FCP X to Logic Pro X, The Fine Print

You may have heard it's possible for Logic Pro X to read FCPXML! Ben Balser explores the best ways possible to create a successful workflow between Apple's pro video and audio workstations.  

Logic Pro X being able to now read FCPXML is a great boon to Final Cut users, when needing to deal with professional level audio work. Yet when going from Final Cut Pro X to Logic Pro X via FCPXML, there are some caveats you need to be prepared for. I call this “the fine print”. In this article, we will look at what is necessary to create a successful workflow between the two apps.


Preparing The Timeline

The first thing to watch out for is audio sample rate. There shouldn’t really be any issues, but it is simply good practice to be sure all audio in an NLE timeline is the same sample rate. The standard audio rate for video is 48 kHz. Audio, especially dialog that is not at the same sample rate as the timeline’s settings can cause drift, which becomes more and more apparent over time. But if you really must use audio of differing sample rates in your project timeline, this workflow to Logic shouldn’t really be an issue, as we’ll see later in this article.

The second thing to be aware of is that Logic will not read all of the video formats that FCPX can. It can only read the most Mac-friendly QuickTime formats. For example, even though I can edit REDCODE RAW files in FCPX, when I export that project timeline as an FCPXML, Logic won’t be able to play back the video, since it can’t read that video format itself. In these cases, use one of two workflows. Either go into the FCPX Preferences and switch Playback to Proxy Media, if you’ve already created such. Or export a Master File as we’ll discuss later in this article.

Finally, and this is very important, you’ll need to break apart Compound, Sync, and Multicam clips. Logic as of this writing gets very confused when trying to read this stuff from FCPXML files. If you have these, I recommend duplicating the project, then in this new project timeline breaking things apart in the duplicate timeline. This keeps your original intact, and lets Logic lay your audio clips out as it should.


Exporting From Final Cut

To simply get just the audio clips in your project from FCPX to Logic simply open that timeline, go to the File menu, to Export Project XML. You can only export a project timeline with FCPXML. You’ll have the option to select a Metadata View from a drop-down menu. This sets up what metadata is included in the exported file. For the majority of cases, the Basic selection will work just fine. Logic won’t deal with much of the advanced metadata presented in the other views, anyway.

Figure 1


If you are using optimized or proxy media, and want Logic to use that video, it will automatically be imported with your FCPXML file. If you used some other none native Mac-friendly QuickTime format Logic may not read, then you’ll want to export the video only of your project as Apple ProRes Proxy. The resulting movie can be a floating window or be confined to the static Movie pane in Logic.

If you want a video track along the top of your audio clips as an easier visual reference, you’ll need to export a Master file in FCPX, setting the export window settings to export audio only, and as Apple ProRes (Proxy). In Logic, you’ll go to File, to Movie, then select Open Movie. Finally you’ll want to open the Global Tracks where the Movie track is hidden.


Importing Into Logic

To import this file into Logic, open Logic and create a New Empty Project from the browser that shows when you first launch it. It will ask you to create a track, as an audio project must contain at least one track. Set it as an Audio track as seen below.

Figure 2


Then simply go to File, to the Import option, and choose Final Cut Pro XML. Depending on the size of your project, it will run through a read process, and end up with your timeline’s audio clips all laid out. If you used clips of differing sample rates, Logic will prompt you to chose which sample rate to use, normally 44.1 kHz or 48 kHz. Select 48 kHz (unless you have a need for 44.1) and all audio clips of other sample rates will automatically be converted. I’ve found this conversion to be very efficient. 

Figure 3


Next, if your FCPX project timeline frame rate is different than what is set as the default in Logic, you’ll be prompted to make another choice. By default Logic is set to 25 FPS, but most of us are using 30 or 29.97 or some other frame rate. Simply select the frame rate your FCPX project was set to, and Logic will conform to that frame rate without issue.

Figure 4


The Logic Movie Preview

When you import FCPXML Logic will automatically look for the video files, and present you with a full resolution video preview screen. It may take up most of your monitor. No worries, either grab a corner of that screen and resize it, or right-click inside the screen and select one of the smaller sizes, such as .25 (one quarter). This is a floating window you can move around freely. If you’re like me, you hate this, and prefer the Movie pane. Simply close that floating window and you should see your movie show up in the top left pane of Logic’s interface, above the Region and Track panes of the Inspector (shortcut is simply “i”). 

Figure 5


If you had to export a Proxy video file, import it by going to the File menu, to the Movie option, and then selecting Open Movie. Chose your Quicktime file and it will work the same as above, except you also have the added Movie track. Open the Global Parameter button and see a movie track along the top of your audio tracks.

Figure 6


Saving & Naming

Remember to immediately Save in Logic (Command-S). In the initial Save window, choose Folder and uncheck all other options. By default it will go into your Music folder, into a sub-folder called Logic, and then into a Folder with the name you give it. A very easy system easy to keep track of your Logic work.

Figure 7


If you get to a point where you want to version your Logic project, simply use Save a Copy As from the File menu.

 Also be aware that Logic only refers to original media, never actually altering it, in a non-destructive manner, just like Final Cut.


Exporting From Logic

Once your work in Logic is done, it is time to export to go back to Final Cut. There are two main workflows for this. The first is to Bounce Down all of our audio to a single, self-contained stereo or surround sound AIFF file, in which you are locked in to the final mix. The second is to export an FCPXML file that leaves all of our individual audio clips available for furthering editing and trimming in FCP X.


Exporting An AIFF File

Bouncing Down is an old recording studio term referring to the process of bouncing multiple tracks of recorded tape to only one or two for the final mix. You have one audio file fully mixed down. 

When your work is completed in Logic, go to the File menu, to Bounce, and select Project Or Selection (Command-B). For a standard AIFF file set to video standard audio specs, configure as seen in the picture below. The bottom left of the Bounce window shows an estimated file size and processing time. Then simply click the Bounce button, and import the resulting AIFF file into FCPX as normal. This is the most reliable and easiest option for getting your work back in to FCPX. I highly recommend always doing a Bounce to get your work back in to FCPX, simply due to its reliability.

Figure 8


Exporting An FCPXML File

This method gives us an XLM file to import in to FCPX which will result in a new Event, with new audio files and a new project timeline containing all of our audio clips. As of this writing I find this method to be very buggy and advise not to use it until Apple has ironed out the XML workflow for Logic a bit better. I am finding clips all start at the beginning of the timeline, they’re not in order, the video clip is not correct, there are simply too many issues for it to be workable at this time. When Apple fixes this workflow, we will update this article.

Figure 9


One note about exporting XML for Final Cut from Logic is that you’ll have a choice to make. Export it as a Compound Clip or as a regular project timeline. It is simply checking or unchecking the Export As Compound Clip checkbox in Logic’s export window. Either way, you get the exact same content and result. The only difference is that one has a Compound Clip in a new Event that you can drop in to other timelines right away. The other gives you a project in a new Event. Both give you all new clips, which are exported from Logic to the same location as your FCPXML file.


Conclusion

The FCP to Logic workflow is not a perfect one yet, but shows that Apple has gotten a start to a round trip method that is very useful. As long as you know how the round trip workflow works, the caveats to prepare for, you should be able to utilize this without much problem. I hope this article clears the subject up, and look for in depth Logic Pro X training here on macProVideo.com.


Ben Balser studied educational psychology at Loyola University, and after retiring from a 20+ year IT career, now produces, consults, teaches, and rents equipment for media production as a full time job. As an Apple Certified Master Trainer, he ran the Louisiana Cajun Cutters FCP user group for 8 years, taught post-production at Louis... Read More

Discussion

duenorth
Hi Ben,

Thanks for your articles on how to roundtrip between Final Cut and Logic. I read the one you wrote in July, too, and both are great. I have some questions about audio bit depth, and hope you'll offer your insights here:

Say my Final Cut Project has audio settings of 48 kHz sampling rate and 16-bit depth, but I want to edit the audio in Logic at 48 kHz /24-bit. (I might want to mix the video's audio with another track of voice-over recorded at 48 kHz/ 24-bit depth, and also add some audio processing.) What do you think about this workflow:
1. Exporting the audio from Final Cut as a Master File,
2. Transcoding (in QuickTime Pro or Compressor) from 16 to 24 bit depth,
3. Importing the audio into Logic Pro as 48 kHz/ 24 bit depth,
4. After working in Logic, bouncing down the audio from multi-track, 24-bit to a single 16-bit stereo track,
5. Importing the track into Final Cut, where it will again match my Project settings.

Any thoughts about this approach?Or is there a way to do this using XML exporting and importing?

Thanks again!
BenB
My first question would be why you want to go 24-bit for something as basic as voice work. You won't hear any difference in quality. And I do all of my VO work now directly inside of FCP X. I like the magnetic timeline workflow infinity better than the multi-take features of STP or Logic.

Now if there were a reason you really had to take it to Logic, and had to work in 24 bit, I'd use Roles to export my audio tracks as audio stems at 24-bit (custom Compressor settings help with this). Then bring the bounced down mix back into FCP X.

When I brought back the mix into FCP X, I'd first Duplicate my Project (Project only) and put all original audio into a Compound Clip, then drop my mixed down AIFF into that Project.

But again, there is going to be no perceivable difference between a 16-bit and 24-bit voice track. And its all going back to 16-bit for a standard video file, also.

BenB
AND, you could always change your Logic project setting to 24-bit after the FCPXML import into it.
duenorth
Hi Ben,

Thanks for your suggestion — I'll try it!

Regarding working at 24-bit depth in Logic Pro X, I record voice-over in Logic, where recording at 24-bit is recommended and is the default setting. I also mix and process audio in Logic — EQ, compression, maybe a limiter. Here, too, I've understood that it's best to process audio at 24-bit, then bounce to 16-bit for use in Final Cut, then creating the DVD and playing the movie.

So that's why I was wondering how to put the 16-bit audio from video (captured in Final Cut) into 24-bit for mixing and processing in Logic.

Again — thanks for your great articles on the round-trip between Final Cut and Logic!

Rounik
Hi duenorth,

From my understanding, the greatest benefit you'll get is when recording at 24-bit depth... as this will give you much more dynamic range and therefore headroom and allow you to record at lower levels while capturing plenty of data info.

When it comes to converting from 16bit to 24bit I believe you're not actually improving the bit depth of the audio file, it will simply create a larger file. The dynamic range is already set. So, I'd recommend staying at 16bit when importing into and mixing in Logic ...

Hope this helps,
Rounik
BenB
Again, just change the bit-depth of the Logic Project, if desired.
duenorth
Hi Rounik,

Thanks for your thoughts!

I agree with you on recording voice-over at 24-bit depth. I also agree that converting the 16-bit audio from Final Cut to 24-bit in Logic doesn't improve that audio: it just creates a bigger file size.

But my Logic project involves mixing a 24-bit voice-over track with the 16-bit audio tracks from Final Cut. All the tracks in a Logic project must have the same bit depth. Should it be 24-bit or 16-bit? I prefer 24-bit, since I'd rather preserve the quality of the voice-over track, and I accept a larger file size for the audio-from-video tracks (after they're converted to 24-bit). Also, this way I can mix and process the tracks in Logic at 24-bit and bounce to 16-bit.
BenB
Go with 24-bit.

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