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Introducing Roles in FCP X

Check out our Final Cut Pro: Overview and Quick Start Guide course!

In FCP X, Roles are Metadata tags that enable a simple but effective method to manage media based on simple categories. How can you use them I hear you ask? Well let's have a look at using roles to manage audio clips. 


Step 1 - Viewing Roles in the Event Browser

During import FCP X will automatically assign roles, clips with pictures and sound will be categorized as dialogue, media imported from music libraries like iTunes will be categorized as music, while media from a sound effects library are tagged as Effects. 

Group by roles


To manage media based on their Roles click on the gear icon at the bottom left of the Event Browser to open a pop-up window and choose Group Clips by Roles. Listing media by their roles is a great way of grouping media together by type, similar to creating bins for each category in other applications. 

Events listed in Roles


Final Cut Pro X cannot however predict how you intend to use the Media, and often the automatically assigned role will not be the correct one for your project. It is very easy to re-assign another Role in the event browser.


Step 2 - Modify a Role to Dialogue in the Event Browser

To change a role to Dialogue in the event browser, choose Modify > Assign Roles > Dialogue or press Control-Option-D

Dialogue roles assigned


Step 3 - Modify a Role to Music in the Event Browser

To change a role to Music in the event browser and choose Modify > Assign Roles > Music or press Control-Option-M

**Pic 4 Music roles assigned


Step 4 - Modify a Role to Effects in the Event Browser

Select a clip containing Effects in the event browser and choose Modify > Assign Roles > Effects or press Control-Option-E

Effect roles assigned


Tip: If the role you hope to use is grayed out and therefore unavailable, the clip you are modifying is not appropriate. It may not contain an audio track for example, and so wouldn’t be Dialogue.  


Step 5 - Displaying Roles in the Timeline

Once clips have been edited to the Timeline, Roles can be used again to improve your edit workflow. 

Change Appearance Icon


To view clips by their role in the Timeline click on the Clip Appearance button below the Timeline and choose Show > Clip Roles

Clips in Roles


The edited clips will now appear with their assigned role visible in the timeline.


Step 6 - Change Roles in the Timeline

I have some sound effects that were captured from tape with pictures and therefore have the role dialogue assigned. To change the assigned role in the Timeline, select the clip and choose Modify > Assign Roles > Effects or press Control-Option-E

Modify TL Roles


Step 7 - Displaying Roles by Group in the Timeline

Because FCP X has no Track workflow it becomes difficult to manage clips by their type or function. However, with Tracks you could assign dialogue to A1 and A2, effects to A3 and A4 etc. 

Roles in TL index


Instead, Roles can be used to perform a similar function: To view clips by roles in the Timeline click on the Timeline Index button or press Shift-Command-2 and choose Roles.  


**Pic 10 Selected Roles


In the Timeline Index window click on a Roles category, such as Dialogue and all the clips assigned the Dialogue Tag highlights across the timeline. 


Step 8 - Collapse Roles

When the Timeline begins to get busy with dialogue, music, B-Roll footage, sound effects etc, use roles to collapse categories that are not required at that moment. 

Collapse Roles


In the Timeline Index simply click on the Minimize Clips button next to the Role categories to collapse all the clips with that role assigned. Clicking the button again expand the clips.


Step 9 - Mute Roles

Another useful task for Roles is the ability to mute clips by their roles. Not unlike muting tracks in legacy versions of Final Cut Pro. 

Mute Roles


Uncheck the Select checkbox next to each role to suspend (mute) those clips and enable a more focused sound edit. Check them again to unmute. 

As you can see Roles are a very valuable addition to Final Cut Pro X, and this is just an introduction. See if you can get to grips with them and look out for more advanced tutorials here on The MPV Hub.


Check out our Final Cut Pro: Overview and Quick Start Guide course!

David Smith

David Smith | Articles by this author

David Smith is Scotland's most qualified Apple and Adobe certified trainer. Having completed his education at Edinburgh College of Art's BAFTA winning Film School, David moved straight into TV production, first as a Vision Mixer then quickly becoming, at the age of just 24, a director of live TV studio productions. In 2001 he moved into Higher Education where he became a lecturer in TV Production, specializing in post-production and live studio production. During this time, and working with the support of the BBC, Channel 4 and independent production companies, David was instrumental in the design, development and implementation of industry-approved vocational courses across Scotland's Colleges. In 2006, after working closely with Apple Computers to create a unique multimedia studio for education at the Music and Media Centre in Perth, David became Scotland's first Apple-Certified Trainer for Pro Apps. This led on to David forming the first Apple Authorized Training Centre for Education, north of Manchester. In 2008 David made the move to full time training and joined the ranks at Academy Class, Ltd. where he continues to train industry professionals as a certified trainer across the Adobe Creative Suite and Apple Pro Apps range.

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