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Cut Lines | Tutorial: Edit Trim Tools
Posted Apr 25, 2006 Print Version     Page 1of 1

Click here to see a video tutorial that accompanies this article.

In this month's installment of Cut Lines, our ongoing series of Final Cut Pro tutorials, let's look at the four basic edit trim tools in FCP that, once mastered, can cut your editing time by a good amount.

First we need to establish terminology. Imagine an FCP timeline with three clips next to each other. The line between each of the individual clips is the edit point. The clip to the left of an edit point is the outgoing clip. If you put a crossfade at that edit point, the clip to the left would be the one fading out—thus, the outgoing clip. The clip to the right is the incoming clip, because in the crossfade it is the clip fading in. If you open a clip in the Viewer, the point set for a clip to start is the in point, and the point set for a clip to end is the out point.

Handles are the content of your clip that fall before the in point and after the out point. You can only trim edit points as far as you have handles. If you open a clip from the timeline into the Viewer and you see no in or out points, you can't trim that specific clip's beginning any more to the left, nor can you trim its ending any more to the right, because there's no more footage to cover it.

Many FCP editors I meet in my travels know how to grab the beginning or end of a clip in the timeline with the Arrow tool and drag it out, changing the in or out point of that clip. It's called dragging. Most also know how to double-click a transition to open it in the Viewer and move it left or right as needed. These techniques are simple and fast, but very limited.

For example, let's say you're editing a Wedding Highlights segment. You have a crossfade at a specific point, and it coincides with a specific moment in the music track at that specific point in the timeline. You look at it to make sure it works right and we see a problem. Halfway through the crossfade, the outgoing clip jumps to the scene recorded right after it on the original DV tape.

Double-click the crossfade to open it in the Viewer and move it over to the left a tad. You have just moved the transition out of time with the music, and you lost your professionally polished timing. Take heart, dear readers, because there is an easier and much more elegant solution. Actually, there are four of them!


A ripple edit moves the in or out point of one clip into a neighboring clip. Everything after that point in the timeline will be moved left or right to accommodate the new edit point. Thus, the "ripple." The Ripple tool is in the fourth group of tools from the top of your toolbar. The keyboard shortcut is RR.

To select an edit point with the arrow tool, click on it. You can click to select the whole edit, or just one side of it. With the Ripple tool, you select one side or the other of an edit point, not both. When you hover the Ripple tool over an edit point, you'll see the tool "point" to the side of the edit point it will effect, as shown in Figure 1.

figure 1

Figure One. Using the Ripple tool, the blue lines shows where our original edit point was, the red, our newly trimmed edit point. Notice that FCP gives numeric feedback when trimming edit points. In this case, 1 second and 15 frames to the left.

For example, we'll use the Ripple tool to move the out point of the incoming clip. We move that out point to the left by a full second, let's say. If you open that clip in the Viewer, it will have an out point one second sooner than before. Here's the thing to remember: everything else in the timeline is the same, except when you moved that out point in that specific clip, everything in the timeline to the right of that point moved to the left to match. The in point of the incoming clip stayed the same.

There's a tricky situation to be aware of with the Ripple tool. If you grab an in point of a clip and drag it, you'll see the ending of the clip move towards the beginning of the clip at the same time. It is not trimming both in and out points together. It is showing you that, if you trim the in point of that specific clip, and it is a Ripple edit, everything down the timeline will move left to match; it shows you where the end of that specific clip will fall in the timeline after the rippling is done. The out point in that clip will stay the same if you open it in the Viewer.


A Roll edit trims the out point of one clip and the in point of another clip simultaneously, and nothing else in the timeline changes. It is in the same tool group as the Ripple tool in your toolbar. The keyboard shortcut is R.

I use my Roll tool to grab an edit point, I move it to the left by one full second. In the timeline, all media stays where it is, only that edit point changes, as shown in Figure 2. If you open the two clips in the Viewer you would see that the outgoing clip has its out point moved to the left by one full second. The incoming clip has its in point moved to the left by one full second. That is assuming our imaginary clips have enough handles to do that.

figure 2

Figure Two. The blue lines are our original edit points; the red are our edit pionts after we trim. Both are the same before the edit


The Slip tool is where things get really interesting! It is in the fifth tool group down on your toolbar. Its keyboard shortcut is S. A Slip edit changes both the in and out points of a single clip together, changing none of the edit points in the timeline. This would be the tool to use in the Wedding Highlights segment example we mentioned earlier.

Use the Slip tool when you have a clip in the middle of your timeline that is placed where it needs to be and is the correct length but you need to move both the in and out points of that one clip together.

Let me try to clarify what's going on with the Slip tool. Open a clip from the timeline into the Viewer—a clip that has in and out points set. Imagine, in the Viewer, using your mouse cursor, you were able to grab both the in and out points together at the same time, keeping them the same distance apart ("x" number of frames between the in and out points; the number "x" never changes during the Slip edit), and moving them left or right. The specific places in the timeline at which those in and out points fall do not change, as shown in Figure 3

figure 3

Figure Three. The edit points in the timeline will stay the same after the edit. The red lines here only indicate the "overlay" that shows the physical beginning and end of your original clip to help slide its contents left or right as needed.


The Slide edit tool is in the same tool group as the Slip tool in your toolbar. Its keyboard shortcut is SS. The Slide tool moves a clip in the timeline left or right, maintaining that specific clip's in and out points, but changing the in point of the clip to the left of it, and changing the out point of the clip to the right of it. Where the Slip tool keeps the edit points of that clip in the timeline in the same place, the Slide tool moves them in the timeline simultaneously.

Let's say I have one track of video and three clips in my timeline. If I grab the middle clip with the arrow tool, I can't move it left or right; it's stuck in between the other two. But if I move the middle clip to the video track above it, I can then move that clip left or right. It sits on the track above the original track. If I move it to the left, the clip to its left gets cut off sooner for our top clip to show. If I move it to the right, the clip to its right in our original video track comes in later. I'd also have the extra step of grabbing the edges of one or the other clip to drag it to fill in the empty space or move left.

The Slide tool does this same thing, but without having to move things to other video tracks and readjust for empty spaces left in the timeline, as shown in Figure 4. I grab this middle clip with my Slide tool, I move it one full second to the left. The clip itself, if opened in the Viewer, will show that its own in and out points have remained the exact same. If I open the other two clips in the Viewer, I'll discover that the clip to its left will have a new out point that occurs one second sooner. The clip to its right will have an in point that occurs one second sooner. And nothing else in the timeline will have changed at all.

figure 4

Figure Four. After we slide the clip, the edit points in the timeline change, but not the in and out points of the clip itself.

Four Corners

Let me also briefly add that if you select one of these four tools, click on the edit point or clip you want to effect, then just type in timecode numbers, you can get frame-accurate edits. If I highlight my middle clip in the timeline and select my Slide tool, then just type in 2.00 and hit Enter, it will do a Slide edit two seconds to the right. Negative numbers will move the edit trim operation to the left.

These tools make good examples to see in person. I highly recommend chapters 5 and 6 in the book Apple Pro Training Series: Final Cut Pro 5. The tutorial material that comes with the book allows you to follow along and really learn these tools well. Happy editing!

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