Solutions to Improve FCP’s Media Management

Media management has long been considered Apple Final Cut Pro’s Achilles’ Heel. In reality, FCP has gotten better in this regard and does a pretty decent job of linking project master clips to media. The shortcomings of FCP media management become apparent when projects are moved around among different edit systems, hard drives and editors. I’ve started to dabble with a few different applications that improve on FCP’s native abilities. I’ll bring these to you on an irregular basis, once I get a chance to do a bit more testing.

The first of these is FcpReconnect from VideoToolShed. This is the brainchild of Bouke Vahl, a Dutch editor and software developer. FcpReconnect may be used in a number of different ways, but in general, works by linking files based on matching reel numbers and timecode. For FCP editors, it provides an excellent solution to projects that use an offline-online edit workflow. Since reel number and timecode are the key, you are less subject to FCP’s need to have file names that completely match. For most workflows, there are two basic ways of using FcpReconnect: a) consolidation and relink or b) relink via XML.

Method A – Consolidate and Relink

As a test, I started with footage from a recent Canon EOS 5D Mark II project. The native camera files are 1920×1080 H.264, 30fps and have no reel numbers or timecode. As I described in a previous post, I converted the media to Apple ProResLT in Compressor, conformed the files to 29.97fps in Cinema Tools and added reel numbers and timecode using QtChange – another handy application from VideoToolShed.

To test FcpReconnect, I used Compressor again to convert the hi-res ProResLT “master” files into DV anamorphic “proxy” files for offline editing. The DV files have the same reel number and timecode, but aren’t an exact file name match, as they had a “DV” suffix appended to the clip name.

I created an FCP edit project (NTSC DV anamorphic) and assembled a basic edit sequence using the DV proxy files. In this example, the DV clips are independent from the hi-res files, which would be the workflow if I decided to do an offline edit on my laptop or gave the files to another editor to cut segments for me. Only the DV files would be the sources in this edit.

Once the edit is done, the next step is to use FCP’s Media Manager to create an offline project. Set the target format to match the hi-res media (1920×1080/30p ProResLT) and set short handle lengths. This creates a new project, with only the clips that were used in the cut. The media for these hi-res clips will show up as “offline”, of course. Next, export a Batch List of this new sequence.

Open FcpReconnect and first make sure you have selected the right timecode standard in the Set Up pulldown menu. VideoToolShed is in The Netherlands, so the default at first launch will be PAL. Once you’ve set this, select the target media folder (the hi-res HD files) and select the Batch List that you just exported. Once it finds all of the matches, you have a few options.

For this test, I chose to use clip names and copy/trim self-contained media of the selected files. This is the equivalent of Avid’s “consolidate” feature.

The clips that are used in the edited sequence are copied to a new folder with a duration equal to the edited length on the timeline, plus the handles. It also renames the media files to match the clip names used in the sequence.

Return to FCP and reconnect the media (currently offline) of the hi-res sequence to the newly consolidated files. Typically, once the first file is located, the others will be automatically found. You will get an FCP dialogue box, because the new media attributes will not completely match the expected attributes. This is normal. Simply click “continue” and you’ll be OK.

Let me caution, that I would still avoid wildly renaming clips inside the FCP browser. The Canon files are sequentially numbered movie files. I tried some tests in which I completely renamed these files. For example, “MVI_2061-DV” might have been renamed to “Richard CU”. Most of the time this worked fine, but I did have a few clips that would not relink. My recommendation is still to use other columns in FCP or at least to leave the number as part of the new clip name. This will make it easier if you must manually locate a few files. I had no such problems in the tests where I left the master clip name the same as its corresponding media file name.

Method B – Relink via XML

An alternate method is to skip the consolidation step. After all, if you already have the hi-res media on your drives, you might not want to copy these files again. In Method B, you’d start the same way with hi-res and proxy files. Edit the proxy project and then use FCP Media Manager to create a new offline project matching the hi-res format. Export a Batch List AND an XML file from this new offline sequence.

In FcpReconnect, pick the target (hi-res) media folder and the Batch List. Instead of coping media, open the XML file. FcpReconnect analyzes the XML against the Batch List and the target media folder and generates a new XML.

Open this new XML file in Final Cut Pro and select “create new project”. The result will be a new FCP project containing one sequence, which is linked to the hi-res media. If you have done this properly, the sequence settings should match the target HD format (ProResLT in my example).

You can make sure the sequence clips are linked to the right media by checking the media path in “item settings”.

In addition, you can also verify frame-accuracy by placing the proxy edit sequence over the hi-res edit sequence and make sure everything lines up. My tests were all accurate.

VideoToolShed’s FcpReconnect is one of a number of applications being developed to fill in the gaps of Final Cut Pro’s media management. It’s clear to see that with a little care, it doesn’t take much to make FCP a far more robust NLE.

©2010 Oliver Peters