here to watch a video about Insert and Overwrite Editing.

Directing the flow of video and audio

Editing is a process whereby one can influence the story being told by subtly modifying edits by as little as one frame, or by dramatically altering edits by adding as much material as one chooses. But it goes deeper than this – you can also choose to edit video only, audio only, or to edit only one or more tracks of the audio or video. When working with multi-track audio one can use many tracks to make up the audio mix. When editing multiple layers of video one can build complex effects.

To edit video only - click the break-off tabs next to the audio tracks to the left of the Timeline. Click these and the tabs move left, and are separated to show they are disconnected.

© Rick Young

From left to right: Video and audio connected; video disconnected, audio connected; video connected, audio disconnected.


© Rick Young

Video disconnected, audio connected – the result is audio flows through to tracks 1 and 2 when an Insert edit is performed.

Perform an Overwrite edit and you will see that the video is overwritten and the audio remains untouched. Perform an Insert edit and the video is inserted, leaving the audio tracks empty. Conversely, disconnect the video tab and leave one or both audio tabs connected and the audio will be edited into the Timeline with the video not being edited.

© Rick Young

Video connected, audio 1 and 2 disconnected – the result is video flows through when performing an Insert edit.

© Rick Young

Video disconnected, audio 1 connected, audio 2 disconnected. The result – only audio 1 is edited into the Timeline.


Controlling the flow of audio/video by locking tracks

A very similar result can be achieved by locking tracks. If you lock any of the video or audio tracks this will restrict the flow of content, video or audio, to the tracks being edited. The same rules regarding Insert and Overwrite editing apply, however when material is inserted and a track is locked this can knock audio and video out of sync, so be careful.

© Rick Young

Video locked, audio 1 and 2 unlocked.

© Rick Young

Video unlocked disconnected, audio 1 and 2 locked.


If you do edit material out of sync you will be warned. Red indicators represent out of sync material and show the amount of frames by which the material is out of sync. If you hold down the Control key and click with your mouse the material can be brought back into sync by choosing either of the options provided.

© Rick Young

Out of sync material is shown by a red indicator showing the amount of frames by which the material is out of sync.

© Rick Young

Control click on the red box indicating the material is out of sync and then choose to either Move or Slip the material back into sync.


Making use of the locks throughout the editing process is a very simple and effective way to direct the flow of audio and video. It is like a tap with water flowing - switched on and the material flows through; locked and the tap is switched off and nothing flows. In short, switching the locks on or off for a particular or multiple tracks will prevent or allow editing to take place. If you want to edit video only simply lock the audio tracks and only the video will be edited to the Timeline. And vice versa, lock your video track and then audio only will flow through to the Timeline during editing.

In the next part of this series we’ll be looking at editing tools and some of the more advanced editing techniques that you can deploy using Final Cut Pro.

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.