My FCPX Workflow

[UPDATE: I’ve experienced some stability issues with one of my sparse disks and lost some work. As such, I don’t use it anymore for work. I just keep my FCPX Event folders at the root level of whichever drive I’m working on, then use Event Manager X to hide or show whichever projects I need to work on. I would probably still use sparse disks if I need to send a project to another editor.

Also, be sure to check out my Radical FCPX Workflow. It will blow your mind and challenge everything you thought about life, love and the pursuit of happiness. ]

This is part 3 of a 3-part series on FCPX. In part 1 I covered whether or not FCPX is the NLE of the future. In part 2 I talked about some things to be mindful of. Today I want to quickly run down my workflow.

No matter what NLE you use, you should have a set workflow, ideally one that you have documented so that whenever you bring on new or contracted editors, they can work within your guidelines. These include naming conventions, transcode procedures, etc. It’s especially important to have a set workflow system if you’re completely tapeless. You can read about my tapeless workflow at I had to tweak my workflow a bit to work within the confines of FCPX’s library/database vs. project file system.

As you know, older versions of FCP used project files. For every project, there was a corresponding file. FCPX uses Events and Project folders, all of which are contained with the Final Cut Events and Final Cut Projects folders. When you create a new event or project in FCPX, you’re prompted to save those to a particular drive. Every event and project you save to that drive will be created in the same folders. So within the Final Cut Events folder on Drive A, you would have a separate sub-folder for each new event you create.

Every new Final Cut project you create gets a separate folder within the Final Cut Projects folder. All the media (e.g. video files, music, etc.) is kept in the Events folders.

If you don’t ever plan to work with additional editors on a project, this is probably perfectly fine. However, if you do plan to share projects (and by projects I’m talking about over all video projects), then it could be a pain finding and selecting all the associated Final Cut events and Final Cut projects, then copying them over to a separate hard drive to send to someone. Also, FCPX opens up every event and project on a drive as long as that drive is mounted (unless you use a tool like Event Manager X which will create “Hidden” folders automatically, into which events and folders you DON’T want open can be placed. More on that in a bit).

One way to keep all your video projects nice and neat is to use sparse disk images. I learned this technique from Ripple Training. Read this blog post to learn how to do it. But in essence, when you create a sparse disk image, which is a virtual hard drive. When you create a new Final Cut event or project, save them to that virtual drive, not the root of the physical drive.

So, these are the specific the steps I take:

  1. I create a folder in the finder with all the folders related to my client project. This is adapted from my old FCP workflow. I like this system because then I control (instead of FCPX) where my files are located, what they’re named, etc. It’s organized how I like it.
  2. I create a sparse disk image, assign it a maximum size of 100 GB, then save that sparse disk image inside the client project folder. I usually name the sparse disk image and the associated drive the same name. Don’t worry about the disk size. The sparse disk image will NOT be 100GB. That number is just the maximum size to which it can grow. Basically I’m creating a 100GB virtual hard drive.
  3. I double-click the sparse disk image, thereby mounting the virtual drive.
  4. I launch FCPX, then save the new Events and Projects within that virtual drive.
  5. I use Event Manager X from that point on to decide which Final Cut Events and Projects I want open each time I launch the program.
  6. I will typically transcode my footage with MPEG Streamclip, and save those transcoded files to the HD Transcoded folder of my client project folder. I save music to the Music folder. Media to the media folder. Etc. Some of you FCPX users may be wondering why I don’t just import into FCPX and have FCPX transcode on import. The main reason I do this is because FCPX transcodes to ProRes 422 when transcoded on import. I like to work with ProRes LT. Also, as I mention in the next paragraph, I have a certain method to my madness for organizing files and prefer to keep my client media in that hierarchy (vs. all jumbled together in FCPX’s “Original Media” folder). (Note: as of May 2013, I’ve pretty much done away with transcoding first, and edit natively in FCPX).
  7. When I import any music, media, and video into FCPX, I make sure “Copy files to Events Folder” is UNchecked. This creates pointers within FCPX to my media OUTSIDE of the Final Cut Events folder. (But, keep in mind, all of this media is still INSIDE the client projects folder I created. So I can still copy that client projects folder to a drive to send off to an editor). I do it this way just because I’m anal when it comes to organizing. If you copy all your media to the Events folder, FCPX throws them all together in the Original Media folder. I like to have them nicely organized. Also, and perhaps more importantly, if you copy to the Events folder, you end up duplicating all the media, taking up more hard drive space. (Note: in the comments, Matt Lyons makes another great point for working like this. “Another advantage to this method is you can work easily with other NLE’s or VFX programs if the need arises, and all media is always available and organized.” If all your media is buried in FCPX’s Events folder, it’s hard to share that media with other NLEs or VFX programs. Thanks Matt.)
  8. If there are categories of media I want separated in the Events library, I will take the time to separate them into different folders in the Finder BEFORE importing. I then import the folders, and make sure the selection to “Make keyword collections from folders” is selected.

    Each one of the keyword collections you see on the left were automatically created on import because I had pre-sorted the footage into respective folders in the Finder.
  9. When I export a project, I save the exported files to the (you guessed it) the Exports folder in the main client project folder.
  10. The full client project folder is what I copy to the backup offsite drive. (Although I’m not always good at taking the time to do that. But you should.)

That’s pretty much it. I’d love to know how some of you do your FCPX workflow. Remember, there is no right or wrong. But it would be great to get ideas from one another. So please share.

18 thoughts on “My FCPX Workflow

  1. This is exactly how I work as well. Another advantage to this method is you can work easily with other NLE’s or VFX programs if the need arises, and all media is always available and organized.

    1. For me, I like to keep a project/event and all its’ associated media in a specific folder so that (as pointed out in this 3 part article) I can move project/events from HD to HD and/or pass them on to another editor without either of us having to have any form of extra or external software to manage our project/event and media files. Just makes more sense. Until the time that FCPX has some workaround that is simple or easy to use regarding the projects/events and associated folders . . I’m stuck with FCP7 that works AWESOME. I would love to make the switch for sure . . BUT . . turning out around 3 projects a week and only 30 to 50% of them being done by me and not one of the freelancers being within 100 miles of me, file structure and file organization to me is QUITE IMPORTANT !!

  2. This is great, Ron.
    One reason I’ve been reluctant to jump into FCPX with both feet, is that I would have to abandon my beloved file organizational structure. In our edit facilities archives I’ve built hundreds of projects…and all of the graphics, FX files, DVD creation elements, music, etc are neat and tidy in the file folder structure I established years ago. Truth is, I created a master “Project” Folder template containing pre-named subfolders that I duplicate to begin every job. When I pull an old project up for revisions, everything is right where it should be.

    It seems like you’ve created a blending of the “Sparse Disk Image” from Ripple’s Steve Martin, and the good old fashioned file organization I’m used to. Yay, Ron! That helps move forward in a huge way.

    One reason I didn’t try your approach in the past, fearing I might experience “slowdown”or media off-line issues caused by FCP X not finding media where it’s looking for it. But I take it you haven’t had that problem?

    1. Nope. No offline issues at all. FCPX creates aliases to your media within its folders. So as long as you don’t move around the media from its location, it should be fine in FCPX.

  3. Good article!

    I have had some issues with sparse disk images. I’m following everything to a T from the Ripple Training method, but sometimes the image will not mount. I haven’t been able to figure out the why… I’m using a metaSAN system from Tiger Technology, sharing a Windows server. Anyone here know if that would be part of the issue?

    For now, using the Share A SAN location method is working for me. It’s a bit of a pain, as you have to remember to remove the SAN location everytime… for instance, if you forget to remove the SAN location, and quit FCPX, and an editor tries adding that SAN location on a different machine, it won’t load the project. Archiving isn’t as easy using this method, either.

  4. Have you guys had any issues media-managing project media that contains Compound Clips or MultiClips (multi-angle)? I’ve been struggling with a project that contains both, and those clips always seem to fail when I use FCP to move a project.

    I’m going to re-read your article a few times and try duplicating it with some of your steps. The SparseDisk approach is intriguing; I dabbled with it a while back and found it very cumbersome, but I can see why that might work.

    More notes here at the FCPX Google Group:

    Thank for writing!

    1. @Allan, quick aside about the FCPX Google Group you mentioned above. I’m really new to Google+ and couldn’t see what specific group you link was for to join the community.

      On the plus side, I did end up joining a couple of other communities (Google Groups?) for the first time. 🙂


  5. This is a wonderful article! Thank you. Perhaps this should be obvious to me, but why would you not also store your organized media folders inside of the sparse drive? In other words, switching your steps 1 and 2 above. In your system, it appears that only the FCPX event and project folders are inside the sparse drive, and not the original media folders Any thoughts would be appreciated.


    1. That’s a good question Jim. I don’t think I have a particular reason. Probably because out of habit I was doing it the other way, so I just started adding the sparse bundle to the folder I was already creating. I suppose one answer I might give is that I’m still new at using sparse bundles. So I feel a little sense of ease knowing not EVERYTHING is in the sparse bundle, JUST my FCPX files. The sparse bundle is still a VIRTUAL hard drive, so who know what the technology is like. Another reason is that I like to dismount sparse bundle drives I’m not editing on (no need having all those virtual drives on my desktop in my finder). BUT, I may still want to access files related to the project like exported videos, photos, audio, behind the scenes, etc. If I keep all of those files outside of the sparse bundle, I can dismount the virtual drive, but still have access to these other files. Lastly, feels cleaner having ONLY the FCP events and Projects folders on the virtual sparse bundle drive.

      But, technically, you COULD just put everything in the sparse bundle. It’s a matter of preference.

      1. Ron:

        Your reasoning makes a lot of sense to me, and I appreciate the detailed response. As I take on more complex projects, I am in the process of creating a more uniform and structured workflow. Your article, and this exchange, has been enormously helpful. Thank you again.


  6. I need to to thank you for this fantastic read!

    ! I certainly enjoyed every little bit of it. I have got you
    book-marked to look at new things you post…

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