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How To Make The Most Out Of Compound Clips In Final Cut Pro X

Noam Kroll

In this post I’ll show you five ways to use compound clips to dramatically improve your editing experience.

For those unfamiliar with FCPX, compound clips behave a lot like nested sequences in other editing platforms. They give you the ability to group together any number of clips (audio or video) as well as titles, adjustment layers, generators, and more – ultimately creating a single clip that encapsulates everything.

Before compounding:

Compound Clip Before

After compounding:

Compound Clip After

To really take advantage of the power of compound clips in Final Cut Pro X you should be using them in a variety of ways:


1. Apply an Effect to a Group of Clips

When you’re in the finishing stage of your edit (meaning the picture is locked), you will often want to apply an effect, color adjustment, or filter to more than one clip at once. While it is possible to simply copy and paste the attributes of one clip to a bunch of others, it is often times far more preferable to use compound clips.

Let’s say that you want to add a slight color adjustment to a sequence of 25 clips in your Final Cut Pro X timeline. If you were to make the adjustment on one clips and then copy and paste it to the others, you would need to re-adjust every one of those clips if you decided to change the look at all. On the other hand, if you decided to use compound clips you could simply adjust the look one time and it would automatically update all of the clips.


2. Simplifying your Audio Clips

Audio Waveforms A lot of people complain that FCPX doesn’t handle audio clips well. Since it is not a track based system, you will often wind up with a sequence (or a ‘project’ in FCPX terms) that has stacks upon stacks of audio clips, making it very difficult to find specific clips that you may want to adjust or delete. Using compound clips will completely alleviate this issue.

I recommend creating a different compound clip for each main audio category (dialogue, music, effects, etc.), which will keep the audio portion of the project far more simplified. If you need to adjust an overall parameter for any of those clips, you can simply apply an adjustment to the compound clip. Or alternatively, if you need to make a specific adjustment to one of the individual piece of audio, you can step into the compound clip, make the adjustment manually, and then step back into the timeline.


3. Nest Complex Sequences

Compound Clip Screenshot Much like the previous point, you can just as easily use compound clips in FCPX to organize the video clips in your timeline so that things don’t get out of hand. I find that audio typically becomes an issue far faster than video will, but there have certainly been times when I’ve had so many video layers stacked on top of each other that it became difficult to navigate the timeline.

In situations where you have a number of stacked layers that aren’t going to change – which would be the case with composited shots, title sequences, etc. – your best bet is always going to involve using compound clips. More often than not, whatever it is that you need stacked on top of each other are going to need to stay married to each other in the timeline, so by creating a compound clip you are not only helping to clean up the project itself, but also preventing those clips from accidentally getting moved in the timeline, and falling out of line.


4. Re-Using Segments

Depending on the type of work that you do, there’s a good chance that you may need to re-use large chunks of your work in new projects. For example if you are editing a trailer for a feature film that you have cut, you are likely going to need to take big chunks of that film and bring them over into a new project easily. Or another example – if you are editing a television series and need to reference a past episode, opening sequence, or any other segment of the show, you may very well need to come up with an easy solution to transport your edits across projects.

Compound clips are fantastic in that they can work across multiple projects, so if you encounter any of the situations listed above, you can very easily and efficiently move your edits from one project to another. This will not only save you a lot of time, but will also make the editing process so much more enjoyable. One of the most annoying and tedious things to do when editing is attempting to extract a specific part of your edit to be repurposed somewhere else. By using compound clips in FCPX you can do this task in far less steps.


5. Assembling a Master Cut

For those of you that have edited feature films or any other long form content, you are probably used to working in ‘reels’. If you’re not familiar with this type of workflow, the idea is to break up long form content into smaller sequences (let’s say 4 or 5 twenty minute sequences) as opposed to having an entire hour and a half edit all built up in one very long sequence. The logic behind doing this is that smaller sequences will always run much faster on your system, so you generally want to use this technique on long form projects so you maintain a fast editing speed.

When you’re officially picture locked though, at some point you are of course going to need to combine all of those reels into a master sequence. Once again, FCPX compound clips can save you a whole lot of time here. All you need to do is create a compound clip for each one of your reels, and then copy and paste those into a new sequence. For any of you that have worked with nested sequences in the past, this is essentially the exact same idea, and it’s probably the most common use of compound clips for that reason.


Want to learn more about using compound clips in FCPX? Check out a few of the following links:

  1. Final Cut Pro X Video Tutorial: Compound Clips for Music
  2. Creating Compound Clips in FCPX
  3. Final Cut Pro X Video Tutorial: Using Compound Clips

Have any tips for working with compound clips in FCPX? Share in the comments below.