Find On-Screen Time Of Characters

I was recently asked how one could find total screen time of specific characters in a documentary. There’s no direct way in FCPX yet, but here’s a technique that will get you there. Please check our and participate in the “caveat” and “new feature campaign” sections at the end of this article.
So you’re doing a documentary, or a reality TV show, or whatever, and your asked by the director, or producer, or you’re just plain curious; “How much screen time is each character getting?” The following technique will help you get there, although there is one caveat, as noted at the end of this article. If anyone knows a way around this, please drop me a line! There is also a “new feature campaign” mentioned at the end of this article, also.

I. Assign Audio (or video) Roles (or Keywords)
For each character in your video, you need to assign either a video or audio Role with that character’s name. You could also use Keywords if you wanted. Personally, I use audio roles.

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II. Create A Smart Collection
- Right-click the Event you’re working in, select New Smart Collection.
- Give it a meaningful name such as “Used+Role”.

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- Double-click the new Smart Collection to open it’s editor window.
- From the plus sign menu (top right) add “Used Media” and set it to “Used”.
- From the same menu again add “Roles” (or “Keywords”), then make sure to uncheck all of your Roles (or Keywords).
- In the Conditional menu (top left) be sure it is set to “All”.

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IV. Configure Browser List View Headers
In the Browser, go to List View, and make sure the Duration header is next to the name. Right-click any list header to add/remove headers. Click-and-drag any header left/right to reposition it.

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V. Get A Timecode Calculator
A regular calculator won’t add timecode correctly. I use the “Timecode Calculator” app from Netmedia Software (
click here). But there are several for iPhones and iPads. Whatever you use, every editor and producer should absolutely have one they like.

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VI-A. Select Appropriate Roles To Display
Now you’ll activate the Timeline pane with your work, double-click the new Smart Collection you crated for this, and check off the role you want to see.

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VI-B. Do The Math
Then just add up timecode of what the Smart Collection lists (check only the Roles/Keywords you want to add up).

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* Caveat!!!! (Isn’t there always one with NLEs?)
In the example presented here, I set the calculator to the Project’s frame rate (29.97), but the clips listed in the Browser’s Duration column use their native frame rate (59.94). When I put those values into my calculator, I get an error message. Because 01:47 (47 of 59 frames max) is an illegal value to a frame rate of 29.97 (29 frames max). So a tiny bit of additional math in your head is required. Again, if anyone knows a way around this, please
drop me a line!

* Feature Request Campaign (Again, isn’t there always one with NLEs?)
This would be way easier if we had a “Duration” column available in the Timeline Index, and could sort by a specific Role or Keyword there. These, IMHO are vital functions the TI should have. So I’m asking you all to fill out the FCPX Feedback Page and request this.