Final Cut Pro X 10.1 Importing Media Video tutorial

Hey what’s up everybody. My name is Jasper Thayer. I’m an Apple Certified Trainer for Final Cut Pro and developer of

In this lesson I’ll be talking about how to import media from a camera and also how to import from a hard drive.

I want to import all these clips I have on my hard drive into FCP so that I can edit them in my project. Now I want you to understand what happens when you choose to optimize your files in FCP during import.

In the previous lesson we talked about media storage options in FCPX. I told you how my media was already placed on an external hard drive. This may be the case if you’re editing a project for a client or collaborating with another editor and they hand you a hard drive with all of the media you’ll use to edit the project.

Depending on the situation, you may decide to copy the files to the library during import or “Leave files in Place”. That all depends on where you decide to store the media that you will use for your project as explained in the previous lesson. I have decided to import my files and “Leave Files in Place” for my situation. So now that I understand what FCPX does with the media during import I will start importing my media into my events so I can start organizing it and begin editing my project.

From FCPX I will click the import button in the toolbar and then from the import window I’ll select my FCPX Media SSD hard drive from the devices and hold the command key to click and select multiple clips to import. Since I have three events setup in my Library I’ll select the clips I want to import into the first event and then click the import button. I want to select clips that will be imported into the Beverly Hills event first so I’ll hold command key and choose clips that I am going to import into the Beverly Hills event. I can skim over the clip thumbnail to preview the clip so that I know whether it’s a clip I want to import into this event.

While holding the command key I can select additional clips and if I want to de-select a clip I can click that clip again while holding the command key. Once I have all the clips that I want to import into the event then I’ll click the “Import Selected” button.

A window appears with options on what event to place the media in and whether to copy the media to the library or leave the files in place. We talked about that in the previous lesson. I’m going to choose to Add the selected clips to the Beverly Hills event and to Leave Files In Place.

Now there’s some other options listed below. Let’s go over some of these options so that you understand what’s going on here.

The first option is whether to Create optimized media or to Create proxy media. You can choose BOTH options, or you can decide not to choose any transcoding options.

Let me explain to you what the differences between these options are.

When you import your clips into FCP then FCP can optimize the media by transcoding the video to a format that’s easier to edit without having to endure additional rendering later on.

If you’re importing clips from a camera like a DSLR or GoPro then that footage is highly compressed as h.264 so that the camera is able to record large dimensions and high frame rates in realtime.

This type of video requires additional processing power in order to be edited on your computer. The basic reasoning behind the logic for the additional processing requirements of these formats mainly has to do with the way the camera captures footage and compresses it to a file that looks good to the viewer, and is small enough in file size to be able to fit as much footage as possible into the available media, in realtime.

In order to accomplish this, an algorithm for compressing footage was created. Most of these algorithms will take a frame of video and write all of the color data to that frame. This frame is referred to as the “i” frame since all the “information” for that frame is written on it. Frames after the iframe only contain changes in color data, and not technically “all” the data. This compression technique is referred to as GOP format… G-O-P… which is an acronym for Group Of Pictures.

Let me explain it to you another way…

Imagine you’re animating one of those old bugs bunny cartoons, like one of the old flipbook style animations. If you were traditionally going about this, then for each page you would draw the entire character as they animated through the flipbook.

But the concept of GOP formatting would have you only draw the character on a few pages throughout the flip book and in between those pages you would only have to draw a couple of the select areas of the character so that when you flipped through the book it would create the optical illusion that you always saw the entire character throughout the animation. Your brain would trick you into thinking that you saw things and that’s basically what the brain of a camera does when it captures video with GOP formatting. It captures the information from keyframes throughout the capturing and fills in the gaps with guess work of the frames in between.

This makes for smaller file sizes for your media, but it requires additional processing from Final Cut Pro to edit since it basically has to rewrite all of the missing data when you edit the footage. So a way to get around this before you start editing in Final Cut Pro is to transcode the footage to Apple’s pro res format.

The downside to this option is that the new media that is created will be larger in file size, but will not require the additional processing that editing with compressed formats demand.

So if I were importing clips directly from my camera then I would choose to create optimized media, which would transcode the media to pro res 422 format during import and allow me to edit more efficiently while I work on my project.

I already transcoded these clips to pro res 422 using Compressor before I placed them on my external hard drive.

There is one clip titled GP020052 that I didn’t transcode yet so I’ll show you how I did it in Compressor in a little bit so you can see how I prepared all my other clips.

The other transcoding option is Create proxy media. This option will create a lower resolution pro res format of the imported media. This is a good option to use if you’re on a slow computer that doesn’t have that much hard drive space, like a laptop or something.

The bottom line is that whatever method you choose you should make sure that your media is optimized to work with FCP. The best way to do that is to ensure that the media you import is transcoded to pro res 422 format.

Like I said earlier, I already transcoded all of my clips to pro res 422… except for this one clip on my hard drive and a couple clips on my go pro camera. Let’s cancel this import for now and hide FCP for a minute and go to the Finder and look at this clip for a second….

This clip was copied from my GoPro camera to this folder on my external SSD hard drive so that I could import it and edit it in my project. I already transcoded all of my other clips to pro res 422 with compressor.

Now I’ll show you with this clip how I prepared all my other clips in Compressor.

Let me open up Compressor 4.1 and then I’ll drag the go pro clip from the Finder window to the Add File area of Compressor to add the file to the batch.

Then from the left area I’ll show the settings that are available. I’ll drill down the Pro Res options. Then I’ll drag the Apple Pro Res 422 setting onto the clip in the batch.

I also trim the clip up a little in Compressor before I transcode it. That way I’m only using the portions of the clip that I want to use before I import the clip because I’m trimming off the unwanted portions.

For instance check this out I have like a 9 minute clip of me riding the motorcycle through Hollywood. I know I only want to use like 1 minute of raw footage from this clip in my project. So I can scrub to the area of the clip I want to use in Compressor and press I on the keyboard to set and IN point and then click and hold the playhead to move it to the end portion I want to use and then press O on the keyboard to set an OUT point.

Then I can double click the file name and rename it to something like motorcycle ride or something.

I’ll choose a location to save it to, in this case I’ll save it in the FCPX Media SSD hard drive inside of the Hollywood folder where all of my other transcoded clips are located, I’ll press the Start Batch button to start transcoding the portion of the clip I selected to pro res 422. That will transcode the media to Pro Res 422 so that I can use that optimized media to edit in FCP.

That way I only have a small portion of the clip with just the part I want to use. This helps me manage the file size of the media I choose to use.

I’ll tell you why I like to do it this way…

If I copy a clip from my camera to my hard drive, and then later on I want to import that clip into FCP, looong after I’ve deleted that clip off my camera. Then I am unable to select in and out points on the clip to only choose a portion of the clip to import into FCP. I am forced to select the entire clip when I import it from a hard drive.

See here when I go to the import window in FCP and choose that go pro clip that I’ve copied from my camera to my hard drive, but haven’t transcoded yet, I get the funk sound when I try to hit I or O on the keyboard to set in and out points and only select of portion of the clip that I want to import.

Now if you’re importing clips directly from your camera then you can select in and out points to only import a portion of your clip.

Different people have different workflow methods. My particular workflow for this project was to copy the files from my camera to my hard drive first. Then I took the clips into Compressor and set in and out points and transcoded the batch to Pro Res 422. Then I’ll import those Pro Res clips into FCP and uncheck the options to transcode the media.

Now let’s say I have some clips that I want to import directly from my camera into FCP. I’ll select the camera that’s connected from the left column.

When you select the camera from the FCP import window then a list of clips appears. You can click clips to select them and then scrub through the clip to preview it. Now, because the clip is in a connected camera, you can press I on your keyboard to set an in point at the scrubber position and press O on your keyboard to set an out point.

You can also click the little button in the bottom left corner to view the clips in a clip view instead of a list view. This way you can see the selected areas of the clips a little better.

Check this out you can click and drag this slider to stretch out each clip to a little filmstrip. That way you can scrub across the clip and preview areas of the clip a little better.

I’m looking for a clip where I ride up behind a red Ferrari at a light on rodeo drive and then he takes off. I can stretch out the duration of the filmstrips so that I can preview the strips and see which clip has the red Ferrari in it. Now I can easily see the section I want to import. I’ll select the clip that has the red Ferrari in it and then scrub to the part of the clip I want to import and press I and O keys on the keyboard to set in and out points to select the portion of the clip I want to import.

You can see that because the clips are being viewed from the camera’s memory card at this point the footage is very choppy. Once I import the selections and optimize the media then the clips will play much smoother.

I can also click this little button on the right corner and adjust the clip height or show the audio waveforms of the clips if I want to see them.

Now that I have the section I want to import from the clip on my go pro camera I’ll chick the import selected button.

Now, because I’m importing the media from my go pro camera, I’ll add the clip to the Beverly Hills event since I’m riding my motorcycle on Rodeo Drive, then for the media storage option I’ll Copy the file and from the drop down menu I’ll “Choose” to copy the file to the Hollywood folder on my external SSD drive.

Once I have that setup I’ll click the option to Create Optimized media.

There’s some other options below where I could analyze the audio and video during import and do some other stuff. If you have clips with bad color or audio problems then you might want to choose these options during import. That way you can adjust the enhancements from the inspector later on.

The footage I’m working with doesn’t have any major problems with the color balance and the most of the audio will be replaced with a music track in my project so I’m not really worried about these options for my footage. I’ll go over some of these options later on. Right now I just want to start importing clips into the project. So I’ll leave all the other options unchecked.

Then I’ll click import.

Now you’ll see that the clip is immediately available in the Beverly Hills event and ready to edit on the storyline. I need to keep my camera connected during this time though because the clips is being copied from the camera to the location I selected during the import process.

I can click the background tasks button to look at the background tasks and see that the clip is currently being imported. Because of the options I chose this means that the clip is currently being copied to the external SSD hard drive. Once this process is completed in the background tasks then you will see the clip in the external SSD hard drive.

Then the clip will begin optimizing. You will see that the background tasks changes to begin transcoding the clip.

In the Finder I can see the clip is now in the external SSD location that I chose to copy the files to during import.

But wait a minute!

Because I imported this clip from my camera and chose to optimize media you would expect a copy of the optimized media to be copied to the same location that you chose to copy the file to during import, but this was not the case. The original clip was copied to the location I chose, which was the external SSD hard drive, but the optimized media that was created by FCP was copied into the library bundle file.

If I look at the fcp library bundle file I see that it’s now almost 3 gigs large because the pro res 422 file that was created when the clip I imported was optimized was copied into the library bundle file.

This is another reason I prefer to transcode my media myself using Compressor and then importing my media without having FCP optimize my media. Otherwise FCP will create a copy of the optimized media inside your library bundle file even if you choose to copy the files to an external location during import.

Check this out: if I right click this file now and choose to reveal in Finder it will show me the clip on my external SSD drive.

But if I look in the package contents of my library bundle file and then go to the event folder and then go to the Transcoded Media folder I can see the 2.95 gig file that was copied into my library bundle.

So if I go back to FCP and move that clip to the trash then close FCP and empty my trash then which file was deleted?

The file on my external hard drive?….. or the file in the library bundle file?

or both?

Well let’s find out.

When I right click the clip in FCP and move the file to the trash then close FCP and empty the trash I’ll go back to the Finder and see that the h.264 clip is still on my external SSD.

The optimized media that was created by FCP is now gone from the FCP library bundle file and the bundle isn’t 3 gigs large anymore.

The bottom line is that I want to keep my library file as small as possible. My ultimate goal is to separate my media from my library file and have as much control over my files outside of FCP so that I am not having FCP copy my files somewhere else without me knowing it may be happening.

So I choose to transcode all of my media using Compressor and then importing my optimized media straight into FCP without having FCP optimize my media for me.

I’ll go back to my external SSD drive and move the clip to the trash that FCP copied here from my go pro during import and transcode the clip using Compressor instead.

I’ll open Compressor and drag the clip with the red ferarri into the Compressor batch then I’ll apply a pro res 422 setting to the clip, set ion and out points, and choose to save the file to the external SSD location.

Now I’ll submit the batch and wait and minute until the batch is completed and then I’ll import that motorcycle clip into my FCP event along with all the other clips I transcoded.

First I’ll go though and select all the clips I want to import into the Beverly Hills event and then I’ll import the selected clips without copying the files to the library or creating optimized media. Then I’ll go through and select all the clips I want to import into the Hollywood event.

If I wanted to choose an event to import media into I can right click the event from the library and choose to import media or press command I on the keyboard.

I’ll select the Malibu Event and press command I to import clips into that event.

The import window appears with the Malibu Beach event preselected in the drop down menu.

I’ll finish up my selecting all the clips I want to import into the Malibu event and then import them.

I have another file I want to use in my project that’s an audio soundtrack. Since my project is in the Hollywood event I’ll put my audio file in the Hollywood Event as well. I could also create a new event for separate files if I wanted to but I’ll just put my audio track in the Hollywood event for now… and I can show you an easy way to organize files later on so I can quickly find my audio file when I’m looking for them.

Now I have all of my clips imported into my events and they’re all on my external hard drive, none of the files are hiding inside of my library bundle file, and everything is transcoded to an optimized pro res 422 format from Compressor before I imported my media.

I want to show you one more thing. Remember earlier I said I’d be talking more about FCP preferences when they are relevant. Well check this out.

If you go to FCP preferences and then click on the Import tab then you will see the current import preferences. The import preferences are always updated to the current settings you have selected. If I dragged clips from my Finder window into an event in FCP, then the current import settings would be applied to that imported media.

In the next lesson I’ll show you how to organize your media with keywords and also how to filter your media so that you can easily find what you’re looking for when you’re editing.

Jasper Thayer is the developer of

He has over 15 Apple Pro Certifications for video editing and special effects including Apple Certified Trainer for Final Cut Pro X and Apple Certified Trainer for Motion 5. Jasper is also an AWS Certified Developer and AWS Certified Solutions Architect. is known worldwide for its unmatched excellence in providing top-quality Final Cut Pro X tutorials. Subscribe to our mailing list to remain updated on the latest info about Final Cut Pro X tips, tricks, and tutorials.