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First-Person Final Cut Pro X, Day Three: Media Management

First-Person Final Cut Pro X is the unvarnished story of one pro editor's week-long introduction to the new Final Cut.

Today, we discuss media management in FCP X, or the complete lack thereof.

So far this is the most frustrating thing about this program. Like many FCP X features, it's designed to keep you from screwing up, and as a result will no doubt screw you up royally.

First: understand that what we've been calling a "Project," FCP X calls an "Event." You make a new Event, import footage into it, organize footage within it, and try not to think about slowly aging aliens being held captive in Alaska on a really stupid TV show. I guess we all failed that one.

FCP X also makes a corresponding Event folder on your internal drive [or on any other drive you have connected –Ed.]. If you like, when you import files you can tell it to copy them there. The nice thing about this is that it will happily let you start editing and do the copying in the background, and the transcoding as well if necessary.

Now, my first thought was, wow! That's awesome! But I have to admit my next thought was, damn! There goes my last coffee break excuse!

The trouble here is that you have no real control over where this Event folder is. It seems to always go to your username>Movies>Final Cut Events on your internal drive, which of course is a horrible place for your media. It's like Avid, except that on Avid at least you could choose what freaking drive to put everything on. Here you don't even seem to have that.

[Matt's first impression here was incorrect. It is possible to import media directly to an Event on any attached drive, to move Events with drag and drop in the library, or use the File menu's Move command to move the Project and the Events together. FCP X's media management approach is so different from FCP 7 that many pro editors, like Matt, are not sure where to begin. –Ed.]

So you might think, okay, I'll just tell FCP X not to move my media to the Events folder, I'll organize it myself. Except if you have to transcode it (think XDCAM), or render it, all those files will go there automatically. How annoying is that?

As it turns out, not nearly as annoying as this: move or rename a media file, and it's lost forever. FCP X has no Reconnect Media command. That's right, one of the things you hated most about Avid has now been adopted by Apple. And it's worse than that: modify the file externally and FCP X won't be able to find it! Yes, folks, bring a file into After Effects, add some zip zap zoom, save it back to the exact same location with the same filename and your super-advanced editing system will pretend it's offline!

Now for some sort of good news. There has been a lot of press about how you can't move projects around. This doesn't seem to be true. You can create a Project (which is what we've all been calling a Sequence), select the project, choose File>Duplicate Project, and have FCP X copy the entire project and its associated Event (meaning all its associated clips) to another drive. I did this successfully. [You can also simply move the Project + Events, rather than creating a Duplicate project. –Ed.]

In fact -- bonus -- it does this in the background too. So you can keep editing while it moves your files anywhere in the universe!

And if you do that, then your Event and Project get to be on whatever drive you want. If you transcode or render anything, those files will go to that drive. So it seems to me that as a workaround we might want to do something like create an Event, import one file, create a Project, duplicate it to the proper drive, and then import the rest of the footage.

It seems to me that this would totally work for networked editing, because FCP X will find all Events and Projects on any drives connected to the system (without even rebooting, thank you). So there's a big plus.

One thing that really worries me about this whole Event/Project thing is that the terminology itself seems pretty revealing. Apple says this is a professional product, but the terminology is clearly from iMovie and so are the keyboard shortcuts. Doesn't that say that it's more important that iMovie users feel comfortable with this product than FCP 7 users?

Tomorrow, for the Fourth of July -- the fourth installment in this series: trimming. I think you guys are going to like most of what you hear on that subject. Stay tuned.

Professional film & video editor Matthew Levie is based in San Francisco; he produced and edited the documentary Honest Man and writes Blog and Capture. First-Person Final Cut Pro X is the unvarnished story of his week-long introduction to the new Final Cut.

Note that all opinions and assessments of FCP X expressed here are Matt's own, not TUAW's, and that any misconceptions or misunderstandings of FCP X features represent Matt's hands-on first reactions. –Ed.

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