Clip Types - FCP 4

September 8, 2003

Meet the Family: FCP 4's Clip Types

An excerpt from
"Final Cut Pro 4 for Mac OS X: Visual Quickpro Guide"

by Lisa Brenneis
Coming from Peachpit Press Oct 1, 2003


Final Cut Pro veterans are mostly thrilled by FCP 4, Apple's latest release. What's not to love? All the real time you can eat, those cute little keyframe editors in the Timeline, adjustable track heights; everybody has their pet feature, even if nobody can locate Bruce the Wonder Yak's new hiding place. FCP 4's new clip handling scheme, however, is mildly baffling even to long-time users.

It's important that current users wrap their heads around the New Way of Doing Clips in FCP; that's why I selected this excerpt ripped from my soon-to-be-real book, "Final Cut Pro 4 for Mac OS X: Visual Quickpro Guide"

-Lisa Brenneis

 About Clips

Final Cut Pro has always used clip types - audio, video, graphic, and generated - to identify clips that reference different types of source media. FCP uses a different class of clip types -s ubclip, merged clip, and sequence - to identify clips that reference a portion of another clip (like a subclip) or multiple clips (like merged clips and sequences).

FCP 4 has added three new clip types - master, affiliate, and independent-to identify clips that are linked by shared properties (like master and affiliate clips) or clips whose properties and behavior are independent of other clips (like independent clips). The new clip type classifications and behavior are designed to ease media management by automatically updating all affiliated clips when you make a change to a shared property on any of the individual affiliates anywhere in the project. The master/affiliate clips' shared properties are all related to media management; clip properties that remain independent - In and Out points, markers, and applied effects - are all modified during the normal course of editing and must remain independent in each clip copy you use.

Here's an example: You have a master clip in the Browser, and you edit it into your sequence. An affiliate copy of that master clip appears in the sequence. Rename the affiliate copy, and the name of its master clip is also renamed. Change the reel name of the master clip, and the reel name of the affiliate clip in the sequence reflects the same change.

The master/affiliate clip-handling scheme keeps your clip duplicates in sync, which can simplify your life when you're media-managing certain types of projects. Projects best suited to master/affiliate clip handling are well logged, with discrete clips that you don't plan on subdividing much.

If your preferred editing method is to capture large chunks of media and then subdivide and rename the clips post-capture, consider converting your master clips to independent-type clips before you start dicing them up. It could save you from the headache and confusion of converting (and tracking) each clip's type separately. For more information on clip affiliation protocols, see "About Clip Affiliations" in Vol. I, Chapter 9, of Apple's Final Cut Pro 4 User's Manual.

Here's a rundown of FCP's clip types:

Format-based clip types

Relationship-based clip types

 Figure 4.51 It's not easy to identify master, affiliate, and independent clips in the FCP interface. Master clips are easiest to spot; a checkmark in the Master Clip column identifies a master clip in the Browser and on the Logging tab of the clip's Item Properties window. Master clips never appear in a sequence.

Figure 4.52 Affiliate clips have no checkmark in the Browser's Master Clip column. In a sequence, the only way to identify an affiliate clip is to open the clip's shortcut menu. If the Make Independent Clip command is available and not dimmed, the clip is an affiliate clip.

Figure 4.53 In a sequence, you can identify an independent clip by opening the clip's shortcut menu. If the Make Independent Clip command is dimmed, the clip is already an independent clip. Independent clips appear in the Browser only when you open a pre-FCP 4 project file.

Table 4.1
FCP Clip Type Relationships


Master clip




Capture new video or audio.

Import video or audio.

Create a subclip.

Create a freeze-frame.

Create a merged clip.

Drag a merged clip from the sequence back to the Browser.

Import an EDL or batch list.

Use the Duplicate as New Master clip command.

Use Modify > Make Master Clip on an affiliate or independent sequence clip.

Delete an affiliate's master clip. Affiliate clips in the Browser are converted to master clips.


Synchronizes clip name, reel name, source timecode, labels, subclip limits, and online/offline state with all affiliate clips.

Does not synchronize markers, In and Out points, applied effects, or motion properties.

Master clips appear only in the Browser.

Affiliate clip no

Edit a master clip into a sequence.

Duplicate a clip in the Browser or in a sequence.

Copy and paste a clip in the Browser or in a sequence.

Drag a sequence clip back into the Browser. 

Synchronizes clip name, reel name, source timecode, subclip limits, and online/offline state with all affiliated clips and the master clip.

Does not synchronize markers, In and Out points, applied effects, or motion properties.

Affiliate clips can appear in the Browser or Timeline.

Independent clip   no 

Delete an affiliate's master clip.

Use the Make Independent Clip command on a sequence clip.

Copy a sequence from Project A to Project B; sequence clips become independent in Project B.

Edit a clip opened outside the project directly into a sequence.

Open a FCP 3 project in FCP 4; all project clips will be independent. 

Maintains independent clip name, reel name, source timecode, remove subclip limits, online/offline state, markers, In and Out points, and applied effects or motion properties.

Independent clips appear only in the Timeline, except when a pre-FCP 4 project is opened. 


FCP Protocol: Clips and Sequences

A clip is the basic unit of media in Final Cut Pro.

A clip can represent a movie, still image, nested sequence, generator, or audio file.

A clip is a reference to the actual media file stored on your hard disk. But a clip can also reference material that is not currently online. If you delete the original media file, the clip will still appear in the Browser and Timeline, but you won't see its frames and you won't be able to play it.

When you apply special effects and perform edits on clips, you are not affecting the media file on disk.

Before FCP 4, all clips were governed by the same clip-handling protocols. FCP 4 uses three clip types: master, affiliate, and independent. Master and affiliate clips use one set of behavior protocols; independent clip behavior is governed by a different set of rules.

Using Master and Affiliate Clips in Sequences

When you insert a master clip from a project into a sequence, FCP inserts a copy of the master clip, known as an affiliate clip. That affiliate copy in the sequence shares certain properties with the master clip but maintains independent control over other properties.

This protocol is important to understand because it affects how and where you should make changes to master/affiliate clips, and it illuminates what's different about independent clip behavior. So, let's lay out the rules.

When you modify a master or affiliate clip's name, reel name, source timecode, or labels; remove its subclip limits; or change its online/offline state:

When you apply markers, In and Out points, effects, or motion properties to a master clip or its affiliate clip copy:

Using Independent Clips in Sequences
When you convert an affiliate-type sequence clip to an independent-type clip, that independent clip refers directly back to the source media file on the disk, and any clip property can be modified independently from any master or affiliate clip referencing the same source media file.

Because each independent clip copy maintains independent control over all its properties, the same rules that apply to the In and Out points of master and affiliate clips (listed above) apply to all properties of independent clips.

Excerpted from pages 139-144 from the book, FINAL CUT PRO 4 MAC OS X: VISUAL QUICKPRO GUIDE by Lisa Brenneis, Reproduced by permission of Pearson Education, Inc. Publishing as Peachpit Press. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

This book is available in the lafcpug Book Store


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