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Managing Transition Behavior in Final Cut Pro X

Every time you add transitions, is the duration of your show getting shorter and shorter?  Change this behavior by quickly adjusting some basic Final Cut Pro X preferences!

UPDATE:  Since FCPX version 10.0.3 all transitions are applied using “avaliable media” – using the media that exists outside of a clips preexisting in and out points.  If there is not enough media avaliable to complete the transition FCPX will prompt and ask if you’d like to create a “full overlap” transition instead.


When you add transitions in Final Cut Pro X, the default behavior is to use your material already edited in the Timeline, rather than to use material from your shots’ handles.  (Drawing from shot handles is, of course, the “old” way of doing things in previous versions of Final Cut Pro, as well as most other editing software.)

So, what does this mean?  Well, this new way of doing things results in the duration of your A-side and B-side shots—as well as your entire sequence—becoming shorter with each transition you apply.  This is certainly not always desirable, especially when you have timed out your show perfectly.  In fact, I’d argue that you’d almost never want to apply transitions in this way, since good editors spend a lot of time finding the perfect IN and OUT points for each shot—and you don’t want to compromise that by 15 or 30 frames per edit.  After all, editing is all about precision—often down to the single frame.

Let’s go quickly over the mechanics of adding a transition, and then discuss how to solve potential problems.

To add a transition:

  • While in Selection Mode, click on a transition, and press Command+T.  (The default transition type is the cross dissolve.)

    Pre-transition: Sequence is 17:18, and aligns perfectly with the music.

    A transition is added.  By default, it is one second long and centered on the cut, with 15 frames from each side having been used to create the transition.  The duration of the sequence is thus shortened by one full second.  Notice that the connected audio, which was previously perfectly aligned with the B-roll, now extends a full second beyond the end of the video.

    Post-transition: Sequence is 16:18, and now stops a full second before the music ends.

Ok, so this type of behavior is fine for shots that you just throw into the Timeline, without any dependence on sync elements such as narration, music, sound effects, etc.  But for the majority of projects, clips in your Timeline hardly exist in a vacuum.  Therefore, randomly shortening your shots and potentially throwing your sequence out of sync can be quite detrimental.

To switch transition behavior back to “traditional” methods:

  • Choose Available Media from the Apply transitions using drop-down menu within Final Cut Pro X Preferences (Command + ,)

    By switching to Available Media, you’ll avoid undesired shot reduction and sync drift.  (Of course, this does introduce potential new problems when you don’t have enough “clean” extra media in your handles to create a cross dissolve.  For instance, if your handle contains a few frames of your show slate, that image will appear in your transition.)  But, with a little rippling and/or shortening your transition duration, this is easily solvable.
Note: One way to make sure that you have enough clean transition media is to use the Precision Editor, which you can learn about in this PremiumBeat video tutorial.

What if you want to get rid of a Full Overlap Transition?

If you decide that you need to change your transition type (for any or all of the reasons outlined above), do not simply delete your Full Overlap transition! If you do this, your project would still be shortened by one second.  Because rather than restoring the media, FCP X instead creates a brand new edit point in the middle of the now-deleted transition. So, if you want to restore the media, you should instead press Undo (Command+Z).  If you can’t Undo, you will need to Ripple the frames back into existence, and then re-apply the transition using the Available Media method.

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  • http://YourSite(Optional) Michael

    Hello, great note, thx. But I have a problem. I use the available media setting all the time. But here is a problem I can’t solve:

    I have video (and audio together – me speaking). There is a spot where I want to delete a section of the video and use a transition between the two sections. But the audio is very close together. In available media mode (even with -3db audio curve) I can hear audio from the overlap parts. So I think I need full overlap but only for this one transition. How do I switch between full overlap and available media in each different transaction without changing the global setting? Will changing the global only apply when I apply the transition?

    thx.

    • Ashley Kennedy

      Michael — Yes, just switch to Full Overlap for that one transition, apply it, and then switch back to Available Media. That should work just fine.

  • http://www.karynellis.com Karyn Ellis

    Hi there.
    Thanks! But I don’t see the option to change this in 10.0.3. Can you direct me to the exact location where I can fix this in this version.

    PS What a ridiculous default. I can’t imagine when you would ever want transitions to shorten your project. Creates a huge pile of extra work just to get a little crossfade happening! geesh!

    • Warren Lawless

      Hey. I’m having this same problem. I’m in 10.0.3 and don’t see this option. Did you ever find a solution?

  • Rojocinco

    Hi, 

    • Rojocinco

      Sorry , i didn´t finish the comment before:
      I have FCPX 10.0.4 and the option of available media or full overlap seems to be missing from the preferences menu , could you tell me where is it now , please?

  • Itswhatumakeit

    I’m having the same challenge, the option of available media or full overlap isn’t available from the preferences menu.  I can change the duration of the transition but that’s it.  help!

    • http://Premiumbeat.com/ Danny Greer

      It looks like this preference has been removed in the latest versions of FCPX.  Will change the post to reflect that.  Thanks for bringing to our attention!

  • Diego photo art

    i am starting to use FCPX and for some reason i can not add transitions at all….i have preferences on the main menu, looked at a few tutorials and it seems like it is peace of cake!…can someone tell me why when i tried to drag the transition or short cut on the clip…no transitions is placed or allow????

  • Joseph Farrugia

    after all this time, transition behavior is still BROKEN. Even iMovie & (dare I say it) the simple windows movie maker is more straight-forward in managing transitions. Eg: I’m trying to get a cross-dissolve of 4s between two 30s clips but FCPX simply won’t do it……when windows movie maker does it straight-forward. Why oh apple (with a diminutive “a” I’m afraid), why?

  • Julian

    You life saver you. Thanks!

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