The last 6 – 12 months have seen a bumper crop of new Final Cut plug-ins and utilities that extend its power and functionality. Quite a few have come to light since this year’s NAB. I’m going to spend the summer highlighting a number of these throughout the next series of posts.
The first isn’t really a plug-in at all. Digital Heaven’s Loader is an utility that launches whenever FCP is started and is designed as a “helper application” to manage media files that you import into a Final Cut project. The cardinal mistake that I see many editors make is in how they handle file organization. Setting your scratch disk locations in FCP takes care of ingested tape-based or tapeless media, but it doesn’t do anything to help you organize music, announcer tracks, photos and graphics, which make up a large part of a project.
I occasionally inherit projects from other editors and am confronted with missing media. The majority of the camera media relinks just fine from an external drive, but then I find a handful of clips that are offline. Digging a bit deeper, it turns out that these aren’t on the drive at all. These images or tracks had been imported from the editor’s local Pictures folder or iTunes music folder and never copied to the external project drive in the first place.
Another problem is sample rate conversion of audio. FCP does an poor job of dealing with 44.1kHz audio and MP3 files. You should ALWAYS convert to 48kHz AIF files BEFORE bringing these into your FCP project, but most editors never do. Issues like these, which are automatically handled for Avid editors by their application, require extra thought on the part of the FCP editor.
Enter Loader, which helps to resolve this dilemma. Loader is designed to deal with still images, sound files and QuickTime movies that are not ingested from tape, P2, XDCAM or other professional camera format. The application does three very simple functions:
1) Loader automatically copies the imported files into a central location that is independent of their original folders. The original images, tracks and movies are preserved and untouched. More importantly, the media that is used in the edit stays with the rest of the project files.
2) Loader organizes this non-timecode-based media into three neat folders – Movies, Audio and Graphics. You get to choose where these files are to be placed at the time of the first import into the project. After that, Loader will remember where to send the files. In my case, I typically create a Project Files media folder at the same location as my Capture Scratch folder. Inside the Project Files folder, I’ll create folders for each FCP project in this manner: Drive Name/FCP Media/Project Files/Project Name. That last folder is where I will direct Loader to send the imported files. Loader will automatically create a Movies, Audio and Graphics folder inside, thus keeping everything neatly organized.
3) The last and most important function is automatic sample rate conversion of imported audio tracks. Simply drag an MP3 track or a song from iTunes to Loader and it automatically copies the file and converts it to a 48kHz/16-bit AIF file, retaining its original file name. It will also handle Apple’s CAF files.
Loader’s own interface is pretty minimal. There are preferences where you can chose whether or not to launch Loader with FCP. You can also add or remove file extensions from the 3 primary media types. Loader appears in FCP as a small clapstick icon on top of the left or right edge of the FCP interface. Hold down the Command key and slide the clapstick bar up or down to keep it from obscuring part of the interface.
Don’t use the FCP’s import menu command to bring in a new file. Instead, simply drag the file that’s to be imported towards the clapstick icon. As you hover over the bar, Loader’s full interface slides out – looking like the rest of a film slate. Drop the file onto the “slate” and Loader takes care of the rest.
Any files handled by Loader appear in the FCP browser inside a new date/time-stamped “imports” bin. Of course, you can move or change this bin or the master clip in the FCP browser, just like any other clip.
If you edit with multiple FCP projects open at once, Loader will also keep track of these. Simply drag-and-drop the file to the correct FCP project name on the slate icon and Loader takes care of placing the media into the correct folders and into the right project pane. Once you get used to Loader, you’ll quickly see how this can save you time and hassles on many future FCP projects.
© 2009 Oliver Peters