Making Speed Changes in the Timeline

You can apply variable speed effects to clips using keyframes in the Timeline.

An effective way to create slow-motion and fast-motion effects is to use the keyframe graph area of the Timeline. You can apply and adjust keyframes with the Pen tool to create speed segments. You can slide the keyframes left or right in the keyframe graph area to interactively create variable speed effects, or you can assign specific speed rates to each segment. A keyframe is a special-purpose control that denotes a change in value (in this case, a change in clip speed). For more information about keyframes, see Adjusting Parameters for Keyframed Effects.

To add speed keyframes to a clip in the Timeline
  1. Do one of the following to display the keyframe graph area and the speed indicator tick marks.

    • Click the Clip Keyframes control in the lower-left corner of the Timeline.

    • Press Option-T.

    The keyframe graph area is displayed below each clip in the Timeline. You can use this keyframe graph area to view and edit keyframes for applied effects.

    Figure. Timeline showing the keyframe graph area.

    Note: To have the keyframe graph area and speed indicator tick marks displayed by default in new sequences, choose Final Cut Pro > User Preferences > Timeline Options and select the Clip Keyframes checkbox and the Speed Indicators checkbox.

  2. Move the pointer over the speed indicator tick marks in the keyframe graph area.

    As you do this, the pointer automatically changes into the Pen tool.

  3. Click in the speed indicator area where you want to add a speed keyframe.

    A blue speed keyframe marker appears in the speed indicator area.

    Figure. Timeline showing a speed keyframe marker in the speed indicator area.
To adjust the position of speed keyframes in the Timeline
  1. If there is no existing speed keyframe in the Timeline, add one.

  2. In the speed indicator area, drag a speed keyframe to the left or to the right.

    Figure. Timeline showing a speed keyframe being dragged to the right.

    The tick marks in the speed indicator area update in real time as you drag the keyframe, showing you exactly how you’re altering a clip’s timing. The spacing and color of the tick marks indicate the speed and playback direction of your clips. Large spaces between tick marks indicate slow motion. Tightly spaced tick marks indicate fast motion. The red color indicates reverse motion.

    Tip: Hold down the Shift key as you drag a keyframe to push or pull all trailing keyframes in the clip item at the same time. You can also hold down the Option key as you drag a keyframe to slip the clip’s content without repositioning the keyframe. The speed segment on one side of the keyframe speeds up while the speed segment on the other side of the keyframe slows down, but the position of the keyframe remains the same.

Keep the following points in mind when you use speed keyframes and speed segments:

  • Any change you make to an individual speed keyframe will alter the segments to the left and right of the keyframe, but it will leave all other speed segments unchanged.

  • If maintaining video and audio sync is a priority, select both the video and the (synced) audio and apply constant speed changes only. Applying variable speed settings to a video clip (including speed segments, the Curve buttons in the Change Speed dialogs, and the Curve options in the Change Speed shortcut menu) will break the link to audio items. Audio and video sync is lost when you apply variable speed changes.

Adjusting Speed Segments with the Shortcut Menu

You can use the shortcut menu to adjust the speed in a particular speed segment (the area between two speed keyframes) or in a speed keyframe.

To adjust a speed segment with the shortcut menu
  1. If there is no existing speed keyframe in the Timeline, add one.

  2. Control-click a speed segment (the area between two speed keyframes).

  3. Choose any of the following from the resulting shortcut menu.

    • Change Speed: Opens the Change Speed dialog. For more information, see Using the Change Speed Dialogs.
    • Remove Speed: Removes all clip speed changes and restores a clip to its original, default speed.
    • Change Speed Segment: Opens the Change Speed Segment dialog. For more information, see Using the Change Speed Dialogs.
    • Add Keyframe: Inserts a speed keyframe at the point where you clicked in the speed indicator area.
    • Remove Speed Segment: Removes speed changes and restores a segment to its original, default speed.
    • Speed From Segment Start: Choose one of the options below to affect the rate of change in speed at the beginning of a speed segment.
      • Linear: Applies the default (constant) speed to the beginning of a speed segment.
      • Curve From Start: Applies a smooth change in speed to the beginning of a speed segment. This is a quick and simple way to add a Bezier handle to the keyframe at the beginning of a speed segment in the Speed parameter of the Motion tab in the Viewer.
      • Curve Centered on Start: Applies a smooth change in speed starting at the end of the previous speed segment and continuing through the beginning of the selected speed segment. This is a quick and simple way to add a Bezier handle to the keyframe at the beginning of a clip or speed segment in the Speed parameter of the Motion tab in the Viewer.
    • Speed to Segment End: Choose one of the options below to affect the rate of change in speed at the end of a speed segment.
      • Linear: Applies the default (constant) speed to the end of a speed segment.
      • Curve to End: Applies a smooth change in speed to the end of a speed segment. This is a quick and simple way to add a Bezier handle to the keyframe at the end of a speed segment in the Speed parameter of the Motion tab in the Viewer.
      • Curve Centered on End: Applies a smooth change in speed starting at the end of the selected speed segment and continuing through the beginning of the next speed segment. This is a quick and simple way to add a Bezier handle to the keyframe at the end of a speed segment in the Speed parameter of the Motion tab in the Viewer.

Keep the following points in mind when you use speed keyframes and speed segments:

  • Any change you make to an individual speed keyframe will alter the segments to the left and the right of the keyframe, but it will leave all other speed segments unchanged.

  • If maintaining video and audio sync is a priority, select both the video and the (synced) audio and apply constant speed changes only. Applying variable speed settings to a video clip (including speed segments, the Curve buttons in the Change Speed dialogs, and the Curve options in the Change Speed shortcut menu) will break the link to audio items. Audio and video sync is lost when you apply variable speed changes.

To adjust a speed keyframe with the shortcut menu
  1. If there is no existing speed keyframe in the Timeline, add one.

  2. Control-click a speed keyframe.

  3. Choose any of the following from the resulting shortcut menu.

    • Change Speed: Opens the Change Speed dialog. For more information, see Using the Change Speed Dialogs.
    • Remove Speed: Removes all clip speed changes and restores a clip to its original, default speed.
    • Change Speed Segment: Opens the Change Speed Segment dialog. For more information, see Using the Change Speed Dialogs.
    • Remove Keyframe: Removes the speed keyframe that you clicked in the speed indicator area.
    • Remove Speed Segment: Removes speed changes and restores a segment to its original, default speed.
    • Speed to Keyframe: Choose one of the options below to affect the rate of change in speed before a speed keyframe.
      • Linear: Disables any speed smoothing (Bezier handle) for the keyframe.
      • Curve to Keyframe: Applies a smooth change in speed before the selected keyframe.
      • Curve Centered on Keyframe: Applies a smooth change in speed before and after the selected keyframe.
    • Speed From Keyframe: Choose one of the options below to affect the rate of change in speed after a speed keyframe.
      • Linear: Disables any speed smoothing (Bezier handle) for the keyframe.
      • Curve From Keyframe: Applies a smooth change in speed after the selected keyframe.
      • Curve Centered on Keyframe: Applies a smooth change in speed before and after the selected keyframe.

Keep the following points in mind when you use speed keyframes and speed segments:

  • Any change you make to an individual speed keyframe will alter the segments to the left and right of the keyframe, but it will leave all other speed segments unchanged.

  • If maintaining video and audio sync is a priority, select both the video and the (synced) audio and apply constant speed changes only. Applying variable speed settings to a video clip (including speed segments, the Curve buttons in the Change Speed dialogs, and the Curve options in the Change Speed shortcut menu) will break the link to audio items. Audio and video sync is lost when you apply variable speed changes.

Learning to Read Timeline Speed Indicators

The Timeline includes speed indicators to show you the speed of clips in your sequence using tick marks.

Note: To illustrate the examples in this section, all screen shots in the Timeline are presented with both the motion bar and speed indicators visible.

Figure. Timeline window showing the Clip Keyframes control, the motion bar, and speed indicators.
To view the Timeline keyframe graph area
  • Select the Clip Keyframes control in the lower-left corner of the Timeline.

To view the speed indicators in the Timeline keyframe graph area
  • Control-click the Clip Keyframes control, then choose Video > Speed Indicators from the shortcut menu.

Timeline speed indicators show you the relative playback speed of clips in your sequence. For example, suppose you have a 10-second clip in your sequence. At normal, 100 percent speed, the Timeline speed indicators are evenly spaced, indicating that your clip is playing forward at a constant speed.

Figure. Timeline window showing speed indicators evenly spaced at normal speed.

If you make a speed change to slow down a clip (setting the clip’s speed to 50 percent, for example), the speed indicators are spaced farther apart as the clip grows longer, indicating slower playback. If you speed up a clip (changing the speed to 200 percent, for example), the speed indicators move closer together as the clip becomes shorter, indicating faster playback.

Figure. Timeline windows showing the difference in the spacing of speed indicators for a clip set to play at slow speed and at fast speed.

If you make a clip play backward by selecting the Reverse checkbox in the Change Speed dialogs, the speed indicators turn red to show that playback is going backward in time.

Figure. Timeline window showing a clip with reverse-speed indicators.

When you make variable speed changes, the duration of the affected clip stays the same. The Timeline speed indicators display all speed changes—fast-forward, slow motion, and reverse—happening within the clip. In particular, because variable speed changes can also transition smoothly from one speed to another, the spacing of the speed indicators indicates the acceleration of the speed change.