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Using Shared Media with Final Cut Pro X

Untitled Image.pngFinal Cut Pro X organizes your media differently from previous versions of the software.  Instead of storing references to media files from arbitrary locations on your disk, your FCPX projects refer to a disk-level Events Library.  This lets FCPX keep really impressive metadata and automate tedious organizational tasks, but it can complicate your workflow if you're dealing with many unrelated video projects or working with other editors.

To keep unrelated video projects organized, consider using sparse disk images.  Disk images are single, portable files that behave like external hard drives as far as your system is concerned.  By keeping related projects and events on the same disk image, you can easily archive your work and carry it from workstation to workstation.  You can even store the disk image on your network: as soon as you double-click the disk image file, your Mac behaves as if it's a local disk, circumventing FCPX's prohibition on sharing files across a network.  

There's one big caveat: like a real external hard drive, a normal disk image can only be "connected" to one computer at a time.  That makes these disk images unsuitable for truly sharing media, like station IDs or shared stock video, between multiple edit stations at the same time. 

If you're using an XSAN, the latest FCPX update will solve this problem for you, allowing you to use shared media from your XSAN volume.  But if you're like most of our readers, the XSAN isn't an option—luckily, there's an easy workaround.  Details after the jump...

Only one user at a time may mount a normal, read/write disk image, but any number of workstations can mount the same read-only disk image, even over the network.  It's not a particularly robust shared solution, but it's enough to provide shared access to the types of video that are used frequently but changed infrequently—like brand elements, stock libraries, and archive footage.

It's easy to create a read-only disk image, but only from files/folders that already exist.  We recommend starting with a clean sparse disk image, using Final Cut Pro X to create the master Event Library, then using Disk Utility to create a read-only copy of that master disk image.

Create the master library, convert to read-only
  1. Open Disk Utility (Applications > Utilities > Disk Utility).
  2. Create a new sparse disk image (File > New > Blank Disk Image), and mount the disk image so that FCPX can see it.  For detailed instructions, check out Steve Martin's walkthrough.
  3. Use FCPX to import all of the media that you want in your master shared Event Library.  You can even use all of FCPX's keywording and organization tools.
  4. Once the library is set up, go back into Disk Utility.  Select File > New > Disk Image From Folder.
  5. In the Select Folder to Image dialog box, click in the sidebar to select the entire master Disk Image.selectfoldersmall.png
  6. In the New Image from Folder dialog box, change the Image Format to read-only, and click Save to create the read-only, shareable copy of the master Event Library disk image.newimagefromfolder.png
The image will save with a .dmg extension.  You can place this .dmg anywhere your Macs can see files—it would probably be most useful on a (speedy) network file share.  Simply double-click on the .dmg file from any workstation to "mount" the virtual drive for use with Final Cut X.

Use it in FCPX
Once the disk image is mounted, FCPX will automatically recognize its contents, and you can drag the source video into an FCP project on one of your working disks.

Mount it automatically on login
So you've got your read-only media repository set up on your shared storage—but you still have to locate and double-click the .dmg file in order to make it visible to Final Cut Pro.  Rather have it always available?  Just go to System Preferences, select the Account pane, and click the Login Items tab for your username.  Click the plus sign, and locate the .dmg file.  Now, the disk image will automatically mount every time you log in.


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Updating Final Cut Pro X was the previous entry in this blog.

Skimming in Final Cut Pro X is the next entry in this blog.

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