Create and Edit Vertical Video in Final Cut Pro X

Posted on by Larry

UPDATE: This tutorial shows how to create an effective background for vertical video in a horizontal timeline.

Grace Shafir sent me an email last week asking:

My daughter asked me to make a video for her. Then she dropped on me tonight that it had to be vertical. When I shot vertically, it came into FCP horizontally. Are you familiar with this process and could you please share?

FCP X makes the process of creating and editing vertical video simple. Here’s how.


To prepare:


Inside FCP X, I chose File > Import Media (Shortcut: Cmd + I). The connected iPhone appears in the top left corner of the Media Import window. The circle icon indicates that FCP is still acquiring data from the phone and the upward pointing arrow allows me to disconnect, or “Eject,” the phone from the computer.

When the iPhone is selected in the side bar, thumbnails of both video and stills appear at the bottom of the Media Import window. Here, for example, I can see the four vertical video clips I shot of a ticking grandfather clock.

The iPhone shoots compressed MP4 video. If you are editing a simple project, you don’t need to create optimized media. However, if you plan to add lots of effects or include this as part of a larger project, optimizing your media will save you time in the long run.

While not necessary for this training example, I decided to create optimized media.

NOTE: In general, I always recommend optimizing media. If your media is already in an optimized state, FCP X will not create new media.

Next, create a new project and use the Automatic settings. (This is the screen where the button in the lower left reads: Use Custom Settings.)

MOST IMPORTANT, don’t change any project settings. Make sure that the text: Video: Set based upon first video clip properties is visible. This is what makes configuring vertical video easy.

Next, edit a vertical clip into the empty, new project. This is important, even if this isn’t the first clip you want the audience to see, because FCP X uses this clip to configure the project settings.

When that first, non-standard video clip is edited into the timeline, this dialog appears. Note that the frame size is already set to match the size of the video you shot on the iPhone.

Don’t change any of these settings. This allows FCP X to automatically configure the project properties to match the specs of this clip.

If you’ve done this properly, your clip appears vertically in the Viewer.

Note the video dimensions in the top left corner: 1080 x 1920, 30 fps. This is a 9×16 aspect ratio. Notice, also, that the safe zones (thin yellow lines) are properly drawn for this new aspect ratio.

You edit, trim and rearrange vertical clips the same as any other video material.

You can also add titles and effects the same as any other edit – it’s just that you are working in a new aspect ratio.

When it comes time to export the final project, choose: File > Share > Master file to create a high-quality master file for compression later.

Or, choose File > Share > Apple Devices 1080, then pick the final compressed frame size you need for the final project.

NOTE: Make sure that the aspect ratio of your final export matches the aspect ratio of the original media. Both 1080 x 1920 and 608 x 1080 match for aspect ratios.


Here’s a still from the finished video: It displays vertically with no pillar boxing.

Working with vertical video isn’t hard, the key is to not outthink the process. Let FCP X automatically configure the project settings to match your vertical clip. At which point, the rest is easy.

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18 Responses to Create and Edit Vertical Video in Final Cut Pro X

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  1. Biju sharman says:

    Thanks for the detailed article.

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