While the new interface is the most obvious change to Final Cut Pro X in the 10.3 update, the under-the-hood changes in Roles and audio are even more significant.
Definition: Roles and subroles are labels which you can apply to audio or video clips. Roles and subroles allow you to group clips to simplify organization and mixing. (We could call these “metadata,” which they are, but it is easier to think of them simply as ways of labeling our clips.)
At the simplest level, you don’t need to know anything about Roles to successfully edit and output a project. The defaults allow you to import clips, add effects and music, adjust levels, then output a finished project for YouTube. It all works, no problems.
Roles become essential as your audio becomes more complex. For example, you are recording multi-channel audio on set and one of your actors has a sharp whistle in their “s” sounds. The narrator’s voice needs warming with some bass. The action sequence with all its shouting has out of control levels. You want to shape the EQ differently for the female vs. male voices. Well, you get the idea.
Roles – and more importantly, subroles – allow you to group audio elements so that you can apply levels or effects to the entire category, rather than just individual clips. Roles also become a way to create stems and submixes without worrying about channel patching or signal routing.
As our audio becomes more complex, Roles become more essential. Apple has written a white paper that describes Roles in much more detail. If you are planning a multichannel audio mix, you need to read this white paper. Take your time, some of these concepts are complex.
Apple White Paper: Audio Roles.
Here are two videos I’ve created that introduce how Roles work:
Organize the Magnetic Timeline Using Roles
Roles, Audio and the Timeline Index
And here’s an article that will help, as well:
Role Components Make Stems Possible