FCP X: Hidden Compound Clip Technique

Posted on by Larry

logo-FCPXLet’s start with a definition of compound clip from Final Cut Pro X’s Help files:

“A compound clip is a special type of clip which allows you to group any combination of clips in the Timeline or the Browser and nest clips within other clips.

“Compound clips can contain video and audio clip components, clips, and other compound clips. Effectively, each compound clip can be considered a mini project, with its own distinct project properties. Compound clips function just like other clips: you can add them to your project, trim them, retime them, and add effects and transitions. Icons appear on compound clips in the Browser and the Timeline.

“Compound clips have many uses. You can:

We can also use compound clips to make it easy to make changes to repeating elements, which is what this tutorial illustrates.


You can create a compound clip in the Browser or the Timeline. However, every compound “child” clip in the Timeline also has (or creates) a “parent” clip in the Browser.

Here’s the secret that makes this technique work: When you edit the contents of any compound clip, you are in fact editing the parent compound clip from the Browser. Any changes you make to a compound clip are inherited by all of its child clips.

NOTE: To be clear, if you have multiple compound clips, only those clips that are related to a single parent clip are affected when that parent clip is changed.

For example, here’s a bumper we can use for segment breaks in our documentary.

NOTE: Yeah, I thought this was a cool effect, too. The background clip is four old planes flying against an overcast sky. To this, I added Stylize > Vignette and Stylize > Texture effects. Above the background clip is a Beam generator and a title text clip.  The dissolve provides a transition from the initial shot of the planes flying into the stylized effect.

To convert this three-layer effect into a compound clip, select all the elements you want to combine in the Timeline.

NOTE: You don’t need to select the connected storylines, just the clips themselves.

Choose File > New > Compound clip, then give the new compound clip a name. (In this example, I called it “Title Effect.”)

The entire effect is now coalesced into a single layer clip.

If you look carefully at the top left corner at the start of the clip, you’ll see the interlocking symbol that represents a compound clip.

And, up in the Browser, you’ll see a parent clip was created which has the same name as the Timeline clip, though not with the same element colors or placement.


We edit a compound clip into the Timeline the same as any other clip.

So, let’s pretend that we have three segment breaks in our program. (Or scene transitions, commercials or any other repeating element…) And, at the end of each segment, I’ve edited the compound clip; as you can see in the screen shot above.

NOTE: Sharp-eyed editors in the audience will point out that rarely does a segment have only one shot which is also about the same length as the bumper. Sigh… Let us not obsess, we are pretending here.


Here’s the cool part. Let’s say that this project is for a client that can’t make up their mind. (Though, I’m sure none of your clients have that problem.)

Double-click ANY iteration of that compound clip in either the Timeline or the Browser to open it the parent compound clip into the Timeline.

NOTE: The dark gray hashmarks at the beginning and end of the compound clip indicate areas outside the duration of the compound clip.

Now, you can change anything – colors, fonts, position, text – and have those changes instantly reflected in all other iterations of the compound clip.

Essentially, regardless of how many times you edit the same Browser compound clip into the Timeline, its the same clip.


To protect yourself, when making changes to compound clips, create a Project Snapshot. This copies your project and creates an independent compound clip with all original settings. So, just in case you need to go back to an earlier version, you can.

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2 Responses to FCP X: Hidden Compound Clip Technique

  1. Eddie says:

    Question, what if I want to do the following. There’s a live event with a speaker. The speaker is quoting from a text. I’m using a plugin that has a very cool fly in and fly out. I’ve started using compound clips as a way to get to the middle of the plugin where the text isn’t moving and is stable, that way as the speaker quotes a few sentences at a time and pauses I’ll have the text plugin follow him and stop when he stops. Anyway, now I want to repeat this again and again. I want so badly to just copy and paste the compound clip but I don’t want my subsequent changes to affect the “parent” compound. I just want to do those independently of the first. How is this possible?

    • Larry says:


      Given your description, I’m not sure you need to use a compound clip. If you are only flying the text, you can apply the plug-in directly to the text. Cut the text clip where you want it to fly in/fly out. The way plug-ins are built is that it senses the start and end of the clip as the trigger to animation.


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