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How and why to use ranges and keywords in Apple’s Final Cut Pro X (FCPX)

Final Cut Pro X comes with a lot of features to help organize your editing project. But two metadata features in particular — ranges and keywords — are severely undervalued by editors.

If FCPX is your go-to editing software, you would have definitely used ranges before. Ranges are an essential tool to select and alter parts of clips in the browser or timeline. They’re also a nifty way to do three-point editing, duck sound, and other editing tricks. Another great use case is to use A.I. transcript ranges with a tool like Simon Says to streamline the post-production workflow and make searching soundbites much easier.

Bring ranges together with keywords, and the two become an organizational powerhouse that can make editing more efficient and effective. 

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The Basics of Final Cut Pro X Metadata, Ranges, Markers, and Keywords

Metadata for Source Media Files

In FCPX, metadata are bits of information associated with clips, including:

  • Exchangeable Image File Data – more commonly known as EXIF data, this is information recorded by the camera at the time of shooting, such as camera make and model, file size, color profile, geo-location etc. FCPX automatically pulls this data during import.
  • International Press Telecommunications Council Data – otherwise known as IPTC data, this is information regarding the copyright, captions, and other standardized data used by media organizations.
  • FCPX Data – including keywords and ratings added manually during the editing process within the FCPX program

This metadata allows editors to identify and organize clips more easily. To view metadata, select one or more clips in the timeline or event browser, open the ‘Inspector’ (press ‘Command + 4’), and click the ‘Info’ button. Under ‘Info’, you also have the ability to edit and change metadata associated with clips.

Ranges vs. Markers

It’s easy to confuse ranges with markers when you’re new to FCPX, or migrating from another editing tool like Adobe Premiere Pro. So, let’s clear up the differences first.

Markers

In FCPX, markers are color-coded reference points that can be added to clips. Like Premiere Pro, FCPX markers do not alter clips, but they can only flag one individual frame at a time. To add a marker, simply press the ‘M’ key on a clip in the browser or timeline.

Ranges and Range Selections

Ranges, on the other hand, are applied to subclips or segments of clips and can alter them. Creating ranges is easy: 

  • In the browser, drag the cursor across a clip’s filmstrip

Or…

  • In the timeline, drag the Range Selection tool (press the ‘R’ key as a keyboard shortcut to use) across one or more clips 

Use Cases

Both markers and ranges have the ability to add notes and can be powerful organizational tools. But they have different uses:

  • Markers are more helpful during the editing process as a way to add editing comments, to-do tasks, and signal chapters in a timeline. You can view a marker’s information by pressing ‘Option + M’ keys.

  • Ranges (combined with keywords and other metadata) are more useful before the editing process to group parts of clips together and make sorting through media easier.

Keywords

Ranges get their organizational capabilities from keywords. Keywords are labels that can help categorize and sort media. They can be applied in two ways on full clips and ranges:

  • Manually adding keywords, by selecting a clip/range and typing in the keyword editor (press ‘Command + K’ to open). Clips will display a blue line in the browser when applied.

  • Automatic Keywords are added by FCPX on import (if analysis is used) and appear as purple lines in the browser. They usually identify characters/people and shot type (e.g. close up, medium shot, group shot), depending on the analysis and EXIF data.

When keywords are added (manually or otherwise), a keyword collection will be auto-generated in the events library for easy access to associated clips and ranges.

Searching Ranges by Keyword 

Applying keywords to ranges will allow you to quickly identify key moments in a longer clip. This is particularly helpful for footage like long interview recordings. With keywords set up, you can search and locate ranges easily within FCPX via:

  • Keyword Collections — this displays all clips and ranges in the project with the selected keyword
  • Timeline Index — this displays the timeline as text in chronological order (rather than a filmstrip) and allows you to search ranges in the timeline by keyword

Using Ranges and Keywords to Organize Your FCPX Workflow

There are many ways you can incorporate ranges and keywords in your workflow. Here are our top 5...

1. Footage Review

Start a new editing project with a full review of the footage by creating ranges and adding notes. Once you have an idea of the content, and how you want to structure the final video, you can do a second review to apply keywords. This way, you can avoid cluttering your events with unused keyword collections.

2. Montages & B-Roll

Keywords are a great way to tag ranges by action, location, angle, character, and theme. This comes in handy when producing montages or working with a lot of B-roll. Keywords do away with the endless hours of scanning, in search of “that one shot”. They simply narrow down the search.

3. Keyboard Shortcuts

Have a handful of commonly used keywords? Create shortcuts via the keyword editor to avoid retyping keywords over and over again.

4. Filtering & Smart Collections

In a similar vein, if you find yourself reusing the same search query to filter ranges, you can save these results as Smart Collections. Any keywords/notes added to clips/ranges later that match the search query will automatically be added to the smart collection. 

5. Favorites, Ratings and Rejections

On top of keywords, you can also use the Favorites feature to highlight the best shots. Or, if you have multiple takes of the same shot, Ratings are a great way to quickly assess the quality of clips/ranges. You can also reject clips/ranges if it’s unusable and hide them in the browser to declutter your FCPX workspace.

Creating Transcript Ranges for Apple’s FCPX (with A.I.)

Ranges and keywords are a fantastic tool for getting organized on FCPX. But there’s one extra step you can take to further streamline your editing workflow.

Editing with Transcripts

Transcripts are a vital asset for documentaries, voice overs, and interviews. A transcript is a time-coded text version of your video/audio, allowing you to find key soundbites and assemble your story seamlessly.

Auto-Generated Transcript Ranges for FCPX

You could edit with transcripts as a separate text file. But it’s far more efficient to directly import the transcript as ranges in FCPX. 

Using A.I. software like Simon Says, you can auto-generate transcript ranges for FCPX and further speed up your footage review process and search for soundbites. Not only can Simon Says format a transcript as FCPX ranges, it can also add speaker labels and mark ranges as favorites or rejected. Simon Says can process different types of clips, including multicam clips, compound clips, and sync clips. 

Plus, Simon Says has a native FCPX extension, and you can import your ranges in minutes. Check out our tutorial on how to create transcript ranges for FCPX for more information.