Final Cut Pro: Animation and Keyframes

This video demonstrates the basics of creating animations in Final Cut Pro, using keyframes.

I hope the information is helpful!


Hey there, it’s Izzy here again. In this video I’ll cover how to work with keyframes and animation in Final Cut Pro. Final Cut Pro has some great tools built into it help us do this kind of work. And by the way, if you’ve never worked with keyframes or animation before, that’s totally fine because this video will cover the fundamentals, the very basics.

To demonstrate this, I have a couple video clips in a very simple project here. This first one is of my daughter, Trinity laughing. And the second clip is one we’re going to use as a background, very simple video clip there.

Okay, so I’m going to layer the Trinity clip on top of the other one. And that’s called “compositing” when you start layering elements in your video project on top of each other. And what I’ll do is I’ll just click and drag this one up like this, and as I drag it up, you can see that the magnetic timeline there reduces the position of this background clip. So now it’s behind the laughing clip here. And you can’t see this background clip because the laughing clip is on top. So you can see that it’s blocking the view of the clip underneath that that’s the way it works in Final Cut Pro, but I can reveal that bottom clip just by reducing the size of this clip.

So with it selected, I’ll go up to the inspector, and I’ll go to the video inspector under transform under scale, I’m just going to change the scale percentage to 50%. I’ll type in 50 and hit return. Okay, so now it’s half the size that it was before. And sure enough, you can see this other clip behind it. And to make it easier to see this clip and reduce the distractions, I’m going to add a blur. Now I’ve already added a blur there. So I’ll just turn it on. I’ll just select the clip here and go to the video inspector. Here’s the gaussian blur. I’ll just check this box there. Okay, so now it’s easier to see that top clip.

Alright, so now what I want to do is just demonstrate the fundamentals of how an animation works in Final Cut Pro, and so we’re going to set our first keyframes. The way this works is I’m going to start by selecting the top clip because this is the one that I’m going to animate. So I’ll make sure it’s selected. And I’m seeing the parameters for it up here in the inspector, you can verify that. It’s called “laugh”, that’s the name of the clip. And you can see it’s called laugh here as well.

The first thing I’m going to do is I’m going to move the playhead to the very beginning of the project to the very first frame. With the playhead right there, what I’ll do is I’ll come up here to the inspector, I’m going to click and drag on the x value here, I’m just going to click and drag it to the left to move that video to the left side of the frame. Okay, so it looks like I’m at about negative 290 ish, somewhere around there. And let’s say that I want the animation to start there, and then move to the right, I want to take this video clip and move it to the right side of the frame.

So I already have it on the left. Now in order to create an animation you have to create what’s called a keyframe. A keyframe is a way to say at this frame, at this position of the playhead on the very first frame of the project, I want the value of this parameter, this position parameter to be this, whatever I have here, in this case, the x value is negative 292.1, the y value is zero.

The way you add a keyframe is you just hover over here and you can see as I hover, I get a different kind of interface there. So if I hover over this, I’ve got that little diamond. And I can just click it once to add a keyframe. And if I move away, you can see there’s a little yellow diamond there, that yellow diamond lets me know that on that frame, there is a keyframe. So that’s at the very beginning of the project. Now let’s say I want to move the playhead forward one second. So I’ll just move the playhead to the one second mark like that. And let’s say at that point, I want to have the video beyond the right side of the frame. So all I have to do now is just click and drag on this x value to move it to the right. Because there’s already a keyframe on that parameter earlier in the project, I don’t have to manually set another keyframe right now, it’ll automatically set that keyframe for me just by changing the value.

Okay, so now the value here, I’m going to type in 300, just to give it a nice round number, the value there is 300. So at the very beginning of the project, it was around negative 300. Now it’s around positive 300. And you can see there’s a keyframe here on this frame as well. That’s at the one second mark, you can see that in the time code here. So now what I have are two different keyframes one at the beginning in the project, and one one second in, and those two key frames have different values. So now what happens is Final Cut Pro will do something called “interpolation”. Interpolation is when it calculates the values in between the values that I set for the key frames, and that’ll create the animation.

So let’s try it I’m going to move the playhead to the very beginning of the project. I’ll hit the spacebar to play it back. And we should see an animation. Here we go.

Sure enough over the course of about one second, that animation takes place, and you can see the clip moves over there. So that is the basic idea of how to create an animation, you add two key frames with different values at different positions.

I’ll move the playhead back to the beginning of the project. And once again, you can see up here at this position for the position parameter. And at this position for the play head in the timeline, I’ve got a keyframe. That’s what that diamond is.

You’ll also notice that there’s this little button here, and that moves you to the next keyframe. So that’ll move the playhead in the project to the position of the next keyframe. So I’ll just go ahead and click that. And you can see that now the playhead is at the one second mark where that keyframe is. And if I want to go back to the previous keyframe, I can click on this button. So you can go back and forth to move back and forth between the previous and next keyframes.

If I go to the next keyframe here, and I want to remove this keyframe, let’s say I want to delete this, that’ll get rid of the animation, all I have to do is just hover and click on this diamond again, and you can see the animation is gone. And so what I’m going to do is hit Command Z to undo that deletion because I want to bring that back.

So once again, I now have two keyframes on this parameter, I have one at the beginning of the project and one at the one second mark, and they have different values. And that’s what creates the animation. But let’s say I want to spread those key frames out, maybe I want to have one at the beginning of the project. But the second keyframe, I want it to be two seconds into the project instead of one second in. So that’ll slow down the animation, it takes two seconds to move, instead of one second to move.

Well in the inspector, we can’t change the timing of a keyframe, we can’t take the keyframe that’s at one seconds, and move it to the two second mark. What I have to do instead is delete the one second key frame and then move the playhead to the two second mark set a new keyframe, change the value and that would add a new keyframe, that’s a big hassle. It’d be a lot easier just to move the key frame and time will you can’t do it in the inspector. But there is a tool where you can do that. It’s a different interface. It’s called the video animation editor. And there’s more than one way to bring this up. But what I’ll do is I’ll come down here and select the clip. And then I’ll go up to the clip menu. And then I’ll go down to show video animation. Control V is the keyboard shortcut, it would do the same thing, but I’ll just select it here in the menu.

And that brings up this interface where I can see different parameters. And I’m going to go up to the top one where it says transform all and I don’t want to see all of the transform parameters, I just want to see position because that’s what I’m animating right now. So I’ll click on the little pop up menu here, change it to position.

And now you can see that I’m looking at transform position. And there is a diamond there at the very beginning of the project that represents the first key frame that’s at the beginning of the project. And there’s also a diamond here where the playhead is, and that represents the keyframe that’s at the one second mark. And so let’s say I want to take this one second keyframe and move it to later in the project, let’s say to the two second mark.

Now what I’ll do is I’ll start by moving my playhead to the two second position. And I’m verifying this with the timecode here. So the playhead is at two seconds now, now all I have to do is just move this keyframe in time. So I can click and drag it like this, and I’ll drag it to the right. Now ignore the timecode that’s in the tool tip there. That’s a bug I’m experiencing in Final Cut Pro. It’s just something that happens. Sometimes we experienced bugs. So ignore that timecode, and instead just pay attention to where I position the keyframe, I’m going to try to get it really close to where the playhead is. Maybe right around there.

Okay, so now what I’ll do is I’ll move the playhead, and I’m going to use this previous keyframe. I’m going to click on that button. That will go to the previous keyframe. And I can see that it was very close to two seconds, I’m at two seconds and one frame. So now the keyframe at the beginning is still at the beginning of the project. And now the second keyframe’s at two seconds. So we should have a slower animation, because now it’s going to take two seconds to move that same distance across the screen. Let’s take a look. I’m gonna move the playhead to the beginning and hit the spacebar to play it back.

And sure enough, it’s a slower animation. And let’s say I want to go to three seconds, I’ll move the plan to three seconds. And once again, I’m going to grab this key frame, I’ll just move it in time, I’m gonna try to get it to pretty close to where the playhead is. And now it should be pretty close to three seconds. Let’s take a look. I’ll play it back. And now it’s a much slower animation again, and I could speed it up, I’ll just roughly move this to about the 15 frame mark somewhere around there and play back. And it’s very fast, I’m going to command Z a couple times to go back to having that keyframe at the two second mark.

So you can use the video animation editor here to change the timing of key frames. And you can use the inspector to change the value of the parameters at the position of the keyframes. And of course, you can bounce back and forth between the different keyframes using these next keyframe and previous keyframe buttons.

And by the way, I can add another keyframe. For example, if I want to add a keyframe later in the project here on the transform position parameter, I can just option-click down here. I’ll hold down Option on the keyboard. You can see a little plus diamond appears next to my mouse pointer. And I’ll just click once and that adds a keyframe. In fact, to move the playhead to where that keyframe is, what I’ll do is I’ll just come up here and click on the next keyframe button. And now I could change the value, maybe I want to move it back to the left side of the frame again. So maybe something like this, let’s take a look. I’ll move the playhead back to the beginning, and now it should move to the right. And then it should move back to the left again. There we go. I can also delete that keyframe, just select it right here and hit Delete on the keyboard that gets rid of it.

Now here I’ve just been animating the position to make it very clear what an animation looks like. But you can animate all kinds of different parameters. For example, if I wanted to animate the opacity of the video clip, I could make it fade up and then stay faded up, and then I can have it fade back down again. Let’s take a look at how we could do that here in the video animation editor. You can see it says compositing, opacity. Opacity is how opaque or transparent the image is.

Here I have a little disclosure button. If I click on that button, you can see it expands. And I have this line here. And if I want to add a keyframe somewhere, all I have to do is just option-click on it like this. So for example, if I want to option-click here. And then I could just click and drag the value down like that. So it’ll start transparent, and then will fade back up and be fully opaque. And then I could come over here towards the end of the clip, option click to add another keyframe. And then I’ll option Click here to add another one. And I’ll drag that one down. And I can change the timing of this, move this a little bit further to the right and move this one over. For example, I can move that one over and move this over. So I’m adding the keyframes in the video animation editor.

So now what will happen is it’ll start transparent, it’ll fade up, stay faded up all the way to this point, and then it’ll fade down, to transparent again. Let’s take a look. I’m going to play this back. Sure enough, it fades up. And then it’s going to get to the end and then fade down. And it’s transparent.

Now that was a really difficult way to do this. Because when you have this disclosure button like this, you don’t have to do this type of thing where you add all these keyframes. Instead, what I’m going to do is select this and hit Delete. In fact, I’m just going to click and drag to select all of these and hit Delete. And instead of adding all those key frames, what I’m going to do is use these little fader handles here, the fader handle’s the same thing, I can just click and drag it like this. And now you can see it’s going to fade up from transparent. And I could click and drag this one in like that. In fact, I’ll make it to where the animations a little slower, takes a little bit longer. Maybe something like this, I’ll just click and drag it over.

Let’s take a look. It’s going to fade up and it’ll stay faded up. And then it’s going to fade back down again, like that. Now you only see these fader handles like this, you only see these handles when you’re dealing with a parameter that has this disclosure button that you can expand like this. And by the way, while I’m here, I should also mention that when you have that disclosure button, that means that you can affect not just the timing of the keyframes in the video animation editor, but you can change the values of the keyframes. Anyway, I’ll close down the video animation editor just by clicking on this little x here.

And those are the basics of how keyframes and animation work in Final Cut Pro. Hopefully you found the information this video helpful. I’ll see you in the next one.

28 thoughts on “Final Cut Pro: Animation and Keyframes


  2. As a retired teacher, after 30 years in the classroom, I appreciate your ability to “simplify!” I’ve perused many tutorial videos from different venues and you, sir, are the best at explaining video concepts!

  3. I have to agree with Roy here. My first view of a tutorial by you, but will not be my last.
    I have been making rock vids for years. Been on FCPX for three. And as Paul says there are a lot of tutorials that talk down or go too fast. Thanks, Izzy.

  4. Animating in FCP has always been something that I have meant to look into but there’s always something more pressing to work on, Just today I had a painting by my son that is just right for animation… You must be telepathic you have explained so well, thanks for this it’s cleared the fog.

  5. As always, I have found your explanations clear and to the point. As a total and complete amateur that does not always have the time to experiment with the software, I feel at ease watching them.
    Thank you!

  6. Thank you Izzy! A very clear explanation of how keyframes and animation work in Final Cut Pro X – the best tutorial I’ve seen on this subject – very informative and easy to follow, as are all your tutorials. I also have a number of your plugins and music productions and appreciate the time and effort that you put in to all of this – particularly the free stuff like this tutorial. Many thanks! Regards John from Australia.

  7. This video helped to get rid of my frustration of working with key frames. Especially the part where you worked with the Video animation inspector. So helpful! Thanks again for you clear and transparent way of explaining things.

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