What My Post Production Workflow is Missing

post production sitting boss

Recently, my assistant editor has become more involved in my post production workflow.  Firecracker, who functions as Post Production Intern and Sitting Boss decided that he wanted to contribute to my edit last week by walking on the keyboard during a coffee break.  He inserted a clip all by himself, fearlessly exerting his creativity.

That was when I realized I should probably start versioning my projects.

What the Heck is Versioning?

For anyone who doesn’t know, “versioning” refers to creating multiple backup versions of a project, in this case an edit.  These versions are made at various intervals throughout the creation of the project and allow an editor to revert to a previous version of the project with ease, instead of undoing hours of work.

Microsoft Word, Google Docs and Final Draft already have this functionality built in, calling it “Revision Mode.” These programs are expecting multiple writers to work on a single document, revising simultaneously.

In the post production world, most of us will duplicate the project we’re working on before delivering it to the client for approval.  It’s the peace of mind of knowing that you can go back to the original delivery if necessary.  In addition, I version my projects before moving from post production to visual effects and color grading.

I also have Time Machine automatically version my project files, so I can snag the prior version of a sequence if I need it.  This involves recovering a file from an external application, but works in a pinch.  Long story short, you can’t be too careful with versioning.

Autosaving in Post Production

There’s a new trend, at least in Apple applications, to remove the task of saving from the user.  Programs have started autosaving every few minutes to ensure no changes will be lost if the program quits.

Prior to this advent, you had to manually save whenever you made a change you wanted to keep.  This meant saving frequently, but it gave the editor an odd kind of creativity in post production.  You could make broad, sweeping changes without saving and, if they don’t work or are shot down, simply revert to the prior saved state.

Autosaving can be a boon or a curse.  While it’s great that I no longer have to worry about hitting Command+S every ten seconds, it creates a new problem.  There’s no way to go back in time and undo what I’ve done, except by using the Undo command over and over.

All this talk of undoing and reverting might make it sound like editors make mistakes frequently, which is not correct.  You have to understand that editors working on large projects are dealing with input and changes from their bosses, who are in turn dealing with input from their clients.  You could have as many as ten different people contributing to a single project file in one way or another.  To have an application that can’t go back in time and doesn’t allow manual versioning is a serious problem.

“Revert” is Your Best Friend

After discussing Firecracker’s artistic integrity, I realized I had to undo what he unknowingly did.  Most applications (not just post production) have the option to “Revert” to a saved version in the File menu, which would have been an obvious choice.  I could have simply returned to the previous saved state, before Firecracker had the chance to alter the cut.

However, FCPX does not.  This strikes me as remarkably strange.  I’m not going to turn this into a “bash FCPX” post, but it’s a feature that’s sorely lacking.  If a post production application removes the editors ability to manually version his project through selective saving, it should include some failsafes to guard against unwanted feline editing input.

In all seriousness, I’m very disappointed that this feature is missing.  Currently, I’m writing this blog post in WordPress, which versions my work every few minutes automatically.  If I want to revert to a saved state, I simply need to choose the appropriate version from the list at the bottom of the page.  It’s all laid out in front of me in an easy, comprehensible list.

Remarkably like Apple’s Time Machine.

How Cool Would This Be?

Here’s what we need; not just for FCPX but for any post production application.  Go ahead and allow autosaving.  Do it every five minutes as you want.  But make sure every autosave creates a new timestamped file.  There’s no reason these files would be over 1 or 2mb in size – it’s essentially auto – duplicating a project file.

But, also include a “Revision Mode“.  This would allow you access to these versions from within the application.  Just like Time Machine, you enter the revision mode and are able to revert to any saved state of your project.  Client wants the version you delivered a week ago instead?  Boom, it’s two clicks away.

Masters of Space and Time

This technology already exists, it just needs to be implemented.  Heck, you could even implement a “cloud” version that backs up to a cloud server instead of your internal HD.  This would allow you to access your project file, including all its versions, from anywhere.

Developers, I’m looking at you.  Make this a reality and I’ll love you forever.  I’ll even give you a beta tester.  He’s fluffy and he already knows how to perform overwrite edits.

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