Film editing can be complicated, messy business. In a school setting, where you may be working on multiple different computers over the duration of your project, things can get even messier, and many people run into problems when they try to move projects from one machine to another. While a project in Word or Photoshop has a single file that contains all the data needed to open it, film projects involve a number of different files – project files, media files, render files, and others. At the bare minimum, you’ll need your project and media files to work on a project, and with some programs, you’ll even need to put them in a specific place for them to be usable. In this tutorial, we’ll cover the four different film-editing softwares available at the MPS labs, what their file structures are, and how to effectively transfer files between computers without messing up your project.
To begin, it is crucial to understand what all the different sorts of files are. In the MPS, the programs we use are nondestructive. That means that the original media files are never touched. Rather, the program uses a project file that contains the instructions for how to handle your media files to produce your movie. The project says, for example, “put x file here, and cut x amount of footage out.” This means you need both the media files – your footage, sounds, and still images – and your project file, to put everything together. Some programs (Final Cut Pro 7, Premiere) also need to render that data to make it playable. Rendering is the process of applying your project’s instructions to your media files to create a temporary movie you can play back. These programs will create additional rendering files, but you don’t really need to worry about them, as you can always re-render your footage on your new machine. You’ll only want to transfer the render files if you’ll have to spend a long time rendering your footage.
Final Cut Pro 7
FCP7 is easy to work with. Just move the Final Cut project and all the media you used in it to the new computer and you’re good to go. If the location of the media files changes in the process – for example, if “movie.avi” was originally in “Documents” and now it’s on the desktop – you’ll get a “disconnected media” error message and the disconnected files will have a red slash through them. This just means that the file location changed and FCP7 doesn’t know where it is. To tell it where the file now is, right click on the file in the media browser and click “reconnect media.” Then, find the new location and connect the file.
FCP7 does have rendering files, so if you move your project and the associated files without moving the render files from your scratch disks, you’ll have to re-render it. If you want to avoid re-rendering it, go into your scratch disks and move its contents into the scratch disks on the new computer. Your scratch disks are by default located under Document/Final Cut Pro Documents, but you can change the location under File>System Settings>Scratch Disks. Make sure you move the files into the appropriate locations, e.g. files from the “audio render files” folder on the old computer should go into the “audio render files” folder on the new computer.
Premiere works a lot of like FCP7. You can just move your project file and all your media files to the new computer. You should get the same “disconnected media” error message if the location of a file has changed, and you can reconnect the file by right clicking on the file in selecting “Link Media.” Then, find the new location and connect the file.
Premiere also uses render files, which can found in your scratch disks. You can change the location of your scratch disks, but by default they are under Documents/Adobe/Premiere Pro/5.5. Move the relevant render files located under “Abode Premiere Pro Preview Files” if you need them.
iMovie uses a different file system from FCP7 and Premiere. iMovie saves your files automatically and does not need to render files. Additionally, when you import media into iMovie, it creates a copy in its own files, organized according to which event you’ve imported the file under. Thus, you will need both your iMovie project file and the iMovie events that you’ve used in order to get your project to play properly.
iMovie also has fixed expectations of where its events and projects files will be, so it is imperative that when you move your events and projects to the new computer, you put them back into the place that iMovie expects them to be. iMovie creates two folders on your computer under the “Movies” folder: “iMovie Projects” and “iMovie Events.” You need your project from the projects folder and the events you’ve used from the events folder. Move these to the new computer and drop them into the “iMovie Projects” and “iMovie Events” folder, respectively, on the new computer. If those folders don’t exist yet, just open iMovie and create a new project and a new events, and the program will create those folders for you.
Note, however, that only video files can be placed in iMovie events. Audio files and still images will be taken from wherever they are located on the disk, and once imported, you cannot reconnect those files as you can with FCP7 and Premiere. The best way to move them is to keep them in the same location. If you imported a song through iTunes, transfer the song to the new computer and put it back into iTunes. If you imported it from the desktop, transfer the file to the new computer and drop it back onto the desktop. The important thing is to write down where the file is located and put it back where iMovie expects it to be.
Final Cut Pro X
FCPX is nearly identical in its file structure to iMovie. The program creates two folders under your “Movies” folders: “Final Cut Projects” and “Final Cut Events.” Just as above, move your project file from the projects folder on the old computer to the projects folder on the new computer, and likewise move the events you need from the events folder on the old computer to the events folder on the new computer. Like iMovie, FCPX expects all its files to be in those fixed locations, so it is imperative that all the media files you use are in the proper events under the “Final Cut Events” folder. In contrast to iMovie, FCPX will put a copy of all your media files – no matter whether they’re video, audio, or others – into your events folder. Thus, when you move your events folder, you will move all the necessary files. All of FCPX’s render files are also contained within your events folder.