IMPORTANT NOTE: Apple changed the behavior of compound clips with the 10.0.6 update. Here’s an article that describes the changes.
Final Cut Pro 7 calls it a “nest.” Final Cut Pro X calls it a “compound clip.” Whatever you call it, there are some real benefits in knowing how to use it.
A compound clip is simply a collection of clips gathered together and treated as though they were a single clip. There are several advantages to doing so:
There are two places you can create compound clips: in the Timeline or in the Event Browser. Let’s take a look at both.
IN THE TIMELINE
The principal benefits to creating a compound clip in the Timeline are to organize a complex edit or apply a common effect to a group of clips.
For instance, here, I want to consolidate all the selected clips into a single compound clip to simplify my edit. (OK, so this edit isn’t really that complex, my point here is to illustrate how this is done.)
To create a compound clip in the Timeline, select the clips you want to group together. One of the new features in FCP X is that you can create compound clips from clips that are not next to each other. In fact, they don’t even have to be on the same layer, nor contain the same types of clips!
NOTE: Compound clips can contain any combination of audio, video, titles, generators, still images or effects.
Choose File > New Compound Clip (or type Option+G) and all selected clips are coalesced into a single compound clip stored on a single layer.
The “curved hands” logo – which Apple likens to a connected clip – is the symbol for a compound clip. This icon appears in the top left corner of all compound clips.
At this point, you have several options:
In other words, a compound clip acts just like a clip; except it contains a collection of clips.
ALL THIS — AND EDIT, TOO!
Yes, like all those Ronco commercials, you get all this — AND you can still edit the contents of a compound clip! (Sigh. Memo to self — cut back on late night TV.)
To open a compound clip for editing, including adding or removing clips or effects, simply double-click the compound clip in the Timeline.
Poof! Instant edit.
The default name of a compound clip is “Compound Clip.” Which is great if you only have one of them, however, it can become confusing as you add more.
To rename a compound clip, select it in the Timeline (or the Event Browser, but we haven’t talked about that yet). Then, go to the Info tab in the Inspector and change the name.
NOTE: You can’t rename a compound clip if you have opened it for editing in the Timeline. Compound clips need to be selected before being opened in order to be renamed.
THE TIMELINE HISTORY
As soon as you open a compound clip for editing, the Timeline History – top left corner of the Timeline – wakes up. This displays the path from the source project to the current compound clip.
For instance, in this example, I double-clicked from “Compound Project” into the “1st Compound Clip” which contained a second compound clip. When I double-clicked into this second clip, the path showed where I came from.
Click the left-pointing arrow to return back along the same path. Click the right-pointing arrow to go forward, deeper into the same compound clips. The Timeline History allows you to quickly navigate between projects and compound clips.
NOTE: These arrows also cycle you through recently opened projects.
IN THE EVENT BROWSER
For me, while compound clips in the Timeline are useful, they show their real power when you first create them in the Event Browser
To create a compound clip in the Event Browser, make sure the Event Browser is selected, then choose File > New Compound Clip (or type Option+G).
This creates an empty compound clip. Double-click it to open it in the Timeline. Here’s the very cool part – compound clips that originate in the Event Browser act like individual projects! You can add clips, text, effects — everything you could put in a project, you can put into a compound clip!
What makes this REALLY helpful is that because the compound clip is stored in the Event Browser, you can use it in as many different projects as you want. For example, consider creating your opens, bumpers, or info-graphics as compound clips stored in the Event Browser.
Whenever you need them, you can instantly reuse them by editing the compound clip into the Timeline!
If you need to revert back to the original components of the compound clip – say to apply a different effect, change the text of a title, or add a new piece of video – simply select the compound clip and choose Clip > Break Apart Clip Items.
UPDATE – Jan. 9, 2012
I just did a quick check. If you create a compound clip in the Event Browser, then edit that compound clip into multiple projects – or multiple locations within a single project – if you change the compound clip in the Timeline it does not affect the master compound clip in the Event Browser, nor any other occurrence of that compound clip in any project.
This makes it easy to create a show open that you can modify each week for each show, without affecting previous projects.
UPDATE – Aug. 2013
This behavior changed with the 10.0.6 FCP X update. Now, if you modify a compound clip in the Timeline, it modifies all occurrences of that compound clip in the Project. The way to change one compound clip without changing all the others is to select the clip in the Timeline, and choose Clip > Reference New Parent Clip.
This duplicates the clip in the Event Browser. Rename and use the new duplicate clip. You can make as many changes to the duplicate clip as you want, without having those changes ripple back into the original clip.
When I was first learning FCP X, I was concerned that it only allowed one project open at a time. However, the use of compound clips essentially allows us an unlimited number of “sub-projects,” all instantly available in the Event Browser – which can be shared inside the same project, or across multiple projects.
Here are two other articles I’ve written on Compound Clips:
90 Responses to FCP X: Compound Clip Secrets← Older Comments
Thanks for your article. When I create a compound clip, all of my audio fades disappear (especially the ones that stretch beyond the image as a fade in and fade out). Is there a way to create a compound clip respecting these audio fades?
Add gaps, or other media, to cover the entire duration of your audio. Compound clip durations are determined by the video content.
I have a compound clip that is 1920×1080. However, the nested video clip is actually 4k. What went wrong!?
Compound clips are like projects – they can have their own frame size settings. What happened is that the compound clip settings were set to 1920 x 1080, so that when you added the 4K clip, it was down-scaled. To fix this, all you need to do is change the compound clip frame size settings up to 4K.
The easiest way to do this is to create a new compound clip and click the Advanced Settings tab, then create the frame size you need.
Brilliant blog post. Fixed the problem with which I was struggling. I have been struggling and persevering with FCPX. I would like to say that your information has been instrumental in getting the most out of this program. All the best, Cheers Rick | Smart Drive Test
Greetings. There is a project in ProRess LT. When creating a compound clip from the timeline it will not inherit the project settings, it becomes ProRess. Have you noticed this? Is it possible to make that the Compound Clip can inherit the project settings? Thank you. FCSP 10.4.2
Compound Clips are designed to have separate settings from a project – this allows us to create effects – like panning across text – that we could not create any other way.
To have a compound clip inherit your project settings, select a clip that is in the Timeline first, then create the compound clip.
I have a really naive question. After creating a compound clip then breaking it apart to make some minor modifications, how do you return it to a compound clip?
Not naive at all.
You create a compound clip the same as when you created it in the first place.
Select your clips and choose: File > New > Compound Clip.
Larry – In my experience, if I “break apart clip items” to change or add an edit, the audio adjustments (limiter, for example) and color grading I’ve done disappears/reverts, and I have to apply the adjustments again. Is there something I’m missing, or is this normal? I appreciate your expertise.
Ah… I just did a quick test.
If you break apart a clip, all filters are intact.
If you break apart a compound clip, all filters are lost. This is because the filters are applied to the compound clip, not its contents. when the compound clip is deconstructed, which is what Break Apart does, any filters associated with the compound clip are lost.
Hi Larry, I mainly use compound clips when editing 2 pieces of music together. Is there any way to change the color to green.
I checked ‘edit roles’, but no luck!
Nope. Apple doesn’t give us any control over clip color.
When I create a compound clip, am I able to delete the original clip? Long story short, working on a HUGE project, and with the multiplying videos, I’m quickly running out of room on my hard drive and the project won’t render….
No!!! Absolutely not. The compound clip is a container for the original clip, not a replacement for it.
Instead, to free up space:
* Select the Library
* Choose File > Delete Generated Media
* Choose Delete render files, then delete all the unused ones.
Thanks for the great article. It was very helpful.
Have you dealt with exporting XML for audio editing use of a project that uses compound clips? In my experience the XML does not export the audio properly for the compound clips. The only workaround seems to be to break apart the compound clip.
Is there a better or easier way?
It depends upon the translation software converting the FCP X XML. The XtoCC Help Files state: “Compound clips are translated as nested sequences. However, the destination app importing Final Cut Pro 7 XML may not necessarily support nested sequences, such as Adobe Audition and After Effects. You can avoid this by breaking apart compound clips in a project into their original items.”
So, to make things simple, you would be best advised to deconstruct compound clips before exporting as XML.
Thanks for your insight into compound clips however I have a very strange thing happening to me which is starting to become a challenge > I simply cannot open a compound clip no matter how hard I try. Its happened twice now on two totally separate projects. I have shared and published a trailer from the project which is great , I send that to YouTube which is scary but cool , then I notice an anomaly on the YouTube version and so I go to a copy of the final edit, find the compound clip concerned and then try for the next hour trying to open it up and it will not budge . It appears to be locked . I think I must have read up on hundreds of tips and tricks but can’t find anything that I haven’t already tried so I’m wondering if you can help me Larry.Does it have to be the published No1 Original for it to give up its payload or am I just being dense?
All you need to do to open any compound clip is double-click it in the Timeline or Browser. If that doesn’t work, quit FCP, then press Shift + Option while restarting it from the dock. This pops up a dialog allowing you to delete FCP preferences. Click the blue button.
Reopen your library from the Finder and see if that works.
If that doesn’t solve the problem, contact Apple Support.