Hi, I am Alex, I am an editor and a software developer and recently I released this macOS app, FCP Diet 2.
I am not here to do (self) promotion, I would simply like to tell you the story of how and why I developed this software.
The Final Cut Pro libraries
Final Cut Pro's libraries are a very interesting object: they are not just a file format (but inside them there is actually a complex folder structure), but they are the beating heart of any project created with this video editing software.
Final Cut Pro X, from its origins, was designed to offer high performance at the expense of disk space occupation. This means that Final Cut's libraries are often very large, tens if not hundreds of gigabytes, because they contain the original files, transcoded files, optimized videos, and rendered files.
Final Cut Pro, in simple terms, " doesn't throw anything away": it means that every render file that is produced, for every single frame, is not deleted, and therefore as you work and work on a project its Final Cut library becomes larger and larger.
I like to get my hands dirty
As a good programmer, I have always taken care of "opening" the Final Cut libraries and deleting by hand all the unnecessary and redundant files, an activity that I have always done especially before archiving the projects: the disk space, especially the backup one, has however a cost that must be managed wisely.
Two years ago, in just one afternoon, I made a very simple application, FCPX Diet (version 1), whose sole purpose was to automatically delete these files.
FCPX Diet 1, although it was developed quickly and without too much effort, turns out to be one of the most successful applications I have ever made.
They always say "eat your own food", and in fact since that day I've been using FCPX Diet 1 practically every day, to manage my video projects.
It wasn't enough
Over the last few months, during our second Lockdown here in Italy, however, I felt that FCPX Diet 1 had some limitations, especially considering a very simple fact: Final Cut Pro library files are not actually the only part of a project I make, because every time I have to start a new production, I prepare a series of folders and subfolders that contain all the files that will be related to said production.
Consider, for example, the footage shot, stock videos, music, sound effects, speaker, animations and motion graphics, After Effects files,…
Each production is of course different from every other, but generally it is made up of many assets that eventually go into the Final Cut project (and consequently into the library). So I started thinking about an evolution of FCPX Diet 1 that would take into account this fact: the Final Cut Pro library is a central element, but it is not the only one within an entire production project.
For this reason I started to develop FCP Diet 2 (without the "X", since Final Cut Pro X also became simply Final Cut Pro with the transition to version 10.5), so that it was not only a natural evolution of the first version of the program, but could add all those features that are convenient if not necessary when trying to manage a medium-large project.
All of the software that I write essentially has one purpose: to automate the manual work that I personally do.
FCP Diet 2 does the same, not only going to delete all redundant files, but trying to optimize the whole folder, the whole video production project, also performing consolidation and "general cleaning" functions.
But how does it work?
FCP Diet 2 is really simple to use: you just have to drag the library or the folder of your project onto the main screen:
Immediately all the files will be scanned, even the hidden ones, and finally a screen will appear showing all the information about the libraries found, with even an indication of the space you'll save.
At this point all you have to do is press the Diet button and wait for the processing to finish. It can take a few seconds or even several minutes, depending on the complexity of the folder and the number of files it contains.
At the end, FCP Diet 2 shows a message indicating how many gigabytes have been saved. Simple as that…
Everything under control
I don't know about you, but when I start a production I try, as much as possible, to keep track of all the phases of the work and to have absolute control over all the media that will then flow into Final Cut Pro for the final edit.
For this reason, the fact that there may be assets that reside entirely within the libraries of Final Cut Pro scares me a bit: it's one thing if we're talking about footage, which is essentially static once it has been captured by the camera, but it's another thing altogether if we're talking about files that must comply with strict versioning rules.
I can and do work on videos that are fully animated, motion graphics, or even just have complex titles, such as callouts, highlighted keywords, lower thirds, and so on, video segments that I usually do in After Effects and can constantly be updated while keeping the same file name.
I always put After Effects render files in folders and subfolders (VFX, MG, Subs, Lower 3rds, ...) and when I make an updated version of a single render file I overwrite this file; well, if Final Cut Pro has these files "in the belly" of the library, in practice I'm going to replace a file that is not actually referenced by the editing program, so I do not have a single source of truth: I "look" at a file but Final Cut Pro "sees" another one.
FCP Diet 2 takes care of exactly this: if it discovers that the same file (with checksum calculation of course) is in the library and also outside, it deletes the file in the library and forces Final Cut Pro to reference the external file; in this way you have two advantages: first you save space, but above all there is no more possibility of confusion because the file is unique.
Bring in what is outside
Some time ago I made a video in which I had a very tight deadline, so for the music I brought in the timeline some songs that were located on an external disk (in which resides all my library of music), this caused Final Cut Pro to refer to a file that was on an external disk, removable.
This resulted in a big problem when I had to render the timeline and I had detached this disk: the nice "missing media" message.
FCP Diet 2 also solves this problem because when it realizes that Final Cut Pro refers to a file that is outside the folder that has been dragged, therefore "outside the project", it takes care in complete autonomy to copy all external files in order to consolidate everything.
A step forward
Since I've written a series of procedures for analyzing files and folders on the disk, I thought I'd go a step further and allow the app to perform other, slightly more "destructive" operations.
I added the possibility to check the entire dragged folder in order to highlight if there were any duplicate files, and to go and delete all copies except the original, adding however a reference ("alias") for the deleted files: the folder structure remains almost identical but the space saved, especially when it comes to uncompressed videos is not insignificant!
Finally I've also added the possibility to automatically delete files that are not used by Final Cut Pro, this is useful at the end, when you are going to archive a project.
Note: FCP Diet 2 doesn't delete these files but puts them in a folder so that the user can choose if and what to delete!
These two operations can also be done on only one category of media (video, photo, audio) and/or by specifying a minimum file size.
Long live H.264
Recently I've often worked producing videos using many stock assets, downloaded at the highest quality (in ProRes format). Once the video was finished, however, the project folder turned out to be huge, with dozens of gigabytes "wasted" on sources.
So I thought to include one last option, in this case "destructive" that would allow to automatically compress the ProRes format files into H.264.
I added a lot of options so that it is difficult to make a mistake and transcoding files by accident going to lose quality, allowing you to exclude files and folders that contain within the name a certain word.
A simpler explanation with a video
I could have simply posted this video, because it wraps up and explains in a few minutes everything I pointed out by typing all these words:
But I wanted to try to be more "human" and tell you my thought process, the road I took to get to make this new application.
In the end I'm not a developer, I'm primarily a filmmaker and animator (and this was very useful to make these promotional videos), the activity of developer is my second job, although it takes me a lot of time, energy and passion...
I'm not a graphic designer, this I think is clear, but I also thought to update the icon of the application moving from that of the first version is that of the second:
In both cases I liked the idea of showing a "distortion" due to a slimming, after all the application is called Diet because its goal is to make slimming folders and libraries of Final Cut...
A machine is more efficient than I am
In the end, I have to be honest, FCP Diet 2 doesn't do anything that you can't do manually by going through the internal folder structure of the Final Cut Pro library. But it does everything automatically, quickly, and accurately.
I personally use it every day, even and especially on projects that are in progress: since the Lockdown started here in Italy, my main office is my home, and my main machine is a laptop with 512 GB disk size, so not particularly large; and especially the most important and urgent projects are on a shared folder on Google Drive.
This means that the space each project takes up has a burden not only in disk space occupancy but in synchronization time.
FCP Diet 2 helps me to keep the projects up to date, and with the least possible space occupation, so that when I can go to the office the folders that are on Google Drive are synchronized without loss of time.
I don't know what idea you may have about me after reading this more or less long article. My goal is not to sell you the application, I just wanted to communicate the enthusiasm I have in these days for being able to finish it and present it to the market.
If you're interested in it, you can click here to find out more features and download the free trial version, for seven days you can use FCP Diet 2 without limits and see if it's right for you.
What else to say? Thank you for giving me your attention!