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FCPX: Going Mobile And Back
Ben Balser on Wed, October 8th 0 comments
Ever wondered how to move your Final Cut Pro X projects between your Mac desktops and laptops? Want to edit your film on the go? Then this article is a must-read.

There are a lot of folks asking about how to move between a Final Cut Pro X project on a desktop Mac, to their MacBook Pro, and back to the desktop. Just like the title says, going mobile, then coming back home to the studio. In this article, I'll look at what is necessary to keep this type of workflow going smoothly and with a minimum effort.

External vs. Managed

First, in order to edit in a Project, you need the full Library of media. The issue comes in when the media in the Library is either all External, or a mixture of External and Managed. Let me clarify what this means.

When you import media into an FCPX Library, you are given a choice to Leave In Place, or Copy To Library.

When you import media into an FCPX Library, you are given a choice to Leave In Place, or Copy To Library.

When you import media into an FCPX Library, you are given a choice to Leave In Place, or Copy To Library. 

Leave In Place will leave the physical files on your physical hard drive where they are, and not copy anything anywhere. Inside the Library, FCPX will create aliases, which some folks call Sim Links. These are small files that only point to where the original file is. They can be identified by the curled arrow in the bottom left of their icon, and that they are very small in size. When the actual file is outside of the Library, only an Alias is used inside of the Library, they are called External Media.

Copy To Library will leave the original where it is, just like Leave In Place does. Yet it also makes a copy of the full file into the FCPX Library. Thus, you end up with two full, complete copies of the file; one in the original location, one inside of FCPX. When the full files are inside of the Library, they are called Managed Media.

Pic 2


Since some media my physically reside outside of the Library, there are two things we have to verify before copying the Library to a portable drive. First, select the Library in the Libraries pane, go to the Inspector, click the Modify Settings button and verify that Media is set to In Library. Note that these settings are covered more thoroughly another article.

Pic 3

Once that is verified and/or reset properly, we need to, in the Inspector, click the Consolidate button. This will move all External Media in to the Library itself. Making the Library 100% self contained. You are asked if you want to move Optimized and/or Proxy media. That is your choice. If you don't work with original media, I'd check both, especially if you have Proxy media and will be working on a laptop.

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Moving to a Portable Drive

Once consolidation is complete, you can now copy your Library to the portable drive for working on the road. Be sure this drive is either USB 3.0 or Thunderbolt, as USB 2.0 and FireWire tend to bog down with today's highly compressed and UHD media. You can either drag-and-drop to copy the Library. Or select it, use the Command-C copy shortcut, then select your portable drive and use Command-V to paste a copy to that drive. I'd advise you not rename the Library, either. Now you have two identical Libraries; one on the local drive, one on the portable drive. A note at this point, when you work on a Project or other type of timeline in FCPX in a situation like this, duplicate it or make a Snapshot, so that you don't confuse it with your original. Also, to give you a safety net to fall back on if it ends up to far gone at some point.

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Coming Home

Once your work on the road is done, you have two paths initially. Keep working on the portable drive, in which case there's no need to do anything, really. Or copy your work to the original Library on your local drive, which we will look at here.

If you've added media to the Library, you'll want to copy it into the local drive copy of this Library. Inside FCPX, select that media from the portable drive in the Browser, drag-and-drop to the appropriate Event in the local drive version of the Library. A copy media dialog box comes up, choose Optimized and/or Proxy copies as you desire.

Pic 6

The Projects, Multicams, Compounds, Syncs, all of the timelines you've worked with and modified, while on the road, away from home or the studio, copy those over as well, in the same manner. I recommend copying over new media first, then copying over timelines, so that nothing shows up offline.


I hope this brief look at portable editing, moving from a studio based desktop Mac to a portable Mac and back helps. These are the only real sticking points. Understanding where everything is, External vs. Managed, and copying back only what was modified, are the only things you need to worry about. Happy editing!

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