This guide simplifies and explains how you can move your projects back and forth between Final Cut Pro X and Blackmagic Design DaVinci Resolve – a round-trip.
If you are new to both software, or round-tripping, then read the following before you dive in:
- What is round-tripping?
- How to import video into FCP-X
- The FCP-X export guide
- The DaVinci Resolve Crash Course for Beginners
How to transfer your project from FCP-X to DaVinci Resolve
This is so easy in theory, it hurts when you get it wrong. Just remember: When you get it wrong, it’s not always your fault. But 99% of the time, it is.
When you’re ready to move your timeline or sequence (FCP-X calls this a Project) from FCP-X, all you have to do is select it, hit File > Export XML…, and save the *.fcpxml XML file with a name of your choosing. Done.
Then you fire up Resolve, and go to the Conform page. File > Import AAF, EDL, XML… and choose the saved file. Boom, you’re done. Or maybe not.
What could go wrong? There are only two major stumbling blocks when you move a timeline from FCP-X to DaVinci Resolve:
- Frame rate mismatch
- File name/type mismatch
Let’s deal with the toughest problem first.
Frame rate mismatch
The way video works is that your project frame rate, sometimes also called Timebase frame rate or just ‘the frame rate’, is always fixed to one value. You could try to squeeze in different frame rate videos into your project or timeline, but they must somehow change to conform to your timebase frame rate. When I use the word frame rate from here on, it is the timebase frame rate.
Let’s take this step by step. FCP-X supports the following frame rates:
Notice how they include all variations:
- 23.98 (23.976) as well as 24p
- 29.97p as well as 30p
- 59.94p as well as 60p
There are many in the industry who have learnt to use these frame rates interchangeably in discourse, wrecking somebody else’s workflow in the process. To learn more about frame rates, read Understanding Frame Rate.
Before we look at taking stuff out of FCP-X, we need to know how FCP-X handles frame rates. Let’s start with an example. I have a 1080p25 H.264 MOV file that has a duration of 26.19 (seconds.frames). This means the video has a total of 669 frames.
When you import this clip into projects with different frame rates, you get this:
25p to 25p is fine, as it should be. But look what happens in the first two cases and compare that to the last five cases:
- In the first two cases, FCP-X tries to keep the frame rate the same. This forces the duration of the project to change. In both cases it has changed to 27.21.
- In the last five cases, FCP-X tries to keep the duration the same, but then is forced to interpolate (create new frames) to fill in the gaps. Even so, the duration still changes!
Other than 25p, FCP-X does not retain the same duration in any scenario. So, you have split-personality problem in FCP-X:
- A media file that still is its original duration and frame rate (26.19, 25p), and
- A project in which that clip has now changed both duration and frame rate (all the other scenarios above).
Note: Optimizing media (transcoding into Prores 422) does not change this behavior.
DaVinci Resolve supports the following frame rates:
It’s the same! Resolve has two more options – 47.952 and 48p, but let’s ignore that for now.
FCP-X gives you the option to use the same frame rate as the first clip on your timeline (which FCP-X calls a project). The way FCP-X works, is that you can have multiple timelines (projects) within one session, and they can all be different frame rates if you want.
However, in DaVinci Resolve, a project can have multiple timelines (called timelines) but they can only be the same frame rate as your project. One frame rate per project. Once you set it up, it can’t change.
Let’s say we we export XMLs for our example clip from FCP-X, and import them into Resolve. All of the timelines (projects in FCP-X) can be imported without problems:
|Frame rate||Duration||Handle mixed framerate material|
You might want to know what the last column stands for. Let’s talk about that.
When you try to import an XML into a fresh project in Resolve, you get the following options popup:
As you can see, if you import a project/timeline at 23.976 (23.98) from FCP-X, Resolve automatically assigns the Timeline framerate that value. The EDL framerate retains the default value of 24, and the playback rate is also 24 (not shown, but is accessible in the project settings).
When you import a 23.98 or 24p project, you don’t have to do anything, even if your clip is 25p or whatever. Resolve automatically brings the project in and the clips are available.
When you check the project settings after having imported your timeline, you’ll notice that the Timeline framerate is greyed out. Any subsequent imports (XML) to the same Resolve project will not have the option of changing the timeline framerate. We’ll get to this in a bit. Here’s what it’ll look like (ignore the 30p, because this screen shot was taken on another project. In our sample case, it will show 23.98):
What about 29.97 and beyond? When you import these into Resolve, you get the following error:
You could try to force reconform by:
- Selecting the clip in the Media Pool
- Selecting the clip on the timeline
- Right click and choose Force conform with selected Media Pool Clip
If it’s greyed out that’s because the timeline is locked:
Once you unlock it, and choose Force conform with selected Media Pool Clip, you’ll get the following error:
There’s your clue. Remember how FCP-X has interpolated your data and had created new frames? Resolve will not know that, unless you tell it.
To do this, at the time of import (XML), you need to check the Handle mixed framerate material box shown in the above Options image. After this, all your timelines import as-is into Resolve, retaining the same durations.
All you had to do was check the damn box.
Now you know why the third column exists. Once you’ve imported an XML with the Handle mixed framerate material box checked, this option will be greyed out in your project settings, along with the Calculate timecode at field:
Again, don’t worry about the changing frame rate in my images, these were taken at different project settings. What you’ll see is the frame rate of the first XML imported timeline, after which it will no longer be available for change. The same applies to the Handle mixed framerate material box.
If you’re only importing one kind of XML timeline (as in one kind of frame rate-timeline mismatch timeline) from FCP-X, then you can set these values as shown above. However, if you know your project is going to end up as a different frame rate, but need to import an XML that does not meet that, you must change these values in the Project Settings at the beginning of your Resolve project, before you do anything else.
You will still be given the option to change these settings the first time you import an XML, but you should attempt to match your project settings as much as you can. This way, you stay in total control over your project frame rate.
This long drawn out example shows clearly why you should keep your frame rates constant. Frame rate mismatch problems are visible when people shoot with Red cameras, where 24p means 24p; or when they shoot ’24p’ on a DSLR, when the manufacturer actually means 23.976p, and so on. Don’t take anything for granted!
But wait! We are not done yet! There is one way you can force your mixed frame rate clips to conform in FCP-X, and we’ll look at this, along with exporting a more complicated timeline in Part Two.
- In FCP-X: When working on small or large projects, make sure all your clips match the project frame rate if possible. Don’t inadvertently create problems for yourself.
- If your clips don’t match your project frame rate, understand how FCP-X deals with it. I’ve only shown one example above, but it must give you enough ideas to do the test for yourself.
- If you’re using multiple frame rate clips in the same timeline or project, remember that!
- Export the XML.
- Open a new project in Resolve and choose the project settings to correspond with your FCP-X project settings (it’s a good habit).
- Import the XML.
- Make sure Resolve shows the frame rate correctly.
- If necessary, check ‘Handle mixed framerate material‘.
- You’re done.
If you still have problems, try these steps:
- If necessary, ensure your playback frame rate is the same as your timeline frame rate. This is not mandatory.
- If necessary, force conform as shown earlier.
- Troubleshoot individual clips if necessary, or as a last resort, transcode and reimport separately.
- Test individual clips for conform problems. Tedious, but that’s how detective work works.
- Test this entire workflow prior to using it on a real project.
FCP-X is available as 30-day trial, and DaVinci Resolve Lite is free. It is almost criminal not to test the frame rates and project settings of your project prior to committing to it. Don’t assume it will work. The errors that pop up are written for the guys who do.
In Part Two we’ll look at a more complicated workflow, and how FCP-X force-conforms clips. Let’s see what happens then.