FCP X: Crop a Video Clip

Posted: June 23, 2013

FCP X: Crop a Video Clip

Cropping is the process of hiding or removing a portion of an image. For those that like history with their technology, “crop” is defined by Merriam-Webster as “trim,” and was first used in the 13th Century.

Final Cut Pro X offers three different ways to crop an image:

  • Trim
  • Crop
  • “Ken Burns” effect

Providing even more flexibility, we can crop images using either the Viewer or the Inspector.

To access the crop options in the Viewer, click the small icon in the lower left corner of the Viewer.

OR – to access the crop options in the Inspector, click the word “Show” that is to the right of Crop.

We achieve the same results using either method. I find cropping in the Viewer is faster, while cropping in the Inspector is more precise.

In this article, we’ll take a look at all our options, using this image (courtesy of Pond 5) as our, ah, victim.

When you click the Crop icon in the lower-left corner of the Viewer, three options appear: Trim, Crop, Ken Burns. Let’s start with Trim.

For this example, I’ve placed a solid color clip as a connected clip below our example clip. This makes it easy to see how we are changing the top image.


Trim allows us to move an edge so that we can see what’s below it. In this example, I’m dragging the left edge in, which makes that portion of the top clip invisible; we can see the image of the color clip below it. Notice that the iceberg on the left is no longer visible.

When you select Trim, eight blue rectangular buttons appear around the edges of your image. These represent drag areas, which allow you to reposition the corners or edges of your image.

Grab a blue rectangle and drag. Dragging an edge, moves just that edge. Dragging a corner moves two adjacent edges. As you drag a corner, notice that you are not scaling the image, simply making portions of the image invisible. As you drag, FCP displays the number of pixels you are trimming at the top of the Viewer window.

There are three keyboard shortcuts that provide even more trimming options:

• Press Option+drag to drag from the center; this allows you to drag opposite edges or corners.

• Press Shift+drag to constrain the shape into the current aspect ratio. When you don’t hold the Shift key, you can drag a corner to form any rectangular shape you want.

• Press Option+Shift+drag to trim from the center AND constrain the shape to the current aspect ratio.

When you are happy with the look of your trim, press the Done button in the top right corner of the Viewer.

NOTE: Trimming does not change the quality of the image.


Click the Crop icon in the Inspector to turn on cropping in the Viewer.

When the icon is blue, Viewer trimming is turned on. When this icon is gray, you can still trim using the sliders in the Crop window and see the results in the Viewer.

To change a crop value:

  • Drag a slider
  • Click and drag a number to the right of the slider
  • Double-click the numeric value to enter a specific setting

To reset all Crop parameters (settings) click the hooked arrow to the right of the crop icon. (You can also drag all the edges back to their starting positions in the Viewer, but, golly, that takes a long time.)


Trimming makes the edges of a clip invisible. Cropping allows you to resize/reframe a clip so that not only have you made portions of the clip invisible, but you’ve increased the size of the remaining image to fill the frame.

NOTE: Cropping almost always softens image quality, because it expands existing pixels to fill the frame. Enlarging any image beyond 100% always softens it.

There are two ways to enable cropping:

  • Click the Crop icon in the lower left corner of the Viewer
  • Click the Crop icon in the upper right corner of the Crop parameter in the Inspector

Then, to switch to Crop:

  • Click the Crop button at the bottom of the Viewer

  • Select Crop from the popup menu in the Crop section of the Inspector

Now, there are only four blue buttons attached to your clip – one at each of the corners. This is because you can only crop an image to match the aspect ratio.

In this screen shot the area inside the crop is lighter, which illustrates that part of the image we will retain. We are excluding the edge of the iceberg at the left side of the image.

Click the Done button at the top to accept the crop.

The image has been trimmed and resized so that only the portion inside the crop is visible. We lost the iceberg to the left.

NOTE: Crop always fills the frame with the portion of the image you select during the crop.


You can also crop in the Inspector, which provides a greater level of precision. However, while I will often trim in the Inspector, I generally find it easier to crop using the visual feedback in the Viewer.

As with the Viewer, click the Done button, or click the blue Crop icon in the Inspector to accept your changes.


This effect was named after the famous documentary filmmaker, Ken Burns, who popularized this effect for creating motion on still images. This effect allows you to zoom and pan inside an image to create movement. You can use either still images or video.

This effect always runs for the duration of the entire clip and always includes a slight ease-in/ease-out at the start and end of the clip.

NOTE: If you want to only animate a portion of the clip, or if you don’t want any ease-in/ease-out speed changes, you would need to create the animation using keyframes for both scale and position.

To select the Ken Burns effect, click the Ken Burns button at the bottom of the Viewer, or in the Inspector. The green rectangle indicates where the move begins and the red rectangle indicates where the move ends.

Here, for example, I am starting with a wide shot, but still losing a portion of the iceberg on the left, then zooming in to fill the frame with the center iceberg.

Click the “Reversal” button in the top left corner to switch positions between the red and green rectangles. Now, I’m zooming out from the center iceberg to fill the frame with all the icebergs.

NOTE: Unlike the other two crop settings, the Ken Burns effect can only be adjusted from the Viewer.

Click the Preview button in the top left corner of the Viewer to preview the effect.

Click the Done button to accept your changes. (If you need to cancel the effect, click the Reset button in the Inspector.)


To animate trimming or cropping over time, you need to create keyframes. (I just realized that I have not written an introductory article about keyframes – it is on my list for next week’s newsletter.) However, I have written two intermediate articles on keyframes that may be helpful, if you already understand how keyframes work.


Cropping allows us to improve images by getting rid of the stuff we don’t want. Keep in mind that if you crop an image too much, so that it scales up too big, you will see a softening in your image quality that may, or may not, work for your project.


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5 Comments to “FCP X: Crop a Video Clip”
  1. Andy says:

    Every time I try to crop something in Final Cut Pro it won’t let me. I click on it (in the lower left) and then does nothing. Could it be my clip that is not allowing me?

    • Larry Jordan says:


      There’s nothing in the clip that prevents cropping.

      Make sure to select the clip before cropping. Also, try using the Crop settings in the Inspector and see if they work there.


      • Tia says:

        I do the exact same thing I do with all my other clips and theres one clip that doesnt come up with the trim/crop/ken burns
        And its annoying me so much >.<

  2. Julie says:

    Hi Larry,

    I’m trying to trim and crop and transform individual clips in my video. The entire file, or video, is called Hawaii, and within it, I have labeled each clip (let’s call one ‘Surf’). I’m trying to zoom in on the Surf clip after I already put it in the timeline. In the upper right corner of the browser, I selected “150%” under the menu where I can choose how far in I want to zoom. However, I’m finding that instead of Surf zooming in 150%, the entire Hawaii video is zoomed in likewise, as all the other clips are adhering to 150%. How can i fix this or identify just a single clip to modify?

    • Larry Jordan says:


      You are zooming in the wrong place. The top right corner of the Viewer changes the display of the video, not the actual video in the Timeline.

      To zoom on video, open the Inspector, and change “Scale” in the Transform section of the Inspector.


Your thoughts are welcome


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Video Editor
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