Media Manager - FCP 4

July 28, 2003

'I said TRIM, dang it!'
Media Manager in FCP 4

by Charles Roberts  AKA Chawla
Copyright Charles Roberts, 2003.

Big huge immense credit here goes to Ralph Fairweather, who pegged this article's subject as 'feature behavior' rather than bug and, as usual, had the good word about the how, the why and the 'where in the manual'! Also to Rick Young, who as far as I know was the first one to sweat bullets and lose sleep over this phenomenon.

The subject of this article is using Media Manager to 'trim' a sequence in the offline/online editing process. For those unfamiliar with that concept, what we are talking about is FCP's ability to capture a huge amount of video at very low resolution (and thus taking up a minuscule amount of disk space), edit with that low res footage (offline editing), then recapture only the parts you used in the edited sequence at high resolution, thus only having to capture a much smaller amount of footage that uses up large amounts of disk space (onlining an offline project).

To do this, we use the Media Manager tool to create an 'offline' copy of the finished edited sequence. Do not confuse the term offline copy with the term offline resolution. They mean different things. In the latter, we mean 'video that is acceptable to edit with but not to print to tape' and online would mean recapturing the same sequence with higher quality. In the former, we mean a copy of the sequence which is not connected to ANY media, and with which we can recapture, as described in the last sentence, at the online quality. For more info on that, check out the manual (or my soon to be released book on Focal Press!)

Trimming here means generating that offline copy of the sequence, but with clips that don't refer back to the entire, originally captured master clip. Un less you 'trim' the sequence, when you recapture the offline copy, you will be recapturing everything you originally captured before you edit. Thus you need to trim it. Trimming is also referred to in Avid-land and elsewhere as 'consolidate' and there are probably thirty other terms to describe the offline/online process we are talking about. On to the fun!

The Horrible Scenario
So you've got Final Cut Pro 4 loaded on your Mac and you've finished cutting your first Offline RT project. You've got six hours of offline Photo-Jpeg media on your drive, which you've painstakingly chopped down to a one-hour cut sequence. All that remains is to select the sequence, go into Media Manager and generate an offline trimmed sequence to recapture at full resolution.

You've done this a million times before in FCP3, but this time, when you go to Media Manager you see something alarming. Media Manager doesn't seem to want to trim anything. It is showing that instead of just capturing the one hour of video necessary to uprez your new sequence to online, Media Manager wants ALL SIX HOURS OF THE ORIGINAL CAPTURE! WHAT'S UP WITH THAT? After all, what's the point of using Offline RT and Media Manager if you're just going to have to recapture the whole project anyway, including the stuff you don't want? And, doggonit, in FCP3, it worked!

Relax, this time it's NOT an undocumented feature, as they politely refer to them. In fact, if you dig out the manual, you'll find that a lot changed under the hood in FCP4 with regard to media management and clip/sequence behavior. The biggest change in that area was the institution of the Master clip/Affiliate clip relationship.

For those unfamiliar with it, this is simply a linkage between Master clips (clips either captured, dragged or imported into the project tab) and Affiliates. Master clips are originals, meaning they did not originate from another clip, rather some source external to FCP. The Affiliate clip on the other hand is better known by the more common term 'Subclip.' Its probably a pretty good idea to avoid the term subclip at this point, because FCP has its own 'Subclip command' which behaves somewhat differently. Even so, this relationship is at the basic level very similar to what most people call the Master/Subclip relationship; the affiliate is any clip derived from a master clip or another affiliate clip.

This means more than just duplicating clips in the project tab. You create an Affiliate clip every time you edit a clip into a sequence! The linkage between Master and Affiliates gives us some pretty cool functionality. For instance, renaming either a master or affiliate will ripple the name change throughout the project. No doubt this will become a useful relationship as we continue to explore its possibilities.

But that doesn't help us right now at 4 AM trying to recapture a project for tomorrow morning! The issue is one of the side effects of the new master/affiliate relationship where the master clip is assumed to be of primary importance. If you enter Media Manager with the intention of trimming your project, FCP4 interjects, adding any media to the recapture job that is between the In and Out points of ANY master clips also in the project. That is, if you have a sequence you are ready to uprez to online, and in the same project, you have master clips with In and Out points, FCP4 will add that to the amount of footage required to recapture your simple trimmed sequence!

Of course, most of us are going to find ourselves in that situation. 'Why on earth,' you say, 'would you want to retain a lot of media when you online just because its between In and Out points in a master clip?' If we are onlining an offline sequence, we could probably care less about the master clip's In and Out points, since it's the AFFILIATES we want to online! But FCP stubbornly retains the integrity of the master clip's marked media.

OK, so how do I fix it, Smart Guy?
This article is not prepared to make the case for the logic of this behavior, but it can offer the next best thing, an easy way to make FCP do what you want here without losing or altering anything. The problem to overcome, at least according to the manual, is that you have master clips in the same project as your sequence that have In and Out points. Now, you could go into each master clip in your project and blast away every In and Out point. This obviously isn't going to do it for a number of reasons, not the least of which is that you have better things to do with your time and that, hey, I might NEED those In and Out points one day! So that way won't cut it.

You could also just delete the master clips themselves to eliminate their interfering with the project. But dang, there is something almost heretical there. It's a master clip; you don't want to delete it, even if you delete its media! This is even more unacceptable than the first option, if that's possible!

A further option is a new command in FCP, called 'Make Sequence Clips Independent' or 'Make Clip Independent' depending on whether you have a clip or a sequence selected when you choose the option. Now theoretically, this solves the problem, because the command effectively breaks the link between the sequence clips and the Master clips in the Browser. Thus when you follow the normal routine of generating an Offline Sequence in Media Manager, it only tags for recapture the trimmed sequence clips.

Sound good? Well, think a little further into the process. This is a touchy situation, because you are now breaking a formal linkage between the affiliate and its master clip. When you do this there is NO indicator that the clip(s) are now independent (I apparently did it to the wrong sequence once and didn't know until later). The manual is far from clear about how deep this affiliate relationship goes and how much of it 'Make Independent' curtails. For instance, Match Frame works correctly digging out the source frame, but the global renaming of clips does not. And worst of all, 'Make Independent' appears to be irrevocable with the exception of Undo commands.

Great, Fine, I'm still screwed at 4AM, right?
No, you're not. There is another way that seems a little safer all around. Since the problem involves our sequence relating to master clips in the project, we can just 'orphan' the sequence by copying it into another project, since master clip relationships end at the edge of the Project tab! After you copy the sequence into the new project tab, if you run Media Manager and select Offline, you will see it report the true trimmed media count. Once you complete the Media Manager action and generate the new project and trimmed sequence, you can just trash the intermediary project, since its only function was to orphan the sequence for trimming. Simple problem solved with one drag and drop!

Here are the exact steps, such that my Mom could trim her sequence.

1 ) after completing the edit of the sequence, select it in the Project tab

2 ) Go to File>Media Manager. Change the first pulldown menu to 'Create Offline' and the second one to 'DV-NTSC' or whatever you are going to up-rez to.

3 ) Check 'Delete Unused Media From Duplicated Items' If you are smart, you will include handles of at least one second. Uncheck 'Include Affiliate Clips' since we want to avoid recapturing anything that isn't in the sequence besides handles.

Drag the mouse pointer over the green bar at the top of the window and look at the numbers. The green bar shows the full amount of media originally captured with the sequence's clips (untrimmed). Underneath this, where you see 'n/a' dragging around will reveal what should be a much smaller time number representing the trimming of the extra media. Unfortunately, it will be roughly the same number as the green bar above. Sooo...

4 ) Create a new project, and save and name it 'TrashMeDummyProject' This project will be our intermediary project, and we will want to get rid of it (and all its potential capture folders, etc.) when it has outlived its usefulness in the next couple of steps. Wherever you see those folders or files later, you're going to know you can ditch them.

5 ) Go back to the first project tab, grab the sequence and drag it into the new 'TrashMeDummyProject' tab. Make sure that this sequence and tab stay upfront in the next step.

6 ) Now go to File>Media Manager and use the same settings as we used in steps 1 - 2 - 3.

Now this time you will see that the time number in the 'n/a' section is correct for the amount of footage that should be recaptured! At this point, hit OK and follow through with the rest of the Media Manager/Onlining process of selecting the subsequent NEW trimmed sequence and going File>Batch Capture. Remember to set your Capture Presets to your uprez online settings!

Copyright Charles Roberts, 2003.

Charles Roberts teaches Video and Digital Media in the Communications Media Department at Fitchburg State College in Fitchburg, MA, and is the author of "Final Cut Pro 2 for Firewire DV Editing", published by Focal Press. He spends what little free time he has coming up with ways to eliminate the little free time he has left.


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