Final Cut Pro X Babbling

Tracks vs. Roles Redux – Versioning


A little while ago, right here on my fancy blog, I stated my opinion in the “debate” over tracks vs. Roles. I like Roles. This isn’t to say they are perfect, there are things they could do that they don’t, and hopefully Apple is grinding away trying to make them even more powerful.

In any case, I had a job recently that provides an excellent example of how Roles simplify one of the most confusing and convoluted tasks we often need to do, outputting multiple versions, with different A/V configurations, of multiple spots.

This gig consisted of 5 different spots, cutdowns of a trailer done by another editor in FCP 7. Now, you may be thinking,…“WHY?!”, which his another topic entirely. 🙂 But, I’ve done the cutdowns in old faithful, and it’s time for finishing, here’s what I need to deliver:

For each of the 5 spots: 2 tagged texted versions, 1 generic version, and 1 textless version. 3 versions require a 4ch split audio version (Comp/M&E), the textless version requires an 8ch combined mono/stereo split. All but the textless need a 2ch comp version as well. One texted version gets an audible rating, all other versions do not. All versions need unique slates. Also 3 duplicate 2ch versions with no slate are needed, and these 3 versions then must be delivered in 3 different codecs/resolutions.

So a little math yields the following: 50 versions. Now, I could of course do this in in 7 or Pr or MC. I could make 2 or 3 different sequences for every spot (for the 3 audio configurations), put all the correct picture elements and slates on separate tracks in the proper sequences, and then very carefully enable/disable what’s needed for each version. I’ve done this. It works fine. It is also a huge pain in the ass, and you can very easily miss something. Screw that. Here’s what I did.

First, in FCP 7, I created a split audio master of the first texted version of each spot. I then exported 3 other master picture versions of each. Had I done the final output from a track based NLE I likely would have done this anyway as it’s easier to manage, but with all the different slates and audio versions, it still would have been a… what’s the word?… Oh, right… a clusterfuck.

Then, in FCP X using a Motion Template I made, I created 35 slates (15 outputs have no slate). That took a while, and would have needed to be done no matter which NLE I was in. Then, exported as png’s and reimported.

Next, import all the A/V Masters and assign Audio and Video Roles to everything, including the slates, corresponding to the proper versions. Using Role-O-Matic for audio saved some time, but the Role assignment process only took about 15 minutes. Then, create 5 master projects, (hit “D” once and “Q” 7 times for each project…no patching!), add a bit of MOS slug, a little trimming and I’m all set to go. That took maybe 5 more minutes. Here’s the result…

Next step is to create Share presets. Set the default Export preset. Share a spot, create a preset and save it, cancel the share, repeat ’til done. Each preset specifies the picture version, matching slate, and audio configuration. Another 5 minutes. EZ…

So, all in, 25 minutes of setup, probably less than prepping all the sequences in another NLE, (never mind the incessant disabling enabling, switching sequences and other fiddling during the export), and I’m essentially done.

All I gotta do now for each spot is CMD-E, 2 clicks for proper output config, ENTER, paste filename from a list, ENTER… 10 seconds per file. No enabling/disabling clips and switching sequences for every version. Oh, I do need to select a range excluding the slate for the 3 slate-less versions of each, so that’s another couple seconds.

Get coffee, wander back to my bay, drop all the slate-less versions in Compressor, apply a group setting to make the 2 low res versions of each… Done

Honestly, had these spots been originally cut in X, none of the prep at all would have been necessary. Zero. No splits, no master version exports. The Roles would have been assigned from the start.  Just make the slates and Export presets and go.

Roles kick ass, and they could do a whole lot more, so send your demands to Apple! 🙂

EDIT: Just finished exporting, and I was a little optimistic. Very little 😉 I needed to select different folders for the outputs as I went, so it took an average of 19 seconds for each export, all 50 versions were done in 17 minutes. Off to run the Compressor group to make the low res versions…