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FCP X: Practical Smart Collections
Ben Balser on Thu, June 19th 1 comments
Unsure on what Smart Collections are in Final Cut Pro X, or even how you can make the most of these in your workflow? Ben Balser puts it in perspective for editors everywhere.

Organizing media assets is one of the more powerful features of FCP X. And like with any NLE, customizing a few things to extend functionality and to fit our personal tastes can go a long way. In FCP X we can create a Smart Collection. A Smart Collection is a virtual container within an Event, that filters out media by specific search parameters. In this article I will briefly show how a Smart Collection is made, but mostly look at what some very practical and common Smart Collections could be for editors. Remember, a 'Smart Search' is what we configure in the advanced search window. When we save it to the Library pane, we call that a 'Smart Collection.'

Where Are My Photos?

The first thing I like to do is create a Smart Collection to isolate my photos I've imported. So the first thing I do is select my Event in the Libraries pane (Shift-Command-1). Then get to the advanced search window, click the magnifying glass icon in the search field at the top right of the Viewer. In the advanced filter window, there is a plus sign button at the top right. That gives a list of parameter types I can search for. I'll select Media Type. In the Media parameters I'll change the second drop-down menu from its default of 'Video with Audio' to 'Stills'. Thus giving me a search criteria of 'Media - is - Stills'. This will filter out everything that is not a still image in the Browser. Finally I'll just click the 'New Smart Collection' button at the lower left of this window to save it to the Libraries pane. Presto, all my photos are easier to find! Close the advanced search window when done.

Figure 1

Isolating Audio

Next I need to get all of my audio clips organized separately. This time I will use the keyboard command of Option-Command-N to create a new blank Smart Collection in the Browser, and name it Audio Clips. By default I may not see anything in the Browser when I have this new Smart Collection selected. But if I double-click it, the advanced search window opens so I can configure it. This time from the parameter menu (plus sign icon) I'll select Media Type again, and specify Media Is Audio Only. There is no save button at the lower right, because this collection is already saved in the Browser. Simply close the window when done.

Figure 2

Isolating Types of Audio

I have audio that is dialog, and some that is music. I'll isolate out each one. I'll create a new Smart Collection as done in the previous section and name it 'Music', and set it up to show audio only clips, as in the previous section. But in addition to the Media Type set as Audio Only, I'll add the parameter 'Roles' to it, and un-check everything except the 'Music' Role.

Figure 3

I'll do the exact same thing again, except this time I'll call the new collection 'Dialog', and when I set up the Roles, I'll only check 'Dialog'. To finish this off, I'll use Shift-Command-N to create a new Folder, call it Audio, then drag-and-drop my audio collections in to it.

Figure 4

Non-Something Clips?

I have a bunch of clips in my Event. Most of them pertain to one of three different demos that I will be using in an editing demo seminar. A few are not used in the demos, but are extras I have on hand just in case I need them. And I want to get to them quickly. All of my demo clips have the Reel metadata set to '[Subject] Demo.' So, 'some subject' followed by the word 'Demo'. I'll create a new Smart Collection and name it 'Non-Demo Clips'. Open it and add the Format parameter. I'll set the first menu setting, the metadata type, to 'Reel', and set the second menu, the qualifier, to 'Does not include', and type in the word 'Demo' into the text field. Filtering out any media that has the word Demo in its Reel metadata, I can get to all of my non-demo clips quickly and easily.

Figure 5

Assistant Editor Jobs

I have a few shots that need to be stabilized from handheld camera work. I don't have time to do this, so I'll hand it off to my assistant editor. Here's how I can make his job easier and be sure I know exactly what he's going to be working with. Create a new Smart Collection, and add the parameter Stabilization. I'll set it to 'Show Excessive Shake' so only clips that have been analyzed for shakiness, and show excessive shake, will be included. My assistant now knows what specific clips to work on. I can set many different parameters like this to create a variety of Smart Collections for my assistants to work on.

Figure 6

Let's say I have to sync up a lot of clips, that came from several different camera operators in the field, and some of these guys didn't set the cameras to the proper audio sample rate of 48 kHz, as I instructed them to do. Of course nothing is ever 'my' fault. When I sync clips, the audio could go out of sync because of this. Remember how busy I am, so I'll have my assistant go through and correct media that has incorrect audio sample rates with Compressor or Audacity or some other audio application. To set this up, I'll create a new Smart Collection and add the Format parameter. This time I will select the Audio Sample Rate as my format metadata type, set the condition to 'Is Not', and in the text field type in '48 kHz'. Typing this in must be done exactly to match the audio sample rate metadata of each media file. An easy way to work with technical, numeric parameters like this is to right-click a heading in the Browser, and select that metadata type header. Then I can match exactly as it is displayed there.

Figure 7

Projects, Compounds, But Wait, There's More!

A very useful set of Smart Collections are to isolate Projects, Compound clips, and layered graphics. These all fall under the 'Type' parameter. Which is different from the 'Media Type' parameter. Think of Type as 'Timeline Type'. You can set it to show only Projects, or only Compounds, or Auditions, etc. Combined with a Text and other parameters, you can create some very complex, very powerful Smart Collections.

Figure 8

Keyword Collections Of Keyword Collections

Smart Collections are so flexible and powerful, they can even combine groups of Keyword Collections, or filter out specific keywords. Create a new Smart Collection, add the parameter 'Keywords'. Here you can chose to include or exclude media with specific keywords. 'Any' means any clip with any of the specified keywords. 'All' means any clip with all of the specified keywords assigned to it. Below a list of all keywords used in all of the clips in that Event will be listed. You can check or uncheck as you desire. This allows for lots of complex filtering of your Keyword Collections, which adds more flexibility to using Keyword Collections in the first place. Imagine this in conjunction with other parameters to create complex and useful Smart Collections.

Figure 9


As you see, creating Smart Collections is fast, easy and infinitely more flexible than traditional Bins. This technique does not create duplicated media anywhere. These are simple metadata filters, and media files can exist in several Smart Collections at one time. It is worth taking the time to explore all of the parameters available to creating Smart Collections. And if you want to delete one, right-click it in the Libraries pane, from the pop-up menu at the bottom, chose to delete it. It's alright, none of the media inside of it will be deleted. They all exist inside of the Event, no matter what. The Smart Collection is simply a filter mechanism. So they're very safe to work with, destroy, and recreate. I hope this article helps make organizing your post production work much easier. And let me know what interesting or unusual Smart Collections you're using, yourselves!

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  • Husojae
    Ben is "The Best" when it comes to making things smart and simple. A staggering amount of curiosity and knowledge. Thanks. : >
    • 6 years ago
    • By: Husojae
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