Final Cut Pro X: The Precision Editor

I’ve known about the Precision Editor since the first release of Final Cut Pro X. But, recently, a reader discovered an extra trick about it that made it worth writing about again.

If you haven’t played with this recently, its a great way to review the entire concept of trimming media clips in a timeline.

THE BASICS

The Precision Editor first appeared with the initial release of Final Cut Pro X. It is, to my mind, the best training tool for new editors struggling to learn what trimming is all about.

To open the Precision Editor, double-click any edit point (the place where two clips touch in the timeline). The timeline springs apart into three sections.

The top section represents the outgoing clip. The areas that are bright indicate that portion of the clip that is visible in the timeline. The area that is grayed back represents “handles” – extra video after the Out. Trimming one end of a single clip is called a “Ripple” trim.

The bottom section represents the incoming clip. As before, the areas that are bright indicate that portion of the clip that is visible in the timeline. The area that is grayed back represents “handles” – extra video before the In. Again, since we are trimming just one end of a single clip, this, too, is called a “Ripple” trim.

The middle layer, containing gray boxes, allows us to trim both the In and Out at the same time. This is called a “Roll” trim.

To close the Precision Editor, press the RETURN/ENTER key.

NOTES

It is this depiction of handles – extra video – in relationship to the In and Out that makes the Precision Editor such a valuable teaching tool.

To adjust the Out in the top clip, simply drag it with the Arrow cursor. (My screen capture software does not capture the cursor for these images.)

The black box that appears when you are dragging, displays the amount of change you are making, in second and frames.

To adjust the In in the bottom clip, again, drag it with the Arrow cursor.

The black box that appears when you are dragging, displays the current duration of the clip on the left and the amount of change you are making, in seconds and frames, on the right.

To adjust both the In and the Out, drag the gray box in the middle. This creates off-setting changes so that the edit point moves, but the duration of the project remains the same. As before, the black box indicates the amount of change you are making in the position of the edit point.

Dragging the first gray box on the left, allows you to change the video at the very start of a project. Dragging the final gray box on the right allows you to change the ending video in the last shot of a project.

NOTE: For me, ripple trims allow me to get clips in sync, for example to match action, while roll trims allow me to adjust the emotion/timing of an edit.

Notice that when you select a clip or drag, the end of the clip has a yellow line. This indicates that there are handles (remember, that’s extra video) at the end of the clip.

When the edge turns red, that indicates there are no more handles; you’ve reached the end of the media clip stored on your hard disk.

THE ONLY LIMITATION

The only limitation to using the Precision Editor – and it’s a big one – is that it does not allow you to trim audio separate from video.

So, while I use the Precision Editor in every one of my classes to teach new editors what trimming is and how to do it, I never use it in my editing because I always need to trim audio and video separately.

INTERESTING TIP

The main reason this article was written this week, was that I got an email question from a reader asking what all these small gray boxes were and how to get rid of them.

It took me a while to remember that, while I use the Precision Editor zoomed into a single pair of clips, this is what it looks like when you are zoomed way out and just shifted your entire edit into the Precision Editor accidentally by double-clicking an edit point.

No, your life is not over. All you need to do press RETURN/ENTER, and everything shifts back to normal.

So, now, when a friend asks what you do, you now have a very cool way to illustrate it: the Precision Editor.


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