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Better Media Management in Final Cut Pro

Final Cut Pro Media Management: It's all in the name
A Creative COW Tutorial


Better FCP media management starts with better filenames
Dustin LauDustin Lau
Singapore

©2008 Dustin Lau and Creativecow.net. All rights reserved.

Article Focus: Looking for better media management in Final Cut Pro? TV producer and Cow contributor Dustin Lau says it all begins with better file naming. He shows how it's working at ESPN/Star Sports Asia, as they manage their workflow across multiple teams, under the high pressure of episodic TV deadlines. It will work for you too.

Consistent filenaming can be used to our advantage as content creators, to organize the vast amount of files we have to deal with in our work. This allows us to take advantage of Spotlight and FCP's find function in the bins and timeline. It also allows anyone with even a basic understanding of the production to know exactly what any given file contains, and where it belongs.

Example
It's important for you to identify the elements that you use to organize projects. This will affect how you organize your media.

This is an example of a filenaming convention I enforced on my assistants and PAs for a video game review series.

Filenames will be in this format.

Game-S[season number]E[episode number]-[Game name]-[Type of footage]-[Shot Number]-[description]
Filenames should always use leading zeros. eg (EP01 NOT EP1)

For example

Game-S02E04-Rock Band-Gameplay-05-Drum Tutorial (Say it ain't so)
Game-S02E09-MGS4-Interview-08-Matt Jones talks about engine
Game-S02E14-Halo4-B roll-13-Master Chief mascot at E3

TYPES OF FOOTAGE
Essentially the types of footage depend on the nature of the segment.

For Reviews the types of footage are

   1. Gameplay
   2. Music
   3. SFX
   4. Commentary (only for sports games)
   5. VO

For Interviews, they are

   1. B roll
   2. Interview
   3. VO

SHOT NUMBER

The numbers before the description eg(05-Drum Tutorial in the above example) are not as important for interviews captured from tape as I can refer to timecode on the tape to see the sequence of events.

The reason I need it for gameplay or any footage we capture wild without timecode/device control is so I know the sequence of gameplay rather than trying to guess if COD5-snow stage is before or after COD5-Helicopter stage.

If the files are

Game-S02E15-COD5-06-Snow Stage
Game-S02E15-COD5-12-Helicopter Stage

I don't need to guess.

MULTIPLE SEGMENTS WITH SAME GAME

If we are doing multiple segments on the same game over an episode,
we will give the individual segments names and label it into the Game name.

Game-S02E21-Halo4 History-Gameplay-04-Halo3 FMV
Game-S02E21-Halo4 Technology-Interview-Jonty Barnes on new co-op features

You can see at a glance that both of the clips above are from episode 21 of our game review show's second season. The first is footage of the game as its being played. You can see that the second is a specific interview.

This will surely not be the format that you use for your own file naming structure. Your goal will be to find as descriptive for your own projects.


Rationale


We have become very used to organizing our file in context using folders, like this.

It takes more than folders for FCP media management

However, when you take these files out of the directory structure, filenames like "jl" and "Bill Interview" are no longer useful. They do not help you identify which project they are from or indeed what types of files they are.

With organized filenames, you can use Spotlight to search your media drives without having to sift through hundreds of false positives. Instead of searching for "VO", you can look for Game-S02E45-VO, and not have to scroll through every other VO you've ever ingested for every episode.

This is most evident when you media-manage a project in FCP, and your painstakingly created bin structure is lost as all linked media files are placed in a single bin with a flat directory structure.

It also makes finding all the files in a project is significantly easier.

If I wanted to find only the B Roll footage from our review of the game "Rockband" for example, it's just

Command
Action
cmd-4 Browser Window
cmd-shift-a Deselect. This forces the search to commence from the top, rather than starting from the selected file
cmd f find
enter in search field "Rockband-B Roll"
find all


This finds all Rockband B Roll but excludes the interviews, VO, etc.

This applies for any type of footage if the filenames are standardized for this in mind.


Playing nicely with others


Why don't I use the comments/labelling in FCP to make these distinctions in the types of files?

Files are often transferred to other departments like graphics or audio, and sent back to us when the work on them is done. So all of the metadata and comments that we add in FCP to a ingested or imported file may or may not be interpreted by the software that your audio post house or graphics department uses.

In addition, naming these files makes it easy for them to find. It also forces them to conform to your filenaming system.

For example, you may send your audio-post house a file for a job you're doing for a bank, let's say ABN Amro.

They might send the file back as "ABN Amro Project FINAL AudioMix.aiff", especially if they've only ever done one mix for an ABN AMRO project. But what happens if you have more than one job for the same client?

If you send the file as "ABN Amro-TVC-CashFast Credit Banking-Final Online", your audio-post house is more likely to use an adaptation of that filename like "ABN Amro-TVC-CashFast Credit Banking-Final Online with AudioMixDown" and it won't get mixed up with your ABN Amro Corporate Video.


Creating templates


Having these standardized filenames becomes very useful when you deal with an episodic series. As each episode progresses, some creative decisions may be taken that will be maintained throughout the remainder of the series. These then have to be updated into the template project so all future episodes follow this standard.

But it's a pain to have to make changes to your current episode while updating a template project to reflect these changes in the future. Take heart! There is an easier way.

Look out for more on how you can use the power of standardized filenames to easily maintain episodic templates in my article "Become replaceable. Have a life." In that article, I go into detail about steps you can take to hand over a job to other editors with minimal fuss, and how you can help them get up to speed as fast you can can walk out the door.

But it all begins with the media, and it's all manageable with consistent filenames.


 




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