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Tutorial: Using Compound Clips in Apple Final Cut Pro X

Working with compound clips in FCP X is similar to nesting sequences in Final Cut Pro 7. Once you understand how it works, and how changes to compound clips can ripple across projects, it's a powerful feature that you'll find yourself using more and more.

In this tutorial we’re going to talk about compound clips, which are Final Cut Pro X’s version of nesting. It’s a way to take a handful of clips on a project and compress them down to a single file.

Making a compound clip is simple. You can either make a compound clip of the entire timeline, of just the video, just the audio, a mix of both, or just a small section. It's very flexible.

Creating a Compound Clip

To begin, let’s look at the beginning of the timeline shown in Figure 1 (below). This example is from a wedding film recently produced by my studio Cord3Films, but the Compound Clips technique described here applies to any FCP X project where you need to make a complex timeline more manageable.


Figure 1. The complex timeline we’ll be working with.

As you can see, this timeline is pretty complicated. There's a music audio track at the bottom. There's the audio from the groom's speech. There is the primary storyline which has the groom giving a speech, cut with B-roll over top of him writing a speech, and on top of that there's even text for the translation because he was speaking Spanish.

We can simplify this in the timeline by simply making a small section of this timeline a compound clip. So I'm just going to drag a marquee and lasso over this beginning section (Figure 2, below) that I want to make a compound clip. Once that's selected, it's as easy as pressing Option-G on your keyboard--that's the shortcut to make a compound clip.

Final Cut Pro X
Figure 2. Lasso’ing the part of the timeline we're going to make into a compound clip.

When you press Option-G, at the top of your screen you’ll see the dialog box shown in Figure 3 (below). It has two options: to name your compound clip, and to identify the event it's associated with. In this case it's associated by default with the only event we have in this timeline, but we're just going to name it “Narrative Opening” because that's an accurate description of this part of the project.


Figure 3. Naming and associating the compound clip.

Click OK, and FCP X makes a compound clip, shrink-wrapping it all into a single file, but leaving the edit intact. Everything is there, including the transition, as shown in Figure 4 (below).


Figure 4. All edits intact, including the transition, shown in preview here.

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