FCP X: Offline – Online Workflow

workflowThis post was written by Oliver Peters for Creative Cow. I thought it was excellent and received permission from Oliver to reprint it here.

Oliver is the founder of Oliver Peters Post Production Services, in Orlando, FL.


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This is in response to Elizabeth Perlman’s post:

[Elizabeth Perlman] “Before we make the switch from FCP 7, I just want to make sure an offline/online Proxy workflow is doable for a feature length documentary with over 10tb of footage. Ideally, we would want to transcode + edit in Proxy, but have the original media exist on an external drive elsewhere with the same names//folder structure. I’ve read articles stating that this is “easy”, but still haven’t tested it with any of our footage.”

I hope this workflow helps for your project. The objective is to end up with organization and a structure that will let everything work between applications. So, for example, if you go from FCPX to Resolve or conversely send it instead to someone using Baselight, it will all still work and relink correctly. My apologies up front if I go over things you already know.

1. Organize all your material on the main storage array in a folder structure, starting with the main project folder and then subfolders within. One of these sub folders should be for all master camera footage. Within that, organize folders by date and then camera.

2. The Ursa Mini QuickTime files should be fine as master files and presumably will have proper file naming and timecode. FCP X will view these files as “optimized” media.

3. The secondary camera sources (Nikon and drone) should be transcoded from their original codec to a new file using the ProRes (or ProResLT, ProResHQ, ProRes4444) codec. In all likelihood, these files will not have proper timecode and/or source ID info. So, for files like these, I usually go through 3 additional steps after I transcode them:

Step 1. Conform the files from any odd frame rate to your main project rate, e.g. from 60 fps to 23.98, for example. There are several ways to conform externally to FCP X. Cinema Tools can do it and some conversion apps can do this as part of the transcoding step.

Step 2. Rename the files with some sort of logical naming convention. You don’t want numerous folders full of clips that all start at Clip #1 and then go up from there. The system you create should generate unique names. The app Better Rename will do this in an automated fashion.

Step 3. Make sure you have embedded valid SMPTE timecode and reel/source ID info. The app QtChange will do this.

Once you’ve properly transcoded the files, these become your MASTER camera files for these particular cameras. Don’t trash the originals, but you won’t be working with them anymore.

Larry adds: My recommended transcode format is ProRes 422.

4. In FCP X you can set media settings to go wherever you assign them for each Library (your “project” in FCP 7 terms). The options would be embedded within the Library, on a separate folder on your internal drive, or on a separate folder on an external drive. Once you’ve set that up, you are ready to import.

Larry adds: Here’s a video that explains how.

5. Import the camera files with the setting “Leave files in place.” Enable “Create proxy media.” Turn on the keyword option “From folders.” Turn on “Remove silent channels.” Everything else off.

6. At this point you are ready to edit. Assuming you want to work with proxy media for your creative edit, check Proxy in the Media section under the View pulldown (upper right corner of the Viewer). This will toggle between your high-quality media and your proxy edit media. The proxy media is 1/2 res (1/4 frame size) of your high-quality media and uses the ProResProxy codec.

FCP X is intelligent enough to understand this toggle, so that any transform or effects functions you do in the proxy setting are correctly interpreted when you are working in the larger size. And the other direction, too. Note that this is largely invisible to you, so always make sure you have changed back to Optimized when you are ready to output high-quality files. If you have all of your high-quality media on an external array that is disconnected, the process will all work fine, except that if you then switch to Optimized, everything will appear as Media Offline.

7. A few gotchas. Since you have externally altered over-cranked media to match your main project frame rate, the new media files will have audio with non-standard sample rates. Even if silent, these have been known to cause problems when you render anything out of FCPX. Therefore, as a general rule, I detach and remove any audio that I don’t intend to use.

8. Another thing to decide is what sequence size you intend to end up with. For example, is this 4K or are you using 4K media for a 2K or HD final product. FCP X will automatically resize (Spatial Conform) the media to match the timeline setting. However, if you add any transforms in addition, other apps may or may not correctly interpret this data. Unless you plan to completely finish inside FCPX, then I would recommend setting Spatial conform to “none” and manually reframing/resizing accordingly. Also note that keyframe interpolation generally doesn’t match perfectly when you go between programs, so be careful about this, if you plan to do a lot of transform moves.

Anyway, it’s a bit picky, but this workflow will keep you out of most potential pitfalls.

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6 Responses to FCP X: Offline – Online Workflow

  1. Hi Larry,

    We actually decided to go with the new Sony FS5, a great alternative to the FS7. Unlike the URSA Mini, our masters are not ProRes HQ. We would need to either optimize our footage within FCP X or transcode everything to HQ using an external application.

    If I import + optimize in FCP X, is there a way to easily relink back to our camera masters + then conform those clips to HQ?

    • Larry says:


      Truthfully, I wouldn’t bother. Optimize your media into ProRes 422 and let that be your master. The only difference between ProRes 422 and ProRes 422 HQ is bandwidth and even on scopes you won’t be able to see any material difference between the two.

      Keep it simple and you’ll be fine.


  2. ok thank you! Currently, I decided to import + optimize, but the “leave files in place” option is ghosted.

    Is this because of the FS5’s file structure? After shooting, we copied the entire folder from the SD card over to an external drive, leaving everything intact. The camera creates folders called “PRIVATE”, so we didn’t touch anything within the folder. Not sure why there would be issues…

    • Larry says:


      Correct. FCP X can’t edit the files in native format, so it needs to convert them to ProRes 422. This is why the menu option is grayed out.


  3. Elizabeth Perlman says:

    So I guess there isn’t a way for FCPX to convert to 422 and not copy?

    • Larry says:


      Well, its kinda semantics. FCP is creating new media from your camera files. So, it isn’t copying those. But it IS creating new ProRes files to take the place of the camera masters.

      So it isn’t copying, but it is creating new media.


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