FCP X 10.1: Collaboration

Posted on by Larry

[ This article looks at collaboration. My next article will examine backup and archiving techniques for Final Cut Pro X 10.1. ]

Collaboration is the process of sharing media, events or projects between editors or other staff. Final Cut Pro X v10.1 provides a wide variety of ways to collaborate, but they all start at the same place: importing your media. This article looks at collaboration in general and provides different examples of how editors can work together. However, there are more options than I have time to cover here. Check out the Additional Resources section at the bottom of this article for more information.

This is the third of four articles I’ve written on media management in Final Cut Pro X v10.1. The other three are:

DEFINITIONS

Libraries are the master container and hold everything: media, events, projects, render files, transcoded files, metadata, everything.

Events hold clips and projects. Think of events as folders which you can organize as you see fit.

Projects are timelines; “sequences,” as Final Cut Pro 7 would call them.

Libraries can be stored anywhere and named anything that the Mac file system will allow. However, some library locations will be better than others. For example, you can store libraries on a thumb drive, however, storing that same library on a Thunderbolt RAID will yield better performance.

Media that is stored inside a Final Cut library is called “managed media,” because Final Cut manages it for you. Media that is referenced by a library, but stored outside it, is called “external media.”

NOTE: Once you are inside Final Cut itself, I recommend storing clips and projects in separate events within the library because it makes managing them easier. This organization is not required, but it is a good practice.

IT ALL STARTS AT IMPORT

While Final Cut provides a variety of ways to reorganize media after you have it in the system, life is easiest when you plan to share files during import. When you import files, you have two key options for Media Storage that affect how easily you can share files.

When you Copy files into an event, Final Cut copies the files from where they are into the library. This creates what Apple calls “managed media.” These files are stored inside the library and travel wherever the library bundle goes.

NOTE: Libraries are called “bundles,” because they “bundle” a large number of files into a single location. Bundles are, essentially, special-purpose folders that act like a single file.

The good news about copying files into a library is that all your files are in one place, making them easy to manage, move, or backup. The bad news is that the library file size can be enormous because it contains all that media. (Enormous does not mean bad, simply that the file size is very big.)

When you Leave files in place, Final Cut creates a symlink, stored inside the library, that points to the location of the source files on your hard disk. “Leaving files in place” avoids duplicating your media.

NOTE: Symlinks are much more robust than the simple pointers we used in Final Cut Pro 7; they are even more robust than the aliases we use in the Finder. For example, if you rename a source file or the folder that contains it, Final Cut will still know where the source media file is located.

These symlinks are tiny, about 100 KB, which keeps the library bundle small. Even better, multiple libraries can point to the same media, without increasing the space you need for storage, because each library only points to the media, it doesn’t copy it. However, because media files are now separate from the library, you need to make sure you are backing up both the library and the media files.

Also, when you import media, use Events to stay organized. Since you can create an unlimited number of events inside a single library, create as many events as you need to help you organize your media.

UPDATE NOTE:  Mark Spencer points this out in the comments, but I want to also mention a new feature in the 10.1 update. Now, when you are importing from a camera card you can choose to copy the media to an external folder on a hard disk or shared network volume so that all editors can get to the media as soon as Final Cut is done importing from the camera. This is especially useful for multiple users with quick turn around situations like news and sports.

In previous versions we would need to import to a local hard drive, then copy the media to the shared storage. Now, this is all done in one step.

KEY THINGS TO KEEP IN MIND

CREATE A “TRANSFER LIBRARY”

A Transfer Library is a library that is specifically created to share projects or events from one editor to another. Let me illustrate how to create a Transfer Library to share a project from one editor to another.

Select the project you want to share in the Browser.

Choose File > Copy Project to Library > New Library

Give the new library a name. You can name the library anything and store it anywhere.

To reduce the size of the project to its bare minimum, uncheck both these checkboxes. Your project should now only be a few megabytes and small enough to email.

NOTE: I recommend using Copy Project to Library, rather than Move Project to Library, principally because if anything goes wrong, you still have the original project.

UPDATE NOTE:  You do not need to delete any render files before moving or copying a Library. Final Cut does not copy this generated media when copying or moving libraries because that media can be quickly regenerated once the library arrives at the new destination. This makes the the transfer go more quickly and keeps the Transfer Library smaller.

COMMON SCENARIOS

Scenario 1: Two editors who are on the same network want to work on the same project.

Answer: While only one editor can be in a library at a time, the ability to quickly open and close libraries makes sharing simple.

Store the library on a network volume. When the time comes to give the project to another editor, simply close the library so that the other editor can open and work on it. Because both media and project files are stored in the library, each editor has access to the latest cut each time they open the library.

NOTE: Depending upon the video formats you are using and the bandwidth of your network, it may be easier to copy the library from the network to local storage.

– – –

Scenario 2: A producer in a different location wants to do a rough-cut for an editor, then have the editor polish the cut.

Answer: Import all media so that it is copied into a single library, then duplicate that library onto a second hard disk and give it to the producer. Because the media is stored inside the library, you don’t need to worry about cloning drives or matching file path names, the library handles all of that.

The producer opens the library inside their copy of Final Cut Pro X, creates a new project and edits a rough cut. When she is done with the rough cut, the producer selects the project and chooses File > Copy Project to new Library to create a new Transfer Library.

This creates a new library containing the project, with links to all the existing media. The producer sends that library back to the editor, who opens it, then drags the project into the existing library. At which point, the Transfer Library can be deleted.

Sending projects contained in otherwise empty libraries is a fast way to share projects.

– – –

Scenario 3: Two editors on the same network need to share media, but not projects.

Answer: On a network volume, store all media in separate folders, organized however you wish – by client, job, activity, scene… whatever. Each editor can then import the media they need for their project and select “Leave files in place.” This means that the media is linked into the library, not copied.

This is the fastest way to share media – by linking it to the library, not copying it into the library.

NOTE: Media can be stored on any network volume. However, not all networks have the same performance. A simple Gigabit Ethernet network is fine for small groups and single camera editing. However, for teams of editors or multicam editing, you will need to increase the performance of your network significantly. This is where XSAN comes in. XSAN is a high-performance network optimized for media editing.

– – –

Scenario 4: A team of editors all need access to the same media using a variety of applications.

Answer: Store the media on a high-speed network, organized in folders as necessary. Editors not using Final Cut can access the source media stored in those folders. Final Cut editors can create new libraries that point to this media. Editors can share libraries using the Open/Close method I talked about in Scenario 1, or they can transfer projects from one editor to the next using the “Transfer Library” we talked about in Scenario 2.

SUMMARY

Final Cut Pro X is designed with collaboration in mind, but it requires thinking differently about how and where to store your media. Libraries reduce the need for cloning drives, instead we simply need to copy files from one drive to the other. And the ability to move projects by containing them within libraries makes sure that all essential data transfers from one editor to another.

ADDITIONAL RESOURCES

Apple provides a good overview of media management. Read it here – especially pages 14 – 18.

The well-respected Alexander Snelling has written a detailed and easily readable analysis of media management, collaboration, backup and archiving. Read it here.

As well, here are three other articles I’ve written that explain the basics of media management in Final Cut Pro X 10.1

FCP X: Manage Libraries

FCP X: Manage Projects

FCP X: Media Management


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76 Responses to FCP X 10.1: Collaboration

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  1. Jeff says:

    Hi Larry,
    I would like to use 2 external raid units that can be synced easily at the end of each day instead of using network storage. That way each editor (two of us) can sit at any workstation and have the same content to edit from. We wouldn’t get confused and accidentally work on the same project at the same time and we could share macs more easily. One Mac is more powerful than the other so it gets more work when it comes time for motion graphics and color grading, 4K and militicam but the other Mac is really only good for basic editing.
    Can you think of any easy automated solutions for something like this?

    • Larry says:

      Jeff:

      Carbon Copy Cloner from Bombich Software.

      Larry

      • Jeff says:

        Thanks Larry. I’ve used Chronosynch in the past for general backup but I was sure if hard drive units attached to different macs could be scheduled to synchronize. I’ll look into it. Also, I don’t know if direct thunderbolt to thunderbolt data connection between macs ever made it to market, but that would be an option if each Mac could plug in to an external raid with multiple thunderbolt ports…

  2. James says:

    Hey I’m noticing that in 10.2.2 when i copy a project from one lib to another it actually COPIES all the media on the proj timeline! WTF?

    • Larry says:

      James:

      You have two options: move and copy. What should be happening, when you copy a project from one library to the next, is that the new library will contain aliases (pointers), not the actual media files themselves.

      Larry

      • Ilari says:

        FCP 10.2.1 seems to copy also the media when creating a copy of a project. There is no option to untick the media from being copied. Any ideas?

  3. Kapil Limbad says:

    Hi Larry,
    I am importing rushes from NAS on FCPX 10.2.3, I don’t want the option of importing the footage in library. And what I need is let the rushes be where its stored across network. But this option is not highlighted. Any help regarding this.
    I am planning to build a setup with 4 k rushes being edited on 1 machine and graded on another.
    If would be great if you could throw some light on this subject.

    • Larry says:

      Kapil:

      Final Cut only supports network storage that runs XSAN. Your NAS is not an XSAN server, so FCP X won’t recognize files on it.

      Larry

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