Smart Conform: Final Cut Pro’s Secret For Editing Interview Aspect Ratios (2023)
Smart Conform is a feature built into Final Cut Pro to automatically reframe clips whose aspect ratio is different from the project’s aspect ratio. This feature came out around early 2021 first in version 10.5.1 and continues to improve through the current version which is 10.6.5. We like using this feature to edit landscape interview videos and live-stream videos into vertical interviews for YouTube Shorts, Instagram Reels and TikTok.
If you are a podcaster or a livestreaming, keep on watching to see how you can easily repurpose landscape interviews into vertical videos easily.
What is Smart Conform
Smart Conform analyzes the contents of selected clips in a project and automatically adjusts the framing for each clip based on the specific video content, such as faces or other areas of visual interest, so these important elements are not left outside the video frame.
Smart Conform is especially useful for repurposing projects created with standard widescreen or HD aspect ratios, such as those for film or TV, to make versions in different aspect ratios for social media.
How to use Smart Conform in Final Cut Pro?
There are two ways to access Smart Conform in Final Cut Pro.
1. Our preferred method (Project > Duplicate Project As…)
Step 1. Upload your regular landscape video to an existing project
Step 2. Right-click on that project, and choose “Duplicate project as…”
Step 3. Name your new project; Choose vertical (or another desired ratio for this new project); Click “Smart Conform” – then click OK
Viola! This is your new project and timeline looks like.
After the Smart Conform process is complete, you can make additional framing adjustments by changing the Position parameter for the Transform effect. See Resize, move, and rotate clips in Final Cut Pro.
2. Editing timeline and selected clips
- In Final Cut Pro, create a new project or open an existing project.
- In the timeline, select one or more clips whose aspect ratio does not match the project aspect ratio. For example, you might have a horizontal or widescreen clip from an HD project that you want to use in a vertical project for a social media app or website.
- Choose Modify > Smart Conform. Final Cut Pro analyzes the content of the selected clips and then intelligently reframes each clip. The examples below show the default “center crop” framing for a horizontal clip in a vertical project, and then how the same clip is reframed using Smart Conform.
How Smart exactly is Smart Conform?
We give Final Cut Pro’s Smart Conform a 6 out of 10. It’s a convenient feature but it doesn’t quite finish the job.
Smart Conform works well for single-person, talking head videos where the feature can easily focus on one person, one scene, on voice. But when you are working with a multi-person interview, Smart Conform doesn’t quite know who to focus on and how to switch between two or more subjects.
It means that you will want to edit the video further to achieve the desired outcome.
Smart Conform: Quick tips on editing multi-person interviews
Editing landscape interviews into vertical interviews isn’t always trivial. Here are a few ways you can do this with varying efforts:
Low effort if you are short on time
Use Smart Conform to create clips focusing on the person who is speaking, without b roll or cutting over to the others in the interview.
Use Smart Conform to create clips with b roll, cutting/switching between people involved in the interview, including the speaker and the host. This creates more visual interest, and movement to increase watch time and engagement for your review.
You can also frame the interviews by stacking the host and speaker. This technique can work well for 2-3 people, as seen in our article thumbnail 🙂
Medium to high effort
A more stylized effort to use graphics, emojis, and adding captions in your video. Here’s an example to showcase what a more elaborate editing effort looks like. Is this necessary for interview editing? Not always, it depends on what are you trying to convey, but also realistically your time and budget too. As a reminder for creators out there big or small, don’t let the content creation process be all or nothing.
Addition resources you might like…
- Is there a better alternative than Final Cut Pro’s Smart Conform? Yes, check out Filmora’s Auto Reframe, and our article Filmora Auto Reframe (AI): How to Edit Interviews for Shorts and Reels
- For creators who struggle to “ship” or decide the level of effort that is sufficient for their work, check out Seth Godin’s free SHIPIT pamphlet, and remember to Ship often. Ship lousy stuff, but ship. Ship constantly. Skip meetings. Often. Skip them with impunity. Ship.