FCP X: Create an Adjustment Layer

Posted on by Sudd

Here is a really cool technique that Leo Hans suggested to me a long while ago. I finally had time to figure this out.


An “adjustment layer” is an object on a higher layer which, when an effect is placed into it, affects all the clips below it.

Adobe first presented adjustment layers in Photoshop, then extended them to Premiere Pro somewhere around the Creative Cloud release. They are very helpful because it means we can add an effect to a single “clip” that affects everything below it.

Final Cut Pro X doesn’t have them… but, you can fake it. This article explains how.


The easiest way to create this effect is to use Motion.

While not critical, set the presets to match your typical video project for both format and effect duration. (You can always change the duration in Final Cut Pro X when you apply the effect.)

Then, click the Final Cut Title option. (This step is really important!)

Motion opens, displaying the standard title creation template.

Open the Layers panel (shortcut: F5), select the text layer and delete it. This is the only change you need to make.

Choose File > Save As, then give the effect a name. Here, I’m using “Adjustment Layer” and storing it in a custom category named “Larry.” You can name this effect anything and store it in any category you prefer.

I just like being obvious so I can remember what I did and where I put it.


I’ve found, when I create new templates, that FCP X does not always know something new has been created. So, if FCP X is running, I generally quit and restart it. That way, it refreshes the list of templates available in each browser.

When I select the Larry category, the Adjustment Layer effect is visible in the top left corner.

Here’s a stack of three clips in the Timeline…

That looks like this in the Viewer.

Drag the Adjustment Layer effect from the Titles Browser and put it on TOP of all three clips.

Adjust the length of the Adjustment Layer clip to run whatever duration you need.

Now – and this is the magical part – add any effect to the Adjustment Layer and it will automatically apply to all the clips below it!

For example, here’s the Black & White effect. When I drop it on top of the Adjustment Layer effect…

This is the result. ALL the clips below the Adjustment Layer effect now inherit the Black & White effect.

NOTE: This technique works for any effect – including Broadcast Safe. In fact, using this Adjustment Layer effect for the Broadcast Safe effect is faster and more flexible than combining all your clips into a compound clip.


This is a very fast, very easy technique to use whenever you want the same effect to be applied to multiple clips. And, I am totally blown-away by how fast and easy this makes using the Broadcast Safe effect to prevent excessive white levels.

Very cool!

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64 Responses to FCP X: Create an Adjustment Layer

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  1. bill says:

    How do you do step 1?? Create the Master Clip? While probably (extremely) simple, I’m hunting around for a clue.

    • Larry says:


      Re-read my tutorial. The master clip is created in Apple Motion for use in Apple Final Cut Pro X. You can’t do this in Final Cut alone.


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