Once you've ruled out obvious external factors, checked the documentation, confirmed that you do in fact have a repeatable problem, and written down the steps to re-create the problem, it's time to narrow the search. There are, again, three questions you can ask yourself to help focus your troubleshooting.
"Is It Hardware- or Software-Related?"
What you're really asking here is, "Which is more likely: a hardware problem or a software problem?" The right answer will rule out half the universe of possible causes, so it's worth spending a moment to ask yourself this question.
If you just installed new software, and now your camera is not being recognized, it is most likely that the software you installed is causing the issue. Similarly, if a problem occurs only when you are working with one specific drive, common sense dictates that you should check that drive first.
Common sense should be your guide here, because symptoms alone will probably not be enough to tell you whether the cause of the problem is hardware-or software-related. For instance, faulty RAM can cause behaviors that resemble those caused by software problems, since the OS and running applications are loaded into RAM.
In these situations, you may need to rule out both software- and hardware-related causes, but it's still worth asking yourself which is more likely, and starting there. Look for other clues: in this example, if the same quirky behavior is observed in every application you run, that would make the RAM more suspect.
"Is It Mac OS- or Final Cut ProRelated?"
If you're fairly sure that the problem is software-related, you can go a step further to determine whether the problem occurs at the system level or is specific to Final Cut Pro.
Error messages can give you insight hereis the alert a system or FCP alert? That might seem like a minor distinction, but it will point you in the right direction.
If your camera is not being recognized by Final Cut Pro, can you see the camera in the Apple System Profiler or in iMovie? If you can, then the problem is likely to be Final Cut Prorelated.
As with the hardware versus software discrimination, these issues aren't always clear-cut, but spending a moment to determine whether it's more likely that the problem lies with your system or your software can save you time during your sleuthing.
Is It a Problem of Performance, Quality, or an Error Message?
Another useful way to categorize the problem you're encountering is to determine if it's a quality problem (audio out of sync, dropped frames), a performance problem (throughput speed, playback speed, render speed), or an error message (nothing looks wrong, but you get an error when you try to perform an action).
Each of these three classes of problems implies a certain set of solutions. Categorizing your problem this way will help ensure that you try the likeliest fixes first.
In Lesson 17, we'll look at the most common quality problems and their solutions. In Lesson 18, we'll tackle the most commonly-encountered performance problems and error messages.