… for Apple Final Cut Pro X

Tip #191: What’s In An FCP X Library Backup?

Larry Jordan – https://LarryJordan.com

Backups, like saving, are automatic.

FCP X automatic library backups, stored by project.

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We all know that Final Cut Pro X automatically saves anything we do in the app the instant we do it. In fact, I’ve had beta builds of FCP X crash a fraction of a second after I made an edit, yet, when I restarted the app, everything I had done was saved.

Which is very cool.

But did you know that FCP X also saves a backup copy of your Library, just in case…?

NOTE: You can see all backups, grouped by project name, in [User Directory] > Movies > Final Cut Backups. The backup location can be changed using File > Library Properties.

To access a backup copy, for example, to go back in time to an earlier edit, open Final Cut, then choose File > Open Library > From Backup. Next, select the date and time of the version you want to open from the menu.

NOTE: Opening a backup will not affect the currently open Library. Instead, FCP X makes a copy of the backup, stores it in the Movies folder and attempts to link it with the original media.

EXTRA CREDIT

As you can see from the file sizes in this screen shot, you need to know that these backups are ONLY of the library database. Any media stored in the library is not backed up. For this reason, while Library backups will preserve your edits, you are still responsible for backing up all your media separately; even media stored in a Library.


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… for Apple Final Cut Pro X

Tip #193: When Can Audio Levels Exceed 0 dB?

Larry Jordan – https://LarryJordan.com

Audio levels must NEVER exceed 0 dB, except…

Increasing clip audio levels to +12 dB in FCP X.

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When can audio levels exceed 0 dB? Smile… this is a trick question. Why? Because there are two types of audio levels: Relative and Absolute.

When we adjust the levels of a clip, we are adjusting the audio levels of the clip relative to the level at which it was recorded. Most dialog is recorded at lower levels to prevent distorting the audio during the original performance. Music, which is highly processed, is mastered within a few tenths of a dB of 0. So, we generally boost levels for dialog and reduce levels for music.

Unlike clips, the levels displayed by the audio meters are the absolute audio level of your project.

So, the answer to this question is that when we adjust audio levels on a clip, we often go far above 0 dB. However, during export, audio levels displayed on the audio meters must never exceed 0 dB, or the audio on the master file will distort.


… for Adobe Premiere Pro CC

Tip #143: What Do These Audio Track Header Icons Do?

Larry Jordan – https://LarryJordan.com

Track Headers provide more control when editing a sequence

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(See Tip #134 for an explanation of the video track headers.)

Looking at the audio track headers (located on the extreme left side of the timeline), here’s what each of these icons mean:

  • Blue A1 (far left). This icon indicates the “active track.” When you edit a clip into the timeline using a keyboard shortcut, the audio goes into the track at the position of the playhead with the blue highlight. (Adobe calls this “Source Patching.”)
  • Lock. This locks a track so you can’t make changes. However, be careful with this because if you lock the audio, but don’t lock the video (or vice-versa) you can easily move the unlocked track out of sync.
  • Blue V1 (middle). When you copy a clip, the clip will paste into the LOWEST NUMBERED track with a blue highlight. Drag the blue to change track location, click it to turn it on or off. (Adobe calls this “Track Targeting.”)
  • Sync lock. Normally, when doing an insert edit, you want everything to shift down with the inserted media. This is the default setting. However, turning sync locks off means that when you insert a clip, any clips on tracks where sync lock is turned off will not move. This can be a powerful feature when you want to insert a video clip, but not break the audio tracks.
  • Mute. When clicked it makes all audio clips on this track inaudible.
  • Solo. When clicked, it makes all audio clips on all non-soloed tracks inaudible.
  • Microphone (far right). This instantly enables a track for voice over recording and begins recording according to the current voice over settings. (See Tip #136).

BONUS

Watch what happens when you click one of these controls while pressing Shift, Option or Cmd. These modifier keys allow you to control groups of these switches.


… for Adobe Premiere Pro CC

Tip #134: What Do These Video Track Header Icons Do?

Larry Jordan – https://LarryJordan.com

Track Headers provide control when editing a sequence.

Tip Screen Shot

Topic $TipTopic

(See Tip 143 for an explanation of the audio track headers.)

Looking at the video track headers (located on the extreme left side of the timeline), here’s what each of these icons mean:

  • Blue V1 (far left). This icon indicates the “active track.” When you edit a clip into the timeline using a keyboard shortcut, the video goes into the track at the position of the playhead with the blue highlight. (Adobe calls this “Source Patching.”)
  • Lock. This locks a track so you can’t make changes. However, be careful with this because if you lock the video, but don’t lock the audio (or vice-versa) you can easily move the unlocked track out of sync.
  • Blue V1 (middle). When you copy a clip, the clip will paste into the LOWEST NUMBERED track with a blue highlight. Drag the blue to change track location, click it to turn it on or off. (Adobe calls this “Track Targeting.”)
  • Sync lock. Normally, when doing an insert edit, you want everything to shift down with the inserted media. This is the default setting. However, turning sync locks off means that when you insert a clip, any clips on tracks where sync lock is turned off will not move. This can be a powerful feature when you want to insert a video clip, but not break the audio tracks.
  • Eye (far right). This make the entire contents of a track visible or invisible. I generally use this when I’m working with a multi-layer composite and I want to see what’s underneath a clip.

BONUS

Watch what happens when you click one of these controls while pressing Shift, Option or Cmd. These modifier keys allow you to control groups of these switches.


… for Codecs & Media

Tip #088: Where Should You Store Media

Larry Jordan – https://LarryJordan.com

Internal or external storage. Which is best?

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When it comes to storage and media, there are two essential questions: How much capacity and how much speed do you need?

Most current computers – and all Macs – use high-speed SSDs for their internal boot drives. These provide blazing speed but very limited storage.

So, as you are thinking about where to store media, consider this:

  • If you have a small project, using the internal SSD is fine.
  • If you have a large project, or need to move it between computers or editors, external storage is better.
  • For best results, store cache files (and Libraries in FCP X) on the internal boot drive or your fastest external storage.
  • SSDs are about four times faster than spinning media (traditional hard disks), but spinning media holds more and is much cheaper.
  • A single spinning hard disk is fine for HD, but not fast enough for 4K or HDR
  • RAIDs are preferred for massive projects, like one-hour shows or features, large frame sizes, HDR, or faster frame rates. They hold more and transfer data faster than a single drive.
  • Don’t store media on any gear connected via USB 1, 2, or 3 Gen 1. It won’t be fast enough. Howver, you can use these devices for backups and longer-term storage.
  • Servers are fine for storing and accessing media, but they won’t be as fast as locally-attached storage.
  • In general, if you are getting dropped frame errors, it means your storage is too slow to support the media you are editing. Invest in faster storage.

… for Codecs & Media

Tip #107: Speed Test: Apple Compressor vs. Adobe Media Encoder

Larry Jordan – https://LarryJordan.com

You need to get work done. Which is faster?

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In a recent series of tests between Apple Compressor (v.4.4.5) and Adobe Media Encoder 2019 (AME), I discovered that, in almost all cases, Adobe Media Encoder is faster at compressing a file into either H.264 or HEVC. (Both these formats are commonly used for social media.)

In fact, the speed differences averaged 38% faster for AME compressing files into H.264; as you can see in this chart.

The results were even more dramatic when compressing different codecs into HEVC. Compressor was 45% faster, on average, when compressing into 8-bit HEVC, but AME was 75% faster when compressing into 10-bit HEVC. In fact, Compressor was unable to successfully compress a ProRes 4444 file into 10-bit HEVC; consistently failing during multiple tests.

If speed is your goal, AME is generally the better choice.


… for Codecs & Media

Tip #086: How to Create Custom Poster Frames

Larry Jordan – https://LarryJordan.com

Poster frames illustrate the contents of a movie clip in the Finder

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Ian Brown suggested this tip.

There’s a very fast way to create a poster frame for a QuickTime movie. (Poster frames appear in the Finder, and other locations, to illustrate the contents of a clip.)

  • Open the video in QuickTime Player
  • Move the playhead to the frame you want to use as a poster frame
  • Choose Edit > Copy (shortcut: Cmd + C)
  • Close the video
  • Select the file icon in the Finder
  • Choose File > Get Info (shortcut: Cmd + I)
  • Select the small icon in the top left corner
  • Choose Edit > Paste (shortcut: Cmd + V)

Done.

EXTRA CREDIT

Actually, anything you paste into that top left box will become the poster frame. It doesn’t need to be a still from your video – though it can’t be a video itself.


… for Codecs & Media

Tip #100: Optimize Media for YouTube

Larry Jordan – https://LarryJordan.com

Uploading a video isn’t enough.

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I was reading a blog recently by Richard Tiland about posting videos to YouTube. In it, he wrote: “Uploading your video to YouTube isn’t enough. You need to include metadata so that the site understands what your video is all about.”

His points included:

  • Optimize the title with keywords. Keep it short, but searchable.
  • Add a detailed and accurate description. Length is less important here.
  • Include a transcript to help viewers take in your content without turning up the sound.
  • Organize content using playlists. This helps both viewers and YouTube’s search algorithms.
  • Create a cohesive look to improve branding. Make your videos look like they are coming from the same creative source.
  • Finally, don’t forget the Call to Action. This is the explicit behavior you want the audience to take after watching your video.

Metadata always seems intimidating somehow. But, really, all we are doing is enabling viewers to find our media faster and easier. And that is always a good thing.


… for Codecs & Media

Tip #104: Why Is a Smooth Audio Fade Called +3 dB?

Larry Jordan – https://LarryJordan.com

Audio is a Strange Beast

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Unlike video, audio levels are logarithmic. For example, whenever the audio level increases (or decreases) by around 10 dB, the perceived volume is doubled (or cut in half). These log values also have an impact in cross-fading between clips.

A +3 dB transition adds a 3 dB increase in volume to both clips in the middle of a cross-fade. If the software did not, the audio would sound like it is getting fainter in the middle of a transition, then louder at the end.

When fading to or from black, a straight-line (linear) transition is best. When cross-fading between two clips, both of which have audio, a +3 dB transition is best.

EXTRA CREDIT

Some software allows you to change the shape of the curve manually. These rules still apply, but manual adjustments allow much greater control over how the transition sounds.

The general rule is: Whatever sounds the best to you IS the best.


… for Codecs & Media

Tip #067: Which Files Should Be Copied From a Camera Card?

Larry Jordan – https://LarryJordan.com

“Pick-and-Choose” is the wrong option for best results.

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All of them.

Select the entire contents of the card, even the folders and files that you don’t recognize, and copy the entire contents of the camera card into its own folder on your hard disk.

One folder per camera card. Always.

Why? Because, depending upon the codec, different parts of your media are stored in different folders on the card; especially metadata. Copying everything from the card into its own folder on your local storage means that whichever NLE you use for editing is able to assemble all the pieces and assemble all your media and related metadata without any problems.

BONUS

Copying each card into its own folder allows you to create meaningful folder names for tracking and importing media.