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In Final Cut -- in a lot of different video applications, for that matter -- you may have wondered about Import/Export functions based on XML.  In fact, Apple made a big deal about Final Cut's XML Interchange Format when it first released, and for good reason.

As studios and production houses and newsrooms shift to a digital workflow, more and more pieces of the production process have to "talk about" the same footage.  At one broadcast network where we recently conducted training, the entire workflow -- from ingest to scriptwriting, roughing, package editing, promos, and output -- relied on a central media repository. 

Needless to say, that's a whole lot of pieces of software that need to talk to each other -- and making a separate copy of the source media for every step in the process is inefficient (imagine the extra disk space to hold 6 different copies of the same full HD footage for a 24/7 broadcast), not to mention confusing.
This is where the XML Interchange Format comes in handy.  XML sounds a lot like HTML, and there's a reason for that: while HTML tries to provide a common set of code "tools" to describe everything about a webpage, XML lets programmers describe everything about any structured set of information in a predictable, machine-readable way. 

For example, say that I'm trying to talk to a computer program about a sequence of video clips.  The program and I can agree that a sequence of video clips has a specific structure: each Sequence has a Title, and contains zero or more Clips -- each of which has a source, an In point, and an Out point -- and so forth.  Once we've agreed on how a Sequence is built, XML lets us describe a given Sequence in a predictable way.

Just for giggles, open up one of your FCP projects -- it doesn't matter which -- and export a sequence to XML (File -> Export -> XML).  Open up TextEdit, and drag your exported XML file onto the TextEdit icon in the Dock in order to open it.

As you can see, it's just plain text -- and even though there are a lot of funny looking <tags> and <?xml>'s and things, you can probably figure out basically what's going on just by looking at it.  And that's just the point: if YOU can figure out that this is an organized, text representation of your timeline, then so can other pieces of software.

This is a much bigger deal than it at first appears, but unfortunately, the value of the XML interchange format appeals much more to programmer types than most video editors.  But if you're feeling hackerish, Apple's feature description webpage offers a number of ideas for applying the XML features of FCP -- exporting timing for subtitles sounds to me like a promising application to start with. 

The main take-home message today may be a bit disappointing, but essentially, the most important thing to know about FCP's XML interchange format is that it can let you communicate everything about your work in Final Cut to almost any other application (or script).  If you're feeling a bottleneck in a specific step of your Post process, it's very possible that you or your programmer buddies (or your consultant buddies at GeniusDV) could automate part of it in an easy, reliable way -- thanks to FCP's XML.


As always, if you have any suggestions for ways I could clarify this article, please feel free to drop me a line.  Have a pleasant weekend!

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Upload to a FTP site using Apple Compressor was the previous entry in this blog.

5.1 Audio Outputting in Final Cut Pro is the next entry in this blog.

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