Broadcast Series Media Managment - Part 1

In an effort to help newer FCPX users, or experienced users new to broadcast, understand the various ways one can manage media in FCPX, here is how I managed media for several broadcast series in part 1 of a 2 part blog post.
Each of the shows I helped produce for WLFT (Baton Rouge, LA) while I was temporarily contracted as VP of Production there, and the ones I still am producing independently, are 10 episodes long, half hour per episode, 28:30 TRT, 3 segments each. Each one I set up mostly the same way, since this scheme works for me. You are free to do it your own way.

I wanted to share this in hopes that someone out there would benefit and gain insight into managing their own media with FCPX. It is by no means the only way to manage media for any sort of production in FCPX.

In part 2 of this post I’ll go through the details of the most complex of these series which involves several regular episode segments, different guest, various activities. But for now, let’s start at the beginning.

To start, let me say that, in a nut shell, I think of everything I do in FCPX along a 3 part concept of media management.
1- The overall
production (Library)
2- The
sub-productions (Events)
3- The
supporting sub-productions (Events)

I add a fourth part, the
cross-reference-matrix, which are a more complex system of Event and Keyword combinations, for more complex productions, which I’ll cover in part 2. With this concept in mind…

Library Pane

Pre-Production; Library Pane
Usually before the show actually starts shooting, I will create a Library (overall production) for it. Each episode (sub-production) gets its own Event, named “Episode 1”, “Episode 2”, etc. I also make 2 special Events (supporting sub-productions), one called “Staples” and one called “Promo”.

Obviously the episode Events get the media unique to that Episode. The Promo Event gets all media I need to create the various on-air and online promotional clips for the series. The Staples Event is, to me, vital for good organization. It contains everything that will be shared by each episode and the promos. These are things like logo graphics, to/from commercial break bumpers, opening credits, closing credits, etc.

Finally I will make a Project for each Episode Event. I make 4 of them as follows. Three of them are titled Ep#-Seg1, Ep#-Seg2, Ep#-Seg3. The # represents each episodes unique number. This is because I have to cut the show into three segments, each running 5-8 minutes each. Commercial breaks run between each segment. And there’s no need to complicate a timeline with stuff I don’t need to see when editing each segment. In the Browser I can add up the durations of my Timelines (see the Timecode Calculator in the
previous blog post) to verify the 28:30 mandatory TRT (total-run-time) of each show. I have to remember to compensate for the duration of the slate on segment 1, as that doesn’t count towards TRT.

The fourth Project is titled EP#-Review. I will take segment 1, select all, copy, then go to this Review timeline and paste. I’ll follow it with a 3 second Gap Clip. Then I repeat that for segments 2 and 3, although 3 doesn’t get the Gap Clip, obviously. This is what I will output as an H.264 to upload to Vimeo, YouTube, GoogleDrive, whatever as a password protected video for the client and producer to review and approve.

Library Pane

Pre-Production; Templates
I’ll also go into Motion, create a few title templates specific for the show. A lower third, a closing credit role, and an opening generator (as show titles and guest may change episode to episode). I like to sometimes to a thematic transition or two if I have time and/or it is appropriate. When I save each, I save it to a Category that is the show’s title, and to a Theme that is the show’s title. Now we lost our Theme browser, but I hope it will come back one day.

* The Theme browser was were I could go look at templates according to theme. It was super handy, and losing it was the single most stupid thing I think the FCPX development team ever did. With the Theme browser, I could go to the Theme that had my show’s name, and see all my titles, effects, generators and transitions that shared that Theme assignment, all in one place, rather than jump between the titles, transitions, and generators browsers constantly. I urge you all to fill out the FCPX feedback page and demand the Themes browser back, please.

Title Browser

Once I start getting camera cards in, I ingest them with “copy to Library”. Here is where things are not as standardized, but follow the same concepts. When I go through all my media to re-name, keyword, favorite, etc, exactly what form those take depends on the show. But in general I try to list characters for each shot in the Notes field, Keyword specific items or events, and Favorite useful parts of each clip. This way I can find things really quick and easy. And I never hesitate to use Folders to group related Keyword Collections in to.

Screen Shot 2017-07-13 at 2.11.31 PM

For audio, I make a Folder called Audio. In it I place one Smart Collection for each Audio Role I use: Music, SOT, SFX, VO, and any dialogue roles I use (be it “Dialogue” or a specific character’s name, etc.). This way I can access each Role quickly.

Side Note: I find this easier and quicker than trying to remember to drag each audio clip to a specific Keyword collection every time I import. And I import stuff over days, so if I forget to drag a clip to a Keyword collection, well, not good. I find assigning Audio Roles is something I seem to do automatically upon import. It becomes more reflexive. Being able to assign an Audio Role inside the Import window, I tend to import everything on a card or off disk for a specific Role at once, assign the Role there.

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Once I start editing, that’s it, I’m editing. Not much else to say, except that all the above media management work put the final edit in my head, for the most part. Reviewing everything, by simple virtue of managing my media, saves tons of time during my edits, because I already know what I want to use where, mostly. Not totally, but for the most part, yes, I have a fantastic sense of what’s going to happen during my edit sessions, and they go surprisingly fast.

There is one exception to the Pre-Production section above. There were one or two shows that were so simple and scripted, I did not make “segment” Projects. I simply used one Project to edit everything in to. Including the 3 second Gap Clips at the head and tail of segment 2 (used only for review purposes). When I had to export for review, I was ready to go, just export. When I had to export each segment individually for air, I used the Range (R) tool. Click and drag to select a range from the start of one segment to the end, export.

Screen Shot 2017-07-13 at 1.33.53 PM

You would think that to deliver shows for the TV station I was at, I would simply created a custom preset in Compressor. Then using that custom preset, create a custom Destination inside FCPX. This way I could export my segments directly from FCPX to the layout server. But, we had to do closed captioning. Thus, I had to send each segment directly to Compressor to include the .scc closed caption file for embedding. This is the law, and why Apple chooses to ignore such a vital, mandatory part of video production baffles me. We used to get our .scc files from, and Compressor did the encoding job just fine. Fortunately, the station used, and all the other stations we delivered to, used 608 format closed captions. Anything other than that, and the station would have to spend HUGE bucks to buy new closed captioning software, or outsource it totally (which ain’t too cheap).

There was a local business who produced their own infomercial regularly, shot their own media and delivered to us for editing. They distributed the final product to several different TV stations in the state. Each had a different encoding need. So a word about delivery to broadcast stations, if I man.

The first step to to contact the TV station YOURSELF (don’t rely on middle-men) and get the Delivery Spec Sheet. All TV stations have this as a PDF they can send to you. BUT, these are usually very brief, surface level specs. You will need to call a technical person back and walk through it to get the details you need. From this information, I would create a Compressor custom preset, naming it after the TV station it was made for. Some wanted MPEG-2, some wanted MXF, some wanted XDCAMHD-EX (what a pain). Compressor’s custom presets are the answer, for most of these. Problem is, it can’t embed closed captioning for XDCAM stuff, which was a problem at first. But then…

Eventually the media consultant who handled this particular show had so many TV stations going at once, she got an account with
ExtremeReach. If you are in a position that demands distribution to multiple stations, corporations and various faculties all the time, seriously consider an ExtremeReach or similar service’s account. A download account is free, but an upload account you pay for. They will close caption and format everything to the necessary specs for all of the distribution points you have. One upload, done, I loved it!

Screen Shot 2017-07-13 at 1.42.44 PM

OK, so there’s my guide to media management for a broadcast series. In
part 2 I’ll go into a more complex show configuration that mimics more of what I did for an educational show, similar to what did with a large Reality TV show. This will give you a more detailed look at my use of Keywords and Folders.

P.S. For the record, I have never received compensation from the companies mentioned in this article. I’ve used them and promote them out of my own successful experiences with them.