How to use auditions in Final Cut Pro X

Editing video involves a lot of trial and error. Which shot works better—the close-up or the wide? Which take? Should I make the shot look warmer or cooler? What kind of sound effect should I use? How about music? This title looks good, but it what if the animation were different?

Final Cut Pro X’s audition feature makes it fast, easy, and downright fun to try out different creative options for your edit. Here’s how the feature works.

Creating auditions in an event

If you aren’t familiar with Final Cut Pro X’s terminology, events are containers for organizing your media, and projects are timelines for editing that media. You create auditions in an event before editing them into a project, or you create them directly in a project.

In this screenshot, I’ve set the Event Browser to Filmstrip view (View > Event Browser > As Filmstrips) and I’ve set the duration slider at the bottom right of the Event Browser to All so that we see just one image for each clip.

In my first example, I have several clips in an event of some folks playing catch with a flying disc. For my project, I just need one shot, but I’m not sure which would work best. In the event, I’ve set ranges on each clip for the best catches. Notice that I’ve even set multiple ranges on some clips, since there were several catches in the same clip.

To create an audition for these ranges, select them all (click one and Command-click the rest) and then either choose Clip > Audition > Create, right-click one of the clips and choose Create Audition, or simply use the keyboard shortcut Command-Y.

Final Cut Pro X creates a new audition clip and adds it to the event (naming it after the last selected clip). I’ve renamed it Catches. The badge at the top-left corner identifies it as an audition clip. Note that if you don’t first set a range, the entire clip is added to the audition.

You can tell the audition clip by the badge that looks like a little spotlight in the top-left corner of the thumbnail. This 'clip' actually contains the ranges of all the clips you just selected.

This audition clip contains references to all the selected ranges. Although you can audition each of these ranges directly in the event browser (by clicking the badge or pressing Y), I find it most useful to do so in the context of the project. So let’s edit the audition into the project as we would any other clip—in this case, we’ll insert it between two existing clips by moving the playhead between the clips and pressing the W key to perform an insert edit.

Now for the fun part. First, you can play the clip to see the default choice. Then, to see the other options, click the badge or press the Y key to bring up the Audition window. Here, you can select any of the clip ranges in the audition by clicking the thumbnails, or by pressing the Left Arrow or Right Arrow key. The selected clip is placed into the project. Each clip range has a different duration, and Final Cut Pro X’s magnetic timeline automatically adjusts as you switch clips.

After editing the audition clip into a project, press the Y key to open the Audition window, where you can preview each clip in the audition by clicking the clip in the window or by tapping the Left Arrow or Right Arrow key. The timeline automatically adjusts for clips of different durations.

You can skim each thumbnail to see just the currently active clip play in the Viewer—or, you can leave the Audition window open as you play the project to see how each audition works in the context of the neighboring clips and music.

From here, you can click the Done button to use the selected audition. At any time, you can go back and select a different audition. If you’re sure you’re happy with your choice, right-click or Control-click the clip and choose Audition > Finalize Audition, which replaces the audition with just your selected clip. (Note the keyboard shortcuts available in this menu for selecting other picks without needing to first open the Audition window.)

One way to finalize an audition is to right-click or Control-click it and select Audition > Finalize Audition from the pop-up menu.

Creating auditions in a project

Most of the time, I prefer to create auditions directly in my project timeline. For example, I have a clip in my project of someone being hit with an egg—but I know I have another angle of that shot that may work better. All I need to do is locate that shot in the event, set the clip range that I want, drag that event clip over the clip in the project, release the mouse, and select Replace and add to Audition from the pop-up menu.

Create an audition in the project timeline by dragging a clip from an event to a project clip.

I can add as many clips as I like to an audition with the same method, and then try them out by opening the Audition window or by using the keyboard shortcuts (Control-Left Arrow or Control-Right Arrow). You can even drag multiple clips from an event to add them all at once.

While auditions are great for trying different shots, you can also use them to test variations on the same shot. For example, you may want to show a client several different color-correction options for a shot—or you might want to see how the same shot would look with assorted effects applied.

To view multiple versions of the same clip in a project, select the clip and then choose Clip > Audition > Duplicate as Audition or press Option-Y (if you already have applied effects and you don’t want to see them in the copy, choose Clip > Audition > Duplicate from Original). Now you can color-correct or add effects to the copy, and then easily toggle back and forth between the two clips with the keyboard shortcuts.

Auditioning different color-correction styles.

You can even use auditions to try different titles or music, or to audition sound effects. Audio-only clips work just as video clips do: Drag an audio clip from an event to an audio clip in a project, and choose Add to Audition or Replace and add to Audition. For titles, drag a title from the Titles Browser onto an existing title in your project and choose one of the same options.

You can audition different title effects by dragging titles from the Titles Browser to an existing title in your project.

I hope you see how auditions can be useful throughout the entire editorial process, from initial shot selection to color grading, audio sweetening, graphics, and titling. Once you get the hang of working with auditions in Final Cut Pro X, you’ll wonder how you ever worked without them.

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