Editing AVCHD With Final Cut Express

I've been editing AVCHD video clips with Final Cut Express for a year now and wanted to share with you my observations - by David R. Beebe
Editing with FCE

Very few of FCE’s transitions seem to work well in HD resolutions. Long time SD 3D favorites like Cube Spin or Page Peel fall apart in HD. Dissolve, Center Wipe and Clock Wipe, Ripple, Push and similar are ok.

Beware using Apple’s Magic Mouse (which I otherwise love). The slightest accidental brush across its top can move the edit cursor position unintentionally. I usually fall back to the Mighty Mouse when editing. I am also using Shuttle Pro2 USB controller. I’ve created macros with Keyboard Maestro that can be triggered from the programmable buttons. For example, cut a clip with the razor blade and right click to select it. You need to ESC before you can delete. I have a macro that does this sequence. I am missing Backspace from the extended keyboard which does a ripple delete rather than leaving a gap which then has to be closed. This can be done with Function-delete and is a forward delete with text in any program.

Tips and Shortcuts

To save a custom window arrangement in FCE, position the windows and hold OPTION while selecting menu option Window:Arrange.

Roll moves the out-point of left clip and in-point of right clip w/o changing duration. Ripple will change the length of the clip that the directional cursor is pointing to regardless of the direction you drag the cursor. Slip and Slide work with 3 clips, moving the center clip within the duration of the surrounding clips or changing the overall duration.

Option-select allows just the video or audio of a linked clip to be selected then deleted or modified. This beats locking the channel that you want to keep.

Motion: Set the end-point keyframe first. Best to set a keyframe for all (scale, rotation, center and anchor point). Go to starting point and change values and set a new keyframe. To modify the linear path between keyframes, set the Canvas to show Image & Wireframe. Using the pen tool, drag a calculated keyframe to a new location on the canvas and use the Bezier Curve handles to change its curve.

High quality AVCHD footage can stand a zoom of 125% and still look decent. I’ve used 108% routinely to get rid of some framing problems with good results.

Audio: To see audio waveforms, select Settings from the Sequence menu. The tool on the left side of the bottom of the timeline that looks like a belt passing over 2 pulleys is how to get a volume level red line in the audio channels. Use the pen tool to set keyframes and drag the volume up or down as needed.

The key “a” is the timeline’s arrow and “b” is blade but “bb” is blade the cuts through all the video and audio elements at the selected time with a single click.

Problem Clips

AVCHD and .mp4 seems to need keyframes and really short clips present a problem. One solution that seems to work is to export the problem clip(s) as a self contained QT then import it, replacing the problem AIC clip with the QT version.