In Part One we looked at the basics of importing and how to manage your project settings. In this part we’ll look at how Final Cut Pro X deals with media and folder organization, projects, and how it helps to analyze your footage for best quality and performance.
How Final Cut Pro X organizes data
Final Cut Pro X (FCP-X henceforth) has four major data groups:
This is how the last three relate to each other (we’ll cover projects in the next section):
Keywords are linked to clips, and clips are linked to events. Let’s understand this well.
Let’s start with clips. Clips are:
- Video files,
- Audio files,
- Still images, or
Clips have metadata associated with them. Clips can be spanned (your camera splits them into parts while recording), or single clips (you chose when to start and stop recording, which was saved as one clip). Clips can be of various durations or sizes (resolution, frame rate, etc.). You can import all kinds of footage into your Event library.
Each clip can have one or more keywords associated with them. This is totally up to you. Keywords allow you to search for clips faster. You can also use the same keyword (e.g., cloudy sky) for multiple clips. When you search for ‘cloudy sky’ all the clips with this keyword show up. To access the keyword tool:
- Select one or more clips in your Event Browser.
- Click on the ‘Key’ icon (it’s a couple of icons away from the Import icon).
You get this:
You can type in a new keyword or select from earlier keywords, called ‘Keyword Shortcuts’ (See image).
Once you’ve added keywords to a clip, the clip has a blue line across it in the Event Browser. To see your keywords in the browser, select View > Show Skimmer info, and hover your mouse over the clip.
There is another cool trick. If you organize your footage into well-named folders on your hard drive, you can import them with the folder name as keyword!
There are other kinds of organizational metadata available:
- Roles – the defaults are Video, Titles, Dialogue, Music, and Effects. You can add your own.
- Notes – plain notes against each clip.
- Ratings – Favorites, Rejected clips, etc.
I like the fact that FCP-X gives you the freedom and choice to use either one-word tags (roles), multi-word tags (keywords) or many-word tags (notes). See, the functionality is simple, but powerful. It’s up to you how to use it for a quick and efficient workflow. Compare this to a dedicated ingest and logging tool such as Adobe Prelude, and you’ll see FCP-X is no slouch.
Events are not folders in FCP-X language. There are folders you can add to an event, to organize your clips. Events might look and act like folders, but are something else.
Think of Events as shepherds. An event is a folder that holds your video clips, and any render files and metadata associated with it (kept in databases). You might lose track of where everything is, but you’ll always find it in your Events ‘folder’. In this sense, Events act as smart folders.
You can take things further. The software developers could have called ‘Events’ something else, but they didn’t. An event does not carry the same baggage as the word ‘folder’ does. It is also not very restrictive as to what it could mean. An event can be a wedding, or a specific ceremony in a wedding, or a group of weddings. It’s up to you to define what an event is. But once you have defined it, you can name them rationally and apply the logic consistently. This is how Events are intended to be used in FCP-X.
If you make a mistake creating events, and want to change its ‘meaning’ later, you can! You can merge multiple events into another event, or you can split one event into multiple events.
You can also move clips between events or create copies of events if you want multiple versions of an event (sort of like an alternate reality of what really happened that afternoon). There is no magic all-encompassing formula to creating events – whatever you can manage is the right way. For a fictional piece, an event could be a scene, a shot or even a sequence. Remember, there is nothing ‘above’ an event, so the order of the day is to keep your events down to a manageable number. Figure out how many events you can ultimately manage, and work your way backwards.
You can group (sort) your events by hard disk or date, but that’s it. You can group (sort) your clips many ways. Play around with it till you find what works for you intuitively. If it’s there it’s because it works too!
Events, keywords, folders and clips are all found in the Event Library. The manual explains creating and working with events and keywords in great depth, so there’s no need to go over all that here.
Look at our diagram again. Keywords are linked to clips and clips are linked to events. The cool thing is that none of them are strictly required to be faithful to the other. E.g.,
- You can have the same keyword serving many different clips.
- You can have the same clips in many folders and events with different keywords.
- You can have the same event duplicated and then change it to suit your wishes.
The only thing that remains sacrosanct is the Event. Each event is different and unique. Nothing else needs to be. With these three concepts FCP-X allows unlimited freedom to organize your media for any project imaginable.
However, I mentioned earlier there are four major data groups. The fourth one is Projects.
A project is your focus of attention at any given moment. The concept is similar to any other software out there that deals with video. You must first define your project. Only after this is done can you figure out how to split your events.
For FCP-X, a project is a command to record your work, so you can reference it later. If you don’t save your project, you lose your work. To open a new project, click on File > New Project. You’ll get this:
You must give your project a unique name because it resides on your hard drive.
The next task is to assign it a Default Event. You can’t open a project unless you have already imported a clip and created an event. By default there’s already an event when you fire up FCP-X. The selection of your default event is important, because that’s where a clip will go if you directly drag it from the Finder or Browser. Ultimately, a clip cannot exist outside an event.
A new project will most likely begin with a 00:00:00:00 timecode.
In Video Properties, choose ‘Set based on first video clip’ if all your clips are in the same resolution and frame rate, or if the final delivery settings match your footage, etc. Otherwise choose ‘Custom’. The same goes for Audio.
- You can choose different resolutions, all the way to 5K. The lowest resolution supported is 640 x 480. You cannot choose custom resolutions or aspect ratios. This is a huge negative.
- The lowest frame rate possible is 23.976p, and the maximum is 60p. No 12 or 18 fps options.
- Audio only has ‘Surround’ or ‘Stereo’. I believe Prores Surround is limited to 8 channels (7.1) but I could be wrong.
- Maximum audio bit depth isn’t specified.
FCP-X remembers your project settings for each subsequent project. You can access many projects at the same time by clicking the ‘reel’ icon:
Click the icon again to get back to the Timeline view. You can sort your projects into folders by adding new folders (icon on the right). At any given moment, you can only work on one Project.
Every project, event and manipulation (analysis, rendered files, transcoded files, etc.) is stored logically in folders on your hard drive. You can move, copy or port these to another project or drive or folder. The basic structure is simple enough, and is explained in the manual under ‘Where your media and project files are located’.
What is Analysis? According to Apple:
You can have Final Cut Pro analyze your media and automatically correct common problems it may find in your video, still images, and audio.
Your footage and audio can be analyzed upon import for the following:
- Shaky video – the image will be slightly interpolated to account for mathematics.
- Color balance
- Audio hum
- Audio loudness
- Detecting the number of people in the shot.
- Identify if a shot is a close-up, medium or wide shot.
Unless you absolutely have to do this on import I would strongly advise against it. It’s far less time-consuming and resource intensive to deal with effects and filters after you have locked your edit. As for ‘Find People’ or the kind of shot, I haven’t tried it and don’t know how reliable it is. There’s nothing worse than having to go through all that and then second guess yourself on whether it was done correctly or not.
For these reasons and more, I advise you to avoid auto analysis of any kind upon import.
We’ve looked at the basics and how to organize your projects, events and media. In Part Three we’ll look at each codec and see whether and how it can be imported into FCP-X.