Whenever new users come to an application without getting any instruction, they often feel they can tinker around in the program and figure it out for themselves. Sometimes, this approach works. However, with an application like Final Cut Pro, which is more complex and considerably different from other editing applications, this can lead to problems.

Digital Media Academy’s hands-on, project-based courses help students understand advanced software (like Final Cut Pro) and how to get the most out of it.

Learning a New Application
Nothing beats real hands-on, live instruction for learning complex software, and I would strongly recommend it for everyone coming to FCPX, whether from iMovie or some other professional Non Linear Editing (NLE) system.

I recommend taking one of DMA’s Final Cut Pro courses at Stanford. I also recommend a good book or some online training. With good instruction, you’re less likely to commit one of these common mistakes when coming to FCP:

Mistake #1: Not Moving On From An Old Application

Don’t try to make FCPX work like another application. If you come from another application like Premiere or Avid or an older version of FCP, and try to make FCPX work as you’ve worked before, you’ll only become frustrated.

I’ve taught FCPX to hundreds of people; those who have the hardest time learning to use its speed, organization and agility are those who try to make it behave like the applications they’re used to. Still photographers who are coming to video, for example, who have never used another video-editing application, take to it quickly and easily.

Mistake #2: Using Optimization

When importing media assets from your camera, select the clips you want, open them and view the import dialogue. Right in the middle is the “Optimize Media” checkbox. Most users’ first reaction is, “Sure, I want my media optimized.” However, using this generates very large and often unnecessary high-data-rate files using the ProRes 422 codec.

Most recent computers can work with codecs like H.264 without optimization. Otherwise, you’re wasting a huge amount of drive space doing this. The corollary to this is to switch off the default Background Rendering in Preferences.

By default, whenever something needs to be rendered, FCP will start rendering it into huge ProRes files. Most of the time you don’t really need rendering for playback. Switch it off or soon your hard drive will likely be filled.

Mistake #3: Losing a Project

One of the nastiest traps is the Open in Timeline mistake. Here’s how editors typically make this mistake.

You’ve imported your footage from your camera. You’ve looked through it, and you’re ready to edit it. You make a new project, and a blank timeline opens with the black bar down the middle.

You find the shot you want to use first, and select that section and then right-click on it. There’s what you want: Open in Timeline, right? No, that’s not what you want: You’ve opened the clip container.

Be careful not to edit everything inside of a clip by avoiding “Open in Timeline.”

You then proceed to edit more shots into the first shot’s container. You close the application and then open it later. You open your project, and it’s now empty.

Turns out that you didn’t edit anything into the project; you edited everything into that first clip, which you now have to find.

Learning FCPX from the Pros
Final Cut Pro is a wonderful editing suite with many great features. Learning how to use Final Cut in a professional environment like Digital Media Academy has many benefits. Take a course from DMA to get the most of your Final Cut experience.

Tom Wolsky is a lead instructor at Digital Media Academy and the author of numerous published books about Final Cut Pro. He has decades of professional television experience, including his years of work as an industry-respected producer for ABC News.