07 March 2010

offline/proxy workflow for p2 materials

After trolling the internet for a solution similar to Avid’s offline workflow for Final Cut Pro, I found myself stumped, and at best left with the message “Dude, why?  Just cut natively.”
From keeping your master safely away from the cutting room, to needing cramming those extra shots on a portable drive for a mobile edit, there are a number of reasons one might want to cut at “offline quality” whilst cutting P2 in Final Cut Pro.
One of my largest gripes with FCP is the bullish slow down encountered when cutting with large amounts of footage in your browser (read: unscripted documentary).  The larger the files, the more system resources FCP eats up attempting to manage it all.  This means when you access bins or load clips in the source viewer you’re going to be waiting.  By creating proxy footage you can alleviate some of the stress on your NLE system and speed up your editing.
Due to the possibly confusing nature of the term ‘offline’ (as it refers to low-resolution media and media that has gone missing from it’s pointer), I will refer to the new media that we’re creating as “proxy” footage.
PLEASE NOTE: I will be using my own person version of media management when it comes to this demo.  Here’s a brief explanation of my personal system:
To manage Media I create a master folder for each project, this becomes the ‘project folder.’  This folder acts as an all-encompassing living space for all the elements that are related to your cutting project.
I tend to create six folders inside the project folder.  My project directory looks something like this:
PROJECT.NAME { 1.Cuts, 2.Materials, 3.Sound, 4.Working 5.Exports 6.Docs }
The cuts folder contains all the projects related to the edit.  The materials folder contains all the media that you add to your browser (I capture footage in a general capture bin and move the media using the finder).  Sound is where I keep audio files and mixes.  Exports contain exported QT’s and OMFs.  Docs is where I keep scripts, notes etc.  The working folder is a catch-all for incomplete files that are under construction (any files that are proxy I keep the materials folders, and just switch out media without changing names so that FCP automatically updates).
Assuming you have all your media in your “Materials” folders.  To begin, I create a new folder within the Materials folder called “Proxy.”  This will be the home of your new proxy media.
If you have already created a project to log your footage, you’ll want to keep all the logging meta-data  you have generated.  In order to maintain this information, you will need to use FCP’s Media Management tool to create an offline (read: proxy) project with the proper settings.
With nothing selected in your browser, select FILE > MEDIA MANAGER to bring up the Media Manager window.  Under the “MEDIA:” drop-down option and select “Create offline.”  This will grey out most options.  Now under “Set sequences to:” option scroll through the list and select “Apple ProRes 422 (Proxy) 960×720” with the frame rate that matches your project.  Make sure that “Base media file names on:” to “existing file names.”  And click ok.  It will ask you where you want to save your project (1.Cuts folder).  I normally append the word “proxy.”
Next, we’re going to load compressor.
First, create a new custom DESTINATION.  Set the PATH to your MATERIALS/PROXY folder and make sure that under “output filename template: simply says “Source Media Name.”  THIS IS VERY IMPORTANT.  If you change this, and append anything to the proxy file name you will be unable to relink back to your online media.
Next, under settings, create a new QUICKTIME MOVIE setting.  Under encoder settings / video and select “Apple ProRes 422 (Proxy) and set the Frame rate to “current.”  Under the geometry settings, change the frame size to “50% of source.”
Now apply the setting and the destination to all the files in the compressor window and select “submit.”
Go grab some food, coffee, etc.  Depending on how much footage you have this could be a while.  (Note, this process is best if done at the beginning of a project, think of how you’d import footage into avid at an offline resolution.  You can also, selectively convert footage if you’re in a situation where you only need to worry sections of your timeline.)
Now to reconnect / relink the clips to the proxy media.  In FCP select the bins and select FILE > RECONNECT and navigate to the PROXY folder inside MATERIALS and select the first clip.  Final Cut will now automatically reconnect the media files and you’re ready to edit!
When it comes time to prepare an online (full resolution version) of your final edit.  Use the Media Manager only now under the “Set sequences to:” select the full resolution and create a new project entitled PROJECTNAME (online).  Using the RECONNECT tool, select the full resolution clip.
Happy cutting.

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