NBC FCPX George to the rescue

When Mike Fernandes from NBC got in touch to tell us that Emmy winning NBC show George to the Rescue gets cut on FCPX, we had to know more. Mike very kindly lets us in on his workflow and equipment setup for the show. Even we were picking up tips!

A great user story about FCPX, in fact a great user story that includes the show winning an Emmy! We have to thank Mike for spending the time to detail his workflow for us.

We will let him take up the story...

I love Final Cut Pro X. Let's just get that right at the top. I think it redefines editing and has features that make me wonder "How was I able to get things done before?"

When Final Cut Pro X came out I devoted some time to playing with it. I had a bunch of footage laying around and really wanted to get my hands dirty in magnetic timelines. So I edited and tested and tried to cut every which way to start to define a workflow and I fell more and more in love as I went.

(Click on images to see bigger versions)

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I made the decision to try my hand at long form in Final Cut Pro X with my show on NBC - George To The Rescue. A reality home improvement show where the host George Oliphant surprises families and communities in need of home repair.

We shoot a healthy mix of MULTI-CAM DVCPRO HD - HDV - h264 DSLR & GoPro as well as obtaining clips from families' home movies and or news footage of a natural disaster. Which on average is 1500-2000 clips totalling between 20-25 hours of footage per episode. Not the most amount of footage I've ever had to deal with, but not a lightweight project.

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INGEST

So media management becomes critical. Especially as deadlines get closer and you have a producer sitting behind you waiting for a specific shot.

Shooters ingest the footage to our 42TB XSAN (Promise Technology) using a very specific naming convention. I'm a big fan of Finder level organization for raw footage. It is the first line of defense that you have in media managing. As we are sharing this footage over XSAN, we don't enable "copy files to events" to prevent making duplicates.

Files are organized by Episode -> then by day. ( MISIUR FAMILY ) -> ( Day 001, Day 002, etc. )

FOLDER-STRUCTURE

Then shooters go through each shot and rename them to what the contents of that shot are. So a file name while large, tells you exactly what you're looking at before you even open it.

GTTR-MISIUR-D5-DEMO-READ-001.mov
GTTR-MISIUR-D5-DEMO-BROLL-001.mov

So you know what show a clip is for, what day it was shot, what is the content of that shot, and should I be listening to it ( READ ) or is it just a shot for coverage ( BROLL )

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Way better than the camera default naming convention of letters and numbers and when I have that producer behind me, I'm not wasting my or their time trying to hunt down things.

PREPARING FINAL CUT PRO X

In preferences I maintain the following settings.

FOLDERS-AS-KEYWORDSImport Folders as Keywords - Remember it's already sorted on a Finder level so those shots are automatically grouped by day in Final Cut Pro X. With the naming convention I could get started editing right away with out key-wording a single thing and already be ahead. (Though I still do and we'll get to that.)

Create Optimized Media - There are so many codecs out there and new ones pop up all the time. They all have their own rules and settings and aspect ratios its really easy to get bogged down with it all. Final Cut Pro X gets rid of all of that with one little check box. If you can cut it it stays if you can't it transcodes. Amazing!

Create Proxy Media - I didn't start using this until recently but now that I have I don't want to go back. Being able to fit an entire show in proxy on the internal hard drive of a laptop, edit, then with the push of a button have everything link back to the high quality material allows me to edit on my time and not be chained to a desk by a fibre cable. And we all could use a little more sun, am I right?

EVENTS

I create a new event on my LOCAL hard drive. With "Copy Media to Events" not enabled this will create links to the files on the SAN. I do this mainly for performance - I find Final Cut Pro X to be more responsive not writing directly to the SAN. I'm sure this has something to do with our current setup as I've since spoken to other editors who edit solely on the SAN and when we upgrade our hardware this year, I'll be sure to address this.


SORTED-BY-BLOCKSI then go through and sort out clips by subject as Keywords and Folders

DEMO ( Folder )
*DEMO BROLL ( Keyword )
*DEMO READ ( Keyword )

FLOORING ( Folder )
*FLOORING BROLL ( Keyword )
*FLOORING READ ( Keyword )

And so on until I've covered everything in the production (I know smart keywords can help save some time but every once and a while you get a stray file and its easier to move it around should you run into one.) 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I then do a favorites pass. Click on a clip and scrub though it marking favorites as I go. This basically takes over as a rough cut of so once I hit the timeline I mean business.

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Key-wording and favorites are lifesavers for me. It lets me work faster with its search tools, as well as staying organized. In the older bin layout towards the end of a project, if you were rushing, more and more things just sat on top of your browser. Events keep me honest start to finish and that's great.

Then it's business as usual, tell a good story. That's what Final Cut Pro X really lets me do. While I know all those steps read like a lot, the reality is it really isn't. Most of it is automated and a checkbox here and there. By the time I get the footage, I'm seconds away from getting knee deep into the story and that's where I'm spending most of my time using Final Cut Pro X. That just makes me happy and lets me make a better product.

I do all my mastering (Audio and Color) inside Final Cut Pro X. The color tools are great and having audio that's in samples not frames is sweet. The visual feedback of the program really makes it feel more responsive. When I touch something, I see something change.

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The Magnetic Timeline lets me feel out the edits in a more organic way. I'm not thinking 'Okay, I want to move this, so lets lasso this bit then control click this bit then.....' I click, I drag, I move on. Simple. To anyone that argues simple over anything else, let's just remember we used to do this with Razor blades and tape. Simple wins.

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George To The Rescue uses no other software to create and deliver the show. I haven't felt the need to go outside of the program and I've been really happy with the results. So have some other people, George to the Rescue recently took home an Emmy Award for SOCIETAL CONCERNS: PROGRAM/SPECIAL in New York.

FCPX emmy

I've edited episodes on every flavor of Mac.

In the office - Mac Pro
2x 2.93 GHz 6-Core Intel Xeon
64GB Ram
512GB SSD (system drive)
3TB Raid 0 (media drive)
Dual 4GB Fibre Channel
AJA Kona to Sony Broadcast Monitor

At Home - MacBook Pro
2.2 Ghz i7
16GB Ram
240GB OWC SSD with additional 750GB in the Optical slot
Thunderbolt To OWC Mercury PCI Box with CalDigit SATA card To G-Technology Externals
Blackmagic Intensity Extreme (Thunderbolt) to Samsung Consumer Television

And a Mac Mini
2.6 GHz i7
16GB Ram
250GB SSD
Thunderbolt To OWC Mercury PCI Box with CalDigit SATA card To G-Technology Externals
Blackmagic Intensity Extreme (Thunderbolt) to Samsung Consumer Television

It's a wide range of machines, but I've edited, mastered and delivered network tv shows off each system. And while I'd love to take all the credit, that is a testament to the power that is in Final Cut Pro X. It really does let you work as quick as you can think. Once you get to that point, you will never want to edit on anything else.

 

Many thanks to Mike for the story, we must also congratulate him and the team for winning an Emmy for George to the Rescue. 

Mike has also volunteered to answer any questions you may have, so fire away below!