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Create a time-lapse sequence in Final Cut

Use Final Cut Pro X’s brilliant Retime menu to create memorable digital footage

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Some events (such as a slow-moving boat) can take a while to unfold, which is why it’s useful to digitally retime your footage to speed up the action and make it easier to consume. This retimed footage can give your programme’s audience a new perspective on the action. By speeding up video you can see the ebb and flow of a city’s traffic as it flows through streets and rivers, for example.
Final Cut Pro X enables you to speed up your footage using preset increments from 2x up to 20x. You can also manually choose a custom speed that suits your subject matter, courtesy of the more intuitive Retime feature, as you’ll see in our walkthrough. This enables you to fine-tune the speed of different sections of your time-lapse sequence.

Find even more expert tutorials in the latest issue of iCreate.


1 Import clip

Choose File>New>Event. Name it. Click OK. Label the project Timelapse. Go to File>Import Media. Browse to our Source clips folder. Click Import Selected. Drop the clip onto the timeline.


2 Split the clip

Press B to activate the Blade. Scrub to 00:40 and click to split the clip. Split it again at 46:18, 1:06:22 and 01:09:24. Press A to activate the Arrow key. Remove the two wobbly re-framing sections.


3 Speed it up

Play the edited sequence. It now cuts from a mid shot to a close up and then to a wide shot. Click on the first clip. Go to Modify>Retime>Fast and choose 20x. This increases speed by 2000%.


4 Play the clip

A blue bar appears at the top of the retimed clip showing the percentage of the speed change. Adjust the Timeline zoom level to see the blue bar clearly. The boat moves much more quickly.


5 Custom speed

The clip runs for two seconds instead of 40. If we apply the same speed change to the shorter second clip it will be over too quickly. Select it and Choose Modify>Retime>Custom Speed.


6 Give it 300%

A Custom Speed window will appear over a green bar. Green indicates that the clip has a normal speed. You can type in a custom speed such as 300% and hit Return to retime the clip.


7 Play it back

The sequence starts out at 2000% for the first section and then drops to 300% during the second section. The boat is still going faster and we can see the bridge closing more clearly.


8 Fine-tune the speed

You can manually tweak speeds. Drag the first clip’s blue bar to change the percentage to 1000%. Drag the end of the second clip’s blue bar to set the retimed speed to 500%.


9 Finishing touches

Clips one and two now run for about the same duration, though they feature different speeds. Increase clip 3 to about 370% for a tighter, faster sequence. Add music to link them together.

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