[UPDATE: This article refers to archiving in Final Cut Pro X 10.0.9 and earlier.  To see how to archive in Final Cut Pro X 10.1 and later, please see this article.]


Why Archive?

Why do we archive our video projects?  We archive our projects in case we ever need to restore the project.  That leads to a natural follow-up question: why would we ever need to restore a project?  There are two reasons: we may need to re-export a project or we may need to make changes to a project.

So, what do we archive from all of our work on a project?  We archive whatever we need to restore the project at a later date as well as any reference material that is important to keep.(such as editing notes, graphical files and fonts)  We also want to organize everything in such a way that it’s easy to find everything again in the future.

For Final Cut Pro X, what elements do we need to archive?  The elements can be broken down as follows:

  • Events - In other words, this is all of the raw media.  This could include video files, audio files (music, sound effects, voiceovers) and still images.
  • Projects - The editing choices, or Timeline, of your work.
  • Motion Templates - Custom Transitions, Titles, Transitions, and Generators
  • Associated Files - Document Files, Graphic Files, Fonts and other other files deemed appropriate

When archiving, you can consider not backing up your original media with the Final Cut Pro X project Archive.  Why?  If you have the original media (perhaps on an SD card) and if it can easily be reimported or relinked, you can save the physical media and choose to restore it at a later time.  This is a good way to make efficient use of your storage if your work contains a lot of high-resolution video footage.  For projects that have a smaller amount of video footage, you could archive it with everything else.  It’s a choice between how big you want the file size of the archive to be and how easy you want a restoration to be.

Where do we archive all of these files?  Two good options to consider when archiving your work are disk drives and network based storage.(Dropbox, for instance)  Like any digital backup/archiving plan for important materials, you’ll want redundancy and multiple locations.

How to archive in Final Cut Pro X

Now that we've established the "why" of archiving, let's dive into the "how" of archiving our work in Final Cut Pro X.  This workflow is based on the current version of Final Cut Pro X, which as of the time this article is being written is version 10.0.8.  As you’ll see, things get complicated.  With Final Cut Pro X’s new paradigm, there is currently not an easy, straight-forward way to back up *everything* for your project.  Novice Final Cut Pro X editors need to enter the rest of this article at their own risk as a few steps will be a bit complex.(definitely not as simple and easy as the Camera Archive feature)

One note before we begin: Projects (capital P) refers to a Final Cut Pro X timeline whereas projects (lowercase p) refers generically to the complete effort in creating a video.

  1. Delete All Render Files from the Events and Projects that you want to archive - No need to save your project’s render files as these can easily be re-rendered.  These files are large and will substantially save space in what you will need to archive.  Check out this video to see how to delete your render files in both your Events and your Projects.
    • Delete all (not just unused) of the render files from all of the Projects you want to archive
    • Delete all (not just unused) of the render files from all of the Events you want to archive
  2. Organize and Consolidate your Events and Projects if necessary - These two commands help to centralize all of your media.
    • Organize Event Files - If you want to copy all of your Event’s media (the actual files) to the Event’s folder, you’ll want to use this command.  This is useful if the imported media was linked to rather than copied into an Event.
    • Consolidate Project Media - If you want to centralize the location of all of a Project’s media (its Events) to the same drive, you’ll want to use this command.
  3. Delete Restorable Media and Optimized/Proxy Media - For media on memory cards or other physical media that you can easily re-capture or re-link later, delete the Original, Optimized and Transcoded Media Folders in the Event.  You’ll do this in the Finder.  Reference this Apple Knowledge Base article to guide you in locating the folders.
  4. Create a Sparse Disk Image to store a project’s Events and Projects - With this step, you’re essentially setting up a virtual drive that you will copy your project’s Events, Projects and other files to for archiving.  This Sparse Disk Image will eventually be one file that can be opened up and seen as a virtual drive in the operating system.  I first saw the great idea of using Sparse Disk Images for archiving from Ripple Training.(Steve and Mark are great trainers and produce wonderful training material.  Highly recommended.)  Click here  to see a step-by-step on how to create a Sparse Disk Image.
  5. Duplicate Projects and Events to the Sparse Disk Image - You’ll now make a copy of your Event(s) and Project(s) onto the virtual disk.  You’ll want to do this within Final Cut Pro X and *not* within the Finder.  Here’s where things can get tricky: how many Projects and Events make up your work?

    Let’s cover each case:

      1. One Event and One Project - This is the most simple case and the easiest to archive.  You’ll want to make a duplicate of your Project onto the new sparse disk image and then have the referenced Event moved as well.  For this case and the following cases, you’ll also be faced with the choice of duplicating all clips in an Event or only the clips you used in the Project.  Your choice will depend on how much you want to archive for the future.
      2. One Event and Multiple Projects - This is relatively simple.  Follow the steps of duplicating one of the Projects and moving its associated referenced Event to the sparse disk image.  Then, make duplicates of the remaining Projects to the sparse disk image.
      3. Multiple Events and Multiple Projects - This is where things get complicated!  Simply put, you’ll want to duplicate every element from every Event for every Project.(ideally without duplicating elements)  There’s not a simple command to do this however.
        • If you easily know all of the Events that are referenced in all of the Projects and are fine to back up everything, do that.  This “save everything” approach will be less hassle, but more costly in terms of the space needed for archiving.  For instance, if you created four Projects and all four Projects only referenced three Events, duplicate the four Projects and the three Events to the virtual drive.
        • If your multiple Projects reference an assortment of Events, your best bet is to archive each Project as if it stands alone.  This is potentially not as efficient as media would be duplicated, but it is a way to simplify the process.  When you duplicate a Project, you’ll want to make sure to duplicate the Referenced Events as well.
  6. Backup Motion Templates (Effects, Titles, Transitions, Generators) - This is the hardest part of the current workflow for archiving.  There is not a way to do this within Final Cut Pro X and it will potentially require a lot of work in the Finder.  It is particularly difficult given that you can’t just go to the separate sub-folders for the Motion Templates and copy them over.  You could potentially have referenced custom templates across many folders.  It can get messy quickly.

    The most logical way to handle this is to give your project a category when publishing any custom templates.(for instance “Bob’s Project”)  Then, you can find the “Bob’s Project” folder within each of the Motion Templates sub-folders to duplicate.  To archive these elements, create a Motion Templates folder in the Sparse Disk Image and copy everything there.  You’ll want to adhere to any distribution rights regarding moving third party templates around.

  7. Backup Associated Files - Within the Finder, create a folder or folders for all of your associated files on the virtual drive.  This could include:
    • Word/Pages/Numbers/Keynote/Powerpoint Documents
    • Photoshop/Pixelmator files
    • Fonts
  8. Unmount and Store the Sparse Disk Image - Now, you’ll want to exit Final Cut Pro X and unmount your virtual drive (or sparse disk image).  You now have everything bundled up for archiving on to a drive or on to a network backup.

Complicated, eh?




The Future

Looking forward, what improvements can be made to archiving your work in Final Cut Pro X?

  • One button Archiving!  A solution that gathers up the Motion Templates used in the Project would be of immediate need.  Editors will need to transfer projects between systems and they need to make sure that they can restore exactly what was created.
  • Project Bundle/Project Folder - What about archiving multiple Projects at once?  Perhaps what’s needed is a Project Bundle, where one can put several Projects.  Then, archiving becomes a bit simpler if the bundle can be duplicated along with any referenced Event from any Project in the Bundle.  Perhaps the “Bundle” is already there... in the Project Library with the use of folders.  

I think archiving improvements all come down to applying Apple’s great skill in simplifying the user experience.  They’ve already made great strides in simplifying and improving the editing experience with Final Cut Pro X.  Now, let’s hope some strides are made in easily archiving your video projects.


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AuthorBascomb Productions