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FCP X 10.1: Archiving Revisited
Iain Anderson on Sat, April 12th 2 comments
Final Cut Pro X 10.1 has brought some innovative new features to the table which weren't there before... namely those which deal with archiving and backup strategies as Iain Anderson explains.

While we tackled this topic just a few months ago, FCP X 10.1 has forced a second look at archiving and backup strategies. There's the new library structure, the new ability to work with external media, the new automatic backups, and the new way which FCP X handles files on external disks to think about. Let's take another look.

How many libraries?

The key new feature of FCP X (among many others) is the new Library structure. In FCP X 10.0, each connected drive had a Final Cut Events and a Final Cut Projects folder, located at the top level on external drives, or in the Movies folder on the system drive. Every event and project on a connected drive loaded when you launched the program, which was fine for casual users but difficult for more serious users. Event Manager X allowed you to hide inactive events, which was great, but we now have a more robust solution:

  • Libraries contain both Events and Projects.
  • Projects are now contained within Libraries.
  • Libraries can be opened and closed manually, and stored on any local drive.
  • Libraries look like a single file, but are Packages which can be opened by right-clicking and choosing Show Package Contents.

My recommendation is to create a new Library for each job you do. If you have recurring jobs with shared media'"such as a monthly video magazine'"using a single Library for that family of jobs is probably a good idea.

Managed Media vs. External Media

Another feature of the new FCP X 10.1 is a new way to manage your media. There is now much more explicit support for keeping your media files outside of your Libraries, which obviously has implications when it comes to archiving your files.

In Preferences or in the import dialog, Copying into a Library = Managed, leaving where it is = External.

In Preferences or in the import dialog, Copying into a Library = Managed, leaving where it is = External.

When you import your footage, you can choose to import it into the Library itself'"Managed media'"or reference it where it is now'"External media. Note that you won't be able to select External media if the footage is currently on a camera card. You'll need to copy the media to a known, predictable place on a regular hard drive before importing it to FCP X if you want to go this way.

So which is right for you? Well, if you want to share your footage in a workgroup, external can be more convenient. While a Library must be stored on a local drive, the media can live anywhere, even on a drive somewhere else on your network. Each editor needs their own Library, but can access the same footage at the same time. The downside is that it's an extra thing to remember, to copy, and to back up. If you're working alone on a single Mac, my recommendation (as before) is to stay with Managed media. The only difference is that your video files now live in a Library and not in a Final Cut Events folder. For the purposes of this article, we'll use Managed Media, contained within a Library.

Note: If you choose to optimize your footage, that copy will be stored in your library, even if you're using external media. That's not usually a problem as these files can be discarded after editing, but they can be large.

Shoot it, copy it twice (at least)

Still good advice: copy it twice. As in the last article I wrote on this subject:

For maximum safety you should back up your footage as soon as possible after shooting.

For me, that means creating a new Library and importing all your footage into the Event that's inside it. (I do this on set if possible, onto a portable drive called, of course, 'on-set'.) The media is still on the camera cards in case the portable drive should fail, so it's in two places.

On returning to my main Mac, I copy the Library from my portable drive to my main edit drive using the Finder. The media is now in three places.

Working on the main library copy, this is the time to add keywords and other metadata to your footage. Mark ins and outs, favorites and rejects, change the names of clips, and add keywords. When that's done, quit FCP X and copy your Library from your main media drive to your archive drive, again using the Finder. The media is now in four places.

At this point, it's probably safe to wipe the camera cards (if you need to) and clear out your portable drive (again, if you need to). Those copies don't have your metadata, but they do have the media, so you'd be able to recover from disaster if both your main copy and archive copy fail at once.

Library Backups

New in 10.1 is also an automatic backup facility (yes!) that saves multiple versions of your Libraries. It's very important to know that these don't contain any media'"not even optimized media'"but they do contain your Projects and all the Event metadata. If everything else was lost, you could reconstruct a Library from just the backup and a copy of your media. That's a useful thing to keep in mind, but hopefully you won't suffer disaster any time soon.

By default, the backups are stored in your Movies folder, in a folder called Final Cut Pro Backups, and there's a folder for each Library you've opened, each containing multiple dated backups. If you're using an external drive for your Libraries (a good choice) then storing these backups right there, on the system drive, is a great idea. They'll also be picked up by Time Machine for yet another backup.

When the edit is done

So, you've finished the edit and handed it over. You should now export a final master file in ProRes format, for your showreel. A private video on a video sharing service is another great backup.

In case your Library becomes corrupt, export an XML file of your final project. With the media, this describes your whole edit, and is more transportable to other programs should you revisit the edit later on.

Keep everything

If you want to keep everything you shot, you can proceed by copying your Projects into your archived Library. Right now, it has all the keyworded media, but no projects. In FCP X, choose File > Open Library > Other.

Open that archive library.

Open that archive library.

Press Locate, and find the backup library from your Archive drive. It will open in the Libraries pane, alongside the original Library.

This archive library has probably never been open, so it won't be in the list'

This archive library has probably never been open, so it won't be in the list'"press Locate instead.

Move your final Project (and any older Projects you want to keep) to your archive Library. Also copy any additional media you might have added, like music or voiceovers. Finally select your archive Library, then choose File > Consolidate Library Files, then press OK, to make sure the archive is self contained.

Consolidate files to a Library to make sure it's self-contained.

Consolidate files to a Library to make sure it's self-contained.

Keep just the parts you used

If you don't want to keep everything, you can choose to only archive the media used in your chosen Project. In this case, create a new Library on your archive drive with File > New > Library, then name the Library and choose the archive drive as the location. Now, select your chosen Project in the original library, then copy it by using File > Copy Project to Library > Archive Library Name.

Copying just the project to a new library.

Copying just the project to a new library.

This technique copies just the Project and the specific media it used. That's great if you want to save space, but not ideal if you want editing flexibility down the road. Note that you have the option to copy across any Optimized media or Proxy media, but since this can be recreated on demand, you might as well save space by omitting it.

Skip the things you can recreate.

Skip the things you can recreate.

Check it

Right-click and Close the original library, then open up the Project in your archive copy and scrub through it. If anything is missing, you can relink it with File > Relink Files, then Consolidate again to be sure. The only thing you might still be missing is any custom titles or effects you've used. These are on your main system drive in Movies > Motion Templates, and should be backed up by Time Machine, but may be a consideration if you take your Library to a different edit station.

Is that it?

Finally, delete the project from your working drive. If you ever need to come back to this edit, you'll be able to simply open the Library from within FCP X and it'll work just like it does now. For added safety, right-click and Duplicate your project before you make changes.

Why not just copy the final Library?

To be extra clear, you can, indeed, just copy the entire final Library from your main working drive to your archive drive. It's simple, but it's often a big file, potentially hundreds of gigabytes that are already sitting on your archive drive. It's also possible to manipulate the contents of a Library using the Finder, but as making a mistake can make your Library unreadable, I'd avoid that unless you're feeling especially confident. Moving Projects and media within FCP X is safe and reliable, and since everything now stays together, it's never been easier to be sure you've got everything you need to access your older projects. Good luck!

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Comments (2)

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  • gretta
    Thank you so much, Ian. Very clear. Back in the olden days, one could keep docs like transcripts, notes, invoices, etc. right there in the Projects folder, along with the stills and audio files. Now, everything BUT the docs can be imported to the Library and archived, but we are still left with another folder of docs. Any way to add that to the archive, or tips??
    • 6 years ago
    • By: gretta
  • Iain Anderson
    I'm afraid not. Probably a good idea is to manually create a new folder next to your archived library with a similar name, then copy any extra files to that. As you say, FCP X will only import files it can deal with. FCP X will import PDFs if that's some help.
    • 6 years ago
    • By: Iain Anderson
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