So how difficult is it to try and get full collaborative workflow in FCPX? A bit of experimentation later, and we are a lot closer, we have updating Events & Projects.
The normal way to share Events and Projects between Final Cut Pro X edit stations has been by a building a transfer Library, or by exporting/dragging XML.
That's all very well, but it is dependent on the 'owner' of the Library having to trigger the transfer off by doing one of the above procedures .
Mike Matzdorff had a brilliant idea duplicating the FCPX Library in the background onto shared storage. That way a 'snapshot' of a Library could be opened and the relevant information transferred to a working Library via copy & paste.
Avid liked the idea so much, they even made a tutorial video using this method to promote their new Nexis storage. They even borrowed Mike's tool of choice, Sync Folders Pro.
Reports on this method have been mixed, with errors being thrown up when using analysis files and similar. It also seemed to be slightly clumsy having to pick your way through another Library to extract the information.
Then I remembered that ChronoSync has the ability to 'look inside' packages in OSX. Could this $49 app look inside an FCPX Library bundle? Could this application copy an Event from one FCPX Library on one machine 'into' another FCPX Library bundle on another machine in a different location?
There was only one way to find out:
Before we go any further, what I'm about to describe is not recommended on a critical working project. It might break your Libraries and you might lose data.
The first step was to create a test Library and import clips from a shared storage server. Both machines were connected via GigE to a QNAP server.
(Right click for larger images)
I populated it with two Events with externally stored footage in each and then put the Library on to the second machine by sending over a zipped up copy.
The copied Library opened showing the media already linked which was a good start. I kept both Libraries on their respective desktops to help with permissions.
Now to start digging into the original Library with ChronoSync. To do this you have to have the 'Allow package selection' box ticked, you then have access to the the contents which include folders for the Events. I chose Event 2 to copy.
Then set the destination. Do the same but find the FCPX Library bundle on the other machine. By using Bonjour in the sidebar it is easy to navigate to the remote machine's desktop.
Then hit the synchronise button!
Failure. It didn't like it.
After a few minutes of checking and checking again, I stumbled on the fact that you could copy an Event over if FCPX wasn't running on the remote machine. Although this might seem a bit clumsy, it did prove you could directly copy Events between Libraries.
Better still, everything was intact and up to date, including added footage, marked ranges, favourites and of course the amended Project timeline.
Was the failed copy an FCPX issue or a permissions problem?
An easy test was to try the copying the other way. Instead of using the Event from my machine, I used ChronoSync to copy the Event from the remote machine.
This time the big sync arrow was pointing the other way. Click on synchronise and a couple of seconds later I heard the ping saying the copy was a success!
However, looking at my local copy of FCPX, nothing had changed.
Keeping FCPX open and closing and then reopening the Library forced an update, I could now see the added media and changed edit timeline from the other machine.
It is possible to automatically copy Events & Projects between FCPX users without having to manually merge Events, drag XML or load files into a third party tool.
Better still, ChronoSync has a scheduler, I set the operation to happen every minute and it has been running for three hours without a problem.
Every change I make on the remote machine gets updated on the main machine by closing and reopening the 'receiving' Library.
This was an experiment, but it highlights that Apple are very close to enabling a collaborative workflow between Final Cut Pro X users. I'm no programmer, but having proved the concept can work with the existing version of FCPX, surely an 'Event publish and subscribe' feature wouldn't be too hard to engineer for an update.
Avid has true collaborative workflow with bin locking, as we all know that's expensive and the company has rocky financials. Premeire's Media Browser browsing of projects is clumsy and won't update once imported. Their Team Projects is in beta and (no surprise) requires more monthly fees. DaVinci Resolve's project sharing requires a server to move databases, but it does look promising.
Apple have a huge opportunity here to jump ahead of the competition. With no configuration and no remote databases to set up and maintain, this could become the killer feature for Final Cut Pro X.
Imagine an assistant editor loading up an event with new logged footage. Or maybe (in my case) watching a growing file having marked ranges added by a logger. Or, as ChronoSync supports remote copying over the internet, waking up to find your FCPX Library populated with all the clips now sorted, rejected and favourited.
Very interesting times, over to you Apple.
Peter Wiggins is a broadcast freelance editor based in the UK although his work takes him around the world. An early adopter of FCP setting up pioneering broadcasts workflows, his weapon of choice is now Final Cut Pro X.