Managing FCPX Media Labs for Maximum Sanity & Minimum Chaos
COW Library : Apple Final Cut Pro X : Andrew Gash : Managing FCPX Media Labs for Maximum Sanity & Minimum Chaos
Editor's Note: A conversation came up on the Apple Final Cut Pro X Techniques forum about the challenges of working with large groups of students in a high school media lab that we felt would apply to many more people than were on that thread. And actually, we think there' a lot of great advice here not just for teachers, but for ANYONE working in a multi-user, shared storage FCPX environment.
Andrew Gash teaches at Kathleen High School in Lakeland Florida, where he has over 100 students sharing 21 systems. As you can imagine, he's had to learn an awful lot to make these manageable. His replies on that thread were so compelling that we asked him to put them all together and expand them for the rest of the class, so to speak. We then asked him to put his advice in context.
"The primary focus of the tips I'm giving are for managing a large number of people who may not always follow the rules," Andrew tells us. "With a small team, I would imagine that they can easily get everybody on the same page as far as where to save their footage, etc.
But when you're dealing with 100+ students, as a teacher, I try to start making things as foolproof as possible to keep the chaos at bay. I'm the manager of a computer lab of 5 iMacs... running FCP X (10.1.3). Any students, faculty, and staff on campus with potentially no previous experience with video editing come to use the lab, so I'm hoping to make it as simple as possible for them to manage their files." Here's the original question that led to Andrew's replies, and this article.
I'm the manager of a computer lab of 5 iMacs running FCP X (10.1.3). Any students, faculty, and staff on campus with potentially no previous experience with video editing come to use the lab, so I'm hoping to make it as simple as possible for them to manage their files.
Whether or not you use the external drive option, I've got a couple ideas that I think might help. IF YOU DO DECIDE to have each student use their own drive, the last tip I've got will really be helpful.
I run an editing lab with 21 iMacs and a lot of high school students who are prone to working on the first library that they can get their hands on. They can't afford to each have an external drive, so that option is out for me. But here's what I do, and I think this might help with your last question about having FCP prompt a user to choose a library upon opening the program.
I assign students in each of my classes to a computer...
I assign students in each of my classes to a computer and each computer has one external drive attached to it that has been partitioned with one partition for each class (Period 1, Period 2, etc).
You could do this or have each student create their own library on a computer drive, external public drive, or their own personal drive. This solves a little bit of the risk of one student overwriting another student's work since there's a different library per computer and per class.
You mentioned creating Sparse Disk images for each student and having them save their work on these images. That would also work great for helping keep each of their libraries safe from other students so long as they remember to eject their disk image when they are finished.
Here's what I teach my students to do from day one: HOLD DOWN THE OPTION KEY whenever they open FCP X. I repeat this over and over to them.
Here's what this does: When they hold down the option key while FCP X is loading, the Open Library menu that pops up. In this menu they have three options: 1) Open a library that is accessible (mounted) and has been previously selected from this menu (the library will be in a list). 2) Locate another library (which will then be added to the library list for future reference). 3) Create a new library.
The next time it is opened, the Open Library window will appear automatically without holding down the Option key (unless a user double-clicked their library, in which case FCP would skip this step because a library has been selected).
The power of this extra step is this: when they use the library chooser to select their library before opening FCP X, ONLY THEIR LIBRARY will open. So, no matter how many libraries were open during the previous session, FCP won't open any of those. Just the one they select. If they can remember to HOLD DOWN OPTION, they will always get to choose their own library and won't have to bother with the mess of seeing everyone else's work in FCP X (that's how I sell them on the "inconvenience" of this extra step).
Now, you might say, "Yes, but can't I just have them double-click on their library from the Finder?" That would make sense, but unfortunately, even if they do this, FCP will still load that library along with any other libraries that were opened at then end of the last session. The Open Library menu is the only way to single out a particular library that FCP should open.
You also asked, "Is there a way to have FCP X automatically close out of all libraries when quitting? This way, when relaunched, it will prompt the user to either open an existing library or create a new one."
When all libraries are closed before an FCP X session is ended, FCP X will remember that there were no libraries open at the close of the last session.
When FCP X runs after having closed the last session with no libraries open...
When FCP X runs after having closed the last session with no libraries open, you will automatically be greeted with the Library Chooser window, which will list any libraries that have been accessed via this window in the past as long as they are currently connected and accessible.
In the Open Library window...
In the Open Library window, if there are no libraries accessible, or no libraries have ever been located and opened using this window, the list will be empty. At this point you can create a new library and choose a location to save it or locate a pre-existing library that may be mounted but has never been accessed by the Library Chooser. After this time, that library will be listed as long as it is mounted and accessible when the window opens.
This is a great convenience, and if it happened automatically upon every FCP launch, it would be something that would really help us lab teachers (and, I imagine, a number of other multi-user environment administrators). Unfortunately, there's no way to have FCP automatically close all libraries when it quits. If a user can remember to close their library before quitting, Great! But there's a good chance they will not always remember.
Here's where we run into trouble. Many teachers, lab admins, etc. would prefer that student's libraries be as separated as possible and inaccessible to any student other than the owner of the library. A great way to do this is to keep libraries on totally separate disks (internal partitions, sparse disk images, or external). The nature of this setup is this: when one student is down with their library, they eject it so that it is completely inaccessible to the next student or user. But here comes the trouble: FCP always looks to open the library or libraries that were open during the previous session (unless they were all closed before the session ended).
So let's that that we've got two students: John and Sarah. John comes in, plugs in his external drive or loads his sparse disk image and opens his library. He edits, closes FCP X, ejects his drive or sparse disk image, and leaves.
He forgets to close his library...
He forgets to close his library in FCP before quitting the program (a common occurrence). This is what John should have done. Now, Sarah comes in. She plugs in her external drive or loads her sparse disk image. She forgets to hold down option OR to double click on her library. She just opens FCP X. Because all libraries were not closed at the end of the last session, FCP X goes out and looks for John's library. When it can't find John's library (because it has been ejected to keep it safe), you would think that Sarah would receive the Open Library popup window....but she won't.
Here's the crazy, frustrating thing that FCP X does:
Because it CANNOT FIND the last library that was open...
Because it CANNOT FIND the last library that was open (John's), since John has ejected his hard drive and taken it with him, and since John didn't close all libraries ahead of time, FCPX AUTOMATICALLY creates an Untitled Library in the User's Movies folder.
This doesn't seem nearly as logical as introducing the current user to the Open Library window and having them make a decision, but there you have it.
Now, if Sarah is paying attention, she will realize that she's not in her library, but rather in an Untitled one and quickly open hers instead. Then again, she may not. Either way, you as the administrator now have this unnecessary Untitled Library sitting out there in the user's Movies folder.
I can imagine that with every student's library stored on a separated hard disk or sparse disk, FCP X will frequently run into the trouble of not being able to find the previous library. Of course, if a student holds down the option key, or if they locate their own library and double-click on it – everything will be fine. But I've experienced multiple instances where they forget to do both of these steps and Untitled Libraries were created left and right on almost every computer. I was very frustrated.....until.....
Here's how I've worked around this, and I love the results. RESTRICT the User's Movies Folder. Follow me on this:
Go to the user's home folder...
Go to the User's home folder (from the Finder, click Go > and select the home icon). Right-click or control-click on the Movies folder for the User, then select Get Info.
Under Sharing and Permissions section at the bottom, change the Permissions for the student User (if you're logged in to that user, it will say (Me) beside it) to Read Only
Here's what this does. Back to Sarah: She opens FCP X. She doesn't hold down option or double-click her library. John didn't close all the libraries that were open during his last session, so FCP X goes and looks for John's library. FCP X can't find his library, so it goes to create that stupid Untitled one – but it CAN'T! Permissions for that folder are Read-Only! So what does it do????
It brings up that wonderful Open ...
It brings up that wonderful Open Library window and prompts Sarah to choose a library.
Success! Now, even if Sarah forgets to select her library from the Finder, or hold down Option, as long the previously opened libraries are inaccessible, FCP X will allow her to choose a library to open.
Of course, if FCP X can find any of the libraries that were open during the previous session (and Sarah doesn't hold down option or double-click on her own), than it will open those libraries. This would be the case if John had his library stored on an internal partition or a sparse disk image – something that he could forget to eject and not have to physically take away with him. So it's important to try and find a way to keep libraries inaccessible to students who aren't supposed to use them so that they are not modified by accident.
I've created workaround for this as well, writing scripts to have the Finder automatically eject hard drives that are not needed by which ever user logs in, but this is complicated and only works if there are multiple users (or user groups). That's a whole different subject entirely!
There is one catch to making the User's Movies folder Read-Only. Assuming that students aren't saving anything to this folder (because their media should be going on their external drive, sparse disk image or somewhere on a server), they shouldn't ever need to have access to save anything here.
HOWEVER, Final Cut Pro X does use the Movies folder for another set of files: Final Cut Backups. If they are using Motion application, Motion also uses the Movies folder for Motion Templates (which are accessible from FCP X as well) and Motion Projects (where it keeps autosaves).
HOWEVER, Final Cut Pro X does use the Movies folder...
So, a word of advice: you'll want to go ahead and create these folders in the Movies folder before restricting permissions and make sure that permissions for those folder are normal (Student User can read and write).
Be aware that the Final Cut Backups and Motion Templates folder is actually "Final Cut Backups.localized" and "Motion Templates.localized". Don't forget to type these extensions when creating those folders.
The Motion Projects folder does not have this special extension. One easy way to do this is to simply run these applications and let the application automatically create these folders, then restrict the Movies folder afterwards. This will keep the sub-folder permissions intact.
I hope that this rambling helps you in your administration. I have thought long and hard over the best ways to keep my students focused on editing their own projects and keep my head from exploding with file management nightmares. So far, these tips have helped me stay sane....most of the time.
Wishing you all the best!
Television Adviser | FCPX Certified Trainer