Category Archives: Videography

Video editing with iMovie and Final Cut Express

Final Cut: Understanding What’s Currently Selected

Here’s another quote of important concepts from the user manual (pp. 387 ff.):

Even if there are no clips highlighted, Final Cut Express usually considers something in the Timeline to be selected. This occurs in two situations:

  • If no clips are highlighted and there are no In or Out points set, clips under the current position of the playhead are considered selected for many commands. For example, if you choose a filter from the Effects menu, it is applied to any clips under the playhead, even if nothing in the Timeline appears to be selected. This makes editing faster because you don’t always need to explicitly select a clip to affect it.
  • If sequence In and Out points are set and no clips are selected, any content between the In and Out points is selected on all tracks with Auto Select enabled. The selected area is highlighted.

With the exception of editing clips into a sequence, operations in the Timeline are prioritized in the following way:

  • If clips are selected, any operations you perform affect those clips.
  • If no clips are selected, content between In and Out points on tracks with Auto Select enabled is considered selected.
  • If no In and Out points are set, the clips under the playhead on tracks with Auto Select enabled are considered selected for many commands.
  • Note: Some commands operate on the topmost video clip items, regardless of which tracks’ Auto Select controls are enabled. The topmost clip items are the ones you see in the Canvas, and so those are often the items you want to operate on.

Final Cut: Keyboard Shortcuts for Dragging in the Timeline

The following tips come directly from the FCE 4.0 user manual (p. 410 & 413). These are keyboard shortcuts for arranging clips in the time line.

Using the Command Key to Drag More Slowly
When you’re dragging clips, edit points, or keyframes, usually the default one-to-one correspondence between the motion of your mouse and the motion of the item you’re dragging works just fine. However, you can drag even more precisely by pressing the Command key to slow, or “gear down,” the dragging speed after you’ve started dragging.

For example, holding down the Command key after you’ve started dragging a clip causes the motion of that clip in the Timeline to be much slower and more precise. This can be helpful if the Timeline is zoomed out so that individual clips look small. It’s also useful if you want to make very small changes to an edit point, a keyframe parameter, a volume level, or anything else. You can use the Command key to modify nearly any dragging operation in Final Cut Express.

Modifying Selections and Commands Using the Option Key
When you’re working with clips in the Timeline, you can use the Option key to do one of three things:

  • Hold down the Option key while you select a clip to temporarily turn off linked selection (if it’s on) or turn it on (if it’s off ).
  • Hold down the Option key after an item is selected, then drag the item from its original position to make a duplicate of that item.
  • Hold down the Option key after you’ve started dragging a clip and hold it down as you release the mouse button to perform an insert or shuffle edit (depending on where you drag the clip in the Timeline). For more information, see “Moving Items Within the Timeline” on page 407.

Note: If you use the Option key to modify a command and don’t see the results you wanted, you probably held down the Option key too long or at the wrong time. In some cases, you need to remember to release the Option key once you have achieved the result you want. For example, you may hold down the Option key while dragging a clip to duplicate it. Once you begin dragging the clip, however, Final Cut Express already intends to duplicate the clip, and now the Option key tells Final Cut Express to perform an insert edit. If you prefer to do an overwrite edit, you need to release the Option key.

Another situation is when you intend to duplicate a clip by pressing the Option key, but you instead turn off linked selection and only select one clip item. To avoid this, you need to select the clip first, release the mouse button, and then press the Option key before dragging it to duplicate it.

Capturing and Organizing Footage

As I am working on my first video project with Final Cut Express (FCE), I will try capture the essential steps for future reference. The steps are taken directly from the user manual, but with its 1152 pages it is a bit unwieldy and not a good quick reference guide.

First a few preparations:

  1. Connect external hard disk, preferably Firewire, and set it as Capture Scratch via the Prefrences Menu. This Drive needs to be connected and turned on before you start up FCE.
  2. Select the “Limit Capture Now To” checkbox. Enter a number of minutes for the maximum duration of your tape. To be safe, you can add an extra minute or two.
  3. Define an Easy Setup. In my case, this is “DV-NTSC anamorphic”, which implies that I recorded in 16:9 widescreen using the 16 bit audio setting

The next steps are to be performed for each new project with new footage:

  1. Create a new project via the File menu.
  2. Create a new Bin in the Browser, right click, and select “Capture Bin”. Since I am importing reels, I call the bin “Reels”. This is for my raw footage that I will later divide into subclips and then organize them into other bins for future editing.
  3. Connect you Camcorder (preferentially on grid power, rather than battery), set it to playback mode, and turn it on.
  4. Press Command-8 to open the Capture window. Insert a tape, and set the Reel Number when prompted by FCE.
  5. Use the transport controls to rewind. Press “Now” on the bottom right to start the tape and the capture process.
  6. When complete, close the capture window on the top left by pressing the close button.

The next step involves the Start/Stop Detection (p. 192) which is not done automatically as in iMovie, followed by organizing your clips:

  1. Double click the Clip in the Browser to open it in the Viewer.
  2. Choose Mark -> DV Start/Stop Detect.
  3. Switch the Browser to list view and locate the clip you were working on in the Viewer. Click the disclosure triangle to view the clip’s markers.
  4. Double click individual markers to review the corresponding subclips in the Viewer. Then click and rename them. I like to add a number in the beginning so that I don’t loose the chronological order of my clips (Unfortunately, FCE allows you to sort only alphabetically, or by clip length, but not by time code).
  5. Create bins for the various scenes/shots
  6. Drag in the Browser to select the desired markers.
  7. To make subclips, you can either choose Modify -> Make Subclip, and then drag them into the appropriate bin, or even easier, Option drag then markers to make subclips without removing the original markers (If you just drag, you still create subclips, but the markers disappear).

To simplify organization and renaming of the subclips, I like to change the standard window layout. I close the sequence window, enlarge the viewer to fill almost the entire screen, leaving enough room on the right for a browser window in list view to view all my subclips and on the bottom for another browser window showing all my bins. To save this as a custom window layout, press and hold the Option key, then click Window -> Arrange -> Set Custom Layout. Note that you can easily switch between bin and list view by right clicking on the browser background. There is also an option to increase the font size.

Here’s a screenshot:
FCE Window Layout for Organizing Clips

2008-07-18 UPDATE
I described above that there is no way to sort chronologically. Actually, there is, but it requires a rigorous Log and Capture Approach rather than the quick and dirty Capture Now method described above. Doing so, you will also have Media In and Media Out columns. Together with the reel number you can then sort chronologically.

The website referenced above — Ken Stone’s Final Cut Pro — is a phenomenal resource for anything Final Cut Pro in particular, and Final Cut Studio including Live Type, in general. Several items discussed here are also applicable to Final Cut Express. It’s just a shame to read about specific features that you cannot use because they would cost you an extra 1000 dollars.

Camcorder Audio Settings for Editing in Final Cut

As discussed in the Section “Choosing Audio File Sample Rate and Bit Depth” on Page 212 in the Final Cut Express User Manual, Consumer mini-DV camcorders can record four channels of audio using 32 kHz/12-bit audio settings for sample rate and bit depth. After reading this, I checked my Panasonic PV-GS500 and sure enough, this is the default setting on that camcorder as well, i.e., all my previous footing was recorded with that setting.

According to the FCE user manual this setting is not recommended for most productions. It is better to use the standard 48 kHz/16-bit setting commonly used by DV, HDV, and DVD.

2008-07-13 Update: Putting it to use
It’s been long since I posted this, but two weeks ago I finally had a chance to make use of this tip. We went for our annual summer vacation, and I remembered to set my camcorder to 16 bit audio setting prior to recording. Since most of the recoding was city and landscapes it hardly makes a difference.

Now that I am importing into FCE for the first time, I had a hard time finding the right Easy Setup. Since I recoded in 16:9 I had to choose an anamorphic setting. I read that some time ago and don’t find it too intuitive. One has to know that anamorphic and widescreen are synonymous. But the problem came with the audio sample rate. You can either choose “DV anamorphic 32kHz” or “DV anamorphic”.

Here, the 32 KHz is commonly paired with the 12 bit audio, and 16 bit audio is sampled at 48 kHz. But where was the 48 kHz. Turns out, that the “DV anamorphic” is the 48 kHz setting. because this is considered the standard, the sample rate is not specifically mentioned. Again, not very intuitive.

First Steps with Final Cut Express 4.0

The day is finally here, on Thursday I received FCE 4.0 in the mail from Amazon, it was $10 cheaper than directly from Apple. Unfortunately not all went as smoothly as expected. Continue reading

Compressing Double Layer DVDs

The wedding movie mentioned in the previous post is actually over three hours long and does not fit onto a single layer DVD. While I did buy a package of double layer (DL) DVDs I was rather shocked about their price. At nearly $2.2 they are more than 5 times as expensive as single layer DVDs. In this article, I found a useful hint of how to use Toast to compress double layer DVDs. Here’s how to do it: Continue reading

Widescreen Menus in iDVD

I just finished a nice widescreen movie from my sister’s wedding and I figured, if the movie is widescreen I might as well make the menu widescreen as well. I only have a standard 4:3 TV, but am used to watch widescreen movies with a letter-box, i.e., black bars on top and bottom. Naturally I expected the menu to also be letter-boxed, alas, that’s not the case. Continue reading

“TV Safe Area” Nuisance in iDVD

When creating a DVD menu in iDVD, there is an option from the Tools menu called “Show TV Safe Area”. What this means is that pretty much anything outside that box won’t show up on your TV. It also won’t show up on you computer when testing the DVD from a disk image. Continue reading

The Wait is Over: FCE 4.0 is Here

Finally, after waiting for over 6 months Apple released an update to FCE 3.5, now offering Final Cut Express 4.0. I am thrilled. In the past months I have been trying to find out if it would make sense to buy version 3.5. In many different discussions and elsewhere people said, FCE is likely dead and may never be upgraded. Thankfully they were wrong.
Continue reading

iMovie ’08 Update: Apple indirectly admits shortcomings

I just read on Macworld that Apple offers iMovie HD as a free download to iLife ’08 customers. This seems equivalent to admitting that this upgrade is none, why else would you want to download an 18 month old program when you just upgraded?

The referenced article also has a good discussion on the topic. The best I’ve seen to date on this. From this I learned even more shocking news: Continue reading