A collaborative editing workflow in FCP X

9 minute read

A collaborative editing workflow in FCP X

Collaborative editing can be done in Final Cut Pro X. The approach is based on these principles:

  1. 1
    Between Editors
  2. 2
    Between Editors and Assistant Editors
  3. 3
    For Finishing

Note: we’ll use Final Cut Pro X parlance from here on. But for clarity’s sake, here’s a legend of essential FCP X terms:

  • Library – the structure containing your timelines, media, and clips. (Essentially the “project file” for FCP X.
  • Project – a timeline or sequence. (Not to be confused with the traditional meaning of a “project file.”)
  • Event – the container in a Library where clips are organized by keywords.
  • Clips – references to underlying media in your Library, whether managed or external. Available in the Event Browser.

Establish Your File Naming and Folder Organization Structure

It can’t be overstated: organization is the foundation of success in the edit. Before any actual editing begins, establish as a team how files and folders will be named and organized for the duration of your project.

If the structure can improve, write down your changes, then tactfully present them to the decision maker.

If you’re the decision maker, don’t get stuck in analysis paralysis, or be unwilling to change. Always be open to something could be clearer, listen, then decide. If changes are made, document it, relay changes, then stick to it.

When everyone does their part to be consistent with files and folders, you’ll spend less time looking for stuff, and more time making creative decisions.

Decide Where Library Media Will be Stored

Shared Storage or Local Storage?

Working with multiple users on the same network in a facility? Chances are you’ll use their shared storage for media access. Here’s how it works: a facility’s IT staff will grant you access to a portion of the server. Then they’ll show you how to mount and access any files and folders available to you.

If the facility doesn’t use shared storage, or when working remotely, use the highest-performing local storage available to your computer. On this drive:

  • Recommendation: do not use your startup disk as a media drive.

Import Media Inside or Outside Your Library?

A Library is a .fcpbundle. The .fcpbundle is a group of files and folders that represent all the Projects, Events, and Clips you see in FCP X. Some of these folders are designated for media. Depending on how you import media, your Library can quickly balloon with a single import.

Knowing that, there are two ways to import media:

  1. 1
    Managed Media – imported media is copied into (read: inside) the Library. In this way, media locations are managed by FCP X.
  2. 2
    External Media – imported media isn’t copied inside the Library. Clips are linked to media that live in shared or local storage. So media locations are external to FCP X.

When working with a team, import your assets as external media. If everyone’s following the file and folder organization, it ensures you’re viewing and accessing the same media as the rest of the team. It also keeps your .fcpbundle small for faster handoffs.

The Handoff

Currently, handing off a Library is the core of collaborative editing in FCP X. How that happens, natively and with third-party solutions, highlights FCP X’s flexibility when working in teams.

Handing Off Libraries or XML’s?

Even if you’re a band of two, handing off FCP X Libraries, .fcpbundle files, is the best way to maintain the integrity of the work among multiple editors.

If the Library lives on shared storage in a facility and you’re sick or on vacation, no problem. Your teammate can hop on the network, open up the Library, and the work can continue.

If you’re working remotely, make this your habit at the end of the day:

  • Check [Delete Render Files].
  • Select [All].

If you’re sick or on vacation, and (wait for it…) everyone’s following the file and folder organization, your teammate can just download the Library with any new assets, relink, and the work can continue.

That said, here are some caveats with Library handoff’s:

  • A newer version of FCP X will open older Libraries, but an older version of FCP X can’t open newer Libraries.
  • Effects
  • Transitions
  • Titles
  • Generators

Note: the Motion Templates folder is located in your local macOS account under /Users//Movies/Motion Templates/.

All team members should have the same fonts installed if any text or copy is used in the edit.

Of course, none of these are insurmountable. Third-party content in Motion Templates can be bundled along with your Library before handing it off, or installed on your teammates’ workstation.

You might wonder why FCP X versions might not have to be the same. That’s where XML comes in.

FCP X can export Libraries or Projects as .fcpxml. Since XML is just text with markup, it can be a lightweight method of sharing Libraries if a native Library is too big to hand off. XML is another way of getting a Library to another editor with a different version of FCP X.

The main caveat with XML handoffs is the potential for loss in translation. Sometimes obscure elements of your work don’t make in the export. For example, if you’re working with interlaced source footage, and you deinterlaced it in FCP X, the “Deinterlace” flag may not show up if the XML is exported incorrectly. Even when handing it off with notes, the other team member may not notice.

For maximum output fidelity, favor Libraries over XML’s for handoffs.

Now let’s talk about different handoff scenarios.

Closed handoff

If you’re starting the edit, while another may finish it, the handoff is simple. Store your Library in the agreed-upon folder, or upload it to a cloud storage location. Your teammate can open your Library and continue working.

Between Editors (Basic)

But what if you’re working on one Scene 1, and your teammate’s working on Scene 2? Given both of you have access to the same assets, each editor can create their own Libraries with Projects in different Events, which can later merge into a project in a master Library.

  • Final Cut Pro X will prompt you to copy new media from those other projects.

Between Editors (Advanced)

But what if you’re both working on the same scene? Or the same episode? Remember, handoffs are the core of collaborative editing in FCP X. If you’re working from shared storage in a facility, you can’t open a Library if someone else has it open. Enter these third-party solutions.

Released: September, 2017

Here’s what Final Cut Library Opener can do:

  • If another editor has a Library open and you need something from it, FCLO creates an ephemeral (or temporary) copy of that open Library.
  • Once created, you open the ephemeral copy of the Library and grab the Event(s) with stuff you need.
  • When you’re done, close the ephemeral copy of that Library and FCLO deletes it automatically. Hence, ephemeral.

Additional notes:

  • If it’s not in an Event, a quick call or message might take care of that.

More details are available here.

Final Cut Library Opener may be all that’s needed to address certain speed bumps to progress. But what if your team needs something more?

Released: September, 2018

PostLab is the most comprehensive solution for collaborative FCP X workflows to date.

With PostLab, teams can:

  • Build a versioned repository of Libraries, complete with comments.
  • Open Read-Only copies of Libraries.
  • Integrate popular Web services used during postproduction in one UI. Services like media asset management systems, Slack, and Frame.io

Additional notes:

  • PostLab is open source. So it’s provided and updated at no charge.
  • A GitLab server is required. PostLab provides video tutorials on how to set up your own server using GitLab’s public servers or building your own.

Between Editors and Assistant Editors

How about when Assistant Editors are prepping footage or doing assemblies?

Library handoffs and mergers, plus Final Cut Library Opener or PostLab, may come into play. But there’s one more tool you might add to the mix.

If an Editor and Assistant Editor are working on their own Libraries with the same Events and Clips, the Editor could be adding keywords to Clips and marking Favorites while the Assistant Editor is doing their own keywording and Favorites.

MergeX takes both of these Libraries exported .fcpxml, and merges metadata for all matching clips.

When Handing Off XMLs Is Required

Handing off XML’s might be necessary if:

  1. 1
    A teammate’s version of FCP X is different from yours.
  2. 2
    You’re using a third-party media asset management (MAM) system. Most FCP X-compatible MAM’s only allow you to add an .fcpxml of your Library, not an actual Library.

But handing off XMLs is most useful when working with Finishing team members who aren’t using FCP X, such as:

• Colorists – DaVinci Resolve

• Audio Postproduction Specialists – Pro Tools, Logic, REAPER

Note: before exporting XML for the handoff, some additional Project prep is required.

If color finishing is done outside of Final Cut Pro X, most likely it will be in DaVinci Resolve.

Resolve and FCP X have enjoyed a favored relationship for a long time. Export your Project as XML (File → Export XML), import that .fcpxml in Resolve, and Resolve is off to the races.

The result: a .fcpxml exported from Resolve, then imported back into FCP X. This .fcpxml is a new Project representing the final delivery with graded and/or conformed footage.

More details are available here.

If an audio post session is also part of the finishing phase, taking the time to designate Roles for all audio sources in your Project that will make the conform exponentially easier.

Logic can import .fcpxml directly.

Pro Tools requires an .aaf. You can convert .fcpxml to .aaf using other tools like:

  • X2Pro (costs around US$100)
  • DaVinci Resolve (Free – here’s how)

Vordio is a workflow tool that takes .fcpxml and converts it to a REAPER session. It’s non-destructive (re)conform process and strong visualizations between session changes make this a powerful option if you or your team are interested in using REAPER to finish audio.

The result: a finished audio mix is exported, then imported into a Library back into FCP X for insertion into a Project for final delivery.

FCP X’s focus on organization through metadata can help your team stay focused on keeping assets organized. You can work with Editors, Assistant Editors, or Finishers using FCP X’s native toolset, or extend your workflow with a rich set of affordable (or even free) third-party options. Yes, collaborative editing in Final Cut Pro X isn’t just possible. It’s accessible. And powerful.

Workflow Guide

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