Learning About the Timeline

You can view the content of your sequences in many different ways in the Timeline. Track height, clip opacity and audio level overlays, keyframes, and many other sequence properties can be displayed and edited in the Timeline. Each sequence has its own unique display settings; changing the zoom setting or audio controls in one sequence doesn’t affect another.

Figure. Editing, keyframe, and track controls in the Timeline.
Figure. Horizontal time controls and vertical multitrack controls in the Timeline.

Sequence Tabs in the Timeline

Each tab in the Timeline represents a sequence. You can have multiple sequences open simultaneously, each with its own tab. Controls in Final Cut Pro affect only the sequence whose tab is in front. Clicking another sequence’s tab brings it to the front, along with that sequence’s tab in the Canvas.

Editing Controls

The Timeline editing controls determine which tracks are selected and turned on for editing and playback.

Figure. Timeline window showing editing controls.
  • Source and Destination controls: These allow you to connect (or patch) clip items of the source clip in the Viewer to tracks in the Timeline. These controls are primarily used in three-point editing to determine which source clip items’ tracks are edited into your sequence, and where they are placed.

    The number of available Source controls corresponds to the number of clip items of the source clip currently open in the Viewer. For example, a typical DV clip has one video track and two audio tracks. In this case, one video and two audio Source controls appear in the Timeline. If, instead, you open a clip in the Viewer that has one video item and four audio items, then one video and four audio Source controls appear in the Timeline. For more information, see Three-Point Editing.

  • Track Visibility control: Determines whether the contents of a track are displayed and rendered in your sequence. When a track is disabled, it appears darkened in the Timeline, but its contents remain in your sequence and can still be edited. When you play back your sequence, disabled tracks don’t appear in the Canvas or on an external monitor, nor will they be rendered or output to tape with that sequence.

    Note: Render files for a track are deleted if the track is disabled. You can have Final Cut Pro display a warning before this occurs by selecting the “Warn if visibility change deletes render file” option in the Editing tab of the User Preferences window. For more information, see Choosing Settings and Preferences.

  • Lock Track control: Prevents a track’s contents from being moved or changed in any way. Overlays in locked tracks can also be protected by deselecting the “Pen tools can edit locked item overlays” option in the Editing tab of the User Preferences window. Locked tracks are cross-hatched all the way across the Timeline. Tracks can be locked and unlocked at any time. For more information, see Choosing Settings and Preferences.
  • Auto Select control: Enabling the Auto Select controls of specific tracks in the Timeline limits which tracks are affected by various functions such as copying, pasting, deleting, the Match Frame command, and so on.

    Note: You can think of In and Out points as limiting your edits in the horizontal (time) dimension and Auto Select as limiting your edits in the vertical dimension.

Vertical Multitrack Controls

The following controls and areas affect vertically working with the tracks.

  • Tracks: The main portion of the Timeline is divided into audio and video tracks, with a divider between the two regions. You can drag the divider up or down to allocate more room to either the video or audio half of the Timeline. Audio tracks 1 and 2 are just underneath the divider, and all additional audio tracks continue downward. Video track 1 is just above the divider, and all additional video tracks continue upward. For more information, see Working with Tracks in the Timeline.

    You can change the default number of video and audio tracks in the Timeline Options tab of the User Preferences window. For more information, see Choosing Settings and Preferences.

    More tracks can be added at any time. Additional audio tracks can be used for adding music or sound effects, or for organizational purposes. Additional video tracks can be used for superimposing clips and compositing layers of video clips together.

    Figure. Sequence tab in the Timeline.
    Figure. Video and audio track controls in the Timeline.
    Figure. Vertical multitrack controls in the Timeline.
  • Unused area: This is the area either above or below the outermost video and audio tracks in your sequence. Ordinarily, this area is blank, but if you drag clips directly into this gray area, new tracks are created to accommodate them.
  • Vertical scroll bars and thumb tabs: If you have more tracks than can be displayed in the Timeline window at one time, the scroll bars let you scroll through your video and audio tracks separately. The thumb tabs between the audio and video track regions can be used to define a static area that contains separate groups of audio or video tracks with their own scroll bars.

    This can come in handy when you have considerably more audio tracks than video. You can use the thumb tabs between your audio and video scroll bars to allocate more space to your audio tracks and less for video. For more information about creating a static area, see Working with Tracks in the Timeline.

Horizontal Time Controls

The following controls and areas affect horizontally working with the tracks.

  • Ruler: The ruler along the top of the Timeline represents the total duration of your edited sequence, from the first frame to the last. The ruler can be used for reference, to see the timecode corresponding to the location of clips in the Timeline. You can choose to view the ruler with several different units: timecode, frames, or feet and frames (for editing footage that originated on film).

    You can also click or drag the playhead in the ruler, which works exactly like the scrubber bar in the Canvas.

    Sequences can be a maximum of twelve hours (with a sample rate of 48 kHz or lower), or six hours (with a sample rate of 96 kHz).

    Figure.  Timeline window showing playhead position and ruler.
  • Playhead: The playhead displays the current frame location in a sequence. You can also use the playhead to navigate through your sequence in the Timeline. For more information, see Navigating in the Timeline.
  • Current Timecode field: Indicates the timecode position of the playhead. Typing a new timecode number moves the playhead (as in the Viewer and Canvas).
    Figure. Timeline window showing Current Timecode field.
  • Zoom control: Lets you zoom in and out of the contents of your sequence in the Timeline. Zooming in shows more detail in the ruler, and the duration between the numbers in the ruler shrinks. Zooming out shows less detail in the ruler, but allows you to see more of the total duration of your sequence in the Timeline. If the playhead is visible, it stays centered when you use the Zoom control to zoom in on the Timeline. If the playhead is not visible, the Zoom control centers the current contents of the Timeline window instead.
    Figure. Timeline window showing Zoom control.

    Using the zoom keyboard shortcuts produces slightly different results. Pressing Option-Equal Sign (=) or Option-Hyphen (-) zooms in or out of the contents of the Timeline no matter which window in Final Cut Pro is currently active. If one or more clips are selected, they will be the center of the zoom. Otherwise, zooming centers on the current position of the playhead.

    Note: If you want to zoom in and out around the current playhead, make sure no clips are selected in the Timeline.

  • Zoom slider: Like the Zoom control, the Zoom slider allows you to zoom in and out of a sequence in the Timeline. Dragging the thumb tabs on either side of the slider adjusts both thumb tabs and leaves the visible area of the Timeline centered.
    Figure. Timeline window showing Zoom slider.

    Pressing the Shift key and dragging one of the thumb tabs locks the opposite thumb tab and moves the visible area of the Timeline in the direction you’re dragging. The light gray indicators inside the scroll bar indicate one-minute increments in your sequence, and widen or narrow depending on how far into your sequence you’ve zoomed.

    Once you’ve zoomed in to your sequence, you can scroll along the entire duration of the sequence by dragging the center of the zoom slider.

Timeline Display Controls

There are several controls in the Timeline that can change how items in the Timeline are displayed. For more information on these controls, see Changing Timeline Display Options.

Figure. Timeline window showing Display controls.

Audio Controls

The following controls affect vertically working with audio in the tracks.

Figure. Timeline window showing Audio controls.
  • Audio Controls button: Click to display the mute and solo buttons to the left of each audio track in the Timeline. By default, these controls are hidden.
  • Mute and solo controls: Use to turn on or turn off audio playback on individual tracks for monitoring purposes. The track strips in the Audio Mixer have corresponding mute and solo buttons that work the same way. For more information, see Overview of the Audio Mixer.
    • Mute: Click to turn off audio playback for that track. The mute button affects monitoring during playback only. Muting a track does not delete panning or audio level keyframes for the clip items in that track, nor does it prevent fader automation.
    • Solo: Click to listen only to an individual track. When you solo a track, all others are muted except other tracks already soloed. For example, if you click the solo button on track A1, and it’s the only track with solo selected, all other audio tracks are muted. If you turn on the solo button on multiple tracks, all tracks with solo turned on play back, while all other tracks are muted.

    Note: Mute and solo controls affect only playback in the Timeline. They do not suspend audio output during Print to Tape or Edit to Tape operations, or when exporting to a movie or audio file.

Other Miscellaneous Controls

Following are other controls within the Timeline.

Figure. Timeline window showing Snapping button and Linked Selection button.
  • Snapping button: Click to turn snapping on and off. This button appears in the Timeline button bar by default. When snapping is on, the playhead “snaps to” key areas in the Timeline, such as the boundaries of other clip items, sequence markers, and sequence In and Out points. This can be extremely useful when you need to quickly line up two clips without gaps in between, or to quickly move the playhead to a marker in preparation for an edit. You can also turn snapping on and off by choosing View > Snapping (or by pressing N).
  • Linked Selection button: Click this to turn linked selection on and off. With linked selection on, clicking a video or audio clip item selects all other items linked to that item. If linked selection is off, only the clip item you click is selected, even if it is linked to other items. This is useful for editing the audio In or Out point of a clip separately from the video, such as when doing a split edit. You can also turn linked selection on and off by choosing Edit > Linked Selection (or by pressing Shift-L). For more information, see Linking and Editing Video and Audio in Sync.
  • Link indicators (within clip items): The names of linked video and audio clip items are underlined. As long as linked selection is on, when one linked item is selected, moved, or trimmed, all other items linked to it are affected identically.
  • Labels (within clip items): If any clip items in your edited sequence in the Timeline have been labeled, their names are highlighted in the color that matches that label. You can choose whether clip labels are displayed in the Timeline by selecting the Show Clip Labels option in the Track Layout pop-up menu.
  • Speed indicator (within clip items): If the speed of a clip has been changed, either by using a fit to fill edit or using the Speed item in the Modify menu, its change of speed will be shown in parentheses after the name of the clip in the Timeline. If variable speed has been applied, the word “Variable” appears instead.

    Tip: Optional speed indicators can be displayed in the keyframe graph area to show you the speed of clips in your sequence using tick marks. For more information on clip keyframes, see Changing Motion Parameters. You can also refer to Adjusting Parameters for Keyframed Effects. The spacing and color of these tick marks indicate the speed and playback direction of your clips. For more information, see Changing Clip Speed.

  • Stereo pair indicators (within clip items): Two pairs of triangles indicate that two audio clip items are linked as a stereo pair. If you select an audio clip item that is part of a stereo pair, the other clip item in the pair is also selected. This is useful when you are working with stereo audio clips such as music or sound effects. For more information, see Audio Editing Basics.
    Figure. Timeline window showing stereo pair indicators.

Real-Time Effects and the Render Status Bar

Following are the Timeline’s real-time and render items.

  • Render status bar: This bar at the top of the Timeline indicates which parts of the sequence have been rendered at the current render quality. The top line is for video, the bottom for audio.
    • Video render bar (upper region): Indicates the presence and render status of video effects items.
    • Audio render bar (lower region): Indicates the presence and render status of audio effects items. Colors in the render bar above items indicate whether the items need to be rendered. Items that don’t need to be rendered have dark gray bars above them. For more information, see Using RT Extreme. You can also refer to Rendering and Video Processing Settings.
      Figure. Timeline window showing video and audio render status bars.
  • Clip item render bars: Audio clip items can be rendered individually. Clip items in the Timeline display individual render bars in the following cases:
    • Audio clip items that require sample rate conversion: For example, audio clips that were captured at 44.1 kHz but have been edited into a sequence set to 48 kHz.
    • Audio clip items with filters applied: Applying one or more filters causes an audio clip to display a render bar within the clip item itself.

    For more information about clip item render bars, see Rendering and Video Processing Settings.

Sequence Clips in the Timeline

Clip items in a sequence are often called sequence clips, with the item’s name displayed at the head of the clip. If the clip item is long enough, the name is also displayed at the end.

You can choose whether video clip items in the Timeline display thumbnails, and whether audio clip items display audio waveforms. These options are available in the Timeline options tab of the Sequence Settings window. (For more information, see Sequence Settings and Presets.)

Clip items can be linked so that they can be selected and edited together. This allows you to keep clip items that came from the same Browser clip together, such as a video clip item and a stereo pair of audio clip items. When you select a linked clip item, all the other linked clip items are selected as well (unless the Linked Selection button is disabled). For more information about working with linked items, see Linking and Editing Video and Audio in Sync.