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Mastering Avid Media Composer’s Keyboard Shortcuts – Lesson 4: Editing

Mastering Media Composers Keyboard Shortcuts – Lesson 4

This is the fourth lesson in a series on mastering Avid Media Composer’s keyboard shortcuts. Each lesson tackles a handful of shortcuts. Those shortcuts should be practiced until the next lesson in a few days. By the end of the lessons you should be flying through your editing sessions.

This isn’t just any old list of shortcuts. For many of them I explain how they work and how I use them everyday as a professional editor.

If you’re just getting started, no worries. You can take this lesson and circle back to the previous lessons. You can find all the lessons here.

This lesson focuses on editing. By editing I mean putting clips in and removing clips from the timeline. There’s only a few shortcuts in this lesson but they’re some of the most valuable and useful functions in Media Composer. Let’s get started!

PS – There’s a pop quiz that I need you to give me an answer to at the end of the lesson.

Lesson 4 Shortcuts -- Editing

Lesson 4 Shortcuts — Editing


Before we get started I want to give a quick rundown on locked vs. unlocked tracks. If you are familiar with these already then skip ahead. If not, I recommend reading this section.

Locked vs. Unlocked Tracks

Watch the video and/or read below 😀

You have the choice to lock or unlock a timeline track. I strongly recommend locking your tracks. In fact, I pretty much only edit with my tracks locked. There are a handful of times where it’s more useful for me to unlock them but 99% of the time they’re locked.

There’s a rectangle on each track in between the track name and the monitor box (see image). When it’s highlighted and there’s a black slanted rectangle thing in it then the track is locked. If it isn’t highlighted and there isn’t a black slanted rectangle thing then it is unlocked. Tracks are unlocked by default.

Locked vs. Unlocked Tracks

Locked vs. Unlocked Tracks

When you “lock a track” in After Effects it means you cannot make any changes to it. That’s not what this is in Media Composer. Locking tracks syncs the given timecode for all locked tracks, locking them together so if you make changes (i.e. adding or removing time to a track by editing in or editing out a clip) to one then you make changes to them all.

Here’s a scenario: You have clips on V1 and V2 and the tracks are locked. Both clips begin at 01:02:20:14 and end at 01:02:24:14 – they’re 4 seconds long. If you have V1 selected and you extract from 01:02:21:10 to 01:02:22:10 (1 second) then the clips on V1 and V2 shorten by a second. Both clips would end at 01:02:23:14. If the tracks were unlocked however the clip on V1 would shorten to 3 seconds and the clip on V2 would remain the same.

I find that more times than not I want everything on the timeline to react together. If I shorten a clip on V1 at 01:03:00:00 I don’t want to have to think about the rest of the clips further down the timeline that are synced up with clips and audio on other tracks getting knocked out of alignment.

Locking tracks keeps you from unintentionally knocking your timeline out of sync. It takes a minute (or a couple weeks) to wrap your head around it but IMO it’s the safest, quickest and best way to edit. Leave me a comment if you’re confused about anything.

Okay, ready for shortcuts?!




Shortcut: V

Once you have your Ins and Outs selected on a clip in the Source Monitor and in the timeline (see lesson 2), hitting V will Splice-In the clip. The clip from the Source Monitor will push down everything on the timeline (or just the track if your tracks are unlocked) from the In Point on the timeline. This works great when you want to insert a shot between other ones.

When you use Splice-In imagine you are keeping everything in tact and you are inserting the new clip and pushing everything down the timeline. Your timeline will grow in its total length.




Shortcut: B

Overwrite also places a clip in the timeline from the Source Monitor. However it covers up whatever is in its path. If you want to replace a clip on your timeline or put a clip in a blank space, Overwrite works well for this.

Unlike Splice-In the timeline does not grow in total length (unless you are Overwrite Editing a clip at the very end of the timeline).

Make sense?




Shortcut: C

Have tracks selected and In and Out Points around a portion of your timeline. Hit C and this area gets copied to Media Composer’s Clipboard. Under the dropdown in the Source or Record Monitor (the clip/sequence’s name) you can select Clipboard Contents. Then that section will appear in the monitor.

Clipboard Contents in Source Monitor

Clipboard Contents in Source Monitor

I don’t find this useful one bit. I understand the concept and how it could be used but for me there are too many clicks to make this work quickly. The next shortcut however, which is related to this one, is one I couldn’t imagine editing without.

Copy-to-Clipboard into Source Monitor

Shortcut: Opt+C (Mac) | Alt+C (PC)

Adding Option if you’re on a Mac or Alt if you’re on a PC with C will throw your selection straight to the Source Monitor. Essentially it works like hitting Cmd+C/Ctrl+C would work in Word or anywhere where you are typing text. You are copying the selection and putting it in the Source Monitor. This is soooooooooo useful.

One way I like to edit is to throw all my footage onto my timeline. I shove all the footage down to the end and leave myself 15-20 minutes of blank space at the beginning of my timeline to start putting together my video. I go through the footage and find a shot I like, select it, hit Opt/Alt+C then paste it at the beginning of my timeline. Then I repeat for the rest of the footage. I’ll begin to put a couple shots next to each other and rearrange them. When I’m done I have a very basic rough cut or at least have eliminated a lot of the bad footage and have some parts of my video starting to build. This is all because of Opt/Alt+C.

The other thing this is useful for is copying from one sequence to another. Select a portion of your sequence, hit Opt/Alt+C to throw it in the Source Monitor, open up the other sequence and Splice-In or Overwrite Edit it into it. Note that if you close the bin with your first sequence in it the Clipboard Contents will close as well.

I edited for about four years without realizing or knowing about Opt/Alt+C. This one shortcut made me a much faster editor. I’m absolutely positive of that.




Shortcut: X

Splice-In is to placing a clip on the timeline as Extract is to removing one. With an In and Out Point selected on the timeline, hitting X will Extract whatever was selected. If the tracks are locked, all the tracks will collapse that area. If the tracks are unlocked only the selected track(s) will collapse that area – this gets tricky if you have elements on different tracks that should be kept in sync and you forget to select one of those tracks when you hit X; you’ll get knocked out of sync and sometimes you won’t realize it until much later when a couple undos won’t get you back to normal.

To sum up: When you Extract you collapse an area removing everything inside it.

Extract to Source Monitor

Shortcut: Opt+X (Mac) | Alt+X (PC)

This performs the same removal of whatever is selected but what’s removed gets sent to the Source Monitor. This is useful if you want to move a clip or portion of your timeline from one part to another.




Shortcut: Z

Setting an In and Out Point in the timeline and hitting Z will Lift whatever is in the In and Out Points on the selected tracks. However instead of collapsing the area it leaves it as blank space. Performing a Lift does not effect the overall length of your timeline or tracks (unless it is at the very end of the timeline).

Lift to Source Monitor

Shortcut: Opt+Z (Mac) | Alt+Z (PC)

This performs a Lift the exact same way but it sends what is removed up to the Source Monitor. Again, this is useful if you want to move a clip or portion of your timeline from one part to another.

What’s Next?

Pop Quiz: How would you describe the difference between Lift and Extract? Leave your answer in the comments!

That’s all the shortcuts for Lesson 4 of Mastering Avid Media Composer’s Keyboard Shortcuts. Ready for Lesson 5? Click here (or the image below) to go to it.

Make sure you’ve signed up to get emailed about new posts so Lesson 5 and future lessons, posts, tutorials and other post production goodies show up in your inbox. You can do that here. 👊🏼

Until next time remember to practice! Practice, practice, practice! Try to incorporate a new one each day until the next lesson comes out. You got this. One new shortcut a day…okay?

Like I said earlier give me a shout if you have any questions. Leave me a comment below, message me through my contact page or send me an email – josh [at] See you in a few days!

– Josh