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Tutorial: Using Connected Storylines in Final Cut Pro X

In this tutorial, we'll look at several ways you can use connected storylines to enhance your FCP X edits and mix in cutaways and creative shots in a quick and efficient way.

The Final Cut Pro X Timeline consists of two separate areas: the Primary Storyline, which is the darker area in the center, and everything else. The Primary Storyline is where you build your primary story, or all you’re A-roll, your main shots, your narrative--that sort of thing.

The areas above and below are for connecting clips for B-roll cutaways and shots that will support your primary story. (For more on the basic elements of the Final Cut Pro X interface and how they function, check out the first tutorial in this series.)

In this tutorial, we’ll look at how the Primary Storyline (Figure 1, below) and the other areas work together in connected storylines when you’re building your edits.

Apple Final Cut Pro X

Figure 1. The Primary Storyline in the FCP X UI

Adding and Manipulating Connected Clips

To begin, we’re going to quickly slug a bunch of clips down to the Primary Storyline. One thing to note about the Primary Storyline is that these clips also inherit the magnetic nature of the Primary Storyline in that they can’t be dragged anywhere you want. When you move them, they tend to snap back into place, but with some flexibility within the magnetic framework of the timeline. FCP X does allow you to do cool things like shuffle clips around on the fly.

Now that we have clips in the Primary Storyline, we’re going to drag more clips down to the area above and connect them to the clips in the Primary Storyline. First, we’ll move the cursor to where we want to start. Then we’ll make a small selection from a clip in the Event Library, and hi the Q key to connect the clip (Figure 2, below). To continue connecting clips, we can pick another place in the timeline, make another selection, and hit Q. For this example, we’ll do it a couple more times.

Apple Final Cut Pro X
Figure 2. Connecting a clip to the Primary Storyline.

What we’ve just done is connected four clips to the Primary Storyline. If you look closely at the beginning of each clip, each one has a connection stake denoting where it actually connects to the Primary Storyline (Figure 3, below).

Apple Final Cut Pro X
Figure 3. The stake indicates a connected clip.

Also, when you start working with these clips, you're going to notice right away that they function completely different from clips in the Primary Storyline. For example, when I click the last connected clip and drag it to the right and let go, it stays where I leave it, and connects to a new point in the Primary Storyline. It doesn’t snap back. Connected clips are not magnetic. They’re actually very free-flowing. You can move them anywhere you want.

But you can’t overwrite clips accidentally. If you move a clip and it starts to overlap with another clip, it’ll snap and get out of the way, as shown in Figure 4 (below).

Apple Final Cut Pro X
Figure 4. FCP X moves the clip up to avoid overlapping.

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