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Cut Lines: Roundtripping in Final Cut Studio 3
Posted Jan 30, 2010 Print Version     Page 1of 1

This month I’ll describe the round-trip procedures for moving active project files among the various apps in Final Cut Studio 2009. I’ll start in Final Cut Pro 7 and use the “Send To” command to go out to Soundtrack Pro 3 (STP), Motion 4, and Color 1.5. Then, I’ll explain the return trip to Final Cut Pro (FCP). It’s a pretty tight system. I’ll begin with an FCP project I’m editing. I’ve got my rough cut done and my basic sound clips in place. Let’s say we need to add motion graphics and text— we’ll go to Motion for that. Next, we’ll want to create a stylized look for our video, so we’ll visit Color. And finally, we’ll need to clean up sound and add some audio effects, which will take us to STP.

Moving Into Motion
There are two ways to trip to Motion. The first method we’ll look at is sending a full Sequence. My Sequence in FCP is ready for some motion graphics work, but I need to be aware of some things first. Not everything in FCP translates to all the other apps. Specifically with Motion, things that will not follow your Sequence from FCP are Filters (except for SmoothCam, which will travel to Motion), Transitions, and Generators. Freeze frames that are created from video clips in FCP by pressing Shift+N come into Motion as video clips with the Hold Frame behavior rather than as still photo files. Don’t worry; almost all of the time, these are things you’ll be doing in Motion rather than FCP anyway, which means there would be no reason to redo the same adjustment in Motion.

Finally, audio tracks are brought into Motion but are not embedded. They don’t show up in the Motion Timeline, but you can still hear them and access them in the Audio tab of the Layers window. This also means that when you go back to FCP, the original audio tracks are still there. Also, Markers follow your Sequence from FCP to Motion, making it easier to mark places where specific events take place.

Using this information, you can easily look over your FCP Sequence and figure out what state it will be in once you arrive in Motion. I have done filters and such in FCP simply to temporarily simulate what I want to do in Motion. When my project gets to Motion, I can do that effect with a whole new Motion filter, which will give me more control and better results. The same goes for some Transitions and most Generators.

Now that I’m ready to go trippin’ into Motion, I’ll go to the Browser and right-click the Sequence I want to send. From the pop-up menu, I’ll go to Send To and choose Motion Project (Figure 1, below).

Sending a project from FCP to Motion

This brings up a dialog box with Launch Motion checked by default; leave that. Give the new Motion project file an appropriate name, be sure you’re saving it to an appropriate place, and click Save (Figure 2, below). Your FCP Sequence opens as a Motion project ready to edit.

Saving the new Motion project file (.motn)

If you have content on multiple video tracks, each FCP video track will be in its own Group in Motion. Inside each Group, each individual video clip will be its own Layer (Figure 3, below).

Note that individual clips have their own layer inside each Group in Motion.

For the trip back to FCP, you have three choices. The first is to save your work, then either go to File > Export (Cmd+E), set your required file settings as usual, and save as a QuickTime movie file. The second method is to simply go into FCP and Import your Motion project file into your FCP project (Cmd+I) in the Browser window.

The third way is the shortcut I mentioned at the start of this column: Look at the top center of the Motion Canvas window; you’ll see a tiny Motion project icon with the name of the Motion project next to it. Click on this icon to grab it while holding the mouse button down with one hand; use the other hand to execute the Cmd+Tab application-switching procedure and switch to FCP. Then, drop the Motion project icon into the FCP Browser window. When you release your mouse button, the Motion project will be imported into your FCP project (Figure 4, below).

Your Motion project is imported into your FCP project.

When you want to work on just a single clip or a selection of clips, use this next procedure: In the example we’re using for this tutorial, I’ll begin by highlighting the section of the clip I want to work with inside Motion. Then, I’ll right-click on it and, from the pop-up menu that appears, choose Send To > Motion Project.

Again, when you follow these steps, you’ll want to name the new Motion Project appropriately, be sure that you know where you’re saving it, and keep both the Launch Motion and Embed Motion Content check boxes selected (Figure 5, below). Just as before, once you’re inside the Motion project, each video track is a Group, and each clip on that track is in its own Layer.

Saving your Motion project (.motn)

Going back into FCP is easy. Simply save your work in Motion and switch back to FCP; the clips you selected are now replaced by a single Motion project (Figure 6, below).

Your selected clips are replaced by a single Motion project.

Looking Into Color
When we need to go to Color, there are some things we have to be aware of, just like when going to Motion. Motion project files and FCP Generators will not show up in a manner that allows you to work with them in Color. They will simply be red place holders, and you’ll see only black in Color’s preview window when the playhead is over them. FCP filters (for the most part), sound, and markers do not show up in Color either.

One exception is the FCP’s 3-Way Color Corrector. Its effects will carry over into Color. Multiple video tracks do transfer, and you can right-click each track in Color to turn it on and off, to see it, or to hide it visually.

You can send only full Sequences to Color, not individual clips. To work on individual clips in Color outside the context of an FCP Sequence, you have to launch Color, hit File > Open, and choose a file. That is not round tripping.

To send an FCP sequence to Color, simply open the Sequence in the Timeline window, with the Timeline window active, and choose File > Send To > Color. You can also go to the Browser window, right-click on a Sequence there, and, from the pop-up menu, choose Send To > Color (Figure 7, below). It’s that simple.

Over to Color...

Once you’re done working in Color and have rendered all the clips you’ve worked on (which we won’t go into in this tutorial), get your work back into FCP by hitting File > Send To > Final Cut Pro (Figure 8, below).

And back to FCP...

Fine-Tuning Sound
Back in FCP, you’ll have a brand new Sequence with the name of your original Sequence followed by the words “from Color” in parentheses. No matter what you named the Color project when you first sent the FCP sequence to Color, the resulting new sequence in FCP will retain the name of the original sequence, making it very easy to track and organize your work.

Finally, we’ll look at the two round-trip methods for STP. Be aware that when going from FCP to STP, all types of markers will come into STP, and they’ll all become the same green color—so label your markers well! You’ll have only one reference video track too.

Before going to STP, you may want to organize your audio tracks in FCP first. Here’s the workflow I recommend—it’s a pretty common approach among sound pros. Tracks A1 and A2 represent the sound that was recorded with the video on video tracks V1 and V2, often called SOT (Sound On Tape). After that would come your voice-over work. Use one audio track for each person’s voice-over. Sound effects would go on the next set of tracks, using as many tracks as you need to layer them. Finally, all the tracks after that will be music tracks. If you follow this organizational method, you’ll save yourself time and headaches when trying to work with various audio elements in your project. You may want to create an audio bin in FCP’s Browser window; inside that bin, put sub-bins for special effects, voice-over, music, and so forth. Good media organization goes a long way toward making a project flow smoothly. See the September 2009 installment of Cut Lines on Editing Workflow for more info on media management and workflow.

One method of trippin’ into STP is for editing a multitrack project in which you’re editing multiple tracks of sound for sweetening as well as for mixing. The other method is for editing a sound file project in which you have only a single audio track that needs sweetening. When you need to send an entire Sequence to STP for sweetening and mixing, you’ll end up editing a multitrack project. This type of project will retain all of your original audio tracks from FCP.

To send a full sequence to an STP multitrack project, right-click the Sequence in FCP’s Browser window and, from the pop-up menu that appears, go to Send To > Soundtrack Pro Multiclip Project. In the resulting Save window (Figure 9, below), make sure all boxes are checked. In the Include Background Video section, normally you’d use the Base Layer Video option, which just gives you a quick proxy of your video track. The Fully Rendered Video option will take longer; how long it takes depends on how long and complex your sequence is. Give it an appropriate name, save it to an appropriate location on your system, and, presto, it’s open in STP!

Make sure all boxes are checked when saving your Multiclip Project.

When you’re finished working with your STP Multiclip Project, you have a few options to get back to FCP. First, no matter what, save your work. Then, in the File menu, go to Export and export your work out as a DV standard 48kHz, 16-bit AIFF file. You can then manually import that into FCP. There’s also a feature in that same Export window that will automatically send the entire STP Multitrack Project to FCP as a new Sequence. If that’s your preference, simply choose that option in the Export window (Figure 10, below).

Back to FCP...

When STP is done exporting to an AIFF file using this option, you’ll be switched automatically back to FCP and presented with another dialog box, where you can choose what options to use for the new Sequence STP will make in FCP (Figure 11, below). Normally, you’ll keep all options checked and all settings at their default. But the top two options allow you to choose your Destination—that is, which currently open FCP Project to send the Sequence to (if more than one is open at the time)—and Sequence Settings to determine what codec to make that new Sequence in. Keeping Default set to “(auto)” makes the new sequence match the settings of the original sequence you sent to STP.

Choosing options for the nw sequenmce that STP will create in FCP

Then, a new Sequence is created in FCP using the same name you give the AIFF file. In that Sequence, you’ll have all of your original video intact, all original audio intact (but those tracks turned off), and two new A1 and A2 tracks filled with the AIFF file you exported from STP (Figure 12, below).

Choosing options for the new sequence that STP will create in FCP

The little shortcut we used with Motion (in which we grabbed the icon at the top center of the screen) will not work with an STP Multitrack Project file. But it will work with the next method when working with an STP Audio File Project. As a side note, it also works with LiveType projects (for those of you who still have LiveType). This is because FCP can only import and read Project files from Motion, LiveType, and STP Audio file Projects.

Now, let’s look at our final round-trip process—working with individual audio clips in FCP. For this scenario, let’s say I’m doing a 30-second TV spot. I have my raw voice-over work down in track A1 since it’s a single mono track. I need to clean up the voice-over track to make it sound fuller. I can do a few things here. I can work from the Timeline window or from the Browser window. In either window, I’ll do the same thing: I’ll highlight the audio file, go to the File menu, and then Send To > Soundtrack Pro Audio File Project; or, alternatively, I’ll right-click on the audio clip and, from the pop-up menu, select Send To > Soundtrack Pro Audio File Project. In the resulting Save dialog box, again, name and save appropriately. I have two options to check here: The first is “Send only referenced media.” This will send only what is between the In and Out points set on the clip. It also allows me to set handles for extra wiggle room if I need it. The second box referring to metadata should always be checked, unless you understand metadata in great detail. My rule of thumb for this second check box is that if you don’t understand what it means, leave it checked—you’ll be safe. Finally, click Save.

STP launches, and the clip is now opened in an Audio File Project. You’ll see the clip’s waveform display, and you’ll be able to sweeten it up. Once you’re done, save your work. Remember, you’re working in an STP project file, and all of your work will be stacked up in the Actions tab at the lower left of the screen so that you can come back and continue working on this audio file later.

Now, you have a couple of options to go back to FCP. If you simply save and quit STP, your original audio clip in FCP will already have been replaced by the new clip that you just sweetened. There’s nothing more to do; you’re done—except that there’s not a Master Clip for this new audio file in the FCP Browser window. If you need one, you can do one of two things: Drag this new clip from the Timeline window into the Browser window, or do the trick you did in Motion—drag the icon at the top center of the STP screen, Cmd+Tab to FCP, and drop it into the Browser window. Both techniques do the same thing, creating a Master Clip linked to the AIFF file you created on your hard drive in STP.

The other option—if, for example, you just opened an AIFF file from the hard drive—is to do a Save As from STP’s File menu. The dialog for that allows you to specify a 48kHz, 16-bit AIFF file to save out. You’ll be prompted to flatten the Actions in your original Audio File Project; click yes, and the app will save out a simple AIFF file. You can then import this into FCP with the grab-and-switch method or by simply using the Cmd+i shortcut in FCP’s Browser window. Note that Markers made in an STP Audio File Project do not follow the project into FCP, but the markers will follow if you’re exporting an STP Multitrack Project into FCP.

So there you have it—round-tripping basics for going from FCP into Motion, Color, and Soundtrack Pro and back. I hope this helps clear up the subject for you and helps speed up your overall workflow.

This topic came up by reader request, so if you’d like to request anything specific that you want to see covered in this column, drop me a line. I’m always open to requests, such as the one that prompted this installment of Cut Lines. Until next time, rock your edits!

Ben Balser (benb at bbalser.com) is an Apple Certified Trainer and Support Professional based in New Orleans. Along with training and consulting, he also produces
documentaries and educational material, and he designs digital signage systems.

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