Oliver Peters looks at how to solve some of Final Cut Pro's professional workflow problems.
Every experienced Final Cut Pro editor has their own list of features they'd like to see added. This article isn't that. In fact, with a bit of planning, you can use FCP exactly as it is and bend it to your will. Here are five simple solutions to some common workflow situations.
When I work with Avid Media Composer or Adobe Premiere Pro, it's common to start by building a selects sequence (aka stringout or KEM roll). I can then use that sequence as a source for other sequences. Some Final Cut Pro editors may argue that's unnecessary because of its advanced keyword and favorites approach. Using metadata in this way can be powerful, but it provides an incomplete solution. If, like me, you'd like to edit directly from one sequence as a source into another, then there's a very simple process to follow.
First, edit the selects project (sequence) as you would in the other NLEs. Then, select all of the clips in the timeline and create a compound clip. You can delete the selects project if you like. The compound will be unaffected. To edit inserts and B-Roll from your selects to the main project, simply skim and mark the section(s) of the compound clip in the browser and make your edit(s) to the current project. These segments will be highlighted in the browser filmstrip for the compound clip as used ranges, which is handy since FCP has no dupe detection feature. If you want the compound clip sections in the project replaced by the original sources, select all clips and Break Apart Clip Items.
Flattening multicam clips.
A common feature request is to flatten multicam clips in a completed project sequence. This would leave only the angles that were used, without also dragging along the unused angles. Final Cut Pro currently has no such feature, but there is a workaround using two FCP companion applications from Intelligent Assistance.
When you've locked your picture edit, export an FCPXML of the sequence. Run the file through XtoCC to generate a Premiere-friendly XML file. Then run that XML file back through SendToX to create a new FCPXML file. Import this new FCPXML back into Final Cut Pro. You will now have a new project sequence with all multicam clips converted into synchronized clips for only the used camera angles. Select all clips in the timeline and Break Apart Clip Items, which replaces the synchronized clips with their original sources.
There are several optional steps that I also follow. You can trash the duplicate imported clips so that only the new project is in the browser. Detach audio and only keep the audio from each of the first camera clips up to the next audio edit. Now extend each remaining audio clip up to the start of the next audio edit. Finally, reassign the video and audio roles to their correct status if these were changed as part of the XML roundtrip.
NLEs and DAWs enable you to add audio plug-ins and set volume levels both on independent clips and on entire tracks. Most include some form of graphical mixer panel that mimics the appearance and function of a physical hardware mixer. Final Cut Pro has always enabled audio plug-ins and volume adjustments on individual clips. The introduction of audio roles has added that same ability to roles, thus permitting you to treat roles like tracks in a traditional audio application. I'd love to see Apple go the full mile and add a mini mixing panel of some sort. However, that doesn't preclude working in a similar manner with the current toolset.
The first step is to assign proper audio roles to each clip. The simplest form could be roles for on-camera dialogue, announcer voice-overs, sound effects, and music. As you edit, make minor volume adjustments and audio enhancements on a per-clip basis, but leave the bulk of the mix to later. Once the cut is locked, select the whole timeline and create a compound clip. You can now show audio lanes. It is also possible to expand audio components. This will enable you to treat the audio roles like submix buses or stems, while still applying effects at the top level to the entire compound clip, which acts as a master mix bus.
My usual routine is to add several effects to the dialogue role(s) - light noise reduction, de-essing, EQ for clarity, mild compression, etc. I will use EQ to cut (lower) the midrange frequencies on the music role(s) so that dialogue sits in the mix better. The last stage is to apply mastering effects to the main project - i.e. onto the top level of the compound clip. Typically this includes a final compressor/limiter and some metering plug-ins. Through this process, I've used three stages of audio processing/volume adjustment - individual clips, roles, and the final mix.
Film editors cutting scripted dramas appreciate Avid's script-based editing. This has its origins in Script Mimic, a feature of the Cinedco Ediflex, one of the original NLEs. A similar method can be deployed with Final Cut Pro, albeit not with the script-like bin display that Avid offers.
Start with the script supervisor's script pages. Divide the scene dialogue into sections - by sentence, groups of sentences, paragraphs - whatever you are comfortable with. Draw lines on the script to mark these divisions and number each section. The numbering sequence may restart at the beginning of each new scene or be continuous from the first to the last page of the script.
Use either markers or keywords in Final Cut. If markers, then go through each take, add a marker at the start of each segment, and number that marker accordingly. If you use keywords, then set a range for each section and apply the appropriate number to that keyword range. This will create a keyword collection for each new number. As you go through each take, these matching keyword ranges will automatically be filtered into the corresponding keyword collection according to the number. That feature makes it easy to quickly compare all angles and takes for any given dialogue line.
In addition, dialogue lines may be copied and pasted into the Notes column. Notes and markers are searchable. Markers can also be grouped into corresponding smart collections. Personally, I prefer to use keyword collections for complete scenes and then use markers for dialogue lines. Obviously, this requires a fair amount of upfront work, which is why film editors generally work with at least one assistant editor who handles such preparation.
Translating a paper cut.
This last tip applies to any sort of interview-based video, whether it's a news story, documentary, reality TV show, or corporate video. Such programs rely on filmed interviews to form the A-roll of the timeline. There are several integrated, online solutions (Simon Says, Lumberjack, Scribeomatic, etc) that allow transcription-based, rough cut editing to be done as a first pass completely in the cloud. Nevertheless, many producers simply opt for the old school methods, which is what I'm discussing here.
In this traditional approach, transcripts of the raw interviews are generated, which can be reviewed and edited by a story editor or producer, using a word processor like Word or Pages, or even just from a paper printout. That's often called the paper cut. The first step in the video editing process is to cut a rough assembly of these selected soundbites, based solely on what's written in the transcript and in the edited order decided by the story editor, director, or producer. That's the starting point for the cut, which is further revised, embellished, and polished in successive versions by the video editor.
How do we easily get from the paper cut to this first assembly in Final Cut Pro? As the story editor or producer goes through the transcripts, sections to be used should be highlighted and numbered. The video editor goes through the interview clips and marks range-based Favorites that correspond to the highlighted sections of the script. Each Favorite should be given the same number as on the script. That number is also entered into the Notes column. As the story editor trims and re-arranges the script in Word, care should be taken to carry the numbers along. The finished paper or electronic edit of the transcript should reflect the soundbites to be used along with their source segment numbers.
Back in Final Cut Pro, the editor can use the search function (searching for text in Notes) to locate any of the Favorites that he or she will use. If the first soundbite is section 25 of an interview, simply enter 25 into the search field and that range pops up as the sole clip in the browser. Append it to the timeline. The next soundbite is 36, so type in 36. Now that range appears. Append it. Go through all of the sections following this process and you'll quickly complete this first assembly. Once done, go back through the sequence and trim/clean-up the cut points, polish any Frankenbites, and add appropriate B-roll cutaways.