Given these two very different approaches to editing with Final Cut Pro, which should you choose? In general, an online workflow tends to benefit short projects, whereas an offline workflow tends to favor longer projects. Online workflows are ideal for projects with quick turnarounds; offline workflows are ideal for projects with longer turnarounds.
Advantages of an Online Workflow
Final Effects and color correctionBecause you are editing with your final resolution, you are aware of how your effect or color correction will look in your final output. You will not need to use a temporary effect or color correction.
SimplicityOnce you have captured your media, there is no need to recapture the media at a higher resolution prior to your output.
EfficiencyBecause an online workflow tends to require fewer steps, the final project takes less time.
Disadvantages of an Online Workflow
Resolution Some resolutionssuch as filmare still beyond the technical capability of desktop computers. However, with advances in technology, this will change, and a true film online workflow will become possible. But for now, the only way to cut film on a computer is to edit using an offline workflow.
Storage For longer shows, online workflow resolutions can be too unwieldy during the creative editing process. For instance, if you were editing a 1-hour documentary with a 10:1 shooting ratio (600 minutes of raw footage) using one of the high definition online resolutions, if you captured the entire 600 minutes of raw material, the hard drive space required would be in the terabytes (that's thousands of gigabytes). However, if you captured the entire 600 minutes of raw footage using an offline resolution of Photo JPEG, the hard drive space required would be greatly reduced.
A shooting ratio is the comparison of shot footage to edited footage. For example, if someone is editing a film with a final duration of 2 hours, and the shooting ratio is 3:1, then for every edited minute the person shot three times the amount needed.
Consider an online workflow if
Your project length is short (30 minutes or under).
Your shooting ratio does not exceed 3:1.
You have limited time to complete your project.
You have adequate drive capacity to store raw media files at your final resolution.
Generally, news, short-form broadcast (30 minutes or less), sports, commercials, and tight-deadline projects are well known for their online workflow.
Advantages of an Offline Workflow
Flexibility Editing using an offline workflow allows for lower hardware requirements. Using an offline workflow allows you to edit large amounts of work on a system as streamlined and portable as a laptop.
Storage Editing using an offline workflow allows you greater storage choices. You can edit low-resolution media on drives as basic as a FireWire drive. In an offline workflow, the lower media resolutions place fewer demands on the technical capabilities of your storage device. Using an offline workflow also allows you to copy larger sections of workin less timeto smaller drives. For example, when using an offline workflow, you could copy a greater amount of your media, in less time than it would take to copy the same media files at a higher resolutionand you could potentially use a small FireWire drive, such as an iPod, as the transport.
Real-time performance Working with lower-resolution copies of your media files will allow you to view a greater number of effects and composites in real time without the need for rendering.
Disadvantages of an Offline Workflow
Complexity There's no doubt that an offline workflow is more challenging. Because you will need to recapture or conform your video or film to your original source media, you will need to be meticulous about maintaining an accurate relationship between your low-resolution media files and your original source media. It's essential that you enter the correct source data pertaining to the numberstape, reel, key, edge, and so onthat you are using. Keep track of all your assetsyou need to be a stickler for detail!
Time You need to dedicate more time to an offline workflow. You will usually spend more time in the beginning, entering the data; in the middle, keeping track of the media; and in the end, finishing the project. Editing offline is a detailed process, and preparing to complete a project requires significant attention because you need to either recapture the tapes (for video), or output various cut lists (for film). If you cannot dedicate an appropriate amount of time to your project, an offline workflow may not be your best solution.
Consider an online workflow if
Your project length is long (45 minutes or more).
Your shooting ratio exceeds 3:1.
You have adequate time to complete your project.
You have limited drive capacity or lower drive technical specifications.
Documentary, long-form broadcast (45+ minute duration), and film are common choices for offline workflow.
Switching Between Offline and Online Workflows
In a traditional offline workflow, you begin your project at low-resolution, then edit, lock picture, prepare your sequence, and increase resolution as a part of your finishing process, essentially switching to an online workflow prior to final output. However, many times you may find that you need to decrease resolution, thereby switching from an online workflow to an offline workflow. Final Cut Pro is extremely flexible. Using the Media Manager, you can seamlessly switch between online and offline workflows. (See Lessons 3 and 5 for exercises using the Media Manager.) It's common to consider decreasing resolution to edit on a laptop or if you find you have a longer time to complete your project, or a greater amount of raw material. Because it's easy enough to decrease and increase resolution, you can switch between using an offline and online workflows to reassess your project workflow, adjusting your choices according to your equipment and project parameters at any time.