This article was suggested by an email from a reader earlier this week. He was asking whether Final Cut Pro X could create templates to simplify creating similar libraries from similar projects. (He was a wedding videographer.)
The short answer is: “No.” But, in thinking about this, I realized that there are actually two ways to do this: the free way and the fun way.
NOTE: I define a “template,” as a Final Cut Pro X Library that contains events, keywords, Smart Collections, but no media or projects.
So, to explain how this works, I created a new Library for my webisode series: 2ReelGuys.com. (This is a 32-episode series on filmmaking. Learn more here.) As part of this initial library, I also created several new Events and keywords.
NOTE: Templates can also contain custom Smart Collections, but to create a Smart Collection, you first need to import media.
THE FREE METHOD
I store all my Libraries on an external RAID in a folder named Final Cut Libraries. While I feel strongly that using external storage for both Libraries and media is best for video editing, where you store your Libraries is up to you. I store all my Libraries in one folder because it makes everything a whole lot easier to find.
As soon as I created this new Library, I quit Final Cut and located that Library in the Finder. Select the Library in the Finder and duplicate it. This creates a copy of what you just created that you can save and reuse as a template.
NOTE: Don’t lock the Library using the Get Info command. Final Cut won’t open a locked file and, instead, will display this error message.
The good news about this free method is that it works. The bad news is that if you discover better ways to organize files, improve keywords, add Smart Collections or all the other organizational inspirations that occur during an edit, reflecting them back into this saved template is awkward at best and forgotten at worst.
And, once you start adding media and projects to a library, resetting everything back to its original state is time-consuming and awkward.
A BETTER WAY
Instead, there’s a 3rd-party utility that can make this process a easier, though not yet perfect. The program is called “Final Cut Library Manager,” from ArcticWhiteness, and the Advanced version supports creating templates.
NOTE: When I first reviewed this product a couple of years ago, the developers sent me a free review copy. I was so impressed with it that I bought my own version.
The benefit to creating templates using Library Manager is that templates can be created at the end of an edit, which means that all your organizational changes, keywords, searches, etc. are easily rolled into the new template, which is kept in a location that prevents you from accidentally erasing it. However, the bad news is that Library Manager does not remove media or projects, which means you need to do so each time you re-use a template.
To create a template, open Final Cut Library Manager (remember, this requires their Advanced version) and right-click (Control-click) the existing Library that you want to turn into a template.
In the resulting dialog, give your template a name and click Create Template.
This creates a “model” (a copy) of your existing Library and stores it in [Home directory] > Library > Application Support > Final Cut Library Manager.
Done. The template is created and safely saved.
Now, go up to the File menu in Library Manager, NOT Final Cut Pro X, and choose File > Library Templates > [ name of template ] > New Library from this Template. There is no practical limit to how many templates you create. However, since these are stored on your boot drive and contain all the original files, a few templates of big projects can take a lot of space.
Give your new Library a name and storage location, and click Create Library. Final Cut Library Manager makes a copy of the template model it created earlier and stores it in the location you specify. (Again, I recommend storing all libraries to external media.)
When you open the new Library in Final Cut Pro X, everything is restored.
STILL NOT QUITE ENOUGH
The benefit to using Library Manager to create templates is that it simplifies all the file management hassles of creating, copying and saving a new or existing Library. And, since the template can be created at any time, including the end of an edit, the template always contains the latest changes.
However, the template that Library Manager creates is actually a copy of an existing Library, and Libraries can be HUGE! To be really useful, Library Manager needs to add three checkboxes and make them the default setting:
In almost all cases, I want to use the same Library structure, but import new media. In fact, if the Library Manager could keep all the projects, but remove the clips from each timeline, that would be even better.
For those of us who do the same projects over and over… and over, the ability to create templates can save a ton of time when setting up a new project.
The problem is that there is currently no easy way, regardless of which system you use, to quickly remove all existing media and projects, while still leaving the overall Library structure intact.
With luck, that will change in the future.
Final Cut Pro X 10.4
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