Like HowStuffWorks on Facebook!

How Final Cut Pro Works


Using Final Cut Pro
The Oscar-winning film "No Country for Old Men" was edited using Final Cut Pro.
The Oscar-winning film "No Country for Old Men" was edited using Final Cut Pro.
© Frank Micelotta/Getty Images

The Final Cut Pro interface closely resembles AVID Media Composer. There are three windows along the top of the screen. On the top left is the Browser, where you can import and organize all of the files (video, audio, still images, previously edited sequences) that will be used in the project.

You can import video clips into the browser using several different methods. The first is to capture clips from tape. Connect a tape deck or a camcorder to your computer with Firewire cable and choose File -- Log and Capture. In the Log and Capture window, you can control playback of your deck or camcorder. Set in and out points with the I and O keys and press Capture Now to digitize the desired clip and save it in the Browser. If you want to digitize many clips at once, you can log the in and out points of each clip and then batch capture them at the end.

Some newer digital camcorders are tapeless, meaning they record to a built-in hard drive or memory card instead of a tape cassette. In Final Cut Pro, tapeless clips aren't captured, they're ingested. All you do is connect your tapeless camcorder to your computer and go to File -- Log and Transfer. All of the clips on your camera will appear as a list of thumbnails. Choose the clips you want to import and drag them into the digitizing queue. You can also set in and out points on each clip before importing them to save room on your hard drive.

Another way to import clips into the Browser is by simply selecting files that are already on your hard drive. You can find them by going to File - Import - File and then choosing the clip from the Finder window.

In the top middle of the Final Cut Pro interface is the Viewer window. When you double-click on a clip in the browser, it appears in the Viewer. Here you can trim it using in and out points. The viewer comes with a jog wheel, a shuttle and a scroll bar for locating individual frames. Once you've trimmed your clip down to size, it's time to add it to the Timeline.

The Timeline is where all of the elements of a sequence are assembled. You can add a clip to the Timeline by dragging it straight from the Browser or the Viewer. Video clips are assembled chronologically from left to right with separate tracks for audio and video.

To the right of the Timeline are a set of editing tools for trimming clips once they're in the Timeline. Tools like Ripple, Roll, Slip and Slide allow you to easily shorten and lengthen clips, slide edit points, overwrite and replace video.

The Canvas window is where you can preview what your entire edited sequence looks like. The playhead in the Canvas is synched to the playhead on the Timeline. The Canvas can also be used as a fast way to add clips to the Timeline. By dragging a clip from the Viewer and holding it over the Canvas, you access the Edit Overlay window, where you can choose from common edits like insert, overwrite and standard transitions. Those clips and transitions will be added to the Timeline wherever the playhead is located.

Once your sequence is edited, you can export and encode to dozens of different file types for making a DVD, publishing to the Web or creating content for mobile devices like iPods and cell phones. The best way to encode for different devices is by sending the file to Compressor, the encoding software included in Final Cut Studio.

Now let's look at some of the coolest and newest features of Final Cut Pro.