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Let's Set Up Our Project in Final Cut Pro

By Kevin McAuliffe

As the expression goes, "Cleanliness is next to Godliness".  This couldn't be truer than when it comes to editors and their projects.  I have been an editor for a long time, and have seen some outrageous organization skills from not only freelance editors, but staff editors as well.  I thought I'd take a look at good and simple organization, to keep not only yourself sane, but your fellow editors sane as well.

One thing I try to do, especially when editing in Final Cut Pro, is to keep my "CPU" and my FCP project organization almost the same.  This way, if you're looking for something you've imported into FCP, it's pretty easy to find.   First, pick a place to put your project.  We'll say, for the purposes of this article, you are editing a DV project called "Kevin's Project", and you are capturing to an external FireWire Drive called "Media".   First, on your Media drive, create a folder called "Kevin's Project".  Everything for your project will go into this folder.   Next, create four sub-folders called "Audio," "Projects," "Exports" and "GPHX".

Inside FCP, setting up your folders.

Normally, what I like to do is add a space before the word " Projects", so that way when you organize alphabetically, it will always appear at the top of your window. Next, launch FCP, and once opened, select FINAL CUT PRO>SYSTEM SETTINGS. In here, you want to direct your capture scratch, waveform and thumbnail folders to be created in your "Kevin's Project" folder, so everything is contained in one place. My only recommendation is to put the Autosave Vault somewhere else, and the reason for this is simple. 

If you ever have a drive failure, you want to make sure you have a backup of your projects somewhere other than on the drive that failed. If you don't have another internal drive, create a folder on your "Macintosh HD" called "Vault", and direct the "Autosave Vault" to backup your project there. You will now notice you have seven folders in your main folder. "Projects" is self explanatory, but there is one important thing to keep in mind, and that is that nothing drives me (and most other editors) more crazy than when someone has six projects all called the same thing, except for maybe a number or letter at the end.   Always keep one main project in this folder, and if you do happen to have other projects that are important, make a subfolder, so other editors can easily differentiate.

Your "Audio" folder would be for any music, SFX or voiceovers you've brought in from an external source (CD, Flash Drive, Post Audio Session). "Exports" would be for any exports you have done for external modification ( i.e.- After Effects, Motion, Shake), and "GPHX" would be where you would put motion graphics, logos, AE/Motion projects or any other element to be used in either FCP or AE/Motion/Shake. It's always better to be more organized than not, so if needed, make subfolders and get as organized as you can. It will only help you in the long run.
Inside FCP, the best recommendation I can make is to try to keep your project as you have your "CPU" setup. It never hurts to have folders called exactly the same thing, so things are extremely simple to find, and projects are easy to navigate and manage. It also helps that FCP has an "Import Folder" function, so you could very easily import entire folders and their hierarchy.
Finally, and probably the most important for me, is sequence setup. From the very first day I was an assistant editor, I was told how to organize my Avid projects and it has stuck with me to this day. Not for the reason of a Senior Editor wanting things his way, but because when projects were completed and sent to Post Audio, the engineer would always know where to find things. At the time, I did it because I was told to, but over the years it has become a very good and simple setup that I always recommend. Put your voiceovers on channels 1&2, your on camera dialogue (anything shot on location) on channels 3&4, your SFX on channels 5&6 and your music on channels 7&8. Obviously, you will from time to time, need to juggle the arrangement as you may have overlapping SFX, and in those cases you can put the SFX on channels 3&4 (if you have no on camera dialogue) or wherever they fit.


And for your own sanity, always edit your video on as few layers as possible. I've seen editors that edit by putting cutaways on V2, instead of just cutting them into V1, but for all us online editors, our drives get eaten up very quickly by having to redigitize footage that is not really necessary.   Try to keep you main footage on V1, and any effects or composites on the layers above.
At the end of the day, you really can organize and edit your footage however you want, but I can almost guarantee you that most post houses will not hire you back if you keep your projects disorganized and cluttered. It only takes a minute to do, and you will always impress producers, clients and fellow editors with your quick and masterful navigation and organization of your projects.

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Kevin P McAuliffe is currently a Senior Video Editor working in HD post production in Toronto, Canada. He has been in the television industry for 12 years, and spends his days onlining on a Final Cut Pro HD. Kevin's high definition onlining credit list includes concerts for Coldplay, Sarah McLachlan, Barenaked Ladies, Snow Patrol, Sum41, Paul Anka, Il Divo and Pussycat Dolls, to name a few. Also, Kevin is an instructor of Advanced Final Cut Studio 2 at the Toronto Film College. If you have any questions or comments, you can drop him a line at [email protected]

Related Keywords:FCP project, final cut pro project, video editing, NLE,

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