Final Cut Pro Quickie: Scrubbing Thumbnails in the Browser

Have you ever been confronted with a browser full of material in Final Cut Pro that you were unfamilar with or needed to get reaquainted with? Something like this…

Final Cut Pro Bin

There are a lot of ways to refamiliarize yourself with the content. Open up clips in the viewer. Throw them in a sequence. Check out the Finders Quicktime preview. One method that I find quite handy is to use FCP’s Thumbnail scrub feature.

In your Project Browser in FCP Control-Click or Right-Click one of the headers in the Browser, which should give you a pop-up window that looks something like

Final Cut Pro Header Pop Up

There are a lot of useful pieces of information here that demand a post on their own, but for this tip we’re looking for the Show Thumbnail option. After selecting this option, we should get a window that looks something like this.

Final Cut Pro Browser With Thumbnail View

Thumbnail View is quite handy giving you a point of reference for your footage, but it doesn’t differ significantly from using thumbnails on footage in a sequence window, but what is sometimes not obvious and why this post constitutes a tip is that you can actually scrub through the footage in the browser window. Mouse down on a thumbnail and move your mouse from left to right and you should see the contents of the Quicktime scroll through under your mouse. Pretty handy.

Final Cut Pro Browser With Thumbnail View

Alternatively, you can use the Icon View and the Scrub Tool to achieve a similar effect, but I find it too jarring from the FCP list view to feel comfortable. Former Avid editors may feel differently.

UPDATE 10/12/2006 Michal in a comment at HD For Indies (Thanks for the link Mike) wrote in a slightly disgruntled way a nice follow up to this tip. Hold the Control-Key down while scrubbing and when you release the mouse you set the Poster Frame (the visible frame of the icon) for the thumbnail. Michal brings up a valid point that most of this stuff is in the manual, but I find that I pick up some of my best time savers by either observing coworkers with a quick “Howd’ja do that?”, or reading blogs and reading/watching tutorials. YMMV


  1. Mark Burton said

    Great tip. Also if you hold down the SHIFT and CONTROL keys while you scrub the frame you stop on will become the new still frame – good for setting all your clips to show the most visually descriptive frame of the shot.

  2. […] Creative Workflow Hacks offers a handy tip on scrubbing thumbnails of your media in Final Cut Pro’s Browser window. Having edited a short last weekend that utilized a large number of similarly named clips, I see this as an excellent tip. Hopefully it will make your life easier as well. […]

  3. morten bencke said

    I have a big problem which hold back some important work for me…
    does anyone have an idea why my HD-settngs are locked, and how I get ┬┤em unlocked?

  4. Foo said

    Thanks for the tip! Coming from iMovie, where thumbnails are shown by default, I thought FCP simply didn’t have this capability, and that FCP users were savants, able to remember all their clips by sequence number. I wonder why FCP doesn’t show thumbnails by default–they seem so obviously useful for most circumstances.

  5. hi, i wonder if we can make the thumbnail view bigger?

  6. David said

    Actually, in addition to the Option key, Ctrl and Shift are not required to set the poster frame – only Ctrl is…

  7. Harry Fear said

    I can’t get this ‘Shift’ method to work, but can get Ctrl + P to work. Has the former been deprecated in favour of the latter?

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