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FCPX: Moving and Copying Events and Projects

Occasionally when using Final Cut Pro X, we find the need to move and copy Events, Projects, media, and even Libraries. This requires understanding some very basic parameters which I’ll cover in this article. We can manage elements within a Library, across Libraries, between Events, etc. It is a very easy process, once you understand the parameters involved. These are not difficult to grasp, so I’ll walk through things one at a time and logically for you. 

There are a couple of “Techie Note” sections, which provide more in-depth information for the more technically minded. If you are not into knowing the technical details of what happens behind the scenes, ignore these sections, they could just possibly confuse some folks.

Basic Mechanics

To start with, let us confirm we understand the basic mechanics involved here. The first parameter to understand is the Library structure. Each Library is an isolated universe unto itself. They do not talk to other Libraries. What happens inside of a specific Library, stays inside that specific Library. There are no links between different Libraries, there are no shared resources between different Libraries, each Library has no clue that other Libraries exist. This is a vital concept to remember.

The second parameter to understand are the difference between copying an item versus moving an item. When we copy and item, we make a duplicate of it, either in that same location, or in a new location. The original stays where it is in its original location, unchanged, untouched. 

If we move an item, Final Cut will first make a copy of it in the new location. Once the copy process is complete, Final Cut will then delete the original from its original location. This is not a move to the trash, but an actual delete from your Library, and from your drive, period. So be careful when deciding if you should copy or move an item.

The final parameter to understand is that a single Project can contain media from one or more Events. But all of those Events must reside inside the same Library that the Project is in. Since Libraries don’t talk to each other, you cannot edit a clip from an Event in Library-A, into a Project timeline in Library-B. Well, not directly, but there is a scheme in place to do this, that I’m about to explain, because there is no “sharing” or “linking” involved between Libraries, as mentioned. Thus, managing within a single Library is one matter, while managing across multiple Libraries is another.

Figure 1

Figure 1

Managing Within The Same Library

I can use clips from multiple Events inside of a single Project timeline, with no drama, as long as all of the Events are living in the exact same Library that my Project timeline is living in. Copying media and Projects between these Events is very simple, since everything already lives inside of the single, individual, self-contained Library universe.

To copy a media item such as a video file, or a Project timeline between multiple Events within a single Library, simply drag them from one location to the other. For example; if I drag Clip A from Event-1, into Event-2, suddenly copies of Clip A now is inside of Event-2 and Event-1, both at the same time. 

Techie Note: 

When copying media between Events inside of the same Library, what happens physically on your hard drive, is that still only one physical copy of this clip inside the Library package. The original that was imported is always the original. Copies to other Events, inside that same Project all point back to that one original, it the original Event. The only change is in how it appears in the FCP X interface.

If you want to move (meaning the original gets deleted from its original location, after the copy takes place) between Libraries or Events, Command-drag them. As per our previous example; if I Command-drag Clip-A from Event-1 to Event-2, Clip-A will only be present in Event-2, and there will no trace of it in Event-1 at all.

To illustrate this, let's pretend I have a Project-XYZ and a Clip-A, both live inside of Event-1. Then I edit Clip-A into Project-XYZ. Not big deal, yet. Then I move Clip-A in to Event-2. Final Cut will let Project-XYZ know the new location of it is now in Event-2, and everything will be just fine. No offline clips, no relinking, we can breath easy. This is how it works when everything we are dealing with is all inside of one single Library.

Techie Note:

In the case of copying between Events in the same Library, physically on your hard drive, the original imported file inside of the Library is still retained, and the new copy is simply pointing to the original, inside of the original Event folder, inside of the Library package. This behavior is the same regardless of wether you use the copy or move process. Again, the only change is in how it appears in the FCP X interface.

Figure 2

Figure 2

Managing Between Libraries

As I stated at the beginning of all this, you can’t directly drop a clip from an Event in Library A into a Project timeline in Library B. Not “directly”. And I am using this word to illustrate a point, as you will see.

When you do try to edit a clip (using E to perform an extended edit, for example) from an Event in one Library, into a Project timeline in a different Library, FCP X will warn you that the clip will have to be copied from Library A, into Library B. So you aren’t really using that original clip, but a copy of it, that will now reside inside of Library B, where your Project lives.

Figure 3

Figure 3

When you do this, the new copy of the clip from Library A, will be placed inside of the same Event the Project timeline is in. You now have two copies of the same clip, one in each Library. If the clip was not Managed Media (physically living inside of the Library), and is External Media (physically living outside of the Library, so that the Library links to it), then only the link is copied, not the full physical file.

Techie Note:

In the case of copying between Libraries, on the hard drive, actual duplicated copies of the original file are being created in the second Library, meaning more drive space will be used. If it is only a link file, only a tiny bit of drive space is used. If it is an original file, more drive space will be used.

To drag-and-drop copy a media item such as a video file, or a Project timeline, or an Event from one Library to a different Library, it is the same as before, simply drag them from a location in one Library, to a location in a different Library. You will get a slightly different warning window than when you use and edit command. You will also get a dialog window asking if you want to also copy over transcoded Optimized and/or Proxy files, along with the original. If the original is External Media, meaning linked to the Library, then only the link will be copied, not the physical original file.

Figure 4

Figure 4

If you want to move (meaning the original gets deleted from its original location, after the copy takes place) between Libraries, simply Command-drag them.

An alternative way to move and copy items between Libraries is to use the menu commands. Select the media item, Project, or Event you wish to copy or move, then go to the File menu and select either the “Copy…To Library” or the “Move…To Library” command. If you use these commands to move or copy a media item, such as a video clip or graphic, a new Event will be created in the destination Library for it. When using these menu commands, you will get the same warning window as seen in Figure 4 above.

Figure 5

Figure 5

Library Management

Managing Libraries is very easy. This is all done in the Finder, not inside FCP X. You can easily drag-and-drop a Library from one drive to another to copy it. Or select it, use Command-C to copy it, then select the destination drive or folder, and use Command-V to paste it. A regular file copy will take place, just like what drag-and-drop does. Libraries can have the same name as each other, FCP X doesn’t really care. That’s not such a great file management idea as this would be confusing to the editor, but just so you know, it is physically possible.

To delete a whole Library, in the Finder, simply drag it to the Trash, or right-click it and select Move To Trash from the pop-up menu.

Figure 6

Figure 6


So if we remember that Libraries are solitary entities unto themselves, and they do not talk to each other, it should be easy to understand and navigate your media management between them, and within each one. FCP X gives us the tools and workflow to make managing our media and Libraries very easy, very flexible, and very powerful. I’d dare say it is the best NLE media management system on the market today.

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”.

Ben Balser

Ben Balser | Articles by this author

Ben Balser studied educational psychology at Loyola University, and after retiring from a 20+ year IT career, now produces, consults, teaches, and rents equipment for media production as a full time job. As an Apple Certified Master Trainer, he ran the Louisiana Cajun Cutters FCP user group for 8 years, taught post-production at Louisiana State University and has lead their annual teen filmmaking bootcamp. He teaches currently for AATC facilities across the USA and for The Orchard Solutions. He has consulted for higher education, government, broadcast and private production facilities.


Jul 05, 2015
I had all my libraries, events projects on an external hard drive that broke- i retrieved the data onto another external hard drive configured to my mac where I can phyiscally on opening the drive see all the projects etc but my FCP is not opening any of those- what do i do- i need to submit both my films by august? Please could you suggest something?
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