Now video editors can use the macOS Finder like a media database

I was lucky enough to be presenting at the 2016 FCPX Creative Summit a month ago when Benjamin Brodbeck came up to me with a problem. He works at Caterpillar Inc. and has a team of over 30 editors and assistants working on videos being shot and edited all over the world.

They constantly need to make films covering specific regions, models of equipment and categories of engineering project. Categorising footage is very important. A film featuring forest equipment being used in China can’t feature a shot of the wrong piece of equipment, or one taken in the wrong country.

Each team member has a license to use a high-end Media Asset Management database system to sort, label and categorise thousands of hours of footage. The problem is that nearly everyone in Ben’s team are too busy to assign keywords to media on the MAM system when they’ve already done this work in Final Cut Pro X.

Editors organise their work in Final Cut by assigning keywords to clips. That means a clip can be assigned a model number keyword, a location keyword and a category keyword. That means clips can be organised in any way during production — editors don’t have to live with a hierarchical arrangement of clips inside folders inside folders. This database part of Final Cut Pro X is based on the Final Cut Server MAM application which Apple launched in 2007.

Ben asked if there was a way of copying the keywords added to clips in Final Cut to the source clips in the Finder. This would encourage commercial MAM systems to recognise and import this metadata to update their databases. That would mean the work done by one editor or assistant would benefit the others when they need to find the footage they need for a project.

I immediately thought of the guys at Intelligent Assistance: Philip Hodgetts and Gregory Clarke. They make workflow tools for post-production, most of which are based around manipulating metadata. As we were all attending the main Final Cut conference being held in Cupertino Californ0a — The FCPX Creative Summit — I walked Ben 40 yards to where Philip had just given a presentation and suggested that Intelligent Assistance might be interested in using the Finder to organise multi-gigabytes of media. Maybe there was much less of a need to use a MAM at all. Every macOS editor uses their ‘Finder Asset Management’ system every day.

Philip and Greg immediately saw the value of this idea: the metadata added in Final Cut Pro X could be added to the media files as ‘Finder Tags’. Apple have spent the last few versions of macOS making sure that Finder Tags can be quickly applied in the Finder and documents associated with specific tags can be quickly found with Spotlight search. Also these tags can move from Mac to Mac without touching the source files themselves. Making sure the media is untouched once imported is a very important principle in film making. Although the source media files remain untouched, when they are imported into Final Cut, the application recognises the tags and applies them as keywords to the imported media.

A workflow that we came up with was as follows: a few TBs of footage can be sent via HD to remote offices. Once everyone has access to the same files, anyone can organise shots in Final Cut, applying keywords as they go. They can the export an XML, which can be emailed around the world. They could then use a new tool that takes the metadata in the XML and assigns it to clips in the Finder as Finder tags. Once a large proportion of a media drive is tagged, a copy can be made a sent to other offices so that other editors can benefit from the organisational work done.

How long would it take for someone to make a tool that does this?

Amazingly it is a barely a month later and Intelligent Assistance have already launched their tool that does this — FinderCat — on the Mac AppStore!

Read more about FinderCat here:

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