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We recently had a music video project with four screens simultaneously, where each screen was the domain of a different editor. To coordinate everyone so I could combine their separate scenes into a 4-screen layout easily, (make sure everyone was cutting on the same beat, divvy up the scenes, etc), I decided to share a single FCP project file with the whole group.

All the editors were working from Macbook Pros, so we needed a low-res, quick-and-dirty editing codec so we could render as fast as we can while making those edits. I decided to use the OfflineRT codec as a proxy: we would edit using the fast, low-res clips, then do the final render with the hi-res original versions. Apple recommends using their new ProRes codec for editing, but it took up so much filespace (more than the original clips!), that it was better to transfer the tiny OfflineRT files to everyone.

Since we filmed the video with a motley camera setup with different framerates, resolutions and codecs (one Canon 5D, one Nikon D90, and several tiny Kodak PlaySports), it was quite a pain to import them all into Final Cut. Final Cut is not designed for the consumer cameras we had to work with, so you have to hack it in several places to get it to work.

First of all, the Log and Transfer function that is supposed to make it so easy never recognizes any of our cameras’ files. If you rename them, you will confuse FCP to the point of futility. Here are the steps I took to make a decent proxy editing setup:

  1. The 60fps footage that the Kodak PlaySport records is unrecognizable by Final Cut. Use MPEG Streamclip to convert the 60fps clips to the ProRes 422 codec (720p @ 59.97fps).
  2. Use MPEG Streamclip to convert the rest of the footage (24fps, 30fps, etc) to the OfflineRT HD codec (Apple Photo JPEG [384x216]):

    Yes, you can also transcode the footage to OfflineRT using the Media Manager in FCP itself, however it will take a LOT longer. (FCP: estimated 36 hours. MPEG Streamclip: 45 minutes)

  3. Make sure these files are in separate folder called “OfflineRT”. The original clips + converted 60fps clips will be in a folder called “Originals”. Make sure they have a similar directory structure and identical file names.
  4. Make a new project in FCP and import the original files from “Originals” folder into it.
  5. Place any beat markers, cut markers, etc on the audio file so everyone is cutting on the same beat.
  6. Create a new sequence with the Apple ProRes 422 1080p 30p settings and add the audio file to it.
  7. Save. This is your original project file. Make a backup if you want.
  8. Now you will create an “offline” version of the project where all the original, hi-res media files are disconnected. You will then reconnect them to the low-res files for faster proxy editing:
  9. Highlight all the files and sequences in your project. Right click and choose “Media manager”.
  10. Choose “Create Offline”.
  11. Set sequences to “OfflineRT HD” – same as the clips you converted earlier in step 2.
  12. It will ask you to save your new project file with the low-res footage. It will resize everything for you (if it feels like it. Prepare for some fiddling with the scale for the upconversion later).
  13. Now you can send the project file to someone with the low-res OfflineRT clips, and they can reconnect them on their own drive to make quick edits:
  14. If you just opened the file, it will tell you the files are missing. Forget the render files but find the clips. Or cancel that window, highlight all your clips and sequences, right click and choose “Reconnect Media”.
  15. Now is where the trick comes in: you will point FCP to your low-res OfflineRT clips so you can proxy edit with near-instantaneous render times:
  16. Choose a new “Search single location” folder – point it to the “OfflineRT” folder.
  17. Click “Search…”
  18. It will hopefully find the files that are named the same. Make sure “Reconnect all files in relative path” is checked and click “choose”.
  19. It may warn you about in/out points. Hopefully this won’t matter but be wary anyway for Murphy’s sake. Click “Continue”.
  20. You may have to repeat steps 16-19 until all the files are found. For some reason it doesn’t always find them the first time.
  21. Edit away!
  22. Save the project file, share it, etc.
  23. Now you can email the .FCP file back to your master rendering machine. 
  24. Repeat steps 8-12 to create a new offline project, but this time setting sequences to the Apple ProRes 422 codec at 1080p to match your originals.
  25. Repeat steps 14-20 to reconnect the media clips, but this time to the hi-res “Originals” folder.
  26. Now you can render your project from the originals at full quality! Why isn’t this easier?