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Final Cut Pro 3.0 Quick Tip #6

Configuring your scratch disks By Stephen Schleicher
Ever have Final Cut Pro 3.0 crash in the middle of an edit, and you dont know when the last auto save was performed (or even where it is located)? Wonder why you can easily locate your rendered video files, but not your audio? Ever throw your hands up in frustration and cry out in the night, "Im mad as hell and Im not going to take it anymore!"? Okay, maybe you havent gone that far, but knowing how to set up your scratch disk can save you some hassle later on.

So what is the scratch disk? Well, if you have read your manual cover to cover (and who hasnt done that?), you know that the scratch disk is the primary hard drive where your video and audio files are digitized to. You should not have your scratch disk set on the same drive as your OS and FCP application, mainly because of speed issues, but also because you dont want to accidentally fill up the drive and cause problems with your system.

In Final Cut Pro drop down from the main menu and choose Preferences. From there go to the Scratch Disks tab. Final Cut Pro 3.0 allows you specify up to 12 different scratch disks for storing files. Most of us have only one scratch disk (mine is a 160GB external FireWire drive), but for those of you who are working uncompressed or working with extremely long format productions, having additional disks can be a blessing. Basically you tell Final Cut Pro which is the primary disk and which are the additional disks. When the main hard drive gets full, it automatically switches to the next disk on the list. Believe me this is quite handy when you have 20 students all wanting to do projects on a single system.

But even after you set the actual disk itself, where do all the files go? There are two main folders that are created called Capture Scratch, Audio Render Files and Render Files. The Capture Scratch folder contains all of the digitized video and the Video and Audio Render Files folders contain all of the video and audio clips that had effects applied that needed to be rendered. If you have many people working on a single system and you want to easily manage projects and be able to find where everything is, I suggest doing the following:

Find the hard drive that will act as the primary scratch disk
Create a folder specifically for individual users
When they begin working on a project, they need to target the scratch disks to the hard drive and their name folder created earlier.

For example, by creating a folder on my hard drive named Stephen, I know that all of my digitized video and audio will reside there. The Capture Scratch disk will then contain separate folders for every project I am working on, and I then know where everything is at. As long as Bob remembers to set the scratch disk for his projects to his folder, there will never be a problem, and everyone will know where everything is.

Well, almost...

You see Final Cut Pro 3.0 also creates an Auto Save Vault directory in case your system crashes (it can happen even on a Mac), and you need to restore the last auto save that was performed. Locating that folder might be harder than you think. By default, the auto save, waveform, and thumbnail cache are all saved to you main hard drive in a folder, in some directory somewhere, that will be hard to track down. Another good suggestion would be to target those directories to the same folder that you set up for your primary scratch disk. Again, this keeps everything in one location.

When it comes time to save your work in progress, save the project file to the same folder on your scratch disk.

Some of you are probably saying, "Why on earth do that? You are just running the risk of confusing your editors if they have to set the scratch disk to their named directory each and every time they start a project." There are a couple of reasons why I take this approach, and why you may decide to adopt it for your work.

First, it is just a good habit to get into and should be a part of everyones project workflow.

Second, I mentioned a moment ago that I use a 160GB external FireWire drive for my scratch disk. Often there are times when I need to take my project and work on my Final Cut Pro 3.0 system at home, times when I need to edit at work, and times when I need to take a project to class to demonstrate to my students. By having my project, digitized audio and video, as well as all of the rendered files, and auto save files on one drive, it is a simple matter of plugging in my FireWire drive, launching FCP, opening my project and continue working.

Without setting up my scratch disks, I have to rerender all of the effects every time I move to a new system, hope that any new digitized video goes to the right hard drive, and pray that if the system I am working on does crash, that I can find the auto save folder. I prefer not to go through those hassles, and hopefully now you wont have to go through them either.

When not working deep in the labs of the DMN Central Division testing the latest and greatest software/hardware products Stephen Schleicher can be found at the local university teaching a few courses on video and web production. He can be reached at schleicher@mindspring.com. You can also visit him on the web at www.mindspring.com/~schleicher

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Stephen Schleicher is a well known writer, visual effects artist and media guru! You can see more of Stephen at
www.majorspoilers.com and www.stephenschleicher.com
Related Keywords:Final Cut Pro, FCP, Apple, mac, scratch disk, schleicher

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