Speed up your editing workflow with this easy timesaving macro!

Above screenshot courtesy of Vashi Nedomansky.

Speed up your editing workflow by reducing the number of keys you have to press or mouse clicks you have to make! It might seem like it won’t add up to much, but cumulatively this will shave many minutes off your day and, over time, many hours off your working week – and who doesn’t want to find ways of getting home early?

If you’re editing with a Wacom tablet or programmable mouse then this timesaving tip will be easy to set up and speed up your editing workflow a ton. Basically we are going to create a macro – a sequence of keyboard shortcuts, grouped together into one single key stroke to speed up a specific editing situation. This macro is often called a Pancake Edit – copying and pasting selected clips between two open timelines.

Speeding Up a Pancake Timeline Edit

Using the pancake timeline in your edit
Image courtesy of Vashi Nedomansky

Vashi Nedomansky first invented the phrase ‘Pancake Timeline’ and has a great explanation of it’s usefulness on his site. It’s great to know famous editors like Angus Wall and Kirk Baxter are using it too!

As is often the case…simplicity allows for quantum leaps in productivity. By stacking 2 timelines on top of each other…an editor can now access an entire reel of selects in chronological order (or whatever order desired) and instantly drop them into the active timeline below. To accomplish this layout…first open both timelines by clicking on them in the Project Panel. Drag the Selects timeline tab and hover over the top quarter of the Master timeline. Once it turns a purple color, release the tab and you’re in Pancake Land! By not having to bounce between tabbed timelines and using copy/paste…the process of analyzing and deciding which shot makes it into the cut is streamlined and intuitive. You can playback the Selects timeline in the program panel or hit the “match frame” keyboard shortcut and play it back in the source panel. Then just insert edit or drag-and-drop the shots you want into the Main timeline. Another very nice feature of this edit workflow is that the shots you pull from the Selects (top) timeline remain in their original position and are duplicated into the Main (bottom) timeline. Big Boom!

My method for editing in a pancake timeline situation is slightly different to Vashi’s, but I think faster as a result. Basically when pulling selects from a longer interview or b-roll footage in the top timeline, I would copy clips from the top timeline and paste them into the bottom timeline, creating a bunch of selects for later editing.

To do this I would make a selection in the top timeline, hit CMD+C to copy it, press SHIFT+3 to switch to the next open timeline (which jumps you to the bottom timeline) then hit CMD+V to paste it into the bottom timeline. Finally, I press SHIFT+3 to switch back to the top timeline to carry on making further selects.

That’s a lot of keyboard presses to do something very simple, and a lot to go through every single time I want to copy a clip from one timeline to another. That’s where the Pancake Macro comes in. By assigning all of these shortcuts to a button on my Wacom tablet, I can simply press that once and the whole operation is completed in a flash. Check out the little video below to see it in action.

The best thing about this macro is that as soon as you’ve used it you’re back in the top timeline at the very point you left off and can simply hit spacebar to keep playing through your rushes. So the whole thing takes about 1/2 a second to add an edit point, select the clip, hit the macro button, press space to keep playing, add an edit point, select the next clip etc.

One thing to be aware of is that the macro will paste the copied clip into the bottom timeline wherever the playhead is in that timeline, so if the playhead isn’t at the end of the sequence (which it would always be if you had left it there after pressing the macro, but not if you had checked something in that timeline and left the playhead mid-clip, for example) then the pasted clip may well overwrite some other clip if you’re not paying attention.

Setting Up a Macro on a Wacom Tablet

It’s pretty easy to set up a Macro on your Wacom Tablet (and this would work in a similar fashion for other programmable devices). Watch the full video tutorial above to see how to set up the Macro and to see it in action, or follow these four steps for setting up a macro on a Mac.

1. Go to system preferences > Wacom Tablet and set up an application specific Wacom buttons set for your NLE of choice, under Tools > Functions and then hit the + button to add your application.

2. Assign a keystroke to a button of your choice.

pancake timeline macro

3. On a Mac type in CMD+C, SHIFT+3, CMD+V, SHIFT+3

4. Name the macro to save it.

Hopefully this tip will save you some time and energy. Here are a few more ways to tweak your workflow.

Got any other handy workflow advice? Please share in the comments below!