Please note: this article is directed towards Final Cut Pro 7 editors, but the basic principle goes for any application.
If you follow me on Twitter, you’ll notice that I talk alot about using shortcuts. I love using hotkeys to speed up my workflow. I strongly encourage you to take just a few minutes and assign a few custom hotkeys to your most commonly used actions. I edit on both a Mac Pro and a Macbook Pro, both of which, have pretty compact keyboards. To access any of the alternative function keys on the top row (like insert and overwrite), you have to hold the fn key down. Using those becomes a huge hassel when you want to be fast at editing.
Using the function key on a full Mac keyboard
Using the function key on a compact Mac keyboard
Since I personally use the top row function keys all the time (lock audio/video tracks, choose audio/video destination, insert/overwrite, etc.), I’ve switched from the default standard function commands, to those of the alternate commands. So I no longer have to hold the fn key to access the insert and overwrite actions. To do this, simply go into your System Preferences>Keyboard Settings>and uncheck “Use all F1, F2, etc. keys as standard function keys.” This will take some getting used to because to access the usual things like volume, brightness, and expose, you’ll have to hold the fn key. But this WILL save time for the hardcore editor.
I have this box unchecked
To view all of your shortcuts, go to tools>keyboard layout> customize, or simply press option H (yes, there is even a shortcut for the shortcuts window.) You need to know the normal and most-common hotkeys. These can get you by with most simple projects:
- Transport keys – JKL
- All of your tools - I cannot stress this enough. As a professional editor, you NEED to have ALL of your tools memorized and shouldn’t even need to have your tool palette on screen
- Zoom – command +/-
- Fit to window – shift Z
- Cut, copy, paste – command C, X, P
- New project - command shift N
- Open project - command O
- New sequence - command N
- New Bin - command B
- In and out points - I/O
To be a professional and fast editor, you need to not only know the common shortcuts, but the uncommon ones as well, and even create custom ones to fit your editing best. Here are a few uncommon shortcuts that I have found I use most. Some are more advanced than others:
Those are the advanced shortcuts that I find myself using on every project. Again, not every editor edits the same, so these may not be as popular with your exact editing technique.
Customize keyboard layout window
Once you’ve been editing for a while, you’ll notice actions that you use over and over. You need to apply these actions to hotkeys in order to save time. Here are a few custom hotkeys that I have found myself using the most. I assigned these because I found myself constantly going to the menu to find them. If you never use these, don’t worry about them. Custom shortcuts should be customized to YOUR editing style, not mine:
- Insert/overwright - , (comma) . (period)
- F9 and F10 also do this by default, but I found myself looking down for a brief second searching for the F9/F10 keys every time. Using comma and period is MUCH easier. You don’t have to move your hand from the JKL position. And since comma and period have the same default action as the bracket keys, you don’t lose the trim feature when you change them
- Audio: apply normalization gain - option N
- Send to Compressor - control option C
- Send to Soundtrack Pro audio file project - control option S
- Export using Quicktime conversion - control E
- Composite modes - control command 1, 2, 3, etc
Get familiar with your shortcuts. Glance at the keyboard shortcuts window (option H) from time to time, just to see what you can use. Force yourself to use them. It may take a few days or weeks to learn them, but once you do, you’ll be glad you did. It’ll make you a better editor. You’ll spend less time clicking through menues, and more time creating. The above shortcuts may only be for Final Cut Pro 7, but you need to get familiar with your NLE and figure out what custom shortcuts you need to make.
Load a custom keyboard layout
If you’d like to download my custom keyboard layout for FCP7, you can click here to download it. But, again, you should definitely take some time to figure out what YOU use most and apply those actions to YOUR customized keyboard.