Final Cut Pro Tip #050 – Using Disk Images to Manage Media in Final Cut Pro X

Using Disk Images to Manage Media in Final Cut Pro X

Final Cut Pro X has given editors some new methods for media management. It can be an obstacle to change from the pervious FCP (7 and earlier) way of working to the new method used in X. However, once you get it figured out, it can be very powerfu. Although one of the major downfalls to this, is that if there are many projects and events, it can become difficult find what you are looking for. One way to remedy this, is by creating disk images for each project (job).

You can used this method before or after you start a particular job. For this example we’ll start before we ingest media and edit.

Let’s get started!

The fist step is to open Disk Utility. Disk Utility is already on your system, and if you’re not familiar with it I recommend you take some time to get play with it. It is a great way to deal with disks of all forms. Form formatting, to repairing disk permissions. It also can give you some basic S.M.A.R.T. information to check on the health of your drives.

You’ll find Disk Utility in your Utilities folder:


One you launch Disk Utility you will want to create a new image. You can do this by selecting the new image icon in the toolbar or navigating to Blank Disk Image… under the File > New menu (⌘⌥N).

Next you will be prompted to save the disk image. These setting can be a little confusing so we’ll go through each one in detail.

Save As: & Where:
This is the name of the file that you will save. It’s important to understand that this will not be the name of the disk image you will create later (the actual volume that will mount). This disk image will be a single file that you should store on your media drive or RAID. It will eventual be a file that contains ALL your media.

This will be the name of the mounted disk image (volume) You’ll want this name to be unique for each disk image you create (although not necessary, but you’ll thank me later). To make things easy, I like to save the disk image file and name the volume the same thing. This avoids confusion later on. Since we can make individual disk images for each project we edit, naming the image that way makes a lot of sense.

You want to select a size that will allow for all the media you’ll need for your project. I like to set sizes that are the same size as the archive method I’ll be archiving with upon completion. For example LTO-5 tape is 1.5TB. To do this you’ll need to go under the custom size setting. You’ll only be able to save a capacity equal to or less than the available space where you are saving the image. So for example if you are saving it to your media drive, and you have 3.86TB available, the largest image you’ll be able to create is 3.86TB. If you select 4TB your system will automatic resize it to 3.86TB one you select ok. One thing to note, because we are using a sparse disk image (which I’ll explain more about later), the capacity you select will not actually consume that much space on your drive. It is merly the limit on what you can put into the image. Think of it like a gas tank. If you have a 10 gallon tank, the most gas you can put in is 10 gallons. However, you don’t have to put in 10 gallons, and only the gas put it will be used.

Next you’ll need to select your format. For use in FCP X, the default Mac OS Extended (Journaled) will be sufficient. For use in this application, there will never be a reason that you’ll need to select any of the “FAT” formats.

For Encryption, you’ll likely select none. If you would like to password protect you disk image, and in turn your project you can select one of the encryption options. You’ll be prompted to enter a password, that will have to be used to mount the disk image. This can be useful if you are working on a sensitive project, or don’t want to allow other access to it.

There are a lot of options for the type of partition to select. The default “Apple Partition Map” will be fine to use. You can also select the “GUID Partition Map”. These have a lot more to do with booting, and will not really effect the image for this purpose.

Image Format:
This is the final and probably most important option. We want to select sparse bundle disk image. It’s important to understand why we are making this selection.

A sparse disk image, is a disk image that only uses the capacity of what you put into it on your drive. Refer to the gas tank analogy I mentioned before. Therefore, if you select read/write disk image, and you selected the image to be 2TB in the size option, you’ll actually be taking up 2TB of space on your drive. Even if you only have 400GB of data on the image. There are applications where this might be useful, however not for this purpose.

What’s the difference between sparse bundle disk image and sparse disk image? A sparse disk image is a single file, where a sparse bundle is actually made up of a bunch of small files to the OS (even though it will only appear as a single file to you). The advantage of the bundle is that when you make changes to the image, only the some of these small files will change. This is ideal when you are using Time Machine or other methods of backup where incremental back ups are made. You’ll not have to archive the entire image, but just the segments that have changed.

The bundle option was introduced in OS 10.5, so for use with FCP X, the bundle option is best. You can select the sparse disk image option if you plan to mount the image on an os pervious to 10.5.

Now that you’ve got all the settings configured you are ready to select create.

You will get a progress bad that that shows the creation of the disk image. This should only take a few seconds.

Once it’d done you’ll end up with the disk image file (in the location you chose to save it) and the mounted image itself. The mounted image will appear just as any other volume on your system. You can eject it just like other disks, and to remount it, simply double click on the image file.

Now lets get into FCP X. Before you launch the app, make sure you do have the image you created mounted.

Once FCP X loads, you’ll see the image in both the Event Library and the Project Library.

You can now create a new event and project and work as normal. When you are not using this project or job, you can unmount the disk image and it will not be displayed in in FCP X. One thing to keep in mind is that when working with this disk image technique. Essentially all of your media and projects information will be stored in this single file. This make archiving and back up super easy. It can also be disastrous if you accidentally delete the file.

There are many different ways you can use this technique for media management in FCP X. If you’ve already got a project and events that you would like to move to a disk image, it’s easy. Use the same steps above to create the image. Then in FCP X use either the Move Project or Duplicate Project (⌘D) option under the File menu. I recommend you use the duplicate option for endurance.

If you select Move, you’ll be asked wether you want to move the project only or the project and referenced events. You’ll want to use the project and referenced event option to move everything. Make sure that you select the image for the location.

If you select the Duplicate option, you’ll get a few more options. Duplicate project only, duplicate project and referenced events, or duplicated project + used clips only (this option only copies media used in the project to a new event). Ideally the option to choose is duplicate project and referenced events. However, depending on how you would like to you used this technique, you have the option to do a bit on consolidation.

It’s that easy to use disk images with FCP X. Not only can it help with organization, media management and consolidation, but it can also make archival and backup a breeze.