LIBRARY: Tutorials Reviews Interviews Editorials Features Business Authors RSS Feed

Using Automator for repetitive tasks in Final Cut Pro

COW Library : Apple Final Cut Pro Legacy Tutorials : Dustin Lau : Using Automator for repetitive tasks in Final Cut Pro
Using Automator for repetitive tasks in Final Cut Pro
A Creative COW Feature Article-Tutorial


Using Automator to perform repetitive tasks inside FCP
Creative Cowdog

Dustin Lau
Luminoir
Singapore

© CreativeCOW.net. All rights reserved.


Article Focus: Automator is a tiny application included with Mac OS X with big power, quickly and easily creating custom workflows based on the work you actually do - no programming required. It's the perfect way to handle those pesky repetitive tasks in FCP. Do something once, then let Automator take it from there. This handy little tool can make the difference between keeping and losing your sanity -- and making or missing your deadline.

The core idea behind Automator is easy to understand:

Effortlessly streamline repetitive tasks.

Automator is a powerful little application included with OS X, and offers a number of ways to relieve the pain of repetitive tasks. Starting with Leopard, you don't even have to tell Automator what to do. Just tell it to record while you work, and you have pretty much all you need to never have to do it manually again.

Like so much else in the Mac OS, it's built on principles found in Unix. In this case, it's building complex capabilities from small, simple modules, which in Automator are called Actions. You can string together as many of them as you need, loop the results, customize them on the fly, load them into contextual pop-up menus to call them up when and where you need them, and more. The sky's the limit. If you can do it with your Mac, you can automate it.

Automator lives in your Applications folder.

Apple Automator for OS X Leopard

It includes hundreds of built-in workflows, mostly in the finder, and although there are some included Aperture actions, most are in much more general-interest applications like iTunes, iCal, and so on.

Basic Automator workflows

You can download thousands more of these from Apple to do things like extracting pages from PDFs, free RAM by quitting Dashboard, creating icons from any picture...You get the idea.

If that was the whole story, it wouldn't be a story here. Seriously, if you can do it with your keyboard and mouse, you can automate it -- in applications including Photoshop, Office, and of course Final Cut Pro. The Cow's Dustin Lau shows how he built a custom workflow for creating scores of graphic animation sequences for multiple episodes of a TV series.

While it's highly unlikely that you'll ever need Dustin's specific workflow for episodic TV title , you'll learn a lot about what Automator can do in Final Cut Pro, and how, with some troubleshooting tips along the way.

Cute little toy? Nope. Automator is ready to do your heavy lifting in FCP. Wait'll you see what we mean.

Bonus: you'll learn a ton of FCP keyboard shortcuts.

Here's what Dustin has to say.



I thought you all might be interested to know how I've managed to use Automator's new "Watch Me Do" feature to automate a rather complex sequence of events.

It's pretty useful for repetitive tasks like the one I'm doing now which is

replacing a set of 4 pictures in a simple animated sequence

  • opening the inserted picture's properties page,
  • copying each picture's filename (which has been strictly standardized for the execution of the next step)
  • pasting it into LiveType
  • stripping away the .jpg to make it a "title" (ie Alexandre Pato.jpg becomes Alexandre Pato)
  • saving as the same filename but replacing .jpg with .ipr,
  • returning to FCP, importing the newly created LiveType file
  • inserting it into the graphic sequence
  • repositioning and proceeding to the next item.


Because of certain ways that FCP works it is sometimes necessary to have certain conditions in place before the scripts work (eg auto-select tracks are toggled by cmd-numpad0).

There is no absolute deselect or select, so if a sequence has all, none or some auto-select tracks enabled, you do not know how the shortcut cmd-numpad0 will react, either selecting all or deselecting all. In my case, I made it such that all working sequences had all auto select track disabled.

That said, it opens a vast array of options which I think is very exciting in an incredibly nerdy way.

Here is a full list of the commands automated in this script.


Prerequisites

  • Playhead on first frame of first image
  • Image sequence with 4 images to be inserted placed directly after it
  • Each nested sequence has image to be replaced selected

 

Command
Result
Cmd-5
Select Effects palette
Cmd-3

Select Timeline.The timeline needs to be selected, but if I only put a cmd-3 when it's already selected, it deselects. Hence the cmd-5 first, as deselecting the effects palette does not affect the execution of the script.

Cmd-numpad1
Auto-select video track1
x
Select image1
Cmd-x
Cut image
Ctrl-g

Close gap.

This brings the next image in the sequence into place to be processed

left arrow
Playhead to the last frame of the 5-layer image sequence.
cmd-numpad1
Deselect auto-select video track 1
cmd-numpad1
Deselect auto-select video track 2
opt-enter
Open video nest
Opt-v
Paste attributes of copied picture to pre-selected placeholder picture
click
Select contents
Enter
 
Cmd-9
Open picture attributes
Cmd-c
Copy filename.
Escape
To clear any open dialog boxes
Mouseclick LiveType in Dock
 
Escape
To close any open dialog boxes
Cmd-2
 
Cmd-1
This is the same as selecting the Effects palette, then the timeline: selecting a non-crucial window first to ensure that selecting the desired window does not deselect it if it is already active
Cmd-A
Select all text
Cmd-V
Paste copied filename. In episode 1, this is Alexandre Pato.jpg
Down
Go to end of text
backspace x4
Pressing backspace 4 times removes ".jpg" from the end of the file name: Alexandre Pato.
Up x2
Go to start of text
Opt-delete x3, then Delete
This deletes the file label. ("Episode 1: Connections")
Cmd-shift-S
Save As
Cmd-V, backspace x4, enter
Pastes filename, deletes ".jpg"
Escape
Clears any dialog boxes
Click FCP in dock
 
Cmd-I
Import
Cmd-shift-G
Go to folder. Automator is set to then navigate to /Volumes/disc/folder/livetype
Cmd-2
Switch to Detail mode. You should set it to sort by Date Modified, with newest at top
Up
To select newest
Cmd-3
Switch bck to 3-column view
Enter
 
Cmd-5
Select Effects Palette
Cmd-4
Select File Browser
Enter
Open imported LiveType file in Viewer
Cmd-3
Select Timeline
Home
Move playhead to start of sequence
Cmd-numpad3
Autoselect video in Track 3
x
Mark placeholder LiveType clip on Track 3
F6-3
Set Viewer Video Patch to Video Track 3
F10
Overwrite placeholder LiveType
Home, Enter
Select and Open LiveType file
Cmd-shift-]
I've bound this to Navigate tabs, this opens the Motion tab
Tab, 100, tab x3, 250
Set scale to 100, locate to x=0, y=250
Cmd-5
Select Effects Palette
Cmd-3
Select Timeline
Ctl-w
Close nested sequence tab
Cmd-numpad2
Deselect autoselected video track 2
Right
Move to next image

 

The cycle repeats with the next image but selecting a different track in the image sequence.

This process takes 8 minutes 26 seconds for Automator to execute. I only take about 3, but with more than 80 of these to do, it is very tedious. I scripted it to do about 12 episodes at once, then left to do other errands.

The hard part creating an automated workflow is that even your pauses are recorded. You can't take too long to think about the next step, or you'll have to manually edit the pause duration after the record.

Also, you sometimes need to pause longer so the software can catch to the steps executed, eg. opening a complex sequence, moving from a single video layer section to one that has many layers, etc.

Building custom workflows yourself isn't complicated. You just need to be clear the exact steps required.



Thanks, Dustin!

Automator for FCPIf you'd like to learn more about Automator, including how to integrate AppleScript and entries from the command line, start with the Apple Developer Connection's look at Automator.

Sure, this goes into more detail than most people need, but it really is a great place to start. And since when is "more than you need" a bad thing?

Here's an Apple online seminar on integrating Automator with Remote Desktop. See? ready for heavy lifting. You can find plenty more Apple online seminars for all levels of Automator expertise.

And when you're ready to develop Automator workflows for others to download, here are the pertinent Apple Human Interface Guidelines.


 

Comments

Re: Using Automator for repetitive tasks in Final Cut Pro
by Michael Locke
Holy cow pies! Lots of shortcuts in an applied order. Thanks Dustin,for the shortest A-to-B practicality.,
@David
by Dustin Lau
Hi David, can you give me some more details?

there are some ways you can automate filenames.
You could choose to put all the filenames in a spreadsheet and automate the following keystrokes in Automator.

Click record on Automator to start recording

Click fcp in the dock
opt 6
cmd 3
cmd opt e (I've bound this key to export as qt,replace with your own)
click spreadsheet application in dock (make sure correct cell is already selected before running script)
cmd c
use arrow keys to select next cell in advance for the next pass (this way the script is loopable)
click fcp in dock
cmd v
enter

alternatively, why don't you just nest sequences with the names of the graphics desired And batch export? just curious, it's hard to understand what you need specifically on the information I have.
Quicktime Conversion as stills
by David Stembridge
Thanks for the article Dustin, any ideas on actions requiring "automated" file names? Trying to automate exporting still images using QT conversion, when doing this for multiple images on a sequence.
Using Automator for repetitive tasks in Final Cut Pro
by Dustin Lau
From the forum
------------

Re: Using Automator (Leopard) with FCP for repetitive tasks
by Mark Peysha on Jul 30, 2008 at 3:40:01 pm

Hey Dustin,

Thanks for your entry on automator.
Have you ever heard of anyone making an interface with automator, so that for instance you could trigger your mac to perform an automator function remotely?

Thanks
Mark

There are a couple of ways to achieve this.
First of all, you need to build a workflow of the script that you want to execute.

This won't be easy because you want to make sure it runs regardless of the situation the computer you're running it on is currently in.

The best test of this is to restart and see if it runs correctly from a fresh boot.
This might even mean including commands to start FCP, etc.

Now the part you're interested in is how to trigger the script remotely.
First of all you need to have remote access to the computer.
If you have a static IP, this is easier.
You only need to VNC, or login to your fileshare through your IP.

However if you have a dynamically assigned IP, you can use a VPN or have your router forward your ip to a DNS for you to access. I recommend the VPN route, I use hamachix for this, it's as easy as setting up an IM client.

You can trigger the script by creating a workflow that searches a folder on your hard disk for files of a specific name.

For example, you could share your documents folder and have the automator "Find Finder Items" action look for filenames that contain "Export"

If you login to your fileshare remotely and create a text file in that folder named Export, it'll trigger the Automator workflow to run. Then it's just a matter of placing the actions you want run, after the "Find Finder Items" action.
Using Automator for repetitive tasks in Final Cut Pro
by Q5 Webdesign
Wow that automator saves me lots of time! Very helpfull to use. Thanks!

Mark Baselier
Q5 Webdesign
http://www.q-5.nl
Using Automator for repetitive tasks in Final Cut Pro
by Dustin Lau
Hi Tim,

In fact, I could get a screencapture of the Automator process running as I think people tend to zone out after reading the first few lines of commands.
Too much text tends to make it a little dry and doesn't quite get the message across.

I've also got another one rattling around my head about how powerful the find/search function in FCP can be,
it's a huge timesaver when used in the bins,effects palette and timeline.

Might take a while to get to you though, I'm getting married next week, but you'll get the first peek when it's done.

I've been doing a lot of these workflow implementations at ESPN Star Sports Asia and a big part of working in a team is handing over to other editors.
Everyone has a different working style and preferences, so it's a fine balancing act to implement measures so people know where to find things,
yet not restrict them from working the way they're comfortable with.

So far, the feedback I get seems to indicate that while the PAs and assistants are slightly annoyed by the measures I implement,
but when the s*** hits the fan they're grateful for how easy it makes their job.

Other possible articles I have in mind:
Filenaming conventions, why the way files are named by pirates on bittorrent works for us

Challenges of working on a show in which most of your content has to be captured off video game consoles and PC screencapture

handing over to other editors, how to brief them and creating templates for fullframe gfx, loopable music
Using Automator for repetitive tasks in Final Cut Pro
by Tim Wilson
Sorry about the misspelling of your name Dustin! I had your name right in front of me and just plain got it wrong.

GREAT post, though. We had no choice but to let Cowdog make it the center of his article.

Shoot us a note when you've finished writing up the info on standardized naming. We can just save the step and make it an article from the beginning. :-)
Using Automator for repetitive tasks in Final Cut Pro
by Dustin Lau
Just a note, budget time to create the script.
It's not necessarily something you can sit down and hammer out right the first time.

This script is the result of a day or so of tweaking as it is 60-80 steps long across 2 applications.
YMMV

If you have any problems drop a note here or on the forum posting and I'll help you out if I'm free.
Using Automator for repetitive tasks in Final Cut Pro
by Dustin Lau
Hi, thanks for putting my post up. Slight correction though, my name is Dustin with a D.

Yes, parents watched "The Graduate" as they were having me.

Working on a post about how having a very organized filenaming convention can significantly improve workflow for an episodic series.

See you then.
Using Automator for repetitive tasks in Final Cut Pro
by John Livings

Cool, I am going to start using it.

Thanks, John
Using Automator for repetitive tasks in Final Cut Pro
by Sean Canton
You can also use Automator to:

rename files

&

resize images

talk about handy when you have a batch of 100 photos!


Related Articles / Tutorials:
Apple Final Cut Pro
Controlling Final Cut with an iPad

Controlling Final Cut with an iPad
  Play Video
This video tutorial demonstrates how to set up an iPad with the AC-7 Core app to control Final Cut Pro.

Tutorial, Video Tutorial
Sam Mcguire
Apple Final Cut Pro
Get: Dialog and metadata search for Final Cut Pro editors

Get: Dialog and metadata search for Final Cut Pro editors

In this review, Los Angeles based director, editor, colorist, and Creative Cow Contributing Editor, David Roth Weiss, takes a look at a product aptly named "Get," from AV3 Software. It's a speech recognition search app for Final Cut Pro editors that will undoubtedly help get your projects completed faster and on the screen sooner.

Review
David Roth Weiss
Apple Final Cut Pro
FCP Tip: Broadcast Safe in Final Cut Pro

FCP Tip: Broadcast Safe in Final Cut Pro
  Play Video
It is possible to achieve true broadcast safe using only the tools in Final Cut Pro if you follow the right steps. In this quick tip, Walter Biscardi, Jr. shows you how he has delivered shows to broadcasters worldwide using only the built in FCP filter

Tutorial, Video Tutorial
Walter Biscardi
Apple Final Cut Pro
Final Cut Pro Quick Tips

Final Cut Pro Quick Tips
  Play Video
Learn how to get things done in Apple's Final Cut Pro faster with CreativeCOW.net contributing editor Stephen Smith. In this video tutorial he'll show you how to find un-used clips fast and easy. Plus, cut down your render time and learn how to play un-rendered clips in real time. If that's not enough, he'll show you how to work with thumbnails, nest clips and how to access the text editor quickly. With these FCP quick tips you can save time so you can spend it doing more important things like learning Klingon.

Tutorial, Video Tutorial
Stephen Smith
Apple Final Cut Pro
Editing Tip: Still Image dpi vs. pixels

Editing Tip: Still Image dpi vs. pixels
  Play Video
There is much confusion about dpi vs. pixels when it comes to still images and video editing. In this short tip, Walter Biscardi, Jr. helps to take some of the mystery out of the process.

Tutorial, Video Tutorial
Walter Biscardi
Apple Final Cut Pro
Multiclip Editing in Final Cut Pro

Multiclip Editing in Final Cut Pro
  Play Video
Rob Mize demonstrates the use of Final Cut Pro's Multiclip feature to cut or switch the cameras of a multicam shoot in real time. Rob also demonstrates techniques to synchronize the cameras prior to the edit, as well as how to revise and adjust the Multiclip camera selection decisions on the timeline.

Tutorial, Video Tutorial
Rob Mize
Apple Final Cut Pro
Fixing Assets in FCP using XML

Fixing Assets in FCP using XML

In this FCP tutorial, Matt Lyon will provide a step by step guide for fixing a major issue with the way Final Cut Pro imports audio and still image files using a FCP XML file and TextEdit. Incorrectly imported assets can lead to serious problems down the road, especially with Media Manager. Matt also provides a guideline for re-importing audio and still image media correctly, as an alternative to the XML fix.

Tutorial
Matt Lyon
Apple Final Cut Pro
Copying Sequence Content in FCP

Copying Sequence Content in FCP
  Play Video
In this FCP video tutorial, Shane Ross shows how to get a section of cut footage from one sequence to another in Final Cut Pro.

Tutorial, Video Tutorial
Shane Ross
Apple Final Cut Pro
Smooth Slow Motion with Cinema Tools

Smooth Slow Motion with Cinema Tools
  Play Video
This tutorial shows you how to convert 720p60 footage into very smooth slow motion using the CONFORM option of Cinema Tools.

Tutorial, Video Tutorial
Shane Ross
Apple Final Cut Pro
Tapeless Workflow with Final Cut Pro 7

Tapeless Workflow with Final Cut Pro 7
  Play Video
This tutorial gives an overview of the tapeless ingest workflow using Log and Transfer in Final Cut Pro 7. It encompasses a handful of the supported formats that FCP works with... including XDCAM EX, P2 AVCIntra, P2 DVCPRO HD, AVCHD, and Canon DSLR (5D, 7D).

Tutorial, Video Tutorial
Shane Ross
MORE
© 2016 CreativeCOW.net All Rights Reserved
[TOP]