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Gathering and Editing Video in Final Cut Pro

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With the advent of nonlinear editing systems, editing is as much a technical art as it is aesthetic. Understanding some basic video approaches will not only improve your technical aptitude, but also allow you the freedom to concentrate on the art of editing. In this lesson, you'll observe the workflow of a typical video. Your project specifications may vary, but the principles of video workflow still hold. And since Final Cut Pro is adaptable, it will accommodate different approaches seamlessly.
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Lesson Files

Lessons > Lesson 03 > Lesson 03 Project.fcp


Media > Lesson 03 Media


This lesson takes approximately 90 minutes to complete.


Plan and organize your project
Capture your project in one piece or by individual scene
Synchronize your video and audio if your sources are separate media
Increase resolution by recapturing entire source content
Increase resolution by recapturing selected source content
Decrease resolution by using the Media Manager

With the advent of nonlinear editing systems, editing is as much a technical art as it is aesthetic. Understanding some basic video approaches will not only improve your technical aptitude but also allow you the freedom to concentrate on the art of editing. You will learn how to organize an online or offline video project, gather project content, and convert offline content to online resolutions and online content to offline resolutions.

In this lesson, you’ll observe the workflow of a typical video. Your project specifications may vary, but the principles of video workflow still hold. And since Final Cut Pro is adaptable, it will accommodate different approaches seamlessly.

Organizing Projects

Before you begin, you need to establish a framework for your project—a clear path from beginning to end. This will streamline your process and identify and help you overcome obstacles. You’ll learn how to plan an efficient workflow, determine sound specifications and timecode, and decide when to switch between resolutions.

Planning an Online or Offline Video Workflow

When you receive your project specifications, it’s best to plan the complete workflow you expect to use. Planning will identify possible problems, and early detection will allow you time to alter your route. For example, the New England Aquarium online project content came from six one-hour source tapes. The editor initially planned to capture each tape in its entirety at an online resolution of DVCPRO HD 720p with the resulting data rate of 13.8 Mb/sec. However, a calculation of storage requirements revealed there wasn’t sufficient storage capacity for 6 hours of content. As a result, early in the process, the editor decided to capture only those clips that would become the basis for the edit.

The New England Aquarium project was relatively short and the variables therefore contained. However, for longer online projects like the documentary Spellbound, the planning process might be more involved. Because Spellbound is a documentary, you might have expected the workflow to begin offline, but it didn’t. There were 160 hours of footage shot on DV, captured at DV25 resolution. The planning process for Spellbound may have included how best to sync the multicamera shoots during the national spelling competitions, or whether selected scenes or entire tapes were to be captured.

Blocking days or planning for particular tasks can also be useful. If you need to color correct every shot, and you have estimated that your color corrections take, on average, 1 hour per edited minute, then your projection needs to allow for 8 hours of color correcting and extra time for rendering. Plan to use your daytime hours for editing, and save rendering or exporting until you take a lunch break or until after you have finished for the day.

The Magic Hour offline workflow planning involved an extra time allotment for syncing DAT tapes. During the planning stage, this preparation allowed the editor to realistically identify a start date for creative editing. Time was also calculated for recapturing the low-resolution files at a higher resolution for color correction and output to tape.

Micro preparation can result in time-saving and provide an estimate of expected delivery. Your project may deviate from your plan, but you will be better prepared to accommodate changes as a result of your initial forecast.

Determining Sound Specifications

If your sound is delivered on a medium separate from the picture tapes, either by DAT (digital audio tapes) or data files, then before you begin capturing material, take time to discuss the original sound settings with your sound recordist.

Discuss the original frame rate of the source sound recordings. Generally, if you are planning on syncing during a telecine session, you will ask that the sound frame rate be recorded so that it matches your video transfer rate.

If your audio is delivered as data files, check the sample rate and bit depth. Final Cut Pro currently accepts sample rates up to 96 kHz and bit depths of 24. If the audio data file sample rates and bit depths are higher, you’ll need to convert the audio files via an audio software application program such as Soundtrack Pro or a converter program such as Compressor.

Keeping Track of Timecode

Timecode is a critical part of any workflow. Typically, you will use two types of timecode: source and sequence. Source timecode numerically identifies one frame of information from another on the source tapes or source file. The source timecode is captured or imported with the picture and links the captured media to the identical time on the tape or file. When you begin editing, you will reference sequence timecode. Sequence timecode is timecode that numerically differentiates one frame of edited material from another.

Check the timecode of your captured material against your source tape, especially since, at some stage (for example, during a recapture), you may need to reference the original source timecode. You can check your captured media timecode against the source tape in the Log and Capture window. Load a clip in the Viewer, launch the Log and Capture window, pause the tape at the timecode matching the clip in the Viewer, and compare timecodes and picture to see that they match. If you captured discrete picture and audio material (say your audio was delivered on DAT), you may need to keep track of at least two source timecodes: one for picture and one or more for sound.

Final Cut Pro allows you to modify a media file and source timecode. This is recommended only if the timecode of your source media clip is wrong, or if you need to create auxiliary timecodes. Altering the source timecodes for any other reason may cause a mismatch between video and sound during recapture.

Since the sequence timecode represents a numerical value of a frame of edited material, you can modify it more liberally. During the editing phase, you may decide to modify your sequence timecode to suit your editing style. You might change it to begin at the zero hour, for example. During the editing phase, the sequence timecode has little consequence for your project and is useful for reference purposes. Conversely, for output, the sequence timecode takes a more prominent role because standards for picture start have been established within the industry. (See “Outputting Your Project” in Lesson 5 for further details.)

Occasionally, your source tapes or files will have no timecode track. This is usually a result of file transfer from a special-effects house or music imported from CD. Keep data backups of nontimecoded sources, or transfer them to timecoded tapes and capture from the transferred tape.

Organizing Media

Some basic rules will help you organize and manage your material. Some of these conventions are unique to Final Cut Pro, but most are pertinent for all nonlinear systems.

Before you begin to capture material, think about your naming conventions. In Final Cut Pro, the name you assign the captured QuickTime file becomes the name of the media file at the Finder level. Final Cut Pro does allow you the option of changing the clip name in the Browser while maintaining the media link to the clip in the Finder. Altering a clip name in the Browser will not alter the QuickTime media file at the Finder level. However, don’t change the name of a clip in the Browser of Final Cut Pro, because other methods, such as marking or subclipping, can elegantly achieve a clip name change while maintaining the name reference at the Finder level. (See the “Marking Sync Points” section later in this lesson.)

Consider carefully where you will set your scratch disks, and be consistent. Keep your media structure organized and thoughtful. Create separate folders for materials that are not captured via tape, such as music and graphics. Consistency throughout a project will enhance efficiency.

  • Unique tape names— Numbering is the best tape-naming method. If your tapes do not have numbers, take an indelible pen and begin numbering each tape and case immediately. Where duplicate numbers already exist, mark one with an alphabetical appendage. For example, two tapes numbered 101 would become 101 and 101a. A tape name is your reference to the timecode on that particular tape. So, if you had two tapes, each beginning with timecode 01:00:00;00, the only means of distinguishing one timecode from the other is the tape name. Any nonlinear system knows only numbers, so it is your job to make the distinction clear.

  • Unique names— Keep all clip names unique. Remember, on any computer, files that live in the same folder must have unique names. Since the name you assign a clip, once captured, is the same as the QuickTime media file created at the Finder level, you need to preserve unique names. Even if you create two discrete folders, this convention is still pertinent because it’s important to be able to distinguish one content file from another, especially when relinking.

  • Names that make sense— Think librarian! If you’re working on a project that has more of a script convention, naming media clips using scenes, takes, and camera angles might make sense. If you are working on a documentary, you might name clips by subject or interview. If your project follows the progress of an event, perhaps a date-naming scheme will be useful. Another method is to name a clip by the tape number, and break it down with subclips or markers after the media is captured.

  • Consistent naming— Be consistent! Once you’ve chosen a naming convention, follow it closely. On any computer, the more consistent you are with your naming convention, the better the results for searches or sorting. Final Cut Pro has some powerful search capabilities that are enhanced through consistent clip naming. You can search for every clip containing any number of field values, including names in either the Browser or sequence. Final Cut Pro can also sort hierarchically in the Browser. For example, you can perform a primary sort by clicking a Browser heading, and then you can perform a secondary sort by holding down the Shift key and clicking another heading. You’ll be able to sort more accurately if you keep these names consistent.

  • Safe characters— For any filename on any computer, avoid characters that are used as commands in the operating system. Safe characters include letters, numbers, and underscores (_). Avoid characters such as forward slashes (/), colons (:), asterisks (*), and so on. All symbols are used as instructions by the operating system and must not be used to form a filename.

  • Leading zeros to sort numbers correctly— Use leading zeros to make your sorting numerically and alphabetically correct. For instance, without leading zeros your clip named 25 will be listed after your clip named 125, not before it. (25 is alphabetically sorted before 125, but numerically after it.) If you use a leading zero (025), Final Cut Pro will place the clips named 025 and 125 in numerical as well as alphabetical order.

Organizing Final Cut Pro Projects

Generally, an online workflow will have a shorter turnaround than an offline workflow. However, you need to clearly structure and organize a project regardless of length, size, or workflow. There are many organizational techniques, including personal preference. However, you should organize a project using common sense so that others could easily identify your project structure.

Organize your clips logically into bins, or use multiple bins to organize the same media in different ways. For example, one bin could organize clips by the date they were shot; another could have the same material organized by scene; and yet another could be organized by location.

The editors of The Magic Hour organized clips by character and location. Each bin was clearly named, and sequences were labeled by editor, version, and date. For example, the master sequence was labeled TMH_MASTER_EM_03282005.

Consider saving sequences incrementally. One method is to save a sequence prior to a major revision. Although you can view a Browser heading named Last Modified, you may want to consider adding a date appendage to saved sequences, like in the preceding example. Adding date values to any file is a useful tool.

Archive old bins and sequences. Since Final Cut Pro will let you open multiple projects at once, you can have all your material open at the same time. However, for efficiency and simplicity, you’ll want to archive old bins and sequences. Archiving also reduces project load times. (See Lesson 12 for more information on archiving.)

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