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Tutorial: Keyword Tagging in Apple Final Cut Pro X

In this first installment of our new tutorial series, Glen Elliott demystifies Final Cut Pro X, illustrates its core functions, and focuses on one of the most powerful new features for organizing, accelerating, and streamlining your edits: metadata keyword tagging.

Apple made some pretty bold decisions writing Final Cut Pro from the ground up in Final Cut Pro X, causing some paradigm shifts to the editing workflow. But these changes are positive, especially when you take the time to get comfortable with the new interface and workflow.

In this first installment of our new tutorial series, I'm going to try to demystify the program a bit and illustrate how the core of the new program functions. Additionally, we're going to go over one of the most powerful new features, metadata keyword tagging, which has become a huge part of editing workflow at Cord3Films since we switched to FCP X. Let's jump in.

Welcome to the New Paradigm

Figure 1 (below) shows the new interface. In the upper-left corner you see the Event Library and the contents of your events. On the right is the Viewer. And down at the bottom is your Project Library.

Apple Final Cut Pro X
Figure 1. The new Final Cut Pro X interface

Final Cut Pro X has widely been criticized for its visual similarities to iMovie. I'll admit it's very iMovie-ish at first glance, but I promise you it's a much more powerful program. In fact, a lot of its functions are hidden a little bit under the hood, so to speak. There are a lot fewer buttons on the screen than in Final Cut Pro 7, but all the functionality is there. You're definitely going to want to learn your keyboard shortcuts.

Events and Projects

There have been some paradigm shifts in the editing workflow and also, some major changes to the way the program functions as a whole, and the best way to understand its functionality is to illustrate how it compares and contrasts to other applications you use. There are two types of programs out there: file-based programs and non-file based programs. Take Adobe Photoshop and Lightroom, for example. Adobe Photoshop is a file-based program. You open up Photoshop and you open your document or your file and you edit it and you save it. This is very similar to Final Cut Pro 7, where you open up Final Cut Pro 7, and you open up your project file, which houses all the information for the footage that you've imported. And it houses all the information for your timelines or sequences.

Adobe Lightroom, on the other hand, is a non-file based program. When you open up Adobe Lightroom, you have access to all of your photo libraries--very similar to the way, say, iTunes works (Figure 2, below).

Photoshop Lightroom Final Cut Pro
Figure 2. File-based programs and non-file based programs

Final Cut Pro X works the same way. Every time you open it up, you have access to all of your events and all of your projects. There's no longer a single project file that unifies everything.

But it's not that complicated or overwhelming as that may sound. There are only two elements to worry about: your event and your project, as shown in Figure 1. And the way those function could be illustrated in the Finder. If you open up your Finder, you're going to see two folders that Final Cut Pro X uses. Basically, these are the two folders that make Final Cut Pro X run. It has your Final Cut Pro Events folder and your Final Cut Pro Projects folder.

In the Final Cut Pro Events folder shown in Figure 3 (below), I've twirled down the disclosure triangle to show Kia Promo, the local car dealership commercial that we're using as the example project in this tutorial. It corresponds with the event that I have in Final Cut Pro X, "Kia Promo," as shown in Figure 1. Pretty simple.

Apple Final Cut Pro X
Figure 3. Final Cut Pro Events and Projects folders in the Finder

Under Final Cut Pro Projects, I only have one project and called "Sample Project." You'll see in your Finder as well.

This organizational structure lends itself well to collaboration. Let's say you have multiple editors in your studio. If you wanted to pass a hard drive around to share, all you would need is to have the media available on that hard drive and your event and related projects. And your other editors could just plug in the hard drive, turn Final Cut Pro on, and have everything available. There's no relinking or anything like that.

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