The .mp4 file type produced by the GoPro HD cameras is not supported by Apple’s Final Cut software. The file type is a compressed output format and not an ideal editing format. To convert your files to a more editing friendly format you must use 3rd party software such as MPEG Streamclip (free download).
In MPEG Streamclip, you can trim clips down and only export the clips you’ll want to use in your edit. Once you’ve selected ‘in’ and ‘out’ points (or kept the length the same), go to File > Export to Quicktime. A new screen will come up with a list of compression types, quality, etc. For compression, Apple ProRes 422 will do fine for keeping the GoPro quality the same and creating a Final Cut friendly file format. Apple has made a few variations to the ProRes family – use ProRes 422(Proxy) or (LT) for smaller file sizes. To make things simple, slide quality to 100% and leave the rest of the settings untouched.
If Editing with Multiple Frame Sizes (960, 720, 1080)
If you want to edit in Final Cut without having to render the clips while editing, all the frame sizes must be the same as the sequence settings. You can save a lot of render time by making all the clips the same size in MPEG Streamclip. For example, if you are editing a sequence at 720p, crop 120px from the top and bottom of all of your 960 clips in the ‘Cropping’ section of the export screen in MPEG Streamclip.
Utilizing 60FPS Slow Motion in FCP
Simply slowing a clip down using Final Cut’s Modify > Change will not use all of the frames created by the GoPro camera in the 720P 60FPS mode (r3). If a 60FPS clip is dropped into a 24FPS or 30FPS timeline (standard) in Final Cut, half or more of the frames will be dropped to match the sequence settings. To utilize the full slow-motion capabilities of the GoPro camera, you must conform each clip prior to importing to Final Cut using Apple’s Cinema Tools. This is part of the Final Cut suite but is a stand-alone program. Clips can be batch conformed and the transformation is instantaneous. Once you’ve opened a clip in Cinema Tools click on the ‘Conform…’ button on the bottom right. It should have the clip’s current frame rate. To slow down the 60FPS clips, conform it to either 30 or 24 (whatever your Final Cut sequence settings are). The conformed file will be in place of the old file and named the same. To get your clips back to full speed, you can use the Change Speed function in Final Cut. For clips converted from 60FPS to 30FPS, 200% rate change will get it back to original speed. For clips converted from 60FPS to 24FPS, 250% rate change will get it back to original speed.
Final Cut 7.0 has a new ‘Share’ feature that makes exporting video easy and relatively self-explanatory. It can be accessed from the menu at: File > Share. You can select easy presets and add multiple export versions by clicking the ‘+’ on the right. To export a video for YouTube, select the YouTube preset. A hardcopy of the file will be saved to your hard-drive in the ‘Destination Folder’ as assigned at the top. If you wish to upload your video directly, check the appropriate box and enter your account information. Lastly, editing the existing Filename box can change the filename. Once you hit export, you can go back to Final Cut and work while it is processing all of the video.