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FCPX: Practical Custom Commands
Ben Balser on Tue, August 12th 0 comments
It's incredibly empowering when you get to know an application so well that key commands fly from your finger tips. In this tutorial, Ben Balser shares his favorite "practical" FCP X shortcuts.

Final Cut Pro X comes with some very easy to remember, quite handy keyboard shortcuts. Or as they’re called technically, Command Shortcuts. But some of the operations we often use as editors have no command shortcut assigned. Through my teaching and consulting with many other editors, I’ve formulated an idea of what the most common custom command shortcuts are for most editors.

The Command Editor

To create customs command shortcuts, we use the Command Editor. To access it, from inside of the Final Cut Pro X application, go to the Final Cut Pro menu, to the Commands sub-menu, and choose Customize. Or use the shortcut of Option-Command-K.

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In the Command Editor window, let’s cover some of the important elements. In the keyboard there, the keys with no dots or symbols on them are unused. The color codes follow the colors in the Command List, at the lower left of the window. If you click on a key, you’ll see it listed in the Command list, bottom center, with a Key Detail in the lower right section of the window. Across the top are buttons for each modifier key. Click them to turn each on and off, to see which keys are used for what commands when used with that modifier, or combination of modifier keys. The feature we want to utilize first is the search field at the top right of the window.

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Customizing a Command

To show how we customize a command, I’ll use my first suggestion as an example. I personally do a lot of voice-over work, which is all recorded and edited directly in Final Cut Pro X. The Record Audio HUD has no shortcut, so to make accessing it quick and easy I’ll assign a custom command to it.

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First I’ll go to the search field and type in “record”. Two commands will show up in the command list; “Record Audio”, and “Start/Stop Voiceover Recording”. Now to find a free shortcut to assign to “Record Audio”, I could use an R key shortcut. To explore those options, click on the R key on the keyboard layout. It seems like most of what I want to use is taken. And I want something easier to reach, so I’ll use the number zero, above the o and p keys. It is unassigned, and selecting it on the keyboard shows I can use a simple 0, with no modifiers. Thus, with the modifier tabs above the keyboard all turned OFF, I’ll simply drag the “Record Audio” command from the bottom center list, onto the 0 key in the keyboard layout. When I do, a warning appears stating I cannot modify the Default layout, so I click the “Make Copy” option, and when prompted, title is “Ben’s Commands”, and click OK. Then drag the “Record Audio” from the list onto the key itself.

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Making Things New

Now that we see how easy it is to find a commonly used command and find an empty shortcut to assign to it, we can move on and configure a few others.

Creating a new Library is a common task which has no keyboard/command shortcut. I’ll type Library in the search field. I see “New Library…” listed in the search results. Creating new Events (Option-N) and Projects (Command-N) use the N key for “new”. So to keep in shortcuts I’m already familiar with, I’ll use N. Clicking on the N key in the layout, I see that Control for N has nothing assigned. So, I’ll drag the “New Library…” in the listing, bottom center, over to the Command entry in the Key Details at the bottom right.

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Auxiliary Editing Tasks

I often need to connect clips to the Primary Storyline when adding B-Roll cutaways and such. I’ll clear my search field by clicking the X on the right side of it (if there is an entry in it). Then in the Command List at the bottom left of the window, select “Editing”. This will show me all of my editing commands listed in the center list. Since my goal task is connecting only the video portion of a clip, I’ll scroll to find “Connect Video only to Primary Storyline”. Q is the connect edit key, so I’ll click it in the keyboard layout. I can see Option and Control are unassigned, so I drag the listing to the right and assign it to Option.

I also often want to pull only the audio portion of a clip to use as a sound effect or room tone or other use, as a connected clip. So I’ll find in my listing “Connect Audio only to Primary Storyline”. Dragging this over to assign it the Control modifier key. Now I can quickly and easily edit in video only, or audio only as connected clips.

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Color Denied!

Another task I would like easy access to is turning my color grading work on and off, to compare before and after states of my work. I'll type “color” into the search field, then I'll scroll to find “Color Board: Toggle Correction on/off”. Since I’m working with my color grades, and I’m also use to this function in the old Color application, I’ll click the G key in the layout. Seeing the Control key is available, and it makes sense to me, since I’m “controlling” my color “grades”, I’ll assign Control-G to this command.

Playing Peak-A-Boo

Finally, my last command I’ll customize is to help me quickly and easily show and hide the title/action safe overlay in the Viewer. Doing a search for “action” brings it up quickly in the command list. Personally, I think I could remember the word “safe”, or the term “safe zones”, so I’ll check out the S key. The Command modifier is not in use, it is really easy to remember, being the most often used modifier key, I’ll click the Command modifier tab at the top center of the window. In the keyboard layout, the S key goes gray and has nothing in it. No dot, not symbols, nothing. This allows me to appropriately drag the Command from my list below the keyboard, onto the S key itself. I can immediately verify it has been assigned in the Key Detail listing, lower right of the window.

Wrapping It All Up

Now that I’m done, before closing the Command Editor window, be sure to click the Save button, lower right. With the window closed, and all my customizing work done, I can always switch between my own custom commands and the default commands. Going to the Final Cut Pro menu, to Commands sub-menu, I see at the bottom that Ben’s Commands option has a check mark by it. Choosing Default will revert me to the factory default commands. You’ll also notice that there are options to Export and Import. This lets you export your custom command set to a file, take it with you on a USB stick or email it. Then by using the Import option, you can use your personal, customized command set on a different system you may have to work with.

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Conclusion

I hope this helps you get started in customizing commands that are meaningful to you, personally. You can assign commands the shortcuts that make sense to you, that you will uniquely remember and find useful. No two editors are that much alike, so I offer my suggestions here only as guidelines to explore and create your own customized editing environment. My only two words of caution are:

  • Do not get carried away, and only assign one custom command shortcut at a time—usually while you’re working and find you’ll need it. Doing too much at once can confuse you, and you’ll probably not remember it all at once.
  • Always Export a backup copy of your layout. When you update versions of Final Cut Pro X the update may lose your custom layout. This way you can re-import it and not lose anything.

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