Final Cut Pro Tutorial: The Basics of Final Cut Pro X

Closeup photo of male hands typing on laptop keyboard, holding pSince its introduction in 1999, Apple’s Final Cut Pro has become the editing software of choice for independent film producers and professionals alike. Powerful and easy to use, Final Cut Pro is suitable for beginners and advanced video editors alike.

In this Final Cut Pro tutorial, you’ll learn the basics of using Apple’s latest version of the software: Final Cut Pro X. This version introduces some significant changes from previous Final Cut Pro releases, including a simplified user interface.

Final Cut Pro is incredibly powerful software, and beginners may be overwhelmed by the amount of features on offer. Our course, Final Cut Pro in 6 Easy Steps, shows you the basics of Final Cut Pro X using a simple six-letter acronym.

Understanding the Final Cut Pro X interface

When you first open Final Cut Pro X, you might feel confused by the thousands of options and numerous containers. Don’t worry – while the interface looks like it’s built for experts, Final Cut Pro X is refreshingly easy to use even as a beginner.

The Final Cut Pro X interface can be broken down into five different sections. In the top left corner, you’ll find a section called Libraries. This section contains two types of content organization tools: Libraries and Events.

We’ll go into more detail about libraries and events a little bit later, but for now it’s helpful to think of this section as your media collection. This is where you’ll find all of your footage, from short clips to hundreds of different takes on a single shot.

To the right of the Libraries section, you’ll find the Browser. The browser contains video content you’ve imported into your project. You can view this content in film strip view or list view, both of which are useful when organizing your content.

In the top right corner of the interface, you’ll find the Viewer. The viewer shows you the footage you currently have selected. This could be short video content stored in your project library, or a completed movie you’re editing.

Below these sections is the Toolbar. This section includes a variety of buttons, each of which activates certain features. Below this, you’ll find the Timeline. This section contains your project, and it’s where you’ll be doing all of your video editing.

Not so difficult, right? While Final Cut Pro X includes hundreds of features, you’ll be spending almost all of your time working with either the libraries, browser, toolbar, viewer, or timeline.

Do you want to learn more about the Final Cut Pro X interface? Enroll in Introducing Final Cut Pro X to learn more about the features in Final Cut Pro X. From importing a new video file to using the timeline, learn the basics of editing in Final Cut Pro X.

Making a project from your video footage

Before you can start editing video, you’ll need to import your footage. Create a new library in Final Cut Pro X and name it whatever you like. Use the title of your movie, and choose the location you’d like your library to be stored on your computer.

You’ll notice that Final Cut Pro X has already created an event within your library using your computer’s date. Think of events as folders within your library – you’ll use them to store your video footage for use in creating your movie.

Importing video into your event is simple. Click the import button (shaped like an arrow) below the libraries section and navigate to the location of your footage. If your footage is on a remote device, you’ll need to navigate to the device.

Select all of the content that you think is relevant to your event. You can always add more content later, so don’t feel like you need to import hundreds of clips right now to create a project. Click import, and Final Cut Pro will start importing the video.

Depending on the speed of your computer, it can take anywhere from a few seconds to several minutes to import your content. Once your content is imported, you’ll be able to start editing it using the timeline section and the options in the toolbar.

Don’t have any footage to import? Learn how to shoot amazing video by enrolling in our course, 6 Months of Film School in 101 Minutes. From exposure to lighting, this course covers the fundamentals of shooting clear and impressive video footage.

Editing your video footage and creating a movie

Are you ready to start editing? Now that you’ve imported your footage, you can edit it using the timeline section. Chose your first video clip and click it, then drag it into the timeline section to start editing.

Think of the timeline section as a long roll of film. The way you arrange your clips on the timeline will determine the order of your finished video. You can drag a clip left, which will move it to the start of your video, or right, to move it later into the video.

Using the toolbar, you can cut your video clips down to size. If your video clip is too long, you can shorten it to reduce wasted time. Cut your first video clip so that only the most important footage is shown, then drag down the next clip for editing.

Alternatively, you can use the Append feature to add one of your clips to the end of your timeline. Select a clip and push the append button to automatically place it at the end of your video timeline.

Got more clips? Drag and drop them onto your timeline. As you add more footage, you’ll be able to edit it using the precise editing tools and add transitions between different video clips for a polished, stylish looking video.

You can also add audio to your timeline. Import audio files into your library using the import button (remember, it’s the one shaped like an arrow) and drag them to your timeline just like you would a video.

Do you feel a little overwhelmed? Final Cut Pro X is powerful software, and it isn’t easy to get started. Enroll in our Final Cut Pro X Training course to learn Final Cut Pro X from an expert film editor.

Adding transitions, titles, effects, and more to your video

Adding effects and transitions to your video is simple. Final Cut Pro X includes an extensive range of effects, and adding them to your timeline is as easy as adding a new video clip: just drag and drop.

From titles to dissolve transitions, Final Cut Pro’s built-in range of effects should be more than enough for you. Once you become an advanced user, you’ll also be able to create custom effects to give your video a unique look and feel.

For now, it’s best to stick with the simple effects and avoid anything overly exotic or unusual. Add text titles, fades and dissolve transitions, and effects using the buttons underneath the viewer.

Exporting your video to DVD, MP4, or YouTube

Once you’ve finished editing your video, you’ll want to export it and show it to your friends and family. In Final Cut Pro X, exporting your video is done using the Share feature, which you’ll find in the File menu.

Expand the share menu and you’ll find a variety of options, ranging from YouTube to MP4. Before you export your video in a certain size, use the Master setting to export your video in full quality for easy transcoding in the future.

Using the other sharing features, you can post your videos to YouTube, share them on Facebook, and other options. Learn more about which video website you should export your movies to in our YouTube vs. Vimeo blog post.

Do you want to learn more about Final Cut Pro X?

Final Cut Pro X is an incredibly powerful application, and the functions we touched on in this tutorial barely scratch its surface. From feature films to documentaries, a huge range of great movies have been edited using Final Cut Pro X.

Learn more about how to use Final Cut Pro by enrolling in our Apple Final Cut Pro X: Infinite Skills course. Whether you’re editing home movies or indie films, you’ll gain the skills and knowledge to become a Final Cut Pro X master.