With the release of FCP X 10.1 the Consolidate command became much more sophisticated and powerful. Since it is now a two-way street with variables, the key to this command is understanding External versus Managed media. Because depending on the goal, we can do External Consolidation and Managed Consolidation. In this article I'll walk through how it all works, what the differences are, and the Cardinal Rules of Consolidation. And at this point, I feel the need for an important word of caution; please read, and memorize, the cardinal rules at the end of this article before actually trying these consolidation proceeders yourself. There are vital differences between the two types of Consolidate processes!
Before we get into the meat and potatoes of the Consolidate command, we should review Managed vs External media.
Managed media are media files that are physically stored inside of a Library package. In the Import window, it was specified to copy the media into the Library physically. And if the original media was left in its original location, or specified to be stored in a different, external (of the Library) location, the user also selected to create Optimized media. I don't include Proxy media in this case as it is considered temporary working fines, and not full resolution export and delivery media files. Managed media makes the Library take up more drive space, but is self-contained and more safe.
External media are media files physically stored outside of a Library package. A Library will create link files, or aliases inside of its package, that only point to the physical files that live elsewhere. If any or all of that External Media is renamed, moved to a different location, or deleted, the links are broken, and they go offline. External Media makes the Library use less drive space, but is prone to the need to relink media, or flat out losing it altogether.
Being very aware of, and understanding these two types of media is very important to understanding the Consolidate command basics. They both have their uses in the appropriate situations, and should be well-thought-out before deciding which workflow to enlist.
The Consolidate command is in the File menu, and will change its specific wording based on wether a Library, Event, or Project is selected. Very basically, consolidation means Final Cut will look at a Library, Event, or Project, and then search for linked media, and then copy any External Media into that Library, so then those files now become Managed Media. This process can transform a Library, Event, or Project into a one hundred percent independent entity, with no links to the outside world. All the media it requires to work with will be physically stored inside of it. That is the basic function, but the Consolidate Command can also do more, as there is Managed and External consolidation. We'll look at these in a bit more detail.
As explained in the previous section, at its core, the Consolidate command copies all External Media into the Library Event or Project we target. To do this, first highlight either a Library, and individual Event inside of it, or a specific Project inside of an Event. Then go to the File menu, and select the Consolidate command. In my example I'll consolidate an Event. When the Consolidate command window appears, by default it is set to the Library you're trying to consolidate inside of. Click OK and let it do its thing. Clicking the Background Tasks clock in the Dashboard opens the Background Tasks window, where you can monitor the details of the Consolidation work in progress. When completed, all of your media files are now physically stored inside of that Library (inside an Event, or Project) and now have no need for linking to external media. This is an excellent process to enact before copying an Event or Library to another location. Especially when copying them to other hard drives, as when collaborating. It can ensure that links don't get broken.
There is an External Media workflow for the Consolidation command. This is handy if you're wanting to archive a Library, or Event, or Project, once you're done with it. Just like in the previous section, go through the same process until you get to the Consolidate window. Do not click OK, but instead click the 'Consolidate File into:' menu. There you'll see an option labeled 'Choose'. This opens a Save window, in which you can select any location you wish to consolidate all of the media files to. The Consolidate process will then move (not copy) those files into the specified external location. This means that the Library (Event or Project) will now contain links to the new archived location. Meaning the Library now contains links, not actual physical files. If you wish, you can delete it, as it now exists in the External location. You can always create a new Library, Event, Project and import those files back in, anytime in the future.
Before actually using the Consolidation command, it is very important to have these two rules memorized, so that you don't end up breaking down a Library by mistake. Or deleting a Library you thought was archived, and may not be. Or deleting external original files that are only linked to inside of your Library.
Rule number one:
When consolidating from a Library, out to an external location, the files are moved, not copied, and will be removed from the original Library.
Rule number two:
When consolidating files from and external location, into a Library, the files are copied, and the original External Media is still in its original location.
If you are very clear about these two rules, then you shouldn't have much issue with using the Consolidate command.
When should you use Managed vs External consolidation? I'm sure there are dozens of scenarios in which the Consolidate command will be useful. Carefully thinking your workflow through before starting any production (especially the post-production process) will save time, money, and problems in the long run. This applies to the Consolidate command, also.
If you are collaborating, and want to send a full Library to another editor or post production facility, then Managed Consolidation would be the way to go. This ensures that the Library, or multiple Libraries in some cases, for that production are all one hundred percent self contained little universes. Then when you begin copying them to other hard drives for delivery, you can be confident there will be no missing linked, or offline files when it arrives at its destination.
The XFRLibrary concept comes to mind in this type of situation. An XFRLibrary is a concept Final Cut editors use for collaboration. It can either be full of media, Events, Projects, etc., and needs to be shared with someone at another location. Or it can be a Library that only had a Project or two copied into it for transfer to someone at another location. If it requires containing media that other location does not yet have, performing a Managed Consolidation on it would be a really good idea, before copying it to another drive and sending it away.
If you are simply finished with a production, and need to archive it away, performing an External Consolidation would be a nice option. You can target a folder on a dedicated archive RAID on your network, for example. And then when the Consolidate process is complete, and you've confirmed there were no issues, you will be able to confidently close, then delete the working Library, so that it is out of your way, and frees up drive space.
The Consolidate command is very powerful and flexible now that we can actually use it to archive entities outside of the Final Cut Library package. Thinking your needs through carefully before consolidating will help you make the most efficient use of it, and avoid mistakes. Remember to always have a good backup of all your data at all times, especially if you do post production for a living, and clients are relying on you to protect their production media.
For more information about media management in Final Cut Pro X, see my video course here at macProVideo.com titled 'Final Cut Pro X 204; Media Management Toolbox'.