What do you keep from your Final Cut video projects?
January 23, 2010 2:41 AM   Subscribe

Final Cut Express Archiving: What do you keep from your film editing projects, in what formats, and why? What should we keep?

My wife and I are classical singers, and we just received a wonderful wedding present: a Sanyo Xacti full HD camcorder. In the last 3 weeks, we've recorded 3 concerts. We're planning on keeping records of every time we perform, both in big public concerts and in small masterclasses. This is really great, except I have no idea what to keep in the end. Here's a typical project:

Original files: 5gb mp4 file (1.5 hours, not full HD)
Editing in Final Cut Express produces 17gb sequence and like 10gb scratch files.
Export to iDVD produces 1-2gb dependent quicktime movie plus a 4.4gb Video_TS folder plus 3-4 gigs of scratch files.

In the end, I have something like 40gb for each project. Geesh.

Now here's what I think I'd like in the end of each project: A few high quality video files, one for every section in which we're singing (some of these concerts involve multiple singers; I don't want to keep those recordings in a permanent file once I've burned a DVD of a given performance), adjusted for brightness and volume and anything else I felt like I needed to fix in Final Cut.

I'd ideally like these video files to add up to LESS than the size of the originals (seems like a waste to store a 17gb video file when the ORIGINAL is only 5gb, and I'm cutting out 60% of the content).

Lastly, I'd like these files to be easily re-editable in Final Cut without a lengthy conversion process, if I wanted to select a few of them for an audition DVD or something.

What should I do? What software do I get to do it, if need be? (I'm on a Macbook pro)
posted by sdis to Computers & Internet (10 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Response by poster: (Note, while I will be keeping DVDs of all of these things, I'd like to have at least one more copy somewhere. I lost a lot of data to a pile of DVDs I figured were bombproof that were simply unreadable after 3 years in storage. Also, I get the impression that editing DVD video files is more difficult than simply editing an .mp4 or .mov in Final Cut)
posted by sdis at 2:43 AM on January 23, 2010

God, I only WISH my Final Cut projects ended up being only 40GB at the end of the job...

I know this might sound like a lame solution, but it really is the correct answer*: Buy more hard drives.

The glorious new world of tapeless video acquisition has a dirty hidden secret that not many people realize before it's too late: It's a complete pain in the ass to manage all this data. The only real solution for non-professional video-content producers is to just dump all your crap to giant hard-drives, and make sure that those hard-drives are themselves backed up.

Thankfully, hard-drives are stupendously cheap. I just purchased three 1 Terabyte harddrives from Newegg for only $89 each. Using these drives in conjunction with a USB/Firewire/eSATA "drive dock", such as this one will give you unlimited archiving capability at the lowest possible cost.

I work in professional video post-production, and generate over 5-8 Terabytes of video media in the average month. This workflow has worked brilliantly for me for several years now (in addition to using LTO tape backup for redundancy, but that would be overkill for your purposes).

I would also strongly recommend that you archive your media to redundant hard drives, if this data is irreplaceably valuable to you. If you aren't willing to pay for redundant backup drives, then at the very least archive the original MP4 files from your camera to multiple, redundant DVD-R discs (archive them as data files, not as "video DVDs"), and use the archive hard-drives to backup all the ginormous FCE intermediate/render/output files. And since the camera-original MP4s dont take up much relative space, you should archive them to the hard-drive(s) as well.

This way, if your archive hard-drive dies for whatever reason**, you will at least have the original raw camera footageon the DVD-Rs that you can go back to. And conversely, if your DVD-R backups go bad (which they absolutely WILL, as you've already found out), you will still have another copy of that data residing on the archive hard-drives.

* short of upgrading to Final Cut Pro, which will give you the real Media Management and consolidation/trimming features you're looking for that Final Cut Express, unfortunately, does not have)

** I dont mean to scare you, but ALL harddrives die for no apparently good reason--no matter how old they are, or how frequently/infrequently you use them--which is why redundancy is an absolute requirement when archiving)

posted by melorama at 5:18 AM on January 23, 2010 [1 favorite]

As an addendum, if you're going to go down the "bare-drive" route that I mentioned, I totally recommend buying these protective hard drive cases from Wiebetech. You stick the bare drive into these cases when you're done with them, and just plop them in your closet or on a shelf, as if it were a book.

This way, you dont have to hassle with keeping around those big bulky powersupplies and "wall-worts" that come with standard external-harddrive enclosures.
posted by melorama at 5:24 AM on January 23, 2010

I think you can kill those scratch files when you're done making DVDs. It's your choice if you want to keep the converted file or the original mp4 and reconvert again later. In FCP, you'd have your original mp4, a converted edited file, and your project file. If you're not planning on editing these constantly, you could keep both the original mp4 and the project file, but if FCPexpress keeps the converted file inside the project file, you can't delete it without losing your edit. If that's the case, you may only be able to delete the scratch files.

HD video is big, maybe there's a reason it shares initials with Hard Drive?
posted by history is a weapon at 5:36 AM on January 23, 2010

Personally, the only data I back up redundantly are the original footage and the FCP project file(s). From there, I can re-render and re-output in case I lose anything.

I do keep all the render files and output files as well, but only in one location.

Whatever you end up doing, it's going to take up hard drive space—you're going to want to start buying more hard drives.
posted by reductiondesign at 1:30 PM on January 23, 2010

Doesn't it let you make EDL files? If it exports & imports those, I'd save the original, EDL, & final files - for this, the DVD.
posted by Pronoiac at 3:45 PM on January 23, 2010

An "EDL" is pointless unless you're planning on converting the project to another editing package. And even then, you'll still need to have the original, unedited sourcemedia around for it to be useful.

This is one of the things I miss most about linear tape acquisition. The source tapes are their own inherent backup, in a a sense, and you could just delete all your digitized media at the end of a job, knowing that if you ever needed to go back to the project at a later date, you could just load up the EDL/projectfile and just re-capture the media that you need for the timeline at hand.

The OP's problem is that FCE does not have a Media Manager, unlike Final Cut Pro. In FCP, you can just select your sequence, choose the "Media Manager" tool, then tell it to condense the sequence(s) by removing all media that isn't being used in the sequence, and physically trimming off the unused ends off of clips that *are* being used in the sequence.
posted by melorama at 4:08 PM on January 23, 2010

melorama: An "EDL" is pointless unless you're planning on converting the project to another editing package. And even then, you'll still need to have the original, unedited sourcemedia around for it to be useful.

For the first part: an EDL file should be small. I agree with the second part, though I didn't spell it out in my earlier comment. Keep the EDL & original source file around so if you need to tweak the edit, you can. Depending on the size of the generated iDVD DVD, you might even be able to keep the source & EDL files on one dual-layer DVD.
posted by Pronoiac at 6:17 PM on January 23, 2010


The poster's primary problem is not "how do I save my project so I can load it up again later for further tweaking". Saving an "EDL"--assuming you're talking about something like a CMX3600 EDL--is completely unnecessary, because all you need to do is back up the original Final Cut Express projectfile, which contains all the necessary clip/sequence metadata that cannot be seamlessly conveyed in an EDL.

The problem that the poster needs a solution to is how to "reduce" the Final Cut Express project in the first place, so they don't have to archive any unnecessary media. This task is completely independent of saving out an EDL, because whether or not the media has been reduced & consolidated has no bearing on on the contents of the exported EDL.

In any case, EDLs are dead, as far as desktop video-post workflows are concerned (especially a Final Cut based workflow, where XML interchange is where it's at). Unless you want to take your FCE project into something like a Da Vinci color-correction suite, another editing package, or sending a cutlist to a film-lab, EDLs are totally superfluous, and not very relevant to this discussion.
posted by melorama at 8:54 PM on January 23, 2010

> What should I do? What software do I get to do it, if need be? (I'm on a Macbook pro)

First: As others say, realize hard-drives are cheap, in particular compared to the time and effort involved with HD video. Buy more drives. Mirror them.

Then, this is how I store similar footage (concerts/performances for a library/archive of same):

I am only familiar with FCP, but hopefully this helps for FCE too:

I expect FC transcodes your camera footage to Apple ProRes upon import?
Do all your edits as necessary for a given performance, trims/color/etc.
Set in/out for the sequence(s) you want to retain.
Export those clips, in same format as working timeline sequence (Apple Prores)
Name them sensibly so you can find them back.
Store those exported clips, with mirrored backup.
These are now ready for immediate re-edit/export/whatever.
Delete everything created by the project.
(Personally, I'd perhaps keep the original footage in original codec, just in case)
You should now be left with proper trimmed cuts
If you still panic about diskspace, you could encode the exported material to h.264 or something that really squeezes it. You'd probably do this for delivery anyway. But for your archive, which I understand you want to access for sporadic edits, that would take a lot of time to encode, and make future edits a pain.

PS - read up on Apple ProRes in the user manual. The manual actually covers things like this pretty well and explains which codecs you'd use for what/how/when.
posted by gmm at 2:39 AM on January 24, 2010

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