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Bringing Your Vision to Life

2007.07.18. 10:13 AdSafari

An Introduction to Final Cut Pro

For a designer, making the jump into the motion-based world has never been easier. Final Cut Pro is a great design tool that can help you take your existing graphic designs in new and exciting visual directions. While best known for its video and film editing capabilities, Final Cut Pro also contains powerful design features that allow you to add movement to your projects quickly and creatively.

A Quick Tour of the Final Cut Pro Interface

The Final Cut Pro interface is arranged to give you easy access to everything you will need to begin designing your project. You can also customize the workspace to best fit the way you work. For now, let’s look at the default layout of the interface.

Final Cut Pro Interface

The Browser is where all of your project elements are organized. When you import a file into Final Cut Pro it will show up in the left column of the Browser. Other useful information, such as file type, appear in the columns to the right. It’s important to remember that when you import a file into the browser, you are not actually copying it into the application. Final Cut Pro creates a link to the file stored on your hard drive. This helps to save hard drive space by not making multiple copies of the same file.

The Timeline represents the elements of your project over time. It is made up of audio and video tracks which are similar to layers in Photoshop. When you add audio and video clips to the timeline you are creating a Sequence. A Sequence is a record of all of the choices you make in the Timeline. You can save multiple versions of the same Sequence allowing you to experiment with your project without losing any previous work.

The Viewer can be used for many different things. Most often, it will be the place where you preview and prepare clips to be added to your sequence. By double-clicking on a file in the browser, it will open in the viewer where you can make choices about how it will appear in your sequence. Here you can add filters, or adjust parameters such as scale or opacity.

The Canvas is where you view your edited sequence. What you see in the Canvas represents how your final sequence will appear. It functions much like print preview in graphics applications.

Importing Materials

In order to get started in Final Cut Pro, you will need to import the materials that you want to work with. You can import many different types of files including graphics, photos, audio and, of course, video.

Once imported, your files can be organized to make it easy for you to find them. Getting your files into Final Cut Pro is as easy as following these steps:

  • Step 1. Right-click in the Browser
  • Step 2. Choose Import > Files.
  • Step 3. Locate the file you would like to import.
  • Step 4. Click on Choose
  • Step 5. Your file will now appear in the Browser.
Final Cut Pro Import

You can import images into the browser by right-clicking in the browser window and selecting the file to import.

Importing Photoshop Files

When importing Photoshop files, there are two file types to consider, flattened and layered. For most of your work, you will probably rely on flattened files. A flattened file appears as a clip in the browser when imported. Flattened files are easier to work with but don’t offer the flexibility and options of a layered file.

When you import a layered Photoshop file into Final Cut Pro, a new composition is created. This composition contains all of the layers in the same order as the PSD. All of the layers opacity settings, layer modes and visibility are preserved. Alpha Channels will also be recognized.


Layered Photoshop files appear as a sequence in the browser. When the sequence is opened in the Timeline, the original Photoshop layers appear as separate video tracks.

Adding Elements to the Timeline

The timeline is where the choices you have made previously appear on the screen. You can add elements in any order you like to create a sequence. When you play back your sequence, the images appear in the order in which you placed them in the Timeline.

Add elements to the Timeline by dragging them from the Browser to one of the video tracks. Your element now appears as a clip in the Timeline. Keep adding elements one after another. Don’t worry too much about the timing. When all of your clips have been placed in the Timeline you will have what is known as a rough cut.

One of the great things about working in Final Cut Pro is that it is a non-linear editing application. You don’t have to start at the beginning and work towards the end. You can start editing wherever your creativity strikes you. You can even save multiple versions of your sequences allowing you to try different approaches while saving valuable work as you go.

An Introduction to Final Cut Pro

Once you are happy with your rough cut you can begin to fine-tune your sequence by adjusting the length of each clip. This is called Trimming and is used to adjust the pacing of your sequence. Trimming is similar to cropping except that you are cropping the length of time an image appears, not it’s size.

To move around in the Timeline, grab the yellow triangle, called the playhead, located in the Timeline ruler at the top of the window. Move it to the right or left to quickly scrub through your sequence and see the results of your work. Press the spacebar to play back your sequence at normal speed.

Making Your Images Move

You are probably used to creating layered graphics in Photoshop to achieve your final image. In the video world, the practice of animating multiple layers of images is called compositing. In Final Cut Pro, images or clips are layered on different video tracks. Each clip can be adjusted separately to create a composite image. This video will show how to get started in the world of compositing.

Creating Movement with Final Cut Pro.

Once you’ve imported some images into Final Cut Pro it’s time to start adding some movement.

Let’s begin by adding an image to the Timeline. It now appears as a clip.

Double-click on the clip to open it the Viewer.

At the top of the Viewer select the motion tab. The motion tab displays some of the many parameters that you can animate in Final Cut Pro. When using the motion pane your changes will be reflected in the Canvas to the right.

Let’s create some basic movement using the Scale and Center parameters.

In the motion pane, you’ll see a column called Nav. This is where we can set keyframes for different parameters.

adding transactions

Once you have added several clips to the Timeline, you may want to add transitions between your clips. A transition is a design element that changes the way your clips are joined together. They can greatly affect the visual pacing of your project. Moving directly from one clip to another is called a cut and is the most common type of transition. Another common transition is a dissolve where one clip dissolves or fades into the next. It is less abrupt than a cut and can be more visually pleasing.

There are many other types of transitions located in the Effects tab of the browser. Apply a transition by dragging it to the point where two clips meet. Experiment with different types of transitions to find the one that makes the most sense for the pacing and feel of your sequence.


To apply a transition between two clips, drag the transition from the effects window to the point where two clips meet.

Rendering Your Sequence

Once you have completed your sequence, you will need to render it in order to prepare for final output. Click in the Timeline and then press Command – R on your keyboard. Now hit the spacebar and preview your new design.

A Keyframe let’s Final Cut Pro know that something needs to change. In order to initiate a change you need at least two keyframes. The first one indicates the beginning of a change and the second indicates the end. You can have more than two keyframes for each parameter but for this example we are only going to use two.

First, let’s make sure we’re at the beginning of the clip by pressing the Go To Previous Edit button.

Press the diamond shaped button in the Scale row to set a keyframe for Scale. Do the same for Center.

Now press the Go to Next Edit button in the Canvas to go to the end of the clip.

Change the Scale to 20 to make the image smaller. You’ll notice that Final Cut Pro has seen that we have made a change to the Scale and automatically inserted a new keyframe into the graph. Now, grab the image and move it to the top left corner of the Canvas. Again, a new keyframe for Center has been placed on the graph.

Play back the clip to see the effect of the keyframes.

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