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Compound clips and "nesting" in FCPX

Final Cut X does away with sequences, which, in previous versions, provided an unlimited number of "Timelines" within a single Final Cut project.  Each sequence's Timeline could contain a completely independent set of clips and other sequences.  Editors would depend on multiple sequences per project for two main reasons: tracking older versions of sequences and "nesting" sequences into other sequences.  This nesting process made it easier to organize long, complex projects.  The editor could assemble all of the hundreds of pieces of an individual scene or segment in its own sequence, then the editor could assemble those larger sequence "chunks" into a master sequence.

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The "old way" in Final Cut Pro 7

At first glance, FCPX only provides one Primary Storyline per project.  That would seem to break both the versioning and the nesting uses of multiple sequences.  Indeed, you can't simply duplicate your "master sequence" to keep a copy of it as you may have before (although you can still duplicate your entire FCPX Project, and as Lion's file versioning system catches on, you'll probably use it to manage your FCPX projects too).  But for the second use case–nesting chunks of a project for organizational purposes–Final Cut Pro X has introduced a whole new type of object: the Compound Clip.

Discussion and examples after the jump ...
There are two ways to create Compound Clips in Final Cut Pro X.  You can create an empty Compound Clip then fill it with shots, or you can select an existing set of shots and group them together into a Compound Clip.
Starting from an empty Compound Clip
You can create an empty Compound Clip directly in your Event Browser.  Right-click on a blank area of the Event Browser and select New Compound Clip, or press Option+G.
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The New Compound Clip pane appears, allowing you to name the empty Compound Clip and specify its basic video properties.  By default, the video properties of the Compound Clip will match those of your Project.  Click OK to create the Compound Clip.
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In the Event Browser, the Compound Clip behaves just like any other clip: after you add content to the Compound Clip, you can apply keywords, select a range of the clip, and perform edits to place all or part of the Compound Clip in your Primary Storyline.  Notice the small timeline-shaped icon at the top left corner of the clip's thumbnail; this symbol always indicates a Compound Clip.  
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Double-click on the Compound Clip to open it in its own Timeline (or right-click and select Open Timeline).
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This Timeline behaves just like the Timeline of a Project: you can edit clips into the storyline, add audio, connect B-roll, create secondary storylines, and even insert other Compound Clips from the Event Browser.  
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Take a look at the breadcrumb trail at the top of the Timeline window.  Since you created "Sample Compound Clip" in the Event Browser, it's part of "New Event 11-7-11"—NOT part of a Final Cut Pro project.  Sample Compound Clip lives in your Event Library along with the other video from "New Event 11-7-11," and it will be available to any Final Cut Pro project on this workstation.  This has an important implication: changing clips inside FCP projects' Timelines never changes the original clips in the Event Browser.  Similarly, editing a Compound Clip from inside an FCP project's Timeline will never change the original Compound Clip in the Event Browser.  See the Gotchas section below for more.

To get back to your Final Cut Pro project's Timeline, click the Left Arrow icon at the top-left of the Timeline.
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Finally, try editing the Compound Clip into your FCP project's Timeline.  Just select the clip in the Event Browser, then press E to perform an Append edit.
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Starting from Existing Clips
You can also "pre-load" a Compound Clip with existing clips from the Event Browser or, more frequently, from the Timeline.  Simply select any group of clips, right-click, and select "New Compound Clip" (or press Option+G).  
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Just as before, you can double-click a Compound Clip to open it in its own Timeline for editing...
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...Then use the Back Button at the top-left of the Timeline to return to your project's main Timeline.
If you're used nesting sequences in other editing software, Compound Clips may come with some nasty surprises for you:
  • A Compound Clip in a Storyline is not in any way connected to its source Compound Clip in the Event Browser.  In other words, if you edit a Compound Clip from the Event Browser into the Primary Storyline, open it from the Timeline, and edit its contents, the original Compound Clip in the Event Browser will NOT reflect the changes you just made.
  • There is NOT a way, as far as we can tell, to move Compound Clips from a Project into the Event Library.  If you create a Compound Clip from the Timeline, or if you make changes to a Compound Clip from a Project's Timeline, you will not be able to propagate those changes to the Event Browser except by using hacky Copy/Paste workarounds.
  • In the Event Browser, Compound Clips behave just like regular clips; your only tip-off is the Compound Clip icon at the top-left of the clip's thumbnail.  In other editing environments, we suggest creating folders or bins to keep all of your sequences in one place.  In FCPX, that would mean applying a keyword to each Compound Clip in the Event Browser, like "Sequence" or "Compound Clip."  That way, you can use the corresponding Keyword Collection to quickly isolate the Compound Clips in your Event Browser.Screen shot 2011-11-08 at 5.31.55 PM.png
Compound Clips are useful as replacements for sequences, but they're also extra powerful in their own right.  We teach much more about these and all of Final Cut Pro X's advanced features in our intensive 4- and 8-day Final Cut Pro X training courses, which we teach here in Orlando and on-site at your facility.  Come learn with us!

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