The beat . A blog by premiumbeat

September 7, 2011
Final Cut ProFinal Cut Pro XVideo Editing

Cut to the Beat! Tip for Editing to Music in Final Cut Pro X

In this post, we’ll share a tip on how to improve the pace and flow of your projects by cutting video to music in FCPX.

One tell-tale sign of an amateur editing job is haphazard editing that has no regard for the music beneath it.  You can significantly improve the “feel” of your video projects by using music to your advantage — and accordingly, cutting to it.  This works especially well when you’re cutting montages or action-heavy sequences.

Got rhythm?  Use this trick to quickly line up clips to music beats in Final Cut Pro X.

  • Insert music into your FCPX timeline.  Solo that music track so it’s the only thing you hear (to solo a music track select it in the timeline and use the shortcut OPTION + S).

  • Now playback the timeline and tap the “M” key on each beat to place markers.  To keep pace, tap your foot… or if you’re more musically inclined count out the beat!

  • Now un-solo the music track.  Insert and line up your video clips to cut at the markers.

Depending on what I’m working on, I will often make this one of the first steps when starting a new project or sequence (even before I have my visuals laid out).

Tip: When bringing your clips down to the FCPX timeline, make sure that “snapping” is enabled (use the hotkey “N”).  This will snap the position of clips in the timeline to the markers.

If you’re accustomed to working with audio you can also “read” the audio waveforms to line up action to music without using markers.  If there’s a significant beat in your music you may seem a spike in the waveform on each hit.  This is easier/harder depending on the track of music, and without the markers you won’t be able to take advantage of the snapping function.

FCPX has some really nice tools for working with music (improved filters and effects), but this one little trick can make the biggest differences in successfully using music in your projects. Remember, work with the music!    Use it to enhance your story and to give your project pacing and momentum!

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  • http://YourSite(Optional) Caio

    Hi Danny,

    Does the clip cuts automatically to the beat marker (like in iMovie) or do I need to do it manually? How?


  • Nicholas Sheldon


    Then you aren’t guessing, but I know a lot of people that use this trick as well.

    • Danny Greer

      Definitely. Thanks for sharing, Nicholas! Keeping waveforms on allows you to learn how to read them. Once you work with waveforms for a while it’s fairly easy to identify beats, tempo changes, chorus/verse, etc – based off of the waveform patterns.

    • Bill

      Using both is optimal…
      Playing the Marker like a drum machine allows edits
      that are extremely fast and complex…

  • EricEmerick

    I would ad the caveat that while the brain does look for and appreciate patterns in stimulus, patterning can also disrupt the experience. Just don’t cut to EVERY beat, especially in any long form piece. 

    • Danny Greer

      Good advice. Thanks, Eric.

  • Coat of ARms

    Nice article.   Here’s one we wrote up about a music video we recently edited:

  • Kristian Mags

    I’m having trouble snapping the clips onto the markers. When I press D to drop it doesn’t snap into place. I enabled snapping and I think I’m just missing a step can anybody help make this easier for me

  • Barthy B.

    This is awesome! Thank you a thousand times for making my life easier.

  • Bill

    Great tip that works well for complicated rhythms as well.
    Just tap like a drum pad!

  • surmal

    Awesome? I think its PATHETIC. I was adding beat markers 10 years ago in iMovie. That FCX does not allow automatic cuts at each beat marker, let alone jump cuts, is ridiculous. Anyone who can direct me to some decent video editing software, I would be much obliged

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