Here at FCP.co, we are all too familiar with the advantages of a Final Cut Pro X workflow. But, as FCP X becomes more widely used throughout the production industry, we thought we’d dedicate a little space to helping those familiar with other NLEs get to grips with our favourite editing platform. We asked Chris Roberts (who’s both an Apple Certified Trainer and Adobe Certified Instructor) to help Premiere Pro editors draw parallels with FCP X.
Over the last few years I’ve spent a lot of time helping “switchers” get to grips with changes and updates to video editing software - whether it’s been Avid or FCP 7 editors moving to Premiere Pro or Final Cut Pro X.
In many cases the people switching often have specific questions about workflows - i.e. they have a specific way of working that they’d like to replicate on the new system.
Part of my job over the last few years has been to help demystify the different software to either find those common workflows or help people develop new ones, especially if a client is willing to pay you to edit, but are specifying a particular piece of software.
Premiere Pro Projects
Premiere Pro works with project files, similar to those of FCP 7. These project files tell Premiere how it should operate, where the media is located and how it should construct that media into the edit.
When you first create a project, you’re asked how that project should behave. The Scratch Disks specify where media, render files, and autosaves are stored, whereas the Ingest Settings instruct Premiere what to do with newly imported media.
Up until fairly recently Premiere wouldn’t move or copy imported media, so you’d have to manually manage your source media files before import. Nevertheless, in Premiere Pro project files and source media files tend to live and be managed separately.
Final Cut Pro X Libraries
In Final Cut Pro X we deal with Libraries and Events. The library is a package containing lots of information used by FCP X. Ultimately, the library still keeps track of the media and how the media is being used via a database file that’s constantly updated as you edit.
Your library has settings for how its media and other elements should managed. You can see these settings in the Inspector:
By default, these settings keep everything in the library bundle, but you can modify them to be kept anywhere on your system.
Furthermore, checking your import preferences will tell you how FCP will be dealing with newly imported media. If you don’t want FCP managing your media for you (by either copying it into your library or to the specified media location), choose the option to “Leave files in place” - that way FCP will handle media in the traditional way Premiere has, by referencing the original file directly.
These import options are applied whether you use the import window or simply drag and drop the file(s) from the Finder into your Event.
If you decide you need to change your storage locations for your library you can change the location in the Inspector then choose the consolidate option to bring all your media together.
An important point regarding consolidation is that FCP X itself will never delete, move or otherwise alter a file outside the library (what FCP refers to as external media). This is important if you are sharing media on a SAN with other editors!
One final point about working with libraries is that you can have as many libraries open as you want, editing content freely between them. In Premiere you can still only have one project open at a time, though there are workarounds of course.
Each library contains at least one event. events contain your imported files. You can work in one large library with many events containing your media; or you can work in many different libraries. You can think of events as “bins” but they’re so much more than that. Events themselves can be further divided using keyword collections and smart collections.
Events are the things that contain your imported files. Each library contains at least one event, the name of which defaults to the date it was created. You can work in one large library with many events containing your media (renaming them appropriately); or you can work in many different libraries.
This approach to organising media using metadata is so much more flexible than the old method of using bins you’ll be familiar with in Premiere and you can organise and find rushes so much easier and using features such as range-based keywords will eliminate the need to create subclips.
Saving and Restoring
As a Premiere Pro editor you’re no doubt used to hitting CMD-S on a regular basis to save your project file. In FCP X, CMD-S does nothing.
This is because FCP X is always updating the library database file with changes you’re making as you’re making them. This means that if/when FCP X crashes you won’t lose any work. Simply reopen the application and it’ll return you to the point at which you were before the crash.
I find this much better that Premiere’s autosave or recovery files and means I can work in confidence. Feel free to remap CMD-S to something more useful; but if not, don’t worry if the muscle memory has you hitting it as it’s not assigned to anything anyway!
This is a double-edged sword though. As all changes are “saved” you can’t simply close a library and not save your changes. Make sure you duplicate your edits before making substantial changes as they can’t easily be reverted if you decide they were better as they were.
If you do need to restore a library to a previous version, you can choose to open any library from its backup. FCP X keeps incremental backups automatically, so choosing File > Open Library > From Backup… allows you to open one of these backups as a separate library.
You don’t have an awful lot of control over these backups compared to Premiere’s Autosave Preferences, but you can set specific backup intervals using a third-party tool Backups for Final Cut Pro. To be honest, it’s been very rare I’ve had to do this, though I have had to use Premiere’s recovery projects and autosave fairly regularly.
Be aware that because FCP is constantly writing to the library bundle, you’re best working with the library locally rather than on a SAN. The media can be kept externally on a SAN, that’s not a problem, just the library itself (which, if you’re using external media and caches, will be small). However, FCP 10.3 recently introduced support for SMB-3 network support.
If you’re working with a Library that is managed (i.e. the media in stored inside the library bundle) it’s doubtful you’ll ever need to reconnect media as you might often have to do in Premiere. Thankfully Premiere’s reconnect feature is much better than it was, but FCP X’s is stunning.
If you find you have offline media in your library, simply select the library and choose File > Relink Files. Simply choose to reconnect the missing files and point FCP to the right drive where the media is located. Using clever voodoo (Spotlight indexing, I think - though I’m probably wrong), FCP X will automagically discover the missing media and relink all appropriate files.
It’s astounding to see it in action, though I have found it can be quite pernickety sometimes….
The list of shortcuts is extensive for FCP X and, unsurprisingly you won’t find much correlation between those for Premiere. JKL, I and O; the usuals generally work. It’s worth investing in a colour-coded keyboard or cover such as those from Editors Keys or my list of handy keyboard shortcuts.
Alternatively you can explore and customise keyboard shortcuts using the Final Cut Pro > Commands > Customise menu which features an on-screen keyboard layout - a feature only just available in Premiere Pro 2017.
Good news if you like customising your shortcuts: you can export them out to import on another system.
Browser Sort Order
You can view your rushes in the browser by filmstrip or list mode. Additional view options are available in the clip appearance menu where you can adjust the clip height, etc.
There are useful options here for grouping clips in various ways, and arranging clips by content created dates, etc. Checking the option for showing waveforms is a must in my opinion, and you can also access the new continuous playback feature here too so you can sit back and watch through your rushes in one go no matter which view you are in.
In list mode you can view the usual metadata fields, with more available by right-clicking the column names, though the full extent of clip metadata is available through the Inspector for the selected clip(s).
Try adjusting the metadata views to Settings, for example. Here you’ll see options for handling alpha channels, field dominance and LOG processing. Alternatively, if you’re a fan of metadata in Premiere Pro, you create your own customised metadata fields and views.
Hover Scrubbing and Skimming
In Premiere I’m a fan of the hover-scrub feature, though one of the joys I find in editing with Final Cut Pro X is skimming.
If I have a second monitor, I will have my browser set on that display so I can see as much of my source media as possible. Then I can review my rushes by simply just running my mouse across the media. I find it’s often more responsive than hover scrub and the ability to adjust the size of the filmstrip means it’s great for honing in on a specific part of the media, similar to zooming the scrubber bar in Premiere’s Source monitor. Most of all though, I’m just glad I don’t have to double-click each clip to properly review it!
To be honest, skimming can take a bit of getting used to - especially when you first start using it, it can be quite disconcerting and more than a little frustrating! Firstly, disable audio skimming (SHIFT-S) - trust me, it’ll save your sanity - and then you can toggle skimming on and off by using the S key. But persevere and learn to use skimming; it’s such a integral part of editing in FCP X.
If you’re really missing your Source and Record monitors from Premiere, you can bring up the Event Viewer (Window > Show in Workspace > Event Viewer) for that traditional 2-up display.
Sequences and Projects
Sequences in Premiere are called projects in FCP X - which can be quite confusing!
Setting up a project is fairly straightforward - especially considering Premiere Pro’s New Sequence dialogue! - and many users won’t need to change much when creating a new project, though you can customise these settings if you need to.
The Attraction of the Magnetic Timeline
Probably the biggest challenge to an experienced editor working in FCP X is to do with the timeline as Final Cut Pro X famously dispensed the traditional track-based timelines we’d grown used to.
It still functions in much the same way as a timeline in Premiere; clips are assembled in the primary storyline; cutaways are added above those clips; music and sound effects are added below. True, it can become a little confusing as each of those clips finds its own place in the timeline hierarchy; though much like skimming, you do get used to it.
There are familiar edit function such as insert and overwrite (though I find I rarely need to overwrite clips), but there are two additional editing functions which you won’t find in Premiere: append and connect (though the edit above command in Premiere is probably the closest you’ll get to connected edits).
Using these editing functions, there’s no need to have a patch bay. Clips are either edited into the primary storyline or are connected to points on the primary storyline. You can choose to edit just the video or audio portions of the clips (ie choosing Edit > Source Media > Video Only, or break them apart later using the Detach Audio command.
The magnetic timeline can cause much consternation too, whereas actually it makes assembling, trimming and re-versioning so much easier as, rather than having to keep an eye on how changes you’re making are affecting other parts of the timeline, the whole timeline flows as connected clips all move together. And, if there is a collision of clips, then things just move out of each others’ way.
Sure, it takes a bit of work to understand how the timeline truly works but, if you’re really not convinced by the power of the magnetic timeline, take a look at Thomas Grover Carter’s presentation from the recent FCPX World event in London.
(Editor) Also if you are still thinking of switching (or indeed switching back) to Final Cut Pro, take a look at the reasons why Viva la Zoom ditched Premiere for FCPX. Well worth a read.
Coming up in Part 2 - Adapting your Premiere Pro editing workflows and techniques for Final Cut Pro X.
Chris Roberts is a freelance video producer, editor and trainer specialising in working with Final Cut Pro X and Premiere Pro CC. Apart from contributing to FCP.co, his greatest claim to fame is that he was at university with Matt Lucas.