FCP X: Crop a Video Clip

Posted on by Larry

FCP X: Crop a Video Clip

Cropping is the process of hiding or removing a portion of an image. For those that like history with their technology, “crop” is defined by Merriam-Webster as “trim,” and was first used in the 13th Century.

Final Cut Pro X offers three different ways to crop an image:

Providing even more flexibility, we can crop images using either the Viewer or the Inspector.

To access the crop options in the Viewer, click the small icon in the lower left corner of the Viewer.

OR – to access the crop options in the Inspector, click the word “Show” that is to the right of Crop.

We achieve the same results using either method. I find cropping in the Viewer is faster, while cropping in the Inspector is more precise.

In this article, we’ll take a look at all our options, using this image (courtesy of Pond 5) as our, ah, victim.

When you click the Crop icon in the lower-left corner of the Viewer, three options appear: Trim, Crop, Ken Burns. Let’s start with Trim.

For this example, I’ve placed a solid color clip as a connected clip below our example clip. This makes it easy to see how we are changing the top image.


Trim allows us to move an edge so that we can see what’s below it. In this example, I’m dragging the left edge in, which makes that portion of the top clip invisible; we can see the image of the color clip below it. Notice that the iceberg on the left is no longer visible.

When you select Trim, eight blue rectangular buttons appear around the edges of your image. These represent drag areas, which allow you to reposition the corners or edges of your image.

Grab a blue rectangle and drag. Dragging an edge, moves just that edge. Dragging a corner moves two adjacent edges. As you drag a corner, notice that you are not scaling the image, simply making portions of the image invisible. As you drag, FCP displays the number of pixels you are trimming at the top of the Viewer window.

There are three keyboard shortcuts that provide even more trimming options:

• Press Option+drag to drag from the center; this allows you to drag opposite edges or corners.

• Press Shift+drag to constrain the shape into the current aspect ratio. When you don’t hold the Shift key, you can drag a corner to form any rectangular shape you want.

• Press Option+Shift+drag to trim from the center AND constrain the shape to the current aspect ratio.

When you are happy with the look of your trim, press the Done button in the top right corner of the Viewer.

NOTE: Trimming does not change the quality of the image.


Click the Crop icon in the Inspector to turn on cropping in the Viewer.

When the icon is blue, Viewer trimming is turned on. When this icon is gray, you can still trim using the sliders in the Crop window and see the results in the Viewer.

To change a crop value:

To reset all Crop parameters (settings) click the hooked arrow to the right of the crop icon. (You can also drag all the edges back to their starting positions in the Viewer, but, golly, that takes a long time.)


Trimming makes the edges of a clip invisible. Cropping allows you to resize/reframe a clip so that not only have you made portions of the clip invisible, but you’ve increased the size of the remaining image to fill the frame.

NOTE: Cropping almost always softens image quality, because it expands existing pixels to fill the frame. Enlarging any image beyond 100% always softens it.

There are two ways to enable cropping:

Then, to switch to Crop:

Now, there are only four blue buttons attached to your clip – one at each of the corners. This is because you can only crop an image to match the aspect ratio.

In this screen shot the area inside the crop is lighter, which illustrates that part of the image we will retain. We are excluding the edge of the iceberg at the left side of the image.

Click the Done button at the top to accept the crop.

The image has been trimmed and resized so that only the portion inside the crop is visible. We lost the iceberg to the left.

NOTE: Crop always fills the frame with the portion of the image you select during the crop.


You can also crop in the Inspector, which provides a greater level of precision. However, while I will often trim in the Inspector, I generally find it easier to crop using the visual feedback in the Viewer.

As with the Viewer, click the Done button, or click the blue Crop icon in the Inspector to accept your changes.


This effect was named after the famous documentary filmmaker, Ken Burns, who popularized this effect for creating motion on still images. This effect allows you to zoom and pan inside an image to create movement. You can use either still images or video.

This effect always runs for the duration of the entire clip and always includes a slight ease-in/ease-out at the start and end of the clip.

NOTE: If you want to only animate a portion of the clip, or if you don’t want any ease-in/ease-out speed changes, you would need to create the animation using keyframes for both scale and position.

To select the Ken Burns effect, click the Ken Burns button at the bottom of the Viewer, or in the Inspector. The green rectangle indicates where the move begins and the red rectangle indicates where the move ends.

Here, for example, I am starting with a wide shot, but still losing a portion of the iceberg on the left, then zooming in to fill the frame with the center iceberg.

Click the “Reversal” button in the top left corner to switch positions between the red and green rectangles. Now, I’m zooming out from the center iceberg to fill the frame with all the icebergs.

NOTE: Unlike the other two crop settings, the Ken Burns effect can only be adjusted from the Viewer.

Click the Preview button in the top left corner of the Viewer to preview the effect.

Click the Done button to accept your changes. (If you need to cancel the effect, click the Reset button in the Inspector.)


To animate trimming or cropping over time, you need to create keyframes. (I just realized that I have not written an introductory article about keyframes – it is on my list for next week’s newsletter.) However, I have written two intermediate articles on keyframes that may be helpful, if you already understand how keyframes work.


Cropping allows us to improve images by getting rid of the stuff we don’t want. Keep in mind that if you crop an image too much, so that it scales up too big, you will see a softening in your image quality that may, or may not, work for your project.


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8 Responses to FCP X: Crop a Video Clip

  1. Martin Voelker says:

    I shoot 4k, deliver in 1080p. I typically frame wider to be on the safe side. The downside: I have to crop in post to make it look right.
    Question: should I use crop or transform? Is there a difference with rendering time?
    I do two lengthy camera shoots, so rendering really ads up.

    • Larry says:


      Change Inspector > Spatial Conform to None, then use Transform > Scale to get the framing you want.

      Don’t scale larger than 100%.

      This provides the fastest rendering.


  2. Taylor Gray says:

    I’m trying to make an a cappella video where I have the lead on top of 4 other parts, all of them in boxes. When I’ve keyed everything, I can see the inside of the boxes where I want the space empty. Is there a way to crop a clip from the center of the frame?

  3. Glen says:

    REALLY New to FCPX.. Using the Ken Burns on an over sized Time Lapse clip (origin from DSLR stills converted using QuickTime7). Is there anyway of displaying the zoomed pixel size so I do not zoom in further than the 1080P project size?

    • Larry says:


      Not directly.

      However, select your image, set Inspector > Spatial Conform to “None,” then make sure not to scale your image over 100%, as measured in the Scale setting in Inspector > Transform.


  4. Sharon says:

    When I cropped or trimmed the video clip in the Viewer, after DONE, it did not expand to the full frame. What was wrong?
    Please help.

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