Sharing your Brain: Metadata, FCPX and Xsan (FCPX Part 2)

The metadata features of Final Cut Pro X make it an incredibly fast system for a solo editor. But some people have written that FCPX is not suitable for a multi-editor environment. At Logos, we have found just the opposite. Here’s a sample of our work:

In FCPX the use of metadata such as favorites, rejects, keywords, smart collections, and “Reel, Scene, Take” make handing off a project to another editor much faster. It is like you laid out everything in your brain on the table. And then a week, or six months later, another editor can look at all those keywords, favorites and smart collections, and pick up right where you left off. Metadata in FCPX lets you “share your brain.” This has tremendous value for a team of our size where we are always guarding against single points of failure. To learn more about the significance of metadata for editors and its integration with FCPX make sure to read Phillip Hodgetts’ blog and check out his book Conquering Metadata.

Every video team has different needs, but our team works almost exclusively with online video. Our video team has four crews, Marketing videos, Motion Graphics, Support and Mobile Education. We have done some commercials that aired on the History Channel, and the spanish network Enlace, but honestly, our workflow was essentially unchanged, as we grade our online videos with broadcast safe regulations in mind.

We’ve actually adapted Apple’s “white paper” reccomendations for FCPX and Xsan into a much more efficient workflow. The practices detailed there actually cause the loss of metadata when transferring a project from one editor to another. And that is the most valuable thing about FCPX to us.

Here is how we set it up. We have over a dozen workstations connected to a Promise—based Xsan. The 2 metadata controllers are mac minis in Sonnet xMac Thunderbolt chassises. A few of these workstations are Retina MacBook Pros connected with SANLink adapters. The others are iMacs for FCPX editors and Mac Pros for After Effects artists.

On the top level of our SAN we have a folder called “SAN Locations” inside of that we make a folder for each video that we produce, let’s call it “Faithlife Promo“. When an editor goes to work on project, they “Add the San Location” “Faithlife Promo.” This will take a few minutes to fully load up. When an event or project is created a folder is generated, “Final Cut Projects” or “Final Cut Events.” (Also at this level are folders for After Effects, Resolve, Exports, and Audio). The “SAN Location” is also locked so that other editors cannot the associated FCPX projects.

Within the SAN Location you really only want a single Event. An Event works well in this configuration with up to 1,000 files. The reason for a single event is that an Event is a database, and you don’t want to load up multiple databases for one project. One conversation that I have with all our editors is “Events aren’t folders,” which is also the title of an upcoming post.

We import/copy our footage directly into the Final Cut Event. We use the Blackmagic Cinema Camera, Sony FS100, FS700, and the Canon 5D. If we shoot raw with the BMCC we’ll ingest it with DaVinci Resolve first. Our workhorse is the BMCC set on ProRes.

If another editor needs to work on it later that week, they “add” the SAN Location “Faithlife Promo” and now they can see all the footage imported into that event, all the keywords, projects and all the metadata.

Here is an important tip for using FCPX with Xsan. FCPX points to a folder in the user’s home folder called “Motion Templates.” This has the generators, effects, titles and themes in it. We create custom transitions, titles, and generators for our editors with Motion. So we have created a folder on the top level of our SAN called “Motion Templates.” Then I use the app SymbolicLinker to create a symlink to it and we keep it on the top level as well. It is called “Motion Templates.localized symlink” We place that symlink (a regular alias won’t work) in the Movies folder for each editor, we delete “symlink” and the space that precedes it. Now each editor is connected to a single set of custom transitions, effects and generators that can be updated on the fly. Audio, Color and Compressor settings can be handled the same way. It’s absolutely magical.

Incidentally, if you want to use Motion you must take Mark Spencer’s Ripple Training courses on Motion. Particularly the one on Rigging and Publishing. It has allowed us to create custom templates for our video editors that expose just the right parameters. Additionally, we can take a part time employee, like a copy editor, from our print magazine, Bible Study Magazine, and have them doing copy editing of text right within the FCPX timelines because it is so easy use with custom templates. The time savings is unbelievable for our distance education products.

Finally, after several months have gone by, and we have not touched a particular SAN Location, we move the folder and all its contents to another section of our SAN called “Nearline Storage.” Everything that we need for that project is there and can be transferred back to our “Online Storage” (Where a redundant copy is also kept). This makes it easy to archive and transfer the project and all the related media, FCPX or otherwise.

So that is how FCPX and Xsan simplify project sharing, Motion template distribution, nearline archiving, copy editing and mobile editing.


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  1. Links: Logic Pro X, animation, ..., Thunderbolt 2… | - August 21, 2013

    […] Logos software needs multiple editors to share clips on a Storage Area Network. Reuben Evans of Visuals 1st writes that Final Cut Pro X serves them very well. He also shares a tip on how to make sure everyone can share the same custom effects, transitions and generators. […]

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