My first experience with EDLs came when I was editing video tape using a CMX system in the 1980’s. An EDL (Edit Decision List) is a text-based system of exchanging edit information between different systems. For example, a low-res sequence which was edited in Final Cut Pro could be exported as an EDL and emailed to a post-house, which would recapture the footage at high-resolution for final color grading and distribution to the network.
In the old days, we created EDL lists that were stored on paper punch-tape that could control multiple video tape machines to perform essentially frame accurate edits. (I will confess that back then, as a director, watching a CMX system remotely perform a frame-accurate three tape machine edit at almost real time literally took my breath away!)
From those misty days of yore to today, EDLs were routinely used throughout the industry to share edit sequence information. While there were a variety of flavors of EDL, the most robust of them was the CMX-3600 format. It supports one video track, one track for video keys, and up to four audio tracks. (While seriously deficient today, it was state of the art for decades.)
EDLs are used every day in our industry to exchange edit lists, in spite of its limitations, because virtually every editing system can read and write the format. Every editing system, that is, except Final Cut Pro X.
That changed last week with the release of EDL-X from XMiL Workflow Tools. If you haven’t heard of these guys, you are missing out on some excellent Final Cut utilities – not just for FCP X, but earlier versions of Final Cut as well. Los Angeles-based XMiL has taken a different tack from other third-party developers in that they focus on utilities that help you get complex tasks done faster.
Which leads me to EDL-X. One of the key decisions Apple made earlier this year was to provide XML export from Final Cut Pro X. XML is a highly-descriptive, very robust language that serves as a master format from which many other formats can be derived.
What Rainer Standke, founder of XMiL, did was create a utility that converts XML files exported from FCP X into EDL files that can be used everywhere.
“Wait a minute!!,” I hear you say. Why bother with EDLs – which only support one track of video – when my project in FCP X has more than one layer of video?
Great question. EDL-X has this handled. First, it collapses your video layers into the fewest number possible as it reads the XML file. Then, it creates a separate EDL for each layer of video. This means that you never need to worry about matching layers of video with EDL tracks – EDL-X does it for your automatically.
HOW IT WORKS
Getting started is easy. Export your FCP X project as an XML file (File > Export > XML).
Then, start EDL-X. It has a very simple interface with four main buttons. Click them in order from left to right:
Once you’ve created your EDL files, and before you save them, use the four lower tabs to take a look at what you are doing. (This isn’t required, but if you like looking at numbers, it’s quite fun.)
EDL-X creates as many EDL files as are needed for your project. You can review them in the EDLs tab.
For those that need to configure their EDL files, you can do so in the Prefs tab.
EDLs list source files, which are generally video tapes. The Sources tab allows you to confirm your sources are listed properly.
And, if you want to see the XML source code, click the XML tab.
You can save individual EDL files, as well as a document containing the XML source file and all derived EDL files.
All in all, this is a very straight-forward, easy-to-use program that solves the day-to-day challenge of creating EDL files from Final Cut Pro X in an elegant way.
EDL-X requires Mac OS X 10.7.3 or later and Final Cut Pro X 3 or later. It is available from the Mac App Store for $99.99.
Here’s a video that tells you more about it: xmil.biz/EDL-X/EDL-X.shtml.
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