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Editing DSLR Video with Final Cut Pro X: Organizing Your Media

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Final Cut Pro X has several tools that let you sort, sift, filter, and find the perfect shot. You can use embedded metadata as well as attach powerful keywords to improve your ability to locate the perfect shot. In this chapter you'll learn the many ways to organize your media.
This chapter is from the book

The act of video editing is not really about learning which buttons to push. The hardest part of editing is learning how to cull through large amounts of footage to find the “good parts”—the best sound bites, the most expressive b-roll, and the shots that just work. Of course, you then have to figure out how to put all of those pieces together.

In a sense, the act of editing video is much like having ten different jigsaw pieces mixed together. You have to find the right pieces and figure out how they go together while ignoring the pieces you don’t need.

Let’s just say that getting organized will be a critical step in your journey to a compelling story. Fortunately, Final Cut Pro X has several tools that let you sort, sift, filter, and find the perfect shot. You can use embedded metadata as well as attach powerful keywords to improve your ability to locate the perfect shot.

In this chapter we’ll explore the many ways to organize your media. Although you may want to skip ahead, we encourage you to tough it out. Learning how to organize an edit will make the whole process run faster and ensures that you’ll have the best shots at your fingertips.

Examining Events

After you’ve imported media into events, you’ll want to explore the content at your fingertips. Any video, audio, or still images that you’ve imported will appear as clips in one or more events.

Final Cut Pro X is very literal when it comes to your media inside an event. Each event in the Event Library has a matching folder on your hard drive. Inside each folder is the actual imported media (or an alias that points to the original file).

Sorting Events

As you import your media, you’ll likely end up with multiple events. As you learned in Chapter 3, “Importing and Transcoding Your Media,” it is common practice to organize events by factors like shoot date, client, or topic.

Clicking the Action menu (which is shaped like a gear) gives you access to several different sorting methods for events.

You need to find a level of comfort with events, deciding how big you want each event to be and how broad a range each event should cover. For example, for the project we’re using in this book, we’re using a single, dedicated drive for the project, and footage will be grouped into three events: Concert, Interview, and B-roll.

As you work with events, it’s important to use the many organizational tools offered by Final Cut Pro X. You can access all of the sort methods by clicking the Action menu (just look for the gear icon below the Event Library):

  • Sort events by date. If you’re working on a project that has many shooting days, sorting by date can be useful. Just click the Action menu and choose Group Events by Date. You can sort by Year, Year and Month, or choose not to group.

There are several ways to sort events. From left to right, Group Events by Disk, Group Events by Year, and Group Events by Month and Year.

  • Sort events by storage location. Many choose to isolate clients or projects by hard drive. If you’re using multiple disks or partitions, sorting by location is a good idea. Just click the Action menu and choose Group Events by Disk. This option can be combined with any of the date sorting options.
  • Show event date ranges. If you want to see the full range of dates an event contains, you can choose Show Date Ranges in Event Library from the Action menu. This can help you easily find footage within events by date.
  • Sort events by most recent. If you want to see the newest footage first, choose Arrange Events by Most Recent from the Action menu.

Viewing Events as a Filmstrip

If you are visually oriented, you’ll find the Filmstrip view very useful. By displaying the event as a filmstrip, you can see several frames that represent the contents of your footage. For many, this is the easiest way to visually browse media (especially because clips from DSLR cameras lack descriptive names).

  1. If a List view is shown, click the “Show clips in filmstrip view” button near the bottom of the Event Browser.

  2. Drag the duration slider to adjust the number of frames shown for each clip’s thumbnail in the Event Browser. You can also press Shift+Z to zoom to fit each clip to a single thumbnail. Usually, setting the duration to 5–10 seconds works well. But your mileage may vary depending on the type of footage and length of shots you are working with.

  3. If you want to adjust what’s shown in each thumbnail, click the Clip Appearance button at the bottom-right corner of the Event Browser. You can adjust the height of the clip as well as disable the audio waveform.

Viewing Events as a List

If you prefer to organize your footage by file details like creation date, duration, or keyword, you’ll find the List view useful. Although the List view is mostly filled with sortable columns, there is a large filmstrip preview at the top of the window. This filmstrip allows full access to all of the media as well as the ability to use markers and keyword ranges.

  1. If a Filmstrip view is shown, click the “Show clips in list view” button near the bottom of the Event Browser.

  2. To customize which columns are viewable, Control-click on any column heading and choose a category option from the menu.

  3. To rearrange columns, click a column heading and hold. You can then drag a column left or right if you prefer a different order.

  4. To sort a column, click its heading.

    You can click a second time to toggle between ascending and descending sort order.

  5. To view a clip’s rating or keywords, just click the disclosure triangle to the left of the clip’s name.

Sorting Clips within Events

As you continue to review your events, it’s easy to become overwhelmed by all your footage (especially with a big project). Fortunately, Final Cut Pro X offers several additional ways to refine how your events display clips. Much like sorting events, you can sort clips within an event. It all begins by clicking the Action menu:

  • Group Clips By Category. You can choose Group Clips By and select from several methods, including Reel, Date, Scene, Duration, File Type, and more. You can set the order to Ascending or Descending from the same submenu to create a hierarchy. We find that grouping by File Type is extremely useful because it groups audio, video, and graphics separately.
  • Arrange Clips By Category. You can also arrange clips by Name, Take, Duration, and Content Created. We find the last method (Content Created) useful because it sorts clips in order of creation. If you’ve manually renamed media, the Name option is also useful. Arrangements can also be sorted in Ascending or Descending order.

Grouping by category is a useful way to organize your media.

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