FCP X: Convert Managed to External Media

Posted on by Larry

One of the big benefits to Final Cut Pro X is the ability to manage media by storing it inside the Library. Managed media puts all your media in one place, which simplifies finding media, as well as backups and archiving.

However, managed media is not the best choice when you want to share media between libraries or editors. For that, you want to use external media.

The problem is how do you convert managed media to external media, without having to move files manually and relink everything? That was the question suggested by Cliff Watson, who found himself in that exact position.


When Cliff first wrote, I suggested a 13-step process that would allow him to convert his media. But it involved using the Finder, opening the Library bundle, relinking and a lot of manual steps where it was likely something would break.

It seemed a clever solution. Until… about four hours later, an idea suddenly occurred to me that made this whole process a LOT easier.


I realized I could move all the media using Final Cut itself by creating a new Library and using Library Properties to move files from the old location to the new location.

Not only did this reduce the number of steps, but it also avoided any relinking.  Wow!

THEN, as I was putting the finishing touches on this week’s newsletter, I went browsing through the Final Cut Help files and discovered an amazing way of doing this that doesn’t even involve creating a new library!  This is what I want to share with you today.


We are going to use the settings inside Library Properties to change the locations of where media and cache files are stored for a Library, then move all the existing media for that Library into that new location. (This system avoids creating any new Libraries and prevents media from becoming unlinked.)

However, in order for this technique to work, you must be running FCP X 10.1.2 or later. (The current version, as I write this, is 10.1.3.)


Here’s a library filled with AVCHD clips – courtesy of Joe Centino.

As you can see from Library Properties (shortcut: Control+Cmd+J) all media and cache files are stored in the Library.

NOTE: Personally, I store all my libraries on a RAID (because it is fast) in a folder called “FCP Libraries,” which allows me to find them easily. I store media in a variety of locations, depending upon the job. However, I ALWAYS store media on a hard drive, I never ingest directly from the camera card.

In fact, looking inside the Library stored on the hard disk, we can see all the media stored inside the “Original Media” folder, with both optimized and proxy files stored in the “Transcoded Media” folder.

When we Get Info on the Library, we can see that it holds 17.6 GB of data.


In order to move the media we need to create new folders using the Finder that will store the media, and, if we want, the cache files. Then, we’ll change the Library Properties to move media to the new locations.

KEY POINT: You can only move media to a single external folder. If you need media stored in multiple external folders, you will need to move the media manually using the Finder after the process I’m describing is complete. When media is moved manually, you will break all existing links to FCP X which will require relinking to fix. Here’s an article that explains relinking.

In the Finder, create a new folder which will be used to store your media. And, if you want to store Cache files externally, create a second new folder for Cache files. Cache files are not optimized or proxy files, those are considered “media.” Cache files include render, thumbnail, waveform, and analysis files.

NOTE: In this example, I named these folders “New Cache Files” and “New Media Files.” In real life, you can call these folders anything you want and store them anywhere; as long as that location is fast enough to support media playback.

Back in Final Cut, select the Library in the Library List that contains the media you want to move, then choose File > Library Properties (shortcut: Control+Cmd+J).

Click the Modify Settings button next to Storage Locations.

This panel allows you to specify where media and cache files will be stored. Currently, they are all stored “In Library.”

Change the locations of Media and Cache to the new folders you just created in the Finder. (Remember, storing cache files externally is optional.)

Then, click OK.

If you choose to move cache files, a warning dialog appears asking if you want to move Render files to the new cache location. Pick the answer that works for your project. Personally, while I almost always work with media externally, I rarely move cache files out of the Library.

Here’s the way Library Properties now look, with the new settings we just made.


Now, here’s the cool part.

With our Library still selected, go back to Library Properties and click Consolidate.

This displays a dialog, asking what we want to do, with several options:

The process of moving media to the new folder is blindingly fast because files use the Unix Move command, rather than Copy and Delete.

When we look at Library Properties, we see that all media is now, and will be in the future, stored in the New Media Folder. (Remember, you can name this whatever you want.) And all cache files are now, and will be in the future, stored in the New Cache Files folder. (Again, moving cache files is optional as is the name of the folder you put them in.)

And, looking at the bottom of the Library Properties screen you can see how much space is used for native, optimized and proxy files.


If we look in the Libraries folder, notice that My New Library is 1.4 MB while the Old Library is…? Wait a minute, I thought we MOVED that media.

We did, but FCP is still running and is keeping the old media in the Undo queue, in case we change our mind and want to move it back.

As soon as we quit FCP, the Undo queue is emptied and the Old Library is emptied with it.

If we look in the New Media Folder, we see all our native, optimized and proxy files happily located as external media, yet still fully linked to our Final Cut Pro X projects.


This is so cool!!

In terms of speed, moving about 30 clips spanning 17 GB of storage, took about a second. (Yes, I have a fast RAID and, yes, the project size was small.)

This is a very fast, very safe way to convert media from managed to external without a whole lot of stress and without breaking any links.


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18 Responses to FCP X: Convert Managed to External Media

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  1. Kristin says:

    Very helpful. Thank you for writing this!!

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