Avoiding FCP Reconnecting, an option I use

Over at the Editblog, Scott pines for a database-type tool to manage FCP media better. I don’t entirely disagree with the sentiment of his post. FCP is far too loosey-goosey when it comes to managing media. The fact that you can bring anything into the application doesn’t mean you should. It is one of my pet peeves – I force editors to keep things organized on their systems. I’ve even gone this far: upon discovering that someone had linked to narration & motion graphic files that were in a folder on the Desktop, I backed the folder up then deleted it from the Desktop. When the editor came to me, white-faced, to explain that his media was gone, I just asked where it was last seen. Amazingly, that editor has never made that mistake again and I think it got around that I was serious about this, so some of the other editors stopped doing it too.

Here is a very simple way that I’ve developed to minimize relinking or reconnecting. If you are working on a project with another editor (or anyone who is using the same media as you in an FCP project), you need to make sure everyone has the media on the exact same path. This starts with the drive name. Whenever working with multiple edit systems, make sure the drives that contain your project’s media are named exactly the same thing on both systems. If the path to your media is: /Volumes/Media/Final Cut Pro Documents/Capture Scratch/Project then they need to have it in the exact same place.

I understand Scott’s lament all too well. Before we brought the Terrablock SAN on line, we had 10 FCP systems with 2TB of dedicated storage on each system, plus a few 10’s of GBs of FireWire drives. When I came to work there, it was a nightmare. Each system had a drive with a unique name. Everytime a project was moved from one room the another, it meant a massive reconnection task.

While it has improved in version 6, reconnecting media in FCP is always something to be avoided. It just doesn’t work realibly. The biggest problem are clips which are playing at an off speed – slow or fast. Add a dissolve into or out of that clip and you will get some crazy results. The most common thing I’ve seen is that it will take the first two frames of the clip and stretch them over the duration of the shot. A clip running at 75% speed for 3 seconds, becomes a clip running at something wierd, like .03427% speed and is only one or two frame over the full 3 seconds. The only way to fix it is manually cut the shot back in by hand or avoid relinking in the first place.

So that’s what led me to my practice of avoiding relinking at all costs. I created what I called “The Poor Editor’s SAN”. Just by changing the name of every 2TB dedicated drive on each FCP system to the same name (Media) it solved 90% of the relinking issues.

Sure there are some instances when it can’t be avoided. The fantastic “feature” of FCP to forget where clips is one (sometimes 1 or 2, other times the entire project – I assume it is a feature at this point because it has existed in every release since verison 1). The other are cases when you are working with a system that has a large number of fixed drives that would be difficult to mirror or move. There is still an option if this is your situation – read on.

If, however, you are working on a show or shows with another editor consider this: Dedicate a drive to all the show’s media & assets. Encourage other editors to do the same. If you can afford it, buy the same size drive for everyone on the project and then once you’ve loaded it all on one drive, mirror it out to as many as need the media.

Remember, FCP doesn’t need to have a path to the exact same physical drive to find the media it needs. It just has to have the path name be the same. You can cheat all of this by simply changing the name of a drive. For example, you have all the media for a project on a drive called “Media1”. You give me a copy of that media on a Firewire drive that you call “FireWire1”. When I get the drive, I just change the name of the drive to “Media1” and from now on, every FCP project file you give me just automatically links and vice-versa. Of course, this assumes all editors are keeping the media on a single drive and being careful about where they put stuff before they import it into FCP.

If you are working on a multi-drive system, you can fake this to some degree. We have just this situation going on now. We have a project that has media on two SAN volumes: DIND & ELEMENTS. We needed to send the media for a show out to an editor in Colorado. All we did was get a 1TB FireWire drive and partition it into 2 partitions called DIND2 and ELEMENTS2. We copied what was need from each drive to its respective FireWire mirror and then attached it to another system. Changed the drive names by removing the “2” and violá it just works. Everything referenced by the FCP loading project and FCP Graphics Template project just linked and there was no reconnecting. The Colorado editor cuts away from that FireWire drive and then sends us a single FCP project along with anything he has added (music, graphics, etc.) We put those new media assets into the proper place and again, it just works without relinking.

All of the above depends on editors who rub 2 brain cells together before bringing assets into FCP. Media and assets must be located on the appropriate drive before they are incorporated into a project.

6 Replies to “Avoiding FCP Reconnecting, an option I use”

  1. Great follow up Ben. I love the sly deleting of the desktop idea! This is a technique where I’ve done similar things from time to time. Unfortunately in my new position we have huge networked drives so when I take a job in and copy to these drives it isn’t possible. It’s just a shame we have to do this at all!

  2. I’m on a project with 4500+ clips on 3 drives, with the drives mirrored (same drive names, folder structure) between my machine and the director’s.

    We STILL occasionally have reconnect issues, in which FCP loses it’s mind and decides a few hundred files have gone missing, when they are actually right where they have always been, in the path that FCP is looking for them.

    It’s really two problems:
    1. FCP has no DB, and creaking (at best) media management.
    2. The error handling in media management/reconnection is broken, and seems to leave the media management in broken state under some conditions.

    More misc joy you didn’t mention:
    – reconnecting files and then getting the “Operation cannot be performed” dialog.

    – the file “” cannot be found. Do tell!

    – searching for movie data in file “….”, when the file in question has not moved.

  3. Hey there,

    I’ve been doing the re-name drive trick for a while – especially when i want to work off a laptop away from the suite. I’m glad to hear other people do it too! Originally i thought it was just me not being able to work the media mangler properly – but eventually i realised nope, it’s just rubbish!

    It’s nuts when you think about it. Even I-tunes has a bleedin database for god’s sake.

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