Product Review: Page (1) of 1 - 09/16/11

Final Cut Pro X: Setup, Plus Importing & Organizing Footage

First Impressions

By Heath McKnight

It's been close to three months since Final Cut Pro X came out, and I've been posting some initial thoughts on my blog (, and I wanted to write up some first impressions here regarding the setup of Final Cut Pro X, plus importing and organizing footage. I'll do another article on my first impressions of editing and exporting in the very near future.

Right off the bat, I will say that this is a journey where Final Cut Pro (FCP) hasn't gone down before, and I'm actually excited about this new way of thinking when it comes to non-linear editing (NLE).

When I first opened FCP X, I felt that little bit of, "Whoa, this is very different." It's a little intimidating if you've been cutting on FCP 1 - 7 for years, but I was determined to get started on learning FCP X. I turned to some free training videos online, but I've found Larry Jordan's to be very helpful.

One of the first things I did, before importing footage, was to check the preferences, and take a look at the three primary items, Editing, Playback and Import. It's more streamlined and easier to use, and the three images below are how I decided to set up my preferences, based on suggestions from my colleague and friend Kevin P. McAuliffe.

My Editing Preferences

My Playback Preferences

My Import Preferences

You'll notice I didn't checkmark much of anything under Transcoding, Video and Audio in the Import preferences tab. This is because I can perform any of these functions while organizing or editing my clips by simply right-clicking the click and selecting what I want FCP X to do.


The next step was to set up my Event Library (similar to a bin) and Project Library (similar to a project file) to reside on my external FireWire 800 hard drive. This one is important, because you don't want footage you may import to reside on the wrong drive, in this case, the defaulted startup disk where OS X and your apps reside. Navigate to the Event Library in the upper left-hand corner and right-click on your external drive, and select New Event.

Project Settings

The Project Library resides next to the timeline on the bottom left, so right-click on the external drive and select New Project. A window will pop up in FCP X, giving you some options, such as naming it, selecting the Default Event, Video Properties, Audio and Render Properties, and more.  You can rename both the Event and the Project if you wish.

Importing clips into Final Cut Pro X

So how do you get files into the Event folder? Right-click on the folder and select Import Files. You can also select File from the drop-down menu, and click Import Files or Import From Camera, which is set to only capture via FireWire, HDV or DV. In the Import Files pop-up window, you'll find the same organizing, transcoding, video, and audio options seen in the Import preferences tab. One cool thing is if you have a main folder with several subfolders containing specific footage, in my case interviews of various cast members from my film, FCP X will import everything as is. You don't need to import each folder individually.

There are some 3rd party options available and others that are coming soon, which will allow you to capture other footage, though for now the existing ones are work-arounds, like Matrox's. See my blog for details:

To be honest, I haven't attempted to capture from a tape-based camera, or a file-based camera like the Sony PMW-EX1 or an HDSLR. So for my tests, I simply imported some video clips, which are a variety of HD formats including HDV, P2 DVCPRO HD, DV and XDCAM EX.

This is where things get really cool with FCP X, and that's organizing your clips. You no longer need to name the clips and put them into separate bins, which still limits you from knowing what and who is in the clip, location, etc. Now, you can simply assign keywords to the clips (pull up the Keyword Editor by hitting Command-K), such as being identified by the folder they reside (for instance, one of the actors' names), or by tagging keywords, such as names, type of shot, location, etc. For the interviews I was organizing, I would tag keywords based on what was being said, such as the casting, direction, rehearsals, and so on. You can also highlight some or all your clips and add keywords, making it quicker and easier.

The Keyword Editor

After you've tagged your footage with keywords, you'll see the various keywords in the current Event you're working in. In each "keyword bin," as I call it, you'll find the corresponding raw clips to the specific keyword. You can search through your keywords, organize them further with Smart Collections and more.

Once you feel comfortable with the organization of your footage, it's so easy to find specific clips quickly and easily, which makes editing that much faster. No more scrolling up and down the FCP 7 browser, trying to find a clip; just search and you can find specific clips. From there, you can start editing.


This is just my first impressions, a taste if you will, of what FCP X has to offer. Other than some extensive keyword tagging and organization, I will dive further in with editing, since I'm working on a behind-the-scenes video of my film with the cast and crew. I figure this is the best way for me to learn FCP X.

And this is a program that you likely won't just jump into, even if you have a few years experience working in NLEs like FCP 7, Avid Media Composer, etc.; this is a different way of thinking and editing, where everything feels more streamlined, where you can organize and make edits easier than ever.

By choosing to edit the behind-the-scenes video, I'm not up against an impossible deadline; this is a great, learn-by-doing project for me to get acquainted with FCP X when I'm not working on projects with impending deadlines. I'm using Larry Jordan's complete FCP X training for my training, and I'll have a review of it soon.

Heath McKnight is a filmmaker and author who has produced and directed several independent feature and short films, including Hellevator, 9:04 AM and December. He is currently web content manager for doddleNEWS. Heath was also a contributor to VASST's best-selling book, "The FullHD," and has written for TopTenREVIEWS and Videomaker.

Related Keywords:FCP X, Final Cut Pro X, video editing, FCPX setup

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  • Final Cut Pro X: Setup, Plus Importing & Organizing Footage by DMN Editorial at Sep. 16, 2011 3:18 pm gmt

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