Last week on FCP.co, I was reading and watching an FCPX tutorial by John Davidson at Magic Feather Inc., a video production agency in Los Angeles that does work for high-profile channels and TV shows. In the tutorial, John mentioned that in their shared editing environment, they use compound clips for the various iterations of a project, as opposed to Projects. Now this isn’t necessarily new. I know a number of people who do this. But this is what surprised me…I had previously thought that in order to create a compound clip, you had to have a project first. You would build a project, then select all the clips, then group them into a compound clip (which from here out I will just call “comp” for short). In watching John’s tutorial I learned that you can actually create a comp without creating a project first (they save the creation of a project until the very end). This was totally eye-opening for me.
So I started thinking: if you can create a full video in a comp without creating a project, do you even need to create projects at all?
A Whole New World
Many people have lamented the fact that versioning in Final Cut X is more clunky than the legacy version. Before, if you wanted to create a subsequent version of a video, all you had to do was duplicate a sequence. Now, in FCPX, the intuitive course of action is to dupe a project. But that has issues (which I’ll address in a moment).
If using and duping comps could take the place of projects, this could make a world of difference in my usage of FCPX. I ran a few tests and discovered:
- When creating a comp from scratch (e.g. without grouping clips already in a timeline) you can set the clip parameters just as you would a project (e.g. resolution, frame rate, audio rate, etc.)
- When you open a comp in the timeline, you can export it just like you would from a project.
- You can render a comp, just like you would a project.
This my friends, could be the start of a beautiful friendship
The Problem with Projects
Here’s the problem I have with creating projects as version iterations:
- Hard drive Space: creating projects takes up more hard drive space. Additional files are created and you ultimately end up also duplicating render files (either you’ll duplicate the render files when you first dupe a project, or if you don’t, you’ll still end up with additional render files when you eventually render the duplicated project).
- Clutter: More open projects creates more clutter in the FCPX library. (Note: I am fully aware of Event Manager X, and I use it. This can indeed reduce clutter by easily switching off any projects you don’t want to open. But now that means there are more projects I have to read through that list.)
- Load Time: the more projects you have open, the longer it takes FCPX to load
The Benefits of Only Using Comps
At this point, I’m inclined not to create projects at all. Even at the end of an edit. Working with comps as version iterations is pretty much identical to the versioning system in legacy FCP versions (and other similar NLEs). This is one aspect I think the old version of FCP does better than FCPX. Using this method you use less hard drive space, have less clutter, and get faster load times. Even when you duplicate a comp, it’s better. If you dupe a rendered comp, THE RENDER FILES ARE NOT DUPLICATED. In other words, you still have a rendered timeline, but you have NOT doubled the space on your drive. The duplicated comp references the original render files. This is exactly how sequences worked in FCP7.
My Comp Workflow
So here’s how my new comp and versioning workflow works:
- Create a comp and set the appropriate parameters
- Give the comp a name suffix that will allow me to group them in a smart collection (e.g. Name.ver 1, Name.ver 2, etc.)
- Create a smart collection using clip type “Compound Clip” and Text includes “.ver”
- Duplicate a comp when I want to move on to another iteration, changing the suffix accordingly
- When done, export the video as normal
Easy, peasy, lemon-squeezy.
Working with Others
At this point you’re probably wondering: “How would you use this system with other editors?” My answer…the same way you’d work with other editors in legacy versions of FCP. Before you would share the FCP project file with another editor. After he/she made their changes, they’d send the file back to you. That would then become the current version of the project.
You can do the same thing with FCPX. Instead of sharing a project file, you would share the CurrentVersion.fcpevents database file located in the Final Cut Events folder. (This is exactly the tip Steve Martin and Mark Spencer of Ripple Training teaches in this informative video on sharing FCPX events and projects). Naturally, this only works well if all editors have the same media in the same directories/folders on their computers. (Which, by the way, is the same thing you’d have to do in legacy versions of FCPX, or other NLEs).
Situations Where Projects May Make Sense
Last week I posed this question on a few FCPX forums: given everything I just told you, why create projects at all. No one could really give me an answer that was satisfying. Perhaps the best answer I got was from an individual who works on a TV show and the various editors all work on disparate segments of the show concurrently. In a case like that, it would be difficult to share FCP Events with one another because you could have four or more people with completely different lists of comps being built. In essence, there is no master Events database to work on; even if they all have the same media. In a situation like this, working in a project, and sharing the projects folder (or dbase) would work best. (Although, I would add that it would still make sense to use comps to iterate versions of a segment, then save the project creation until the end).
There is one caveat I feel obligated to mention with regards to this system. There is a slight chance Apple could change the way comps operate, thereby making this system less attractive (or entirely un-doable). They’ve changed the way comps have worked before. My instinct is that there won’t be any major change to how comps work that would entirely nullify my system. But as we all know, you can never be 100% certain what Apple will or won’t do.
So…what do you think of my comps only workflow? Do you have any challenges to my system that I’ve overlooked? I’d be eager to hear your thoughts in the comments.
UPDATE: Richard Taylor of FCPX.TV has created this great tutorial on using comps instead of projects. Really paints the picture perfectly.
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