Dane Pedersen
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Project Workflow in Final Cut Pro X

By:
Dane Pedersen
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Our goal is to create a resource that can help you become more efficient FCPX users, and hopefully save you some of the headache we've experienced over the years trying to find these answers.

Over the years, we've done a lot of digging for the best way do our post-shoot video work as a team. As we detailed in another post, we've elected to use FCPX for a number of reasons. While FCPX doesn't natively offer cloud functionality, we've created a process that allows for footage redundancy, easily sharable libraries, easily edited footage, and a clear method for export at full quality. This might not be a surprise to you, but for those who need some help, here's an in depth look at how we handle footage the moment after we've wrapped the shoot.

Back Up Shoot Footage

Upon returning to our office, we back up the footage we just captured. You can sure do this manually to a couple backup drives (for redundancy), but we've invested in a Drobo 5D to help us take our minds off of that potential headache. It's a RAID system that uses on board software to build those reduces amongst the 5 drives one can mount into the bay. The beauty is that finder recognizes it like one giant hard drive, so we build a very clear and repeatable folder structure by year and client, creating sub folders all the way to the camera type. Doing this organization up front can be helpful with keywording once it's time to import into a FCPX library, so be as granular or broad as is helpful. Once your footage is all on the backup drive in proper folders, it's time to move on.

This is an example of what our file structure might look like.

Create FCPX Library

To allow for more agile transfer of projects, we have 3-4 external drives available for the FCPX library to live on while we are working on a project. Eventually, during archiving, these FCPX Libraries will live with the original media on your backup drive, but during active editing, it stays on a portable hard drive. At this point you can actually open FCPX and select File > New > Library, and create it on one of the portable drives. Its up to you how you want the library structure to work, but we tend to have a FCPX Library per client, unless the work we do for them spans many years, then we might do a new library each year for that client. Having the libraries split up that why has been the best solution for allowing an efficient workflow between editors, colorist, and audio mixers. More about that later.

Once we've created that library on a portable drive, titled as the client, we name the "Event" whatever the specific shoot was for. Again, this structure is largely up to what works best for you, just know that Libraries contain Events, and Events contain Projects, Multicam Clips, and Keyword collections.

Import/Proxy Media

Now that the back end work is done, you can finally move towards importing that lovely footage you captured! This step is easy, but you'll want to be sure you check a couple of boxes if you're following our steps for file structure. In the upper left-hand corner, there's an arrow pointing down, this is your "Import" button. When you press it, it will open up a dialogue window that should look something like this:

The footage you want to import at this point is whatever you put on backup hard drives, or in our case, whatever we tucked away on the Drobo. Follow the file structure (ours is in the Drobo) and find the topmost folder containing the footage you want (*it can contain audio, but we have a caveat). The above thumbnail shows our file structure for our data storage, and you can see a folder for VIDEO, PHOTO, and AUDIO. For this project, we are just going to start with the VIDEO folder (ignoring the PHOTO folder altogether). Select the folder, and shift you eyes to the right-hand dialogue box. You should see a FILES sub-header, with two options below. Likely, "Copy to library" is already selected, but we actually want to select "Leave files in place." Right below, you can decide if you want keywords created from folder names, that's up to you. Jump down to the "Transcoding" sub-heading. It's here that you should be sure to select "Create proxy media." Then, click the IMPORT button in the lower right and let it work! What we're doing here is creating one more redundancy, as well as only working from proxies on the drive, which will speed up the editing process and save space on the drive. Let me repeat: the proxies created here will live in the FCPX Library on your portable drive, and your original media will live on you backup drives. We think this is very good. Oh, and it doesn't create any issues when it's time to export, so no worries.

*Caveat about importing the AUDIO folder. If we had selected the folder above, and the AUDIO folder was included in our import, FCPX would have created a link to the media, and you would have seen it until disconnecting from the original media. The problem? Audio files don't get proxied, which means your library of proxies would be without any audio files. To remedy this, after we start the video import, we click the import button, once again pulling up our import window. This time, simply select the AUDIO folder, select the "Copy to library" option, and hit the IMPORT button again. Problem solved. It's only a little annoying, and can be remedied easily should you forget.

Edit / Color Grade / Mix Audio

Proxying does take time, but as long as you are still connected to the original media drive, you can begin your culling process with the footage, and the proxying will continue when there's render downtime. We will often begin the import/proxy-building stage when we pack up for the day, and let it create them overnight. We've never arrived with failures, and it's always finished by the time we return in the morning.

At this point, thinking about files and links and proxies is over. If you open your library and your clips are all red, make sure you've toggled the view mode to Proxy. You'll with this back when it's time to export, so remember where it is.

If you're seeing red, click the "view" pulldown and switch what your viewing.

You will have a library with easily editable media (even on older machines). You can simply unplug the drive with the Library file, hand it to someone else, and they double click to open on their machine. It's seriously that easy. In practice, we will probably have one person edit it, hand it off to another for a color grade, then to another for audio mixing, and to someone else to connect to the original media and do exports at whatever level is needed from the client. In theory, you could even share the FCPX Library over a cloud system, have someone edit, and then have them are the updated Library file with you. These proxied library files still range from 200-300GB, so we've never found that option too efficient, or ever necessary in our line of work.

I'm not going to go in depth about the steps and possibilities of editing in FCPX, as others do that very well. This educational endeavor is largely to fill in holes we've found in understanding best practices for working in FCPX with a team.

Export/ Share

Well, at this stage, the hard creative work should be done. The edit should be polished, the grade and audio mix finalized, and the project in the correct dimensions of the requested delivery. Even if it's not, the solution is simple. If by chance you had a request to turn your edit into a square for social, we would create a new project in the dimensions necessary (maybe 1080x1080). Go into the original project, select everything copy it (⌘ + C), head into the new project, and hit paste (⌘ + P). Done. Well, done assuming your compositions didn't get totally destroyed in the shift. That never happens.

At this point, all you need to export at the full resolution is to reconnect the hard drive that you originally imported from, the one with the original shoot media. FCPX will automatically see it, allowing you to switch from viewing Proxy to viewing the Original media without the dreaded red media rectangles showing up. Honestly, you truly should have no issues with improperly linked files. It's great. You then simply select the box with and up arrow on it (top right corner) to reveal the "share" dialogue box. If you've used NLEs before, this shouldn't be mysterious. We encourage you to research with export settings are best for your delivery needs rather than try and tell you what might work. We have the Compressor program, which comes with some wonderful export presets. For a $50 one-time fee, it's well worth the price (Motion too, if that's your thing). Export away. We were very surprised at how much more quickly FCPX exported final media than Premiere did. We save loads of time in this area.

Archive

To be ready for the archive stage, we generally recommend that all deliverables are complete, and you're fairly certain the client won't be needing any new edits from you. It's not a huge problem if they do, but this step deletes the proxy files, so you would either have to re-proxy, or work from original media. I'm actually going to provide instruction for two paths to archiving. One path is for the scenario where you want to keep all the original media you shot at the start, the second path the scenario that you only want to keep footage that was used in the delivered edits. There is validity for both, we use both, you should know both.

OPTION 1: KEEP ALL ORIGINAL MEDIA

Be sure the Library you want to archive is open in FCPX. Click on the Library level on the left hand nav menu, and then go to File > Delete Generated Library Files. This might seem scary, but remember, your original media is safe (hopefully in a couple places). All this step hopes to do is delete those proxies we made, essentially turning your FCPX Library into a container for the project files (your edits) and reference files, all tied up and only a few MB large. Cool.

So the dialogue window you've pulled up should look like this:

We go for the jugular and select all of the options, including the "ALL" option in the sub-menu of DELETE RENDER FILES. As you can see, none of these selections is original media. Breathe. It will be good. Click OK.

If you selected the FCPX library in finder and selected "Get Info," you should see the file size drop dramatically. From this Finder Window view, drag the FCPX library from the portable drive, into the folder alongside the original shoot media. Done. Files remain linked (try it and see!), and you're projects are still there should you need to go back and tweak. Your portable drive is now available for the next project.

OPTION 2: KEEP ONLY MEDIA USED IN PROJECTS

Be sure the Library you want to archive is open in FCPX. Then, hit File > New > Library, and save the new library to the backup location root level. We generally name this "Library Name (ARCHIVE)" to help delineate while we are moving things around. Click on the original library in the FCPX left-hand nav menu, and get to a view that lets you see all your projects in one spot (the Library level). Select them all, and drag those project files to the newly created Archive Library. In doing so, it will pull with it the clips necessary for the projects into the new library. With the Archive Library selected in the left-hand FCPX nav bar, you should see a dialogue box on the right hand side with information regarding the library media storage. Should look like this:

The important button here is the "Media" section, where you'll see a button for CONSOLIDATE (in the red circle above). When you press this, it will take any media, proxy or original, and store it inside the FCPX Library. This can take time depending on where the media is moving from, but once it's done transferring, your'e set. In your backup file system, you can delete all the original media, leaving only the FCPX Archive library. Wait to empty the trash if you want to do the following verification first:

We usually close any open libraries in FCPX, and then attempt to open the Archive Library we just made. When it opens, you should have all the projects you need, and you should be able to view the original media without red rectangles showing up. Once you're sure the projects are there in total, feel free to empty your trash of those unused original media files. You can also delete the original Library off your portable drive, and you're all set for the next project!

That's it - a long, but short look at using FCPX from shoot to archive. We seriously hope this is helpful. If there's questions you have, or gaps you think we missed, please let us know in the comments below and we will address those concerns. Our goal is to create a resource that can help you become more efficient FCPX users, and hopefully save you some of the headache we've experienced over the years trying to find these answers.

Tags:
FCPX
Adobe Premiere Pro
Apple
Lowertown
NLE
Non-Linear Editors
Video
Render
Archiving Video
FCPX Workflow
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