Certain types of productions present a special situation for editing. For example, if I am editing down a documentary, or selecting B-Roll clips for promotional or live event productions, it is very important that I do not use the same shot in an edit more than once, over and over. The audience could pick up on that and lose interest, and even lose faith in the story being told. Thus, editors in those situations benefit from some sort of used media list.
The Final Cut Pro X development team spends a great deal of time thinking through how to implement features and tools. This can cause new additions to take time in manifesting. When a new feature is released, it is usually about the most ingenious way of implementing that tool or workflow. Well, in FCP X 10.1+ we have a very unique and slick way to track used and unused media for any given Project timeline. If you are familiar with FCP X at all, you know about Favorite (green star) and Rejected (red X) ratings, or tags. There is another tag that comes in very handy. It also has what I call the reverse lookup mode, too. This is the Used Media Range tag.
In the image below, you can see a clip in the Browser, which has green Favorite ranges, red Rejected ranges, and blue Keyword ranges. All of these run along the top edge of a clip’s filmstrip representation in the Browser. They’re also listed with each clip in the Browser’s List mode. Along with those is an orange bar, indicating a special type of clip range metadata. This is showing the range of this clip that has been used in the currently active Timeline. Thus, in one glance, I can see what I have and have not used so far in my current edit. Take notice of my statement, “the currently active Timeline”. Because this feature is Timeline sensitive, which I’ll explain in a short while.
You may not see these at first when cruising through media in your Timeline. So how do you get these Used media tags to work? That is very simple. I hit S to turn on Skimming, skim my clip, hit I to mark an In point, skim more, hit O to mark and Out point, hit E to make an Append edit, and poof. The orange Used media tag is applied automatically. These will show up in either the Thumbnail or List view modes of the Browser. If you’re not seeing them in your Browser, go to the View menu, and make sure that the “Show/Hide Used Media Ranges”. If it is set to Show, click it to turn it on. If it is set to Hide, click it to turn the orange Used Media Ranges off.
Think of these wonderful orange tags as a shortcut. Before FCP X 10.1, if you selected a clip in the Timeline, and either right-clicked it, chose Reveal In Browser, or used the shortcut of Shift-F, you would see that clip’s parent in the Browser and the section used in the Timeline would be highlighted. If you simply look at the parent clip in the Browser now, you can see exactly what sections have been used in your current Timeline edit.
The keywords here are “in your current Timeline”. In the image below, you’ll see three different screen captures, from three different timelines, using the same two clips. Notice each Browser shows different sections of the Event clips as Used ranges. That is because when you switch from one Timeline to another, FCP X will read the used media metadata from that Timeline, and update the Browser to reflect that specific Timeline. This brings up a really interesting aspect of Used Media Ranges to be aware of. Pay close attention and notice what each of those three Timelines are. The first Timeline is a Project, the second Timeline is just a video clip opened into its own Timeline (and thus shows the whole clip as used media), the third Timeline is a Compound Clip. So as you can see, Used media ranges work with any type of Timeline, not just Projects.
OK, so this may sound a little silly. But there is what I consider an unpublished keyboard shortcut that I absolutely love. I say unpublished because as of this writing, it isn’t really discussed in the user manual, nor is it in any menu. I like to call it the Reverse Lookup Mode. The shortcut is Command-U. If you use this, you’ll see the Browser change in some very interesting ways. First, you should notice that the Browser Filter menu at the top left of the Browser is now set to “Unused”. This will cause the Browser to only show the ranges, as individual sub-clips, that are Unused media, the opposite of the Used media tags.
I love using this in the Browser’s List view mode. This way, everything I see is only unused media. I will not see any media that is already residing in my current Timeline edit. Notice in the figure below how in list mode, with Command-U, there are no more Used Media tags. Each of my two clips, “BMPCC 12-13 021” and “BMPCC 12-13 025”, are now split up in to multiple sub-clips. This is just like setting Favorite ranges, and then setting the Browser Filter menu to Favorites, and only seeing the Favorite ranges as sub-clips. From here, I can continue editing, fully confident that I will not repeat any shots that I have already used. The moment I select a clip, or clip range in the Browser, and edit in to my currently active Timeline, poof, it is no longer visible in the Browser. To me, this is an implementation of a used media list that is actually practical and makes editing a lot easier and quicker.
These tools don’t only work for video content, but also for audio, stills, graphics, etc. For example, if you are dropping canned music into an edit, or sound effects, or selecting for a Smart Collection or Keyword Collection of photos, you can keep track of what you’re using and not using in real time. Thus we find that using the features to reveal used or unused media, in conjunction with collections and complex searches, tracking media becomes very powerful, not to mention extremely flexible.
This feature is not a huge whiz-bang fireworks feature. But it is about the most useful tool in FCP X I use on a daily basis. Making the used media ranges visible, and the options of seeing used media in the Browser normally, and the option of seeing unused media with Command-U, editing certain types of productions becomes really quick, easy, and it helps me have more confidence that I won’t be redundant. And that makes this little gem shine very brightly.