Final Cut: Using Automator to set many poster frames

Over at the CreativeCow.net Final Cut forum David Fu asked this question:

Is there a way to make the final cut thumbnail preview in the Browser preview a different frame other than the very first frame? The editing assistant was capturing the last frame of each previous take to the new take thus every thumbnail is not indicating what is in the take. Or is there a way to batch remove the first frame out of every video clip? (There woud be close to 1000).

The thumbnail preview can be set to any frame in your clip. It is known as the Poster frame. You can set it in the Viewer using the command in the Mark menu, or press Control-P. You can also set it in large icon view. Scrub through the content within the thumbnail using the hand tool (Control-H or hh or Shift-Control). If you have added the Thumbnail column to your text browser view (Control-click a heading), you can scrub through the clip without choosing the hand tool first. Hold down the Control key while dragging left and right – release the Control key when the thumbnail is showing the frame you’d like.

There’s no Final Cut way of doing this to 1000 clips very quickly.

There are two directions you could go:

1. Export an XML of the clips you want to modify and use another application to modify all the in points of the clips and re-import the XML as a new project (Final Cut’s XML format doesn’t include Poster frame information, so you’ll have to use the fact that the default poster frame is the in point).

2. Use a keyboard and mouse recording app to record the operations to change the In points or Poster frame of one clip, and modify the macro to virtually press the keys 20 or 100 times. QuicKeys would be best, but I managed to use Apple’s free Automator application to do the job:
a. With the browser window open, and your first clip selected, start Automator
b. In the main Automator window choose a Custom workflow
c. Make sure the browser window is visible on screen
d. Press the Record button in the Automator window to start a ‘Watch Me Do’ action. The following needs to be done quickly as Automator records in real time.
e. Press Return (opens the clip in the Viewer)
f. Press Shift-I (jump to in point)
g. Press the right cursor key (to move to the next frame, or Shift right cursor key to move 1 second on from the in point)
h. Press Control-P (To set the poster frame)
i. Press command-4 (To bring the browser to the front)
j. Press the down cursor key (to select the next clip down in the browser)
k. Find the floating Automator window and press the stop button

You now have an Automator action that brings FCP to the front, sets the poster frame of the currently selected clip and moves to the next selected clip. We can now duplicate that action in Automator, remove the command to bring FCP to the front. This new action will set the poster frame of the currently selected clip. You can then duplicate this action as many times as you like.

automator_section
Click to see the Automator window showing the full workflow

l. In Automator, save your workflow as ‘Increment clip poster frames’
m. Select the Watch Me Do action and set the Playback Speed to 10x which speeds up the key presses
n. Select all the events and set the Timeout to 0.0 seconds
o. Duplicate the first Action using Duplicate from the Edit menu
p. In the duplicate Action, select the ‘Bring the window “Browser” to the front.” event and delete it with the delete key
q. You now have an action you can duplicate as many times as you’d like the ‘Change the poster frame of the currently selected clip in the browser’ to repeat.
r. Save your workflow again.
s. In the browser, select the first of the clips you’d like to modify
t. Back in Automator, press the Run button to see your actions performed.

[- If you aren’t sure about pressing the keys fast enough, you could use a special keyboard layout in FCP to assign those actions to a series of keys on the keyboard!]

It is possible to use this free utility on your computer to do this, but you’d get a lot more control if you use QuicKeys from Startly – which costs $60.

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