Working With Large Projects

Posted on by Larry

[ This article was first published in the December, 2007, issue of
Larry’s Final Cut Pro Newsletter. Click here to subscribe. ]


Recently, Tim Wilson wrote in asking about how to get Final Cut organized for a large project. As a result, Doug Rossini and Russell Stiggants both contributed ideas that I want to share with you here.

Doug begins:

What I like to do in a big Final Cut show is break out of the Avid thinking mode and make use of multiple projects.


I create one big project and digitize everything into it. I then create multiple “edit” projects based on subject. For example I am now working on a doc about re-building a destroyed group of buildings in the Forbidden City. The digitize project is called “Jianfu Garden”. I also have subject projects labeled: “Lumber”, “Workers’ Lives”, “Views”, “Stonework, Foundations”, etc. I copy all relevant clips from Jianfu Gardens to the correct edit project. See the the first image below.


Pic 1


The next step is to create a project called “Selects”. In the Selects project I create sequences that correspond to the Edit projects, i.e, Lumber-selects, Workers LIves-selects, etc. I make selects, and string them on the relevant sequences. As I am editing the piece I open the relevant edit sequences and use them as select rolls (like in the film days). See the second image below.


Pic 2


Most of the time I only need to have the Selects project open. If I need to dig deeper into the footage, I can open any of the subject projects.

Then, Russell sent this in:

I don’t envy Tim Wilson with his massive project. I’ve just completed an FCP edit of (a final) 33 minutes – but which was cut from several tens of hours of vision. We went through the same process as Tim, trying to figure out how to keep a handle on all our material and being able to assemble the whole thing into a single timeline.


We did what Tim is doing – placing vision/audio assets for a particular sequence into bins then doing a rough-cut for ‘feel’, keeping that timeline in the same bin.


We found though, as no doubt Tim is finding, that we ended up going ‘loopy’ just trying to keep track of the assets, the cuts and the bins — “….was that shot in bin X or Bin Y…. or in sequence A or B….?” was a question we increasingly asked ourselves.


We also grappled with an ever-increasing ‘master’ timeline, which as you mentioned can slow FCP down considerably.


In the end, we did this:


Wherever possible, we worked ‘linearly’; that is we worked on the ‘opener’, then the next, say, 2 minutes, which we would call – “Chapter One – tuna fishing”, followed by “Chapter Two – sharks”, then “Chapter Three – Mulloway” and so on and so on. You get the idea. By using a book-like index, we were able to identify sequences either by number, or by subject. Of course, we kept a brief written log of our chapters/titles so when our brains froze at the end of a long session, we could always refer to something on paper, rather than the mush between our ears.


When we had two or three chapters largely to our liking came the issue of the long timeline.


We solved it this way: From our rough-cut assembly in Chapter One, we would export the timeline to a Quicktime movie. Then we would do the same with the rough-cut of Chapter Two, Three, Four and so on.


We brought these mini-movies back into their own Bin, then placed them in a timeline we called “Rough_Cut_Master_1”.


This had the advantage that each ‘Chapter’ could be viewed relative to the next chapter and be compared with the one preceding it. This gave us a great ‘feel’ for the way the edit was going, comparing time and pace and the million and one other things that makes for a good finished cut. Where we found flaws, we would go back to our ‘Chapter’ edit, make the necessary changes, output it again to a QT movie, re-import it, replace the old chapter sequence in our Master timeline with the new, and go through the comparison again. It might sound a bit tedious, but after a while, we really got into the swing of it and it saved us heaps of time and heart ache.


We got so good in the end that we would work out whether we would dissolve and/or ‘effect’ into or out of each Chapter, and how we would treat an audio transition into/out of the chapters. This meant that we were able to build the final edit in this manner (this may not be possible for Tim, but it worked for us).


Looking back, there’s one other thing I would recommend, particularly as Tim’s project will be substantially bigger than ours:


Tim is likely to end up with substantial numbers of bins, or ‘chapters’. To keep track of them all (once Bin A for example is established and contains assets and a timeline) I would use that excellent Apple Utility GRAB (Applications>Utilities>Grab) and capture a ‘screen dump’ of each Bin (in Grab, you have the ability to capture a ‘selection’ which you nominate by click-and-drag – you don’t need to capture the entire screen). I would then print that out (import to Word if you like and append other text to it) – and placed it in a ring-binder. Voila! You have an ongoing record of your bins which you can refer to when the brain dies! A great help! You could also create a file in a data-base program for each Bin (even in Excel!) which could be searched by keyword – but that would take more time and may or may not be practicable.


Anyway, I hope this helps…..

Larry replies: Thanks to both Doug and Russell for sharing their ideas.


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