Working on first documentary, need advice getting started on editing -- re: FCPX, org

Discussion in 'Digital Video' started by OXX, Aug 19, 2014.

  1. OXX macrumors newbie

    Mar 4, 2014
    Hi there. Been doing DSLR photography for a while now, but have recently been expanding into video also. I'm looking for advice on moving into the editing side of things now. First a bit of back story, and I apologize for the length.

    Had a last minute opportunity come up, so I've spent the last week on the ground filming a small town motorcycle rally primarily on 5Diii with 7D pickups. External audio was run through a Tascam DR-40 (so stereo ambient sound there mostly) along with an AT875 shotgun. I logged right at 110 on-camera interviews and a ton of good looking footage of the bikes, vendors, events, etc. Around 2,000 files of 350 GB of audio and video saved on the hard drive ready to play with. I have done no conversions or work on any of the files yet, just straight copy overs from the cards.

    I am basically sold on FCPX over Premier based on cost primarily. I've done a bit of reading about the vs. between them, and I feel like FCPX will be the way to go for me. I don't have any plans to get into computer animations, 3D rendering, etc., any time soon. I am looking to purchase a new iMac and FCPX soon for this project, but I have not yet done it, so I don't currently have FCPX to explore.

    In the past, I have used Movie Maker and iMovie for some basic fun video projects, so editing isn't entirely foreign, but I've never done anything nearly this extensive, nor had external audio to sync. I did not do myself any favors as I was not using a clapboard or setting sync points very often, so I know there is going to be a lot of trudging through the files trying to understand what I am listening to. I would also like to be able to catalog, sort, tag my audio and video files so I have some way of searching for detail bike shots, interviews, concert footage, etc. Does FCPX provide some sort of way of doing this natively, or should I seek out some other app or program? Push comes to shove, I know I could manually load it all into Excel, but that would be a major time suck.

    Another question: I've seen conflicting reports about whether I need to transcode the .mov's before using FCPX? As I said, they are currently sitting as straight copy overs from the CF cards, so if there's something I need to do before getting FCPX, I could be working on that now. Or I have seen that in the input dialog of FCPX that it may have options. Just looking for best practices and efficiency.

    Basically, I am looking for some advice on getting started on the editing journey, best practices, FCPX issues to prepare for, etc. Any and all help is greatly appreciated. Thanks!

  2. chrono1081 macrumors 604


    Jan 26, 2008
    Isla Nublar
    I can't comment on the technical side of things but I will say the best advice I can give is to grab a subscription for a month and take a look at training for the piece of software you plan on purchasing. It helps tremendously when you actually purchase it.

    That's how I hit the ground running with Mari. I watched all the Digital Tutors videos on it and when I bought it I sat down and started using it, hotkeys and all. It makes a world of difference.
  3. poematik13 macrumors 6502a

    Jun 5, 2014
    Good choice on FCP X. It is certainly the most intuitive and fastest NLE editor right now, and very newbie friendly. And it takes advantage of all the resources in your computer.

    Yes, FCP X has extensive metadata and cataloging features.

    And you're right- the first thing you need to do is convert all that footage- when it comes out of your DSLR, its a crappy h.264 codec that your computer won't enjoy working with in FCP, and things will be slow. There is an app called 5DtoRGB that will do this for you. Convert it all to 422 and delete the old footage once you're done. FCP X can do this for you as well while you're editing but this app does it in higher quality and allows greater flexibility.

    Make sure all your media is stored on an external drive, preferably at least usb 3.0 but ideally thunderbolt, and your FCP app runs on your internal drive.

    And please, please, back up everything.

    There are tons of tutorials on youtube that will help you get started, but honestly I think the best way (and the way I started) was to just open the app and start cutting away and learn as you go.
  4. OXX thread starter macrumors newbie

    Mar 4, 2014
    Well that's what I've been wondering. I see some folks say that the native files will be fine, some run proxy's, some transcode in FCPX, some beforehand. All very confusing for a beginner. And I've seen 5DtoRGB recommended often, and I've seen some newer programs tested as faster also, so I may need to look deeper there.

    All the files are currently double saved on Gtech's with FW800 (I know I'd have to run the adaptor cable on new iMac), but I am looking into perhaps another Gtech Thunderbolt drive just for my video work and save the others for the photo work on the MBP. Or simply still use one as redundancy backup, not real time editing.
  5. poematik13 macrumors 6502a

    Jun 5, 2014
    For a beginner, its more clearcut and straightforward to convert all your footage beforehand. Kind of like processing your film before cutting it ;) 5DtoRGB has been around for a while and its become more or less the industry standard when working with DSLR footage. Other programs may be "faster" but its about the quality of the files, ultimately.

    The thunderbolt Gtechs are pretty good, I'm using a 3TB one right now for a short film. BH has them for $274-ish....Keep in mind that they were recently bought out by another company and their quality has gone down somewhat, but they still have a fat warranty on them and you should be backing up anyway so there really isn't a need for alarm
  6. redsnapper macrumors newbie

    Sep 29, 2009
    Wow lot to do but just do each bit in stages.

    First do some research and learn how FCP X works. Then get your footage transcoding / converting and backing up. Then sync up your audio. When all that is done you can start reviewing your footage. Everyone does this differently and FCP X is designed for logging in the event. However I like to just take an interview and add all the bits I like to a multiple Project timelines one for each person interviewed or subject. These are your 'selects'. Do this for all your sound, that is every bit of audio that tells a story, interviews or actuality. Once you've got all your best bits save a copy and cut them down again. Then start reordering them in one timeline to tell a story like a radio documentary, don't worry about pictures at this stage. Jump stuff around, combine different takes, whatever it takes to tell the story. Anything that is not clear write and record narration (rough is fine at first) or add captions if you prefer that style. When and only when you have a clear and tight story then start adding pictures and music. I often like to add music first to punctuate gaps in the story telling and then cut pictures to match the music. When that is done review and polish. Then show it to some people. If they don't understand something or laugh at the right places its not because they are stupid it because the cut needs to be worked on. Recut, delete, shorten, change music, improve the mix and picture grading until you run out of time. Then its finished and you can screen and promote it. Good luck.
  7. e1me5 macrumors regular


    Jun 11, 2013
    FCPX was the best choice you could make. Very fast and for me and has the best way to organize your files, like adding keywords to every clip so you can find instantly anything you are looking for. As for the transcoding and sound syncing, FCPX can do that on his own, you don't need to use external apps anymore.

    For transcoding you simply import your files as they are (h264) and start editing right away basically. You can tell FCPX to transcode them to ProRes when you import, as it is the best format to edit with, but it will eat you a lot of space. My opinion is to leave them as they are, since you wont use a lot of effects, because FCPX and new macs are very powerful and can handle h264s easily. That's the reason I jumped from Final Cut 7 to X. At the end, when you finish the film you can export it to the highest quality and the result will be the same as for converting all of your clips at the beginning.

    For syncing sound now go to this link to find the way to do it! .

    For any other questions you can find tutorials at youtube, but I believe apple's support pages are useful as well.

    I am sure you will have fun and you will find a lot of ways to express your vision with this amazing tool. :)
  8. OXX thread starter macrumors newbie

    Mar 4, 2014
    See? Great answers, and I still don't know if it's better to transcode or not! lol

    I still have to get the Mac ordered in and up to speed on using FCPX, but I guess I will bring in some things and compare native to transcoded and see.

    On a hardware side, I am leaning towards the 27" iMac at the moment over the 21.5" for a number of reasons, but I'm trying to keep it as inexpensive as possible without sacrificing the ability to easily work with large projects such as this for the foreseeable future. I am bumping up to 16GB RAM as a given, but is there a big need to change from the lower end 3.2 i5 to the 3.4 i5 or even 3.5 i7? I obviously know that bigger is always better, but the price bump is pretty rough. I've seen that the hyper threading on the i7 is useful, but is it "essential?" I also see the graphics card is 1GB on the lower model but 2 or even 4 on the top model. Thoughts?
  9. Small White Car, Aug 19, 2014
    Last edited: Aug 19, 2014

    Small White Car macrumors G4

    Small White Car

    Aug 29, 2006
    Washington DC
    Definitely transcode.

    If you don't it'll work fine at first but as your project grows it'll start to get slower and slower and soon you'll be pulling your hair out.

    The good news is that you only have to back up the original files for safety. So your backups will be smaller than your project. If you ever need them you can transcode them again in the future.

    Likewise, don't erase the originals on your computer either. (So your Final Cut library will actually have 2 copies of everything in different formats.) When you're done with a project select it (in the Library) and go go FILE > DELETE GENERATED EVENT FILES.

    That will erase your renders and transcoded files and greatly shrink your file size. But everything is in there and can be re-rendered should you ever need to change something in the future. (I would only re-transcode if doing major changes. If you're just changing a title you can export again from the version linked to the original files.)

    = = = = =

    Another tip: Get a Dropbox account and load the app on your Mac. (The free account is fine.) Make a folder in it called "FCX BACKUPS"

    Then, in Final Cut, select your whole library. Open the inspector. Find "Storage Locations" and click the "Modify" button. Select that folder on Dropbox for the Backups. Now Final Cut will save your project in the cloud every 15 minutes or so. It's just the project edits, not the media, so it'll fit online. (This is by Library, so you may have to do it again in the future if making multiple libraries.)

    If you've also put a hard drive backup of your original media in another house, congratulations! Your project is now fire-proof!

    If you're trying to save money I'd do it there. What that means is transcoding and final exporting will take longer. But in day-to-day work you won't notice a big difference. So imports and exports should be done overnight or over lunch. You may be annoyed once you're trying to post it online and have to wait longer. But that's a small bit of time compared to the hours and hours you'll spend editing. If you can't have it all, I'd skimp on the processor and make sure you have RAM and a better video card.

    (Have you checked Apple charges $200 to go from 8 to 16 GB but on Crucial you can just buy 32 GB for $334. If money is REALLY tight 16 GB is enough, but that's a better way to get 32 GB than giving Apple $600.)

    And I always max out iMac video cards not so much for what I'm currently doing but for the future. They're always the first thing to kick you out of eligibility for future software and OS upgrades. Given that the iMac is all sealed up that small upgrade is the best thing you can do to make your iMac last 7 years instead of 5.
  10. poematik13, Aug 20, 2014
    Last edited: Aug 20, 2014

    poematik13 macrumors 6502a

    Jun 5, 2014
    Get an i7 and the best graphics card (the 780m), its basically required for editing. The i7 has hyperthreading (making 4 cores act like 8) and it greatly decreases render and transcode times. The nvidia 780m is a class-leading card (for now) and FCP X will make good use of it especially during renders and exports. The 4GB of vram that it has will make your machine relevant for a while. Dont skimp on your CPU and GPU.

    Get your ram from amazon or OWC, Apple overcharges you for it.

    The best iMac for what you wanna do is the 27" w/ 3.5 i7, 780m 4GB card, and 512GB or 1TB of flash memory.

    basically just get a maxed out iMac with the minimum 8GB ram and upgrade it to 32 in the future. If you cant afford it, BH has good prices and is tax free and Apple has education discounts
  11. OXX thread starter macrumors newbie

    Mar 4, 2014
    I'm pretty well sold on the i7, thanks. I think I am looking at 27", i7, 16gb RAM, 4GB graphics, 1TB HDD. I'll be adding a Gtech Thunderbolt drive for media.
  12. ChrisA macrumors G4

    Jan 5, 2006
    Redondo Beach, California
    Just like a beginner photographer who thinks learning photography is learning to move the dials on his SLR you are thinking that learning to edit is just learning how to make the software work. Likewise oil painting involves making paint stick to the canvas.

    Yes you need to learn the mechanical part of this. But you can learn in a few hours by watching the videos at But that's like learning a word processor when the goal is to write a novel.

    What you need to study is "film making". All those old books about using real film still apply. In fact you really can't even shoot video without knowing how to cut. The reason is that you need to give the editor the material he needs and how would you know what that would be? There are a few rules about continuity of motion, cut aways to b-roll and establishing shots and so on.

    Why do cuts "work"? Why aren't viewers confused when the camera location jumps 20 feet instantly? Well they would be confused if the editor did it wrong. All this has noting to do with learning FCPX.

    The beast source if information is books on film making. Short youtube videos don't cover it.
  13. OXX thread starter macrumors newbie

    Mar 4, 2014
    I appreciate the advice. I'm excited about the storytelling side definitely, and I feel pretty confident about the variety of footage and continuity of story I've been able to catch thus far. I know with this being my first film it is all a learning process.
  14. sjschall macrumors newbie

    Dec 4, 2013
    +1 for not transcoding. Final cut handles it perfectly well for me and saves a huge load of time, work, and space. I used to transcode everything before editing in FCP 7 (because I had to, and I hated it) and I have never looked back.

    My few suggestions would be to name and organize your clips neatly before importing. FCP will use your organization and naming when it ingests the clips.

    +1 for watching a tutorial or two on how to set up your Library, Event, and Project which is a bit confusing at first.

    Have fun - X was a weird jump coming from 7 but I am slowly and surely enjoying it now.
  15. Unami macrumors 6502a

    Jul 27, 2010
    don't worry about transcoding now - just import your untranscoded files in fcpx and let it create "optimized media" (transcode to prores 422) in the background.

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