"Family" - Media Management

One of the most often asked questions I get as a trainer is HOW do you structure media management with Final Cut Pro X. I understand how this can get confusing, because it is an open ended structure. The benefit being you can customize it to your personal tastes or the unique needs of the production you’re working on. The down side is, you have to figure out on your own what that structure is, which can be very daunting when your production is dumping tons and tons of various types of media from various sources on you (doc editors, you get it, right?). Libraries, events, metadata, keywords, collections, they’re all fine, but just how the heck do you structure it? Maybe this somewhat odd metaphor may help. Maybe not. But I’ll offer it in the off chance someone may benefit.

How do you keep your family straight in your mind? You have your parents, your siblings, your parent’s parents, your parent’s siblings, parent’s sibling’s children, cousins, etc.

Media in a production is all related in a very similar fashion. Some are video shots of your scene, some are cut away video shots, some may be reference photos as cut aways or montages, some are audio such as background music, voice overs, etc. But it’s all part of your big production family of media.

So I’ll use the metaphor of family to try to give you some guidance on how to use Libraries, Events, Folders, Keyword Collections and Smart Collections to logically organize the media of the production you’re working on.

Family - Media Management

So there’s the nuclear family, the extended family, and there could be some socially adopted family, some outcast family. Let’s use this very family, pretty much automatic and unconscious method we’ve all used to organize our family members, to understand the logic behind using Final Cut Pro X’s media management tools.

The Library

The Library is the second highest level of media management for FCPX. The physical storage unit (HDD, SSD, RAID, NAS, etc0 is the top level. If you have many small productions, you can keep them all on one storage unit, but also have a second for daily backups. If you have one very large production, you may want to dedicate a single storage unit to that production, again with a second as a daily backup.

But the Library itself, should you use a single or multiple Libraries? For most projects, you’ll use one Library. I also have a Library for all my stock media; photos, sound effects, background animations, etc. Let me give some examples.

At the TV station where I’m Production Manager, I have one folder on the central RAID for each TV show we produce. In that folder are Libraries, one for each season of that show, and one for the show’s stock media and graphics packages. Then in each season’s Library, I have an Event for each episode. Then use folders and collections from there.

For the commercial spots I do, I have one Library for that, “Client Spots”. I have an Event for each individual client, and folders and keywords for each individual spot done, if that client does more than one spot with our production department. I make a new client spot Library every January 1st and every June 1st. “Client Spots 1 - 2019” and “Client Spots 2 - 2019”. I do this simply because we have a lot of clients who run spots once and that’s it. So the Library grows quickly with stuff I don’t need to access ever again. Thus, size and accumulated clutter are two things to consider when planning Libraries.

So, do you need one or multiple Libraries? I’d recommend as few as necessary, without them getting overly complex internally. So, an easy way to think of this is, a Library is a blood line of a family. All that media are members of someone’s family. Group family members together.

“Colorado Extreme” is a TV show, all the media belongs to that family name. “Let’s Talk About Dogs” is a TV show, and all the media for it are NOT members of the“Colorado Extreme” family bloodline.


So, all these clips are my family members, and I have to mature and learn them all. I’ll start with an Event I refer to as Immediate Family. There will be other Events in the future such as Extended Family, Distant Family, Close Friends, Distant Friends, Friendly Ex’s, Hated Ex’s, etc. But it’s our first day born, so let’s stick with Immediate Family for now, it is the only group of clips we’re importing at the moment. And there is benefit to importing in small chunks.

Next I make a folder I identify as “Parents” for the clips identified as Mom and Dad. In my personal situation, there are four parents, my Biological and Adoptive moms and dads. Which means I have four clips: Mom, Dad, Mother, Father. There only need be two keyword collections in the Parents folder, Adoptive and Biological. I then associate my clips logically with each collection. Thus, Parents leads to Adoptive and Biological keyword collections. Adoptive leads to two clips identified as Mom and Dad. Biological leads to two clips identified and Mother and Father.

I’ll bypass step-parents (I am one) and In-Laws (I am one), to keep this more understandable. Just pretend you never thought about the concept of a step-father-in-law (I am one), you’ll sleep better, trust me.

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In my Siblings folder I’ll have the keyword collections of Brothers and Sisters as well as Older and Younger. Or in the case of my sons, they’d include a Twin collection, but we’ll skip that to keep this understandable. It would all look like this.

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If I need a younger sibling, I know exactly where and who that bunch of clips/faces are.

So once I perform this one time learning process, I’ve matured and can recognize and address ever member of my nuclear family instantaneously.


Now, let’s say I have a very large family, many brothers and sisters, like my dad did. One day someone asks me if a girl he worked with once, Annie Whoever Balser, is one of my younger female siblings? Time to mature a bit more and sort it out for instantaneous future reference, beyond just a folder of Siblings and keyword collections of Brothers and Sisters, Older and Younger.

I create a Smart Collection, use the Keyword category, and indicate that I need all clips that match both Younger and Sister.

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Now I have my immediate family organized in a pretty much instantaneous reference. When asked (by my director or of myself to self an issue), I can get to the needed clips/faces/family members easily. Now I’m ready to go out into the world and interact with all of these folks and tell my audience interesting stories about them, without getting lost or confused.

Sometimes you absolutely love a family member, or one specific attribute about them. Sometimes you really dislike a family member, or really hate some specific attribute about them. To organize these feelings, you will “rate” some clips, or parts of clips as Favorites or Rejected. If your feeling about it is neutral, you leave it Unrated. You select that clip, or that range of content in that clip and Favorite it (F) or Reject it (R). This very much has direct bering on step-father-in-law issues, but we won’t go there right now. Be aware that with a Smart Collection, Ratings can be factored in, also.

The point to remember here is this. All the media in a production are all members of that production’s universal family. Your first job as an editor is to identify who those members are, and how they are related to each other. When you do this, you create logical media management, and you fly through your edits knowing the family, when you need who, what they need to tell the audience at that moment in the story, and where to move on to next.

The Library, Events, Ratings, Folders, Collections (Keywords/Smart) are amazing tools to organize it all quickly. And while doing so, a very good part of your edit will formulate in your mind. When it’s time to hit the Project Timelines, you’ll know and the story telling will fly.

I hope this very brief analogy story helps someone new to FCPX (I used to be one) understand the core of FCPX’s media management system, and how to logically organize their media for easy, quick access.