“DON’T!”…would have been my advise in the past with regards to changing editing software or operating systems or computers in the middle of an edit. But if you aren’t too deep into your editing, you might consider getting off that reliable but ancient workhorse Final Cut Pro 7.
A brief history: Final Cut Pro 7 was released in July 2009 and when Apple released the next version called Final Cut Pro X in June 2011, it threw many documentary editors and filmmakers into chaos, anger and confusion. Almost universally, the filmmakers I knew swore they would never use the new software. Editors and directors hunkered down and decided to wait to see what would happen. And many, many folks are still waiting and still using their 6 year old FCP software on old computers with old operating systems. A few folks have managed to get FCP7 to work on new computers with OS Yosemite. Here at Shirley Thompson Editorial we have the film Finding KUKAN, which we are still editing on FCP7 on Mavericks OS on a 2013 MacBook Pro, and we have deemed this project “too big and too complex to move.” We have 7,829 clips in about 300 bins…over 7 TB of footage and dozens and dozens of sequences, many with layers and temp color corrections and effects, including a 65 minute rough cut and multiple versions of that cut. So our plan is to finish the offline in FCP7 and I will not upgrade my MacBook Pro to Yosemite for fear of breaking the old software. Director Robin Lung tried to open the project on her new MacPro with Yosemite and it didn’t work. So there it is.
When Marlene Booth approached me in 2013 about editing her new film Kū Kanaka I told her that we would need to find a new editing platform because I couldn’t guarantee that FCP7 would keep working long enough for us to finish her film. We decided on Adobe Premiere, largely because the school where she teaches was switching to Premiere and she would be learning it anyway. But then I was so busy and she was so busy and it just seemed easier when we had only a week to edit a sample reel to cut it on Final Cut Pro. Ultimately we edited 3 sample reels on FCP7 over about 18 months.
But I was serious about switching to software that was current and supported, so when we began editing the film in earnest last June, we switched to Adobe Premiere Pro. I had cut a few trailers on Premiere Pro already and so I had gotten my basic editing chops up to speed, more or less. But right away, I wanted access to the Sample Reel sequences we edited on FCP. So I decided to export those sequences out of FCP and into Premiere Pro. Here are the steps I took to do that.
First you need to export your FCP sequence as an XML file, which can be read by Premiere. Launch the Final Cut Pro project and open the sequence that you wish to export to Premiere. With that sequence selected or with the Browser as the active window, click File -> Export -> XML.
You’ll get a dialog box: choose the latest version of XML, version 5, and save with latest clip metadata. Just use the defaults. When prompted, Save as ProjectName.xml. I named mine KuKanakaSample201406.xml.
Note that many video and audio effects and some transitions will not translate to Premiere. Simple things like dissolves and audio keyframing will translate. But for example, titles will not. You’ll get the text, but you will lose all the formatting. But all the edits in your timeline will remain correctly in place.
Now that you’ve exported your sequence from FCP as an XML file, you need to import it into Premiere. Open your Premiere project, or create and name a new project. Select File -> Import and select the XML file you exported from FCP. When you finish exporting, step through your sequence and you’ll be able to see what translated and what didn’t but you should have your edits.
You may also get a bunch of “File Import Failure” error messages, as I did. Don’t panic. If you look down the list you can see what didn’t import. Mostly it was a handful of .caf sound effect files, which come with Apple’s Soundtrack Pro software, and hence are not compatible with Premiere. And the rest were also odd file types: one PDF file, for example. So I knew I needed to replace a handful of sound effects with a different file type (.aif or .wav), or go back to FCP, make the changes there and then do the XML export and import again.
But in the end, I got my Final Cut Pro Sample Reel sequence into Premiere and I could more or less start editing where I left off. I did have to rebuild a few effects and titles and tweak my audio levels and all my color corrections had to be rebuilt from scratch. But I had the content, and that was the most important thing.
Another thing that you will soon learn while editing in Premiere, is that Premiere treats audio tracks differently than FCP. In FCP, every track is a mono track. In Premiere you can have stereo tracks (by default) or mono tracks. When you import a sequence from FCP, it imports your tracks as mono tracks. So don’t be confused by this. I could write a whole blog post about this, and likely I will soon…this difference in how audio is treated took me a while to get used to.
Anyways, I hope this is helpful as a basic “how to” for moving a sequence from Final Cut Pro to Premiere Pro CC. If you have questions or suggestions at how this process could be improved, as always, I’m happy to hear from you. Also, we intend to finish this PBS documentary mostly on Adobe products, and I plan to continue blogging about our workflow, so stay tuned for more articles.
Here are some additional resources that were helpful to me in figuring out this translation process:
Lynda.com Premiere Pro Guru: Organizing Assets with Jason Osder, Importing FCP and Avid Projects (you must be a subscriber to view lynda.com content).