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FCP X Tips: Adding a Date and Time Stamp
Iain Anderson on Sat, November 21st 0 comments
If you're wondering how to add a time and date stamp to your video footage, then stop wondering and learn how! Using Final Cut Pro X Iain Anderson demonstrates how easy it is to do just this.

While every video camera records the time and date of shooting in metadata — assuming, of course, that the camera was set correctly during the shoot — it’s not common for this information to be burnt into the image. While that was a common option on old-school tape-based camcorders, it’s much better to add this information selectively, with control over its font and color. Assuming you’ve already edited your footage together, let’s take a look at the workflow. It’s easier than you might think.

Here’s the title you’re looking for, in Lower Thirds

Here’s the title you’re looking for, in Lower Third

Find and Add a Title

In the Titles browser, there are many options for titles, but one really special one we’ll be using here. Look in the Lower Thirds category for “Date/Time”. Drag it on top of one of your clips, and then trim it to fit the clip by dragging on its edges. Miraculously, this title can extract the time and date of shooting and automatically display it.

Several settings here let you change the look

Several settings here let you change the look

The title can also be customised. There’s a built-in fade in and out, but you can remove these by unticking the Build In and/or Build Out checkboxes. You can align the box and text to the left or right, and then drag the on-screen display widget to reposition the text. Font can be changed for each line (though size cannot) and the color and opacity of the background can be adjusted. Once you’ve chosen your preferred settings, Option-drag the title to copy it, dragging to wherever else you want to put it.

DV clip of Portmeirion in Wales, shot a long time ago

DV clip of Portmeirion in Wales, shot a long time ago

When it doesn’t work

The title has to be directly connected to the clip you want to time-stamp, and you can’t put the title in a secondary storyline — so no transitions are possible. Luckily, the built-in fade up and down should take care of most needs.

This won’t work, because the title isn’t directly connected to the clip

This won’t work, because the title isn’t directly connected to the clip

If the title spans more than one clip, then only the connected clip’s time and date will be shown. Therefore, if you want a clip to fade up after its time and date do, you’ll need to connect the title at a point later than its start. As usual, you can Command-Option-click on a connected clip to change its connection point if needed.

Command-Option-click exactly where the pointer is to reposition the connection point

Command-Option-click exactly where the pointer is to reposition the connection point.

Only original clips will work, so for synchronised or multicam clips, you may need to Open in Timeline and add the title a level deeper.

Finally, for multiple clips, you’ll need multiple instances of the title — Option-drag away.

If the original clips have the wrong time and date, you can fix it

If the original clips have the wrong time and date, you can fix it.

Correcting clip time and date

If the original time and date are wrong, you can’t directly adjust what the title is showing, but it is possible to adjust the time and date recorded in the clip.

In the Event, select all the clips that have the wrong time and/or date, then choose Modify > Adjust Content Created Date and Time. The clips will keep their current relative time differences, slipping in time by the same amount. The new time and date will then be reflected in the title.

Sneaky tricks ahoy

Unfortunately, this effect is not editable. If you right-click and edit in Motion, you won’t find the secret sauce that makes this work. And though it’s called Date/Time, it’s actually called “Time” in a folder “Date”. Craziest of all, if you save any changes to a new location, it doesn’t work any more.

Two copies of the title with custom scale and crop settings can produce very different results

Two copies of the title with custom scale and crop settings can produce very different results

You do have some flexibility. For size controls, simply use the Transform controls to resize the title — it will scale appropriately. For different time and date sizes and positions, you’ll need two instances of the title, each set to a different scale and crop.

Conclusion

This is a sneaky, but extremely powerful way to add time and date stamps to a clip. If you want to show exactly when something was shot, this is a great way to make it happen with a minimum of copy, pasting, and digging around in metadata. It’s well hidden, so spread the word.

Interested in learning more Final Cut Pro X tips and tricks? Check these videos out.

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