FCPX Smart Collection

Organizing media in FCPX is really easy and very powerful, not to mention flexible. Part of these tools are Smart Collections, which I use extensively in every production, be it an hour show, or a 10 second TOH. In this blog post I’ll give some tips about Smart Collections to help you understand what they are and just how flexible they can be.

Manual Searches & Organization
To find stuff in your Library, or Event, just select it in the Library Browser, click the magnifying glass icon at the top right of the Clip Browser, and type in the text you’re searching for. Can’t get any easier, can’t get any simpler.

You can also right-click any column header to turn on and off Browser columns, drag the headers left / right to arrange them, and click a header to sort your media by that category.

And of course you can make Keyword Collections and Folders to manually assign media to each of those.

If you need something more specific, more flexible, more powerful, there are Smart Collections. Smart Collections will automatically gather up media based on the parameters you specify. There is no manually assigning assets to a Smart Collection, because it is “Smart” and meant to do the collecting and filtering of media all on its own.

Smart Collections; Non-Manual Organization
I call Keyword Collections and Folders dum collections, cause they do nothing but hold what you manually tell them to hold, they’ve no clue what they’re holding. You have to manually add whatever you want to it.

Smart Collections look at all the media in your Event, and filters out only what you have specified in the parameters, automatically. They do the work for you, they’re smart, just like you! And you’re a good person, people like you just the way you are, as long as you bathe. Anyway, new media imported to your Event, that matches the criteria, gets added automatically to a Smart Collection. You can not manually add media to it willy-nilly. Nor will a Smart Collection mix a drink, nor will it pick you up at the airport. But short of those, it is a pretty smart type of collection device.

To create a Smart Collection, right-click an Event and from the pop-up menu select “New Smart Collection”, or you can go to the File menu, to New, to New Smart Collection, or use the command shortcut of Option-Command-N. Personally I prefer the right-click, as I can access a variety of tools there and don’t have to commit the commands to memory.

popup menu

With the new Smart Collection selected, hit the Return key to edit its title and rename it to reflect literally what it will be filtering for. I.E. Audio Clips, Cathy B-Roll, Stills, Bruce w/o Cathy, etc. Some of these may sound odd, like “Bruce w/o Cathy” but are easily achieved as you’ll soon see.

Once properly named, double-click the gear icon that precedes the collection name. This opens the Smart Filter editor. Smart Collections are just Smart Filters saved as a preset. If you click the magnifying glass icon to do a search in the Clips Browser, click the Slate icon to the left of the search field, you’ll see the same window. But then it has a button in the lower right to save it as a Smart Collection. Thus you can search temporarily, or permanently for the parameters you specify.

HUD Button

Criteria Categories
To get started, on the top right is a plus sign icon for the category menu. Here you’ll select a category of parameters. The only one not really self-evident is “Type”. This means Clip Type, or the type of specialized clip it is. Why Apple can’t include the world Clip in that title is baffling. Thus, “Media Type” is the physical characteristics of the media. “Type” or Clip Type refers to the type of specialized clip in the Clip Browser, such as Multicam Clip or Sync Clip or Compound Clip and such.

Because there’s so many parameters and possible combinations, at this point in time, I’d like you to temporarily stop reading, launch FCPX, create a Smart Collection, and browse through the various parameters you have access to. Then come back here to finish up.


Now that you’ve browsed the categories and parameters, let’s look at the different ways you can use them practically.

Shear Power & Flexibility
You can combine as many parameters are you want, or as few. You can use specific parameters as criteria to include or exclude. This is simply an amazing organizational tool. And remember you can still create Folders and place your Smart Collection(s) inside them. Notice you have access to filtering by keywords, a single one, a combination, to include or exclude. Here’s some examples, mostly using keywords, but you can use anything.

Let’s pretend I have the following Keyword collections; Bruce, Kathy, Bob, Susan. Those are my four primary actors in this episode, I’ve made a Keyword Collection to sort clips that each actor appears in, and I need to do some further, more complex organization of these. Bear in mind some actors will appear together in clips, and in some they appear alone. So some clips will have multiple keywords, some just one keyword.

As stated previously, I said I’d explain it, what I need to access are all the clips with Bruce in them, but NOT if Kathy is also in them. Here’s what that would look like:

bruce wo kathy

I have told the collection to gather up all the clips that have the keyword of Bruce, and then discard all the clips that also have the keyword of Kathy.

In our next example, I want to see the clips that Bob is in, AND that Kathy is in, but that Bruce and Susan are NOT in. This is very simple. Here’s what I’d set up:

Bob Kathy

Now let’s say I only want photographs of Susan and Kathy. Here’s what I’d set up:


Or the same characters, Susan and Kathy, but this time I only want the video and audio media, so that I can do my sync clips easily:


Conditional Menu - IMPORTANT
It is vital to be aware of, and this messes up newbies a lot, is the Condition Menu at the top left. It can be set to All or Any. All mens it will include media that meets ALL of the criteria specified, or it will include media that means ANY of the individual criteria. So, if you’re looking for audio only media, that is also part of the Dave Close-Up keyword collection, do you want the media to be either audio OR “Dave Close-Up”? Or do you want media to be audio AND ALSO part of the “Dave Close-Up” collection? ANY will usually be a larger collection than ALL.


Let’s say I have Keyword Collections A1, A3, and B7, plus I have a lot of audio only and video and photos. I create a Smart Collection that specifies the A1 and B7 keywords, and the photos criteria. Do I want my content to be everything from A1, everything from B7, and all photos? Or do I want my content to include ONLY that media which is included in both the A1 and B7 keyword collections at the same time, AND is a photo?

Although Smart Collections can use the physical properties of media to help with organizing clips, it can also be more so when used in conjunction with keywords, folders, ratings, and other types of physical and metadata. I hope this blog post has helped someone along the way. And as always, ROCK THOSE EDITS!