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Master FCPX! How to Take Control of Transitions in Final Cut Pro X

In this post, we’ll explore one of the fundamentals of Final Cut Pro X, how to add (and modify) video transitions in the FCPX timeline.

Final Cut Pro X has changed the way you add video transitions to your video projects.  Gone is the Effects dropdown option on the menu bar, a la Final Cut Pro 7 (remember, Effects > Video Transitions).  Although you can still access transitions and effects in the Browser, it’s entirely different than the “Browser” we saw in previous Final Cut versions.  Also in FCPX, Apple has beefed up the cross dissolve transition (an editing staple) to include a few more options.  Let’s explore each of the ways to apply video transitions as well as some of these new cross dissolve features.

Applying Transitions With A Shortcut 
  1. Click on the cut between two video clips.
  2. The clips must be touching in order for the transition to be applied between the media.
  3. The shortcut APPLE + T will apply the default transition
    (cross dissolve is the Final Cut Pro X default transition).
Applying Transitions from the Browser 
  1. From the media toolbar click the Transitions icon (shaded box with the X).
  2. Select a transition from the Browser and drag it onto the Timeline.
  3. Place the transition between two video clips.
Applying A Transition from the Menu Bar (Cross Dissolve Only) 
  1. Click on the cut between two clips
  2. From the Menu Bar choose Edit > Add Cross Dissolve…

One thing to note about adding transitions in Final Cut Pro… Although in FCP 7 and earlier versions you could add a transition to the beginning of a clip even if it wasn’t butted up against another, this does not seem to be the case in FCPX.  For example, with a single clip in the timeline, I try to add a cross dissolve to the start of it by selecting the beginning of the clip and choosing Edit > Add Cross Dissolve (it appears that FCPX is giving that option).  However, nothing changes in the timeline.  Looks like a bug…bummer.

So you’ve got your transition in the Timeline…now what?  Well, Final Cut Pro X gives you several ways to change the duration of any video transition whether you work best with the keyboard or mouse.

Activate the Duration box by any of the following methods:

  • Right click the transition in the timeline and choose “Change Duration…”
  • Select the transition in the timeline and use the shortcut CONTROL + D (just remember “control the duration”).
  • Select the transition in the timeline and then double click the Timecode box to change it to the Duration box
  • Now type in the new duration (example “200″ for two seconds and 0 frames – it adds the colons automatically).  Hit ENTER to make the change.

While we’re on the subject of transitions I wanted to mention the updates to the cross dissolve effect in Final Cut Pro X.  You can now apply specific looks (blending modes) as well as set keyframes to the amount of dissolve (a great control feature). These new dissolve looks will change the way that the dissolve is processed (for example, darkest part of image first, lightest part, add warmth to the fade, etc.)  To take advantage of these functions, apply the transition and pop open the Inspector panel to dig in (the Inspector can be opened with the shortcut COMMAND + 4) .  Experiment with the different looks to achieve unique transition effects.  Add keyframes to the intensity by clicking on the diamond icon next to Amount (note: keyframing only works when specific “looks” are chosen).

Although we only see a very limited number of transitions and effects within FCPX now, I anticipate that we’ll soon see many more.  3rd party developers are already starting to develop effects specifically for FCPX, and it’s my prediction that it won’t be long before we see add-ons coming directly from Apple (either through “expansion packs” or sold online through an App Store type interface). Standby, as it will be interesting to see how this unfolds.

Do you like the effects and transitions packaged with FCPX?  What transitions do you miss from FCP 6/7 (native or 3rd party)?  Please leave your thoughts in the comments!!

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  • http://YourSite(Optional) Mark S.

    Thanks for the quick tutorial…nice job! One thing I can’t seem to find anywhere, though, is a quick way to add transitions between all clips in a project (like you could in iMovie). Is that something that just doesn’t exist in advanced editors, or is it just my newbness to FCPX? I do sports events, and there are some projects with over 150 clips…doing drag or apply between each one is…well…not something I look forward to!

    Thanks for any help!

    • jesse

      Would be nice if this was a fricken option. I did find a Audio only cross dissolve plugin for X on ‘s website

    • John

      I just figured it out … you select all the clips you want on the timeline then you can double click the transition to add it to the selected.

  • http://YourSite(Optional) how do you use cross dissolve on green screen chroma key?

    how do you use cross dissolve on green screen chroma key?

    • Shaun Knapp

      OH yeah, perfect question here.

      I’ve got a clip with the talent shot in front of a green screen. I want to fade up from black and at the end, fade to black.

      FCPX screws that up. As soon as the transition starts, the alpha channel or key is gone, and the background disappears the key turns black for the fade.

      Keyframing the main clip’s opacity doesn’t work well either, it’s not the same thing, it just leaves a ghosted looking image on the fade, which isn’t appealing.

      What is the obvious thing I’m missing here?

  • http://YourSite(Optional) Final Cut PROX – Green Screen Dissolves?

    Forgot to say I am using Final Cut Pro X – Keyer for Green Screen Chroma Key.

  • http://YourSite(Optional) Justin Walker


    Yes there is! I have been looking for the past hour and found out how to apply them. If you use cross dissolves, you can simply select multiple clips then right click and select “Add Cross Dissolve”. To apply different transitions, just select multiple clips then double click on the transition to apply it to all clips. The second method applies the transition to the beginning as well as the end of the clip. Just select the unwanted transition and delete as necessary. Hope that helps!

  • http://YourSite(Optional) Jules

    Hi, for some reason FCPX won’t let me change the duration of the transitions. I seem to be doing everything right… but when i type in the new time (for example 300 for three seconds) and hit enter, nothing changes. I can only make it work as a fade in when attaching it to a specific video, when ever i try to cross dissolve etc when selecting two clips, it puts the transition in fine but is stuck at 20 frames. Hope someone can advise. many thanks J


    In iMovie, you can have a transition added by default so you dont’ have to go to each cut and add a transition.  Can this be done with Final Cut Pro X?  THANKS

  • Evankimball

    Seems harder than FC7.  Just drug it around and a frame counter popped up.  Thought this was supposed to be easier.  QQ

  • Mitch Gibson

    Does anyone know why adding a transition in FCP X completely fucks up the sync or in and out points of various clips further down the timeline? In FCP 7 a transition would only affect the two clip’s handles, therefore the clip duration was not changed and nothing on the timeline was disrupted. Is this a bug or are they just trying to drive me insane??

  • stelllaaa

    I really miss the option to create what were called “favourites” in FCP7. I could customize a transition and assign a key command to it and have it available with it’s changes on demand. It seems I have to apply one of FCPX’s preset transitions and then customize it every time. booooooo. time waster.

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