Given two weeks, everybody can edit a piece on FCPX. That's a completely different matter when you've only got a couple of hours before you need to deliver or broadcast your edit. Ten great FCPX tips from Peter Wiggins to help everyone.
Final Cut Pro X is quick, but that creates its own problems. Producers realise that more can be done in the time available and they'll keep you working closer to a delivery or TX time. Gone are the 15 minute periods where you could put your feet up and watch the blue render line going across the screen. Simply put, FCPX will edit as fast as you can edit.
Over the last 18 months, I've used Final Cut Pro X in many high profile broadcast environments. So I thought I'd share my tips on making sure your edit reaches air under pressure. Not everybody can work under stress and I hope these tips might make an editors life easier.
10 Turn background rendering on
9 ‘The banker’ make an early safety export
An old trick from the tape days of editing. By exporting an early version (or 'banker') of your piece with a rough grade across all shots, you'll have a transmittable version in the slot should your edit suite die on you half an hour before air. It also gives the studio something to rehearse with so that the presenters can get the feel of the piece and write a sensible line out of it.
8) Snapshot before any radical surgery
If you are going to do any radical surgery such as cutting a piece down or even adding a lot of new material, make sure you do a Snapshot. This moment in time will always be there for you when the producer says “You know what? I prefer the version we had earlier.” Snapshots also freeze compound clips.
7) Check your timeline, output settings and destination of export early.
Ten minutes before air isn’t the time to find out you’ve been editing in a progressive timeline for interlaced broadcast. Try a small export early as possible using your method of hitting air. Just because an export worked yesterday, it doesn’t mean that it will work today. Engineers love to change things without telling anybody.
6) If you need to play live to air or to an EVS, check everybody is happy with your output
Playing to air from your timeline is the last resort, but one that has dug me out of a few very near misses. Make sure your viewing preference is set to Better Quality as this will be the signal that goes to your broadcast output. It looks pretty ugly when ‘Better Performance’ hits air and you can’t change it on the fly without stopping the timeline. Also get a vision and audio OK from the operator who will record or put your output to air. You have got the reference plugged in haven’t you?
5) Turn off waveforms wherever you can if you are importing new media
Drawing of waveforms with large files slows down FCPX, so turn these off where you can. On the timeline is fine, but make sure they are off in the browser and inspector. If you trigger the waveform generation, quit FCPX and restart the application.
4) Tweak as you go
If you can, tweak the edit, audio and colour grade as you build. The Producer will have to look at notes or write a script, so use this time to get to the point on the timeline where you know everything up until then is finished. If you are waiting for material to be fed to you or you can’t make a decision on something until the end, put a ‘to do’ marker where you need to and remove it when you’ve fixed that section. Don’t go overboard, use these sparingly as large numbers of them can confuse things.
3) Can you export in chunks or parts?
Don’t leave exporting all the parts of the show until 15 minutes before air. Get rid of as much finished work as early as you can. The first rule of broadcast is ‘Always edit first what is on air first.’ It might seem obvious, but getting half an hour of a show fed gives you an extra half hour of edit time. If you don’t have the luxury of commercial breaks or studio chat to break your export up, see if you can export in chunks and then have an op stitch them together in a playlist for broadcast.
2) Spend one minute before export slowly skimming through the timeline
Probably the most important minute of the day. Have you covered that join in the interview with a cutaway? Check you haven’t missed anything, check your file name and export range should you have one set. One trick I like to do is to just play through the joins in a piece on the basis that everything else should be ok.
1) Know what you can do in the time available
The key to editing to a deadline. Don’t be afraid to tell the producer you think they are being over-ambitious. The best ever montage isn’t the best ever montage if it misses air. You can always add the bells and whistles if you have time. Turning half of them off on a timeline five minutes before air is a lot harder!
So ten tips that I hope will be of use. As Final Cut Pro X gets accepted more into broadcast workflows, hopefully the above might get a few editors out of some sticky situations and keep the shouting and heart rate down as well.
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. You can find him on Twiiter as @peterwiggins or as he runs the majority of this site, you can contact him here.