With the release of FCP X 10.1 we have new retiming tools. These make complex slow and fast motion effects swift and effortless to perform. In this article, I will show you the basics of how each new tools works. I encourage you to work with your own FCP X test clip in a Timeline along with this article to fully appreciate the elegance of how these new tools work. For fun, I think I will start with what I consider the second best new tool, and save the very best for last.
Editor's Note: Watch our all new video courses on Final Cut Pro X 10.1 here.
This is something we have all wanted for a long time, and now that we have it, I’m very happy with how the FCP X dev team implemented this. I’ll select a sample clip in my Timeline and use Command-R to bring up the retiming header. Click the menu arrow and select Custom. This is the Custom Speed edit window. The first option allows me to select if the clip will play forward or reverse. The next option allows me to select if I want to change the speed by a percentage or by a duration. Either one I select is a precise numeric designations I simply type into the appropriate field. I can also select if I want it to ripple or not with a simple check box. The simplicity of this window is a thing of beauty. Let us look at an actual example of how this actually works.
In my first example I will select Forward as my direction. Then I will select to retime by Rate, and set a Rate of 50%. I do not want the duration of the clip in the Timeline to change at all, thus I simply uncheck the Ripple option check box. As you can see in Figure 1, the clip’s duration stays the same, but it is playing at 50% speed now.
Next I’ll use Command-Z to undo the retiming operation I just did above. I will repeat this same process, except this time I will use Control-Option-R to bring up the Custom edit window directly. Very fast and easy, eh? The one difference in this example is that I will check the Ripple checkbox. As you see in Figure 2, the clip extended its duration. This is because checking the Ripple check box tells FCP X to keep the Out point on the same frame it was on originally, before the retiming operation, meaning the clip must be longer, to play slower, and cover all of the frames in the original 100% speed clip. Everything to the right of this clip in the Timeline gets pushed, or rippled, down the Timeline to the right. Super simple, super fast, super cool.
We can also now predetermine where in a clip we want speed changes to happen, before we even make them happen. This is a whole new concept in creating retiming effects. And this can be really handy when there are precise frames we want specific speed changes to happen on. Let us walk through an example to make this much more clear.
In my example clip, I will select 4 points I want speed changes to happen. I do this by placing the Playhead on a specific frame of my clip, or placing the Skimmer on a specific frame. I find with precise timing operations like this, turning off the Skimmer and using the left and right arrow keys is an easier way to work. That is just personal taste. Next, I will go to the Retiming shortcut menu and select Blade Speed, or more easily and quickly use the Shift-B keyboard shortcut. This blades timing points, not edit points. Figure 3 shows the retiming header divided up into segments that are all still at 100%, but the clip itself has no edit points cut into it at all, it is still just one, long, solid clip. This allows me to decide where to make speed changes, without actually making them, with surgical precision, with very little effort. Now I can change the speed of each segment as I wish. Wait until the very last section of this article for a tool that enhances this in a very surprising way.
Jump cuts are normally not desired, but can in some instances make a nice special effect with them. A jump cut is when we cut some short time out of a single clip, so that we jump from one part of a clip, to a later part of the same action, from the same camera, at the same angle, in the exact same clip. In interviews we are often forced to do this, but cut aways are a great solution to cover them up. In this instance, we purposefully want to make a clip more jittery, or jumpy as part of an editing or special effect. Music videos I think will benefit from this tool to a great degree.
Imagine a slow zoom in on the singer, and the music is jumpy, staccato, and you want to match that feel. Play the clip and use the M key to create markers in real time to the beats you want the video to be staccato along with the audio. That is just one example of how this tool would come in handy. Let us take a step by step look at the process.
In my example Timeline, I’ll make 2 markers in my sample clip. Then go to the retiming shortcut menu in the tool bar, go to the Jump Cut at Markers sub-menu, and select how many frames to cut out at each Marker. My choices are 3, 5, 10, 20 and 30 frames to cut out. I’ll select 30 for this example.
It is important to be aware that whichever choice you make, this will shorten the clip’s overall duration, but NOT by that number of frames. I’m not cutting out 30 frames from my maker locations, I'm "speeding up" a segment. That means FCP will go to a Marker, count that many frames after it, and speed them up between 300% - 3000%. This operation will NOT cut the clip up into separate clips with edit points. This performs a retiming trick that keeps your clip together as one solid clip, with retiming regions. Take a close look at Figure 4. When I play it back, the video speeds up at the start of each region that was created at my markers. This allows me to do further retiming effects if I so desired. Zoom in as close as you can to one of those markers, and you can actually grab the timing handles and give each "jump" it's own unique timing.
As stated previously, I saved the best for last. Remember the Custom retiming in the first section of this article? Now we will take that one amazing step further. Speed Ramps are something FCP X has been missing. The FCP X dev team won’t release a feature unless it is done right, even if it takes a long time, and thank goodness for that. This is an amazing way to deal with speed ramps in an easy, precise way.
In my example clip, I’ve used Shift-B to create 3 retiming regions. I will make the center region 20% slow motion, and leave the first and last regions at normal 100% playback. In Figure 5 you can see that if I turn on Speed Transitions in the retiming shortcut menu, I get this shaded region across my retiming region boundaries. I’m so excited to show you all this, it blew me away the first time I saw it.
If I mouse over the left or right edge (left in Figure 5) of this shaded Transition region, I get a Ripple Edit cursor, and can drag to lengthen or shorten it. You’ve probably guessed by now that this shaded region is the speed ramp. The area that video will progressively change from the speed of the first retiming region, to the speed of the adjacent retiming region. Nothing could be easier. Adjust how much you wish for the ramp to cover each side of what I call “the speed edit point”. I will NEVER miss having to work with graphs and keyframes for this type of operation.
Here in Figure 6 you can see a clip in a Timeline with various speeds and transitions applied. Notice the different In and Out points of the different retiming transitions. I can adjust them all differently as I please. Notice the greatly exaggerated transition I created going from the second to last speed region into the last speed region.
The new retiming tools are great: Custom retiming, Blade Speed, Jumps to Markers and Transitions. They’ve all been designed to work like everything else in FCP X, fast and easy. I think the FCP X dev team hit this one right out of the park for sure. I’ve never seen any method easier or faster to get through my retiming effects before. If slow and fast motion effects are something you use often, this will be a huge improvement for you.
Ben Balser studied educational psychology at Loyola University, and after retiring from a 20+ year IT career, now produces, consults, teaches, and rents equipment for media production as a full time job. As an Apple Certified Master Trainer, he ran the Louisiana Cajun Cutters FCP user group for 8 years, taught post-production at Louisiana State University and has lead their annual teen filmmaking bootcamp. He teaches currently for AATC facilities across the USA and for The Orchard Solutions. He has consulted for higher education, government, broadcast and private production facilities.