Our Latest White Paper: New Remote Workflows in Final Cut Pro
If you’ve been reading the blog for a while, you might have noticed that I’ve worked on a bunch of different projects in recent years. From production-focused YouTube series, to documentary television, and even feature films, I’ve touched most every kind of workflow.
But regardless of the genre, Final Cut Pro has always been (and still is) my editing software of choice.
This is partly because it’s what I’m most familiar with, but mainly because it adapts quickly to change. And let’s face it, adaptability is probably the most important attribute for everything these days.
Supported by Apple, we recently published a white paper titled Final Cut Pro Shared & Remote Solutions 2021, authored by Alex Snelling.
At 66 pages, there’s a lot to unpack here, but I thought I’d start with how Final Cut Pro integrations are going to help the post-production community push forward in these interesting times.
Greater flexibility for proxies
The push to raw formats with higher-resolutions has created a corresponding surge in file sizes. So most of us have probably turned to a proxy workflow to take some of the stress off our workstations at some point.
Final Cut Pro already had a proxy solution that lets you create more manageable video files and, as of FCP 10.4.9, play back a mix of proxies and original media in the same edit. As well as allowing you to choose between ProRes or H.264 for these lightweight proxy files, FCP 10.4.9 introduced the option to generate them using custom resolutions, with options for 12.5, 25, 50, and 100 percent of the original, or specific frame sizes based on the ratio of the original media.
As the white paper points out, this can take a 5.5GB 8K REDCODE RAW file and reduce it to a tiny 6.4MB when compressed to a quarter-res, H.264 file. So you can create an incredibly lightweight version of your library.
Sometimes the problem isn’t storage space, but rather sheer performance. If you’re unconstrained by storage capacity and bandwidth, FCP can also generate optimized versions that use less compression. This makes media quick to play back and render, but also way larger.
One of the biggest limitations to FCP’s proxy workflow used to be that it could only playback proxy files that it had generated. This constraint has now been removed, allowing you to use proxy files that were created outside of the application (which has enormous significance for both third-party integrations and homemade render farm aficionados).
If you’re linking to external proxies, they usually need to be either ProRes or H.264, and have the same framerate, timecode, and audio channel configuration. But if you’re using Compressor, you can modify the existing proxy presets to encode files as HEVC, which is great if you’re working in HDR and want lightweight files that retain that full high dynamic range.
You can also now batch import both Originals and Proxies with a single FCPXML, and copy just the proxies to portable drives if you’re taking a project on the road.
Remote editing with Frame.io
If you’re already using Frame.io with FCP then you’ll already know just how useful it is.
Alex notes that he uses it almost every day, and loves our best-in-class upload speeds. (Thanks Alex!)
Using the Frame.io panel, you can browse online content and import it directly into your project in Final Cut Pro. FCP will download your media in the background, with progress visible in the Background Tasks window, and you can cancel or re-download whenever necessary. If your download is interrupted, you can re-download the remote Frame.io media using the Redownload Remote Media command.
Imported video files will default to the original file that was uploaded to Frame.io, along with a proxy (which Frame.io creates as part of the upload process). Or if you’re on a slower internet connection, you can just import either a high- or low-res proxy file without the original. But hey, if you want both the original and a proxy anyway, you can do that, too.
Once you’re done, you can share your FCP timeline for review, which automatically renders the project, uploads it to Frame.io, and automatically shares it with the collaborators in your Frame.io project. You can also send individual links to people outside of the project group, with passwords, expiry dates, and even custom individualized watermarking.
Comments are immediately visible in the FCP Frame.io panel. Clients, colleagues, and stakeholders can then preview your upload in a standard web browser (mobile or desktop) and make notes, provide feedback, or approve. All of these comments and notes are immediately visible in the FCP Frame.io panel.
Clicking the comment moves your playhead to the corresponding position on the timeline, allowing you to make the required change, mark it as complete, and move on. And because Frame.io handles version stacking for you, you’ll never need to use filenames like project_final_v5_update_draft2_final-final_this-one.fcpx again. You can even use side-by-side views to compare versions.
Library collaboration with Postlab
If you’re looking for a way to synchronize FCP libraries so that multiple editors can work on the same project, check out Postlab, which is also featured in the white paper.
I should point out that this doesn’t mean that editors can work on the same Final Cut Pro library simultaneously. While the master library is stored in the Postlab cloud, the FCP library you’re working on is downloaded locally.
Postlab then tracks changes, records notes, updates the master, and makes sure the library is locked to other members of the team. Think of it like Avid’s bin-locking, but only at the library level.
When a new editor picks up the job, their local copy is updated to reflect any changes made to the master, and previous versions are stored so that you can return to them if something goes egregiously wrong.
It’s a great way to create a slick, collaborative workflow when your team might be scattered around the world. In fact, I used the combination of Final Cut Pro, Frame.io, and PostLab on a feature film in 2019. Subsequently, I shared this workflow with my friend, iJustine. She then started using it to collaborate with her sister, Jenna, and editor, Tyler, as part of their lockdown workflow.
Just the beginning…
There’s so much more valuable information in the white paper, and this is only the beginning. If you love Final Cut Pro, and are working remotely with your team, you should definitely check it out. You can download the white paper here.
Of course, this is just what’s possible right now. 2020 created a groundswell of change that will drive our industry toward innovation, advancement, and improvement long into the future. We really do live in interesting times, and there are more ways than ever to bring remote teams closer together.
Got an example of how your workflow has changed in the move to remote working? Let us know in the comments!