Using Cartesian Geometry to Position Clips

Final Cut Pro compositing features use simple Cartesian geometry to position clips within the frame defined by the Canvas. This makes the process of symmetrically arranging layered clips easy and precise. Even though it’s possible to “eyeball” a lot of compositions, a little math can go a long way, especially when you want to start creating more precise motion effects using keyframes.

In Final Cut Pro, the center point of a layer is always relative to the center point of the Canvas; the center point of the Canvas always has x and y coordinate values of 0, 0.

Figure. Diagram showing the four quadrants of a Cartesian graph of pixel coordinates in the Canvas.

To position clips using their x and y coordinates, you click the Basic Motion disclosure triangle and enter appropriate values in the Center number fields.

To move a clip to the right
  • Enter a positive value for the clip’s x coordinate.

To move a clip to the left
  • Enter a negative value for the clip’s x coordinate.

To move a clip down
  • Enter a positive value for the clip’s y coordinate.

To move a clip up
  • Enter a negative value for the clip’s y coordinate.

For example, suppose the center point of the clip on track V2 is –218, –119. This puts the clip 218 pixels to the left and 119 pixels up from the Canvas center point.

Figure. Diagram showing the center point of a clip whose x coordinate is -218 and whose y coordinate is -119.

When you copy and paste these attributes to the clip on track V3, the clip appears in exactly the same place. However, if you change its x coordinate from negative 218 to positive 218, you put that clip’s center point 218 pixels to the right of the Canvas center point, which moves it to the other side.

Figure. Diagram showing the center point of a clip whose x coordinate is 218 and whose y coordinate is -119.

Important: When you adjust a clip’s Rotation parameter, the clip is automatically rendered using the Fastest motion filtering quality. For more information, see How Rotation Affects Motion Filtering Quality.