Computers / Tips and Solutions

Navigating Final Cut Pro X with the New Touch Bar-Enabled MacBook Pro


When Apple rolled out its Late 2016 13.3" and 15.4" MacBook Pro update, one of its most eyebrow-raising features was the Touch Bar. Simply put, the Touch Bar is a multi-touch Retina display that’s designed to bring intuitive controls to your fingertips. It is available on select models, and is located just above the keyboard, where the old Function keys were—but don’t worry, you can bring them back if you so choose. Depending on the program you’re using, or tasks in which you’re engaged, the controls on the Touch Bar adapt dynamically to reflect executable commands. One program that has recently been updated to support the Touch Bar is Apple’s Final Cut Pro X. So, how does the Touch Bar integrate with video editing, which has previously been accomplished using a keyboard and mouse? Let’s find out.

Once you’ve loaded Final Cut Pro X, select the Libraries sidebar and the Touch Bar will present options for Import, New Event, and New Project. Upon moving the mouse to the right, into the Browser window, and selecting the current project, the Touch Bar gives you options to create a project snapshot, delete your project, toggle between filmstrip and list modes, and access the Info Inspector, which displays the project’s resolution, frame rate, and color space. Selecting any of your imported clips presents Touch Bar options to access the Info Inspector, go to the beginning or end of a clip (or in and out points, if they’ve been set), and the option to clear any previously made selections. Also available is an option to adjust the audio level of a selected clip using a touch-sensitive slider, with a dedicated button to completely silence the clip. This functionality can also be applied to multiple clips simultaneously.

Moving the mouse down into the timeline, the Touch Bar now presents editing functions. You’ll be able to trim from the beginning of a clip to the position of the play head, remove any content either before or after the position of your cursor, play your clip from the position of the play head to the end, as well as perform similar audio functions as compared to the Browser window. You will have the ability to adjust audio levels for one or more selected clips within the timeline, with additional functionality to add or remove audio fades at the beginning or end of each clip, or completely silence a clip. Also available by default within this set of tools is the Select function, which has an arrow next to it. Pressing down on this icon brings up additional editing functions, such as the Trim tool, the Position tool, the Range Selection tool, the Blade tool, the Zoom tool, and the Hand tool.


One of the most unique features I found within this updated version of Final Cut Pro X was, when working within the timeline, the option to have an overview of the entire timeline displayed within the Touch Bar. Much like the new capabilities of Quick Time and YouTube that are built into the Touch Bar, which allow users to scrub through videos using their finger, Final Cut Pro X users can now jump to any specific area of their timeline simply using touch. If you’re using the zoom function to magnify an area of the timeline, the Touch Bar will reflect that. It will still display the entire timeline, but places gray brackets around the area currently being magnified. The Touch Bar also provides options when editing text, allowing you to adjust its size, style, and 3D appearance.

So, does the Touch Bar make for a more user-friendly editing experience in Final Cut Pro X? That will be entirely up to you. While I recognize the potential and utter coolness of the Touch Bar, most of us are accustomed to editing with keyboard commands, shortcuts, and mouse navigation. To that degree, I found the current functionality of the Touch Bar to be a bit limited and didn’t find that it did much to speed up or improve my workflow. However, there is always the ability to adapt to the Touch Bar, and I’m sure that future versions of Final Cut Pro X will include even more functionality, such as the ability to customize the Touch Bar (as you can in the Finder, Safari, and Mail), set in and out points, add HSL sliders for color grading, automation controls for audio mixing, sliders for retiming sections that have been speed-bladed, and automating audio levels of a selected clip by using the keyboard shortcut to audio key-frames.

To read more, see the B&H Explora articles, Apple Raises the Bar a Touch, and The Apple Touch Bar and Adobe Photoshop CC.

Apple has given us a glimpse of what could be a powerful addition to the editing workflow and I look forward to seeing what the Touch Bar’s future holds. Are you? Let us know in the Comments section, below.

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I feel like it would just be easier to use keyboard shortcuts when editing... Having to look down constantly for certain buttons and navigate throughout the touch bar menu just seems slow and uncecissary.