Organizing a Large Project


When you are working with a project that contains many scenes and edits, it's very efficient to break these different areas of your project into smaller sequences that you marry at the end for your final output (see Appendix B, "Output Options: Videotape, DVDs, and the Web"). If your project is extremely large, you might even consider breaking it into more than one project file. This might be desirable because the more complex a project file gets, the larger it becomes, and the more likely your computer's response time will slow down. It's also easier to navigate to fewer media files for use in a given area or set of areas of your total project. The less you need to scroll through your project file, the more efficient the editing process becomes.


Large, complex projects can really benefit from using an additional computer display. My own system includes two Cinema Displays and another, smaller display next to them. The reason is that, with a small display or only one display, you waste a lot of time maximizing the Browser to find things quicker, and then you might have to minimize it just to do each edit. As you've begun to see as you are working with this book, if you don't have a large display area (the screen captures were done on a 22-inch Cinema Display), a larger display would come in handy. A separate display just for the Browser would be even better. Another advantage of creating more workspace in this manner is a larger Timeline window. Over a period of months of working with an ever-growing sequence or set of sequences, your work can become very tiresome if your Timeline window is small. This problem becomes even more exacerbated if your sequence contains multiple layers of audio and video. I find it easier and more efficient to work with multiple monitors for these reasons. It's also common to work with other applications at the same time, such as LiveType, so having more screen space becomes even more of a necessity. Other applications that contain many layered Timelines, such as After Effects, can benefit enormously as well.

Working with Multiple Sequences and Project Files for the Same Program

Whenever you are working with truly large programs, it's best to break them into smaller sections, bins organized possibly by scene, and even separate sequences for different scenes. First, it's easier for you and your computer to work with less-complicated sequences at one time, and second, it's easier to keep yourself focused on the job at hand. You can access shots of a specific scene or area of your program more quickly if they are stored together in a single bin. There are two different techniques you can use and even combine to accomplish both tasks :

  • Create smaller sequences that contain related sections or scenes.

  • If your project is really huge, work with more than one project file.

Opening, working with, and saving smaller project files speeds up you and your computer. You'll know when you might benefit from creating another project file or sequence when your computer reports that it is "preparing to display video" each time you make a change to your currently open sequence, and it's beginning to slow you down. I find it irritating to wait on a computer to perform the command I've given, and I'll wager that you do too.

Creating Separate Sequences

In the preceding chapter, you created separate sequences, which you will insert into Sequence 1 of this project. It was a primer used to demonstrate that it's more efficient to do things this way. Why add another eight tracks of video to Sequence 1 just for the ending production company logo, for example? It would mean an even more-complex sequence than you already have. Instead of nine tracks of audio and a couple of video tracks, you would be navigating through a sequence that has nearly twice that many tracks.

Continually having to scroll around in one really long sequence wastes time. You have less time to make quality edit decisions and spend more time just getting them done. Your creativity is not high when you're hampered by inefficiency. Learning how to spend your time creatively instead of mechanically will serve your finished projects well. A more efficient organization provides more time for experimentation with different edits and all the what-ifs I spoke about in the Introduction of this book.

The project you have nearly finished originally had about 300 edits. This is about as large a sequence as I care to work with, for the reasons just mentioned. Navigating through this sequence is time-consuming enough. Navigating through one that has 20 times as many edits just to find that single clip you need to adjust or replace would be a daunting task indeed.

It's not necessarily a program's length that determines when you might break it into smaller sequences, but rather the number of edits it contains. For example, a 90-minute speech with a few cut-away shots of the audience probably won't contain anywhere near the number of edits in a 90-minute documentary . A 2- hour -long wedding video would probably contain less than the 2,000 edits of a 90-minute feature.

If you are shooting a program that might be of feature length but that doesn't have a huge number of edits, you might be better off leaving it as one sequence. However, if you are working with a project that contains many edits, consider finding appropriate scenes or areas of your project you can work on in their own sequences to save navigational time and to ease your computer's overhead. I once worked on a project that contained 1,700 edits but that was only 28 minutes long. I broke this project into a series of shorter sequences, which I married toward the end of the project. I'm convinced it saved me time in the long run.

After you have done at least one fine cut of a set of scenes, you should add these scenes to a "master sequence." You need to examine the overall tone, pacing, and timing of the entire piece. You also need to examine and possibly trim the edits that come between the earlier sequences. As you enter the final stages of a large program, you might need to adjust certain scenes because they are too slow, or the whole piece is too long, for example. The only reliable way to judge what should be trimmed in this case is to look at the finished program in its entirety.

In the case of a narrative film, it's mandatory to watch the movie in its entirety, if for no other reason than to see where a scene drags on too long and might cause restlessness in your audience. You want to keep your audience interested by moving the story along and not dwelling on a redundant element. You might find an entire scene that is unneeded. You can examine the consistency of tonal qualities in this manner from scene to scene. If you need to rework a scene, you can easily go back to its " subsequence " for the work, keeping your edit-to-edit fine-tuning work efficient, and then marry this new version back to your master sequence.

Creating Multiple Project Files for the Same Program

Creating different project files for different areas of your program can enhance efficiency. Remember that you can have as many different project files open at one time as you want if you need to begin combining them toward the end of your editorial workflow. You can always drag clips and sequences between projects at any time. New to FCP 4 is the ability to copy rendered clips from project file to project file. You can even drag smaller sequences to one big master sequence, creating nests of them for your master sequence, possibly in its own project file. It's easy to do this on a daily basis to keep your director, producer, or client apprised of your progress. Smaller project files save and open faster on any computer.

An average feature-length program can easily contain 2,000 edits. What's more, a feature film can have an average of five to 10 takes of each edit. So you could be working with as many as 20,000 clips! In a case such as this, I would consider breaking this into a smaller subset of projects. Chances are you won't work on all areas of this huge project at one time (until the end), and Final Cut Pro can drag and drop sequences from any project to any project as long as both projects are open.

If you are working on a gargantuan project such as this, you should create a "master project file." You will use it to capture and log with. In this manner you'll keep your media files all originally associated with one project. Even if you create new projects and copy or drag a clip to them to begin the sorting of your footage, you will still be working with media management that will be more manageable.

It might be rare for you to work on projects of this magnitude, but nevertheless, you should be aware that you can have more than one project file open at the same time. For example, you might have an industrial client who uses the same opening or company logo treatment in all the various video programs the company produces. You will save time and effort later by not re-creating them each time you create a new project. Having a project file that contains all the repurposeable elements, including music files or company logos used repeatedly, might make for a great workflow enhancement, even if you recapture the associated media files again and again.

If you're working on a series of programs at the same time for a client, it's best to keep each one in its own project file. You might even keep a separate project file for the elements that are common to all projects. Later, you might need to re-create just a couple of them, and it's easier to work with a single project file for a single shorter program from an efficiency point of view. Another example is that for every program you produce, your own company logo treatment might be used. Having a project file specific to this element is a great time-saver.

Jerry Hofmann on Final Cut Pro 4
Jerry Hofmann on Final Cut Pro 4
ISBN: 735712816
Year: 2005
Pages: 189 © 2008-2017.
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