|Here’s a scenario you might be familiar with:
It’s 1:30AM, and all is not well. One of your favorite clients called earlier in the day asking for some minor changes to an old project, and needs the cut right away. No problem, you think, this will be a walk in the park. Fast forward several hours. Final Cut Pro can’t find several offline assets from the original project, and you are scrambling to figure out where you went wrong. There was the music and voice-over the client provided on CDROM, the b-roll your videographer brought over on his external drive, and the stock media that was on your local drive, but has since been moved to your shiny new RAID system. Once the project was completed, you backed up your project folder like you always do and went on your way. Unfortunately, some of the assets never made it into your project folder and, as a result, were not part of your backup. They are now long gone, leaving you to sweat the final hours of a deadline that should have been a breeze to meet. Next time, you tell yourself, you will be way more organized.
Enter Digital Heaven’s latest offering, Loader. For the uninitiated, Digital Heaven has created dozens of OSX Widgets and Final Cut Pro plug-ins, with a focus on streamlining and improving the editing workflow. They have a history of creating well-designed, reliable and extremely useful applications, and Loader is no exception.
Loader is designed to automate file organization and project management, without forcing the user to give up control in the process. You set a few basic parameters based on your own workflow, and Loader ensures that, even in crunch-time when things can get messy, your assets are always perfectly organized and manageable.
Instead of importing media directly into Final Cut Pro, you drag the assets onto the Loader icon which processes the assets (more on this later) and copies them into the appropriate folders on your hard drive. It then automatically imports these copied assets into Final Cut Pro, placing them within a time-stamped bin for easy identification.
In this one simple step, Loader automates a set of tasks that, because they seem so trivial, are often forgotten or permanently put off until that disaster at 1:30AM strikes and it’s too late.
On the surface, Loader ties into your workflow in an intuitive and unobtrusive way. It automatically starts (and quits) with Final Cut Pro, and rather than lurking in your dock while running, which forces the user to toggle between applications, Loader presents itself as an attractive clapboard icon that is always anchored to the side of your screen in front of Final Cut Pro.
This icon is easily repositioned up or down so that it can be worked into your preferred window layout. When you drag assets onto the Loader icon, a small tray slides out that lists all open FCP projects, and this is the full extent of the Loader interface. From an aesthetic point of view, Loader is a minimalist’s dream simple, clean, attractively designed, handy without being intrusive.
Working with the software is beyond simple. When you drag assets into Loader for the first time on a given project, the software asks where your project assets folder is located on the hard drive.
For the remainder of the project, any asset that is dragged to the Loader interface is copied (not moved) into your specified assets folder, placed within a sub-folder based on the file type, and is automatically imported into FCP. Images go into one sub-folder, audio files into another and so on.
Loader’s preferences pane allows you to specify the folder names, which types of assets go in those folders, the accepted file formats and more.
Loader has a few other tricks up its sleeve as well. For example, audio tracks can be pulled into Loader directly from a CD or iTunes. For certain audio formats that Final Cut Pro doesn’t like (such as MP3s), Loader will automatically convert the track to .aiff format before placing it in your asset folder. This feature alone could save you hours of file conversion work, and it ensures that all of your project audio is in the correct format, even with several editors working on the same project, pulling in files from myriad (and perhaps suspect) sources, all working under a tight deadline.
With increased use it becomes clear that Loader is designed to complement, rather than completely change, your existing file management practices, while bringing much-needed order to those who have yet to develop any file management strategy. This makes it a practical application for both freelance editors and teams of editors working in established, shared environments.
While putting the software through its paces for this review, I spent several hours trying to “break” the app or expose any problems, and I have to admit that I failed in that task. Running the app in OS X Leopard 10.5.5 resulted in a smooth and flawless experience, but it should be noted that Loader requires Final Cut 6.0.2 or later.
Loader is a solid, simple and thoughtful little app that I will definitely be putting to use on my own projects. At a mere $49 per license, it is a no-brainer option for just about any editor out there, regardless of work environment. The folks at DH are offering a free trial so head on over and get your organizational act together!