How To Use The Magnetic Timeline In Final Cut Pro

The magnetic timeline is what makes Final Cut Pro extraordinary. It is a marvelous breakthrough in precise video editing because it lets you work fast, shields you from unnecessary editing pitfalls and saves you so much time letting you focus on your story. 

There are three main areas in Final Cut Pro aside from the magnetic timeline: the Sidebar, Browser and Viewer.

The Sidebar is where you’ll find your Titles, Generators, Libraries, Music, Audio, Videos and Photos.

The Browser is where you choose and browse through the clips to use in your projects.

The Viewer is where you view or playback clips and projects.

However, the magnetic timeline is the superstar of Final Cut Pro.

The magnetic timeline is where all the action happens; it’s where you complete a project by dragging, dropping and arranging your clips. You’ll find it at the bottom section of the Final Cut Pro window. 

As you work on your edits, the magnetic timeline “magnetically” fits the clips that you drop and drag into position and it fixes the clips that you have mistakenly dragged to the wrong position.

By the way, a project contains everything that you need to complete the edits in your magnetic timeline like editing tools, links, photos, videos, music and so on.

You can make your magnetic timeline bigger and expand it, too.

Making Your Magnetic Timeline Bigger

The purpose of making your magnetic timeline bigger is for vertical viewing adjustment. Making your magnetic timeline bigger allows you to see your stacked clips. This is also useful in viewing audio waveforms or visual representations of the actual sounds at the bottom section or detached “audio-only” clips in your project.

Would you like to make your magnetic timeline bigger for a more editing-friendly experience?

Our YouTube guy, Reggie, shows 2 quick ways to make your magnetic timeline bigger in Final Cut Pro. 

Use the Timeline Button

  1. Click the Timeline button.
  2. Drag the Clip Height slider all the way to the right.
  3. Done!

Use a Keyboard Shortcut

  1. To make your Clips bigger, type Command + Shift + Equal Sign.
  2. Or make your Clips smaller, click Command + Shift + Minus Sign.
  3. To cycle through the clip display options press Control + Option + Up or Down arrows.
  4. Done!

Expanding Your Magnetic Timeline

Now that you’ve learned how to make your magnetic timeline bigger, get ready because Reggie’s dropping more knowledge about expanding your magnetic timeline.

Why do you need to expand your magnetic timeline?

Expanding your magnetic timeline helps you work efficiently on your project. When you expand your timeline, you’ll see your entire project giving you a broad view of your content. You are free to make creative decisions faster when the content is lined-up and organized.

Expanding your magnetic timeline is for horizontal viewing while seeing how your video flows. In this mode, you can zoom in and out of your magnetic timeline and precisely see or pinpoint your edits. 

Use the Timeline Button

  1. Go to your timeline.
  2. Position your playhead at the section where you want the expansion to start.
  3. Click on the Save Effect Preset button.
  4. Once a pop-up box appears, go to the topmost portion of the box.
  5. Drag the blue line to the right to expand your magnetic timeline.
  6. Done!

Use a Keyboard Shortcut

  1. Press Command + = to expand your magnetic timeline
  2. Shift Z to fit your clips in your timeline.
  3. Press S to position your playhead where you the expansion to start.
  4. Place your forefinger and thumb on your trackpad and spread them wide to expand your magnetic timeline.
  5. Done!

Now that you know how to expand or make your magnetic timeline bigger while editing in Final Cut Pro, load up on some pro tips below from Matthew O’Brien of Midland Pictures.

7 Tips To Slay Your Magnetic Timeline

  • Clip Connections

Problem: When you’re editing with the magnetic timeline, a lot of times you find yourself shuffling clips around and moving them to different places. This becomes problematic when you have connected clips – clips on top of other clips. Connected clips are moved along with the clips you want to move and you feel frustrated because you now have to move the connected clips back to their original position in your project.

Solution: Use Command + Option + Click to change where your clips connect and you’ll see the clips are no longer attached to the clips you want to move. Another awesome thing you can do is hold down the Tilde key while moving clips around without disrupting the connected clip.

  • Tilde/Grave Key

Problem: When you’re performing a slip edit with a clip connected to your main clip, the connected clip changes position and you may not want that to happen. Here’s how to solve it.

Solution: Select the Trim tool, then hold the Tilde key and you’ll see an orange-colored icon pop up. Now you can slip your edit without worrying about the connected clip moving.

  • Gap Clips

Problem: You don’t have your clips and footage selected yet but you want to create placeholders for your clips. 

Solution: Create gap clips. Gap clips are great as placeholders if you don’t have your clips and footage selected yet. Use a blank gap clip as your placeholder while sorting out your clips and footage by pressing Option + W to add frames or to move your clips around in between clips.

  • Lifting Clips

Problem: Lifting clips out of the primary or secondary storyline to preserve and make adjustments to your timing or you’d like to perform advanced editing techniques on a clip that’s in the primary storyline but the primary storylines pose restrictions.

Solution: Select your clip and then press Command + Option + Up Arrow. This puts an empty gap clip below your clip preserving your timing and moves the selected clip above the timeline as a connected clip. You can now move your clip around and make adjustments to it.

Problem: Moving a connected clip down into the same spot in your primary storyline.

Solution: Click on your clip and then press Command + Option + Down Arrow to put your clip back in place.

  • Keeping Your Music In Place

Problem: You spent hours getting your music and sound effects in just the right spot. Both are in the perfect edit point until you move or change a clip, and then your perfectly-placed music and audio effects are all messed up.

Solution: Place all of your music and sound effects into one compound clip and press Option + G. label it and press Enter. Tadah! You now have that one connection point to reduce the number of your connected clips with your music and sound effects in their perfect spots.

  • Secondary Storyline

Have you ever wondered what the secondary line is or how it works? Well, the secondary storyline is a way to apply magnetic timeline-like properties and features to groups of clips that are above the primary storyline. 

Problem: You have clips that are in the secondary storyline but you find that moving them around is similar to a track-based editor where you have to put stuff on top of each other, move a clip down, and drop a clip in all of which requires a lot of extra steps. You want to shorten the steps and adapt the magnetic timeline-like properties and features above the main storyline but don’t know how this is done.

Solution: Select your clips and press Command + G to create your secondary storyline. Now everything shifts around like a magnetic timeline.

  • Position Tool

Problem: How do you move, shift or position clips around without affecting or changing the clips in your magnetic timeline?

Solution: Press P to activate your Position tool. Now you can move clips around without messing up the clips in your magnetic timeline. The Position tool gives you more control over where you want your clips to go in your magnetic timeline. Just be careful because the clip you’re positioning or moving will overwrite the clips being replaced.

I hope every editing technique here was able to help you uncover the amazing things you can do with Final Cut Pro’s magnetic timeline, like the difference between expanding and making your timeline bigger and using keyboard shortcuts.

Those techniques in combination with the tips about editing primary and secondary storylines, gap clips, audio and sound effects, and using the position tool will get you better results with every project you do.

Most of all, I sure hope you have tons of fun with Final Cut Pro’s amazing magnetic timeline.

Happy editing,


About Dylan Higginbotham

Hey there. I'm Dylan Higginbotham, and I'm pretty dang obsessed with Final Cut Pro X plugins. Subscribe below because I love giving away free plugins and contributing great content.

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