How to save storage space in Final Cut Pro
If you have started editing videos in Final Cut Pro then you know that Final Cut Pro will take up a lot of storage space.
Editing videos is an ongoing expense. After all, the footage that is taken needs to be securely stored somewhere during the edit process, arguably afterwards as well (more on this in a bit).
So how can you save storage space in Final Cut Pro?
No, this post is not about deleting render files. There are heaps of videos and posts about deleting render files, we will be covering different things here.
I will cover the following two main points:
- How to delete unused media after you have finished a project.
- How to save storage space outside of Final Cut Pro.
To see a few more things that aren’t covered in this post then watch the video below.
Video about how to save storage space in Final Cut Pro
For those who want to see what I am talking about, as well as a few more things that aren’t covered in this post, then this video may be helpful.
It covers what is in this post but also goes into a bit more depth about the different way you would store footage both during and after the edit.
For the purpose of this post it is assumed that you understand the differences between libraries, projects and events in Final Cut Pro.
It is also assumed that you understand the differences in moving and copying an object in general and have a somewhat basic understanding of Final Cut Pro and that you’re just trying to figure out how to save storage space in Final Cut Pro.
To follow this post you will need to also keep in mind the difference between the Finder (MacOS filing system) and Browser (FCP file viewing window) as some people can confuse the two.
Any questions though are welcome in the comments and I will answer as soon as available.
How to delete unused portions of clips in Final Cut Pro
The good news is that this is possible to do without any plugins.
The bad news is that it is such a tedious process and I don’t recommend it except for a few scenarios which I will go through at the end.
Although I don’t recommend it, it is a key part to saving storage space in Final Cut Pro that a lot of people ask about so I feel that it is worth showing and letting you decide if it’s worth your time.
Step 1 – Find clip in Finder
Find the clip in the Finder by selecting it in the browser of Final Cut Pro and using the short cut ⇧ + ⌘ + R
Alternatively you can right click the file and select “Reveal in Finder”, but I recommend getting used to keyboard shortcuts whenever you can.
Step 2 – Hit ⇪ (spacebar) to reveal preview
Select the clip in the Finder and hit ⇪ which will start playing the clip.
In the top right corner you will see a button like the one below.
Click it you naughty girl!
Step 3 – Drag handles to desire portion of clip
Here we will get some yellow bars, drag them in from either end to remove portions of the clips you don’t want.
When you are happy with the selection you will have the following options.
You can either replace the original media with this new shortened version, or you can make the selected portion a whole new clip that sits separate to the original.
The limitations and when to use this method
As you can probably tell, this is a tedious way of doing things and should only be used in a handful of scenarios.
If you have long beginnings and endings to your footage this might help and if you are really really short of storage this can help. Besides that I don’t see this as a good way to save storage space in Final Cut Pro.
If for example you wanted to save different pieces of your footage that weren’t the beginning and ends, you’d need to export lots of little samples of the clip as separate smaller clips and then delete the master clip, way too much work for me.
How to delete unused clips in Final Cut Pro
There are two ways to delete clips in Final Cut Pro, we will go through both here to better see that both methods achieve the same thing, but it is only the second method that I recommend using.
Step one when to save storage space in Final Cut Pro is to delete unused clips.
Note that we will be deleting the unused clips in their entirety.
Method 1 – Scouring the browser
The first method of saving storage space in Final Cut Pro is the one that I see circulated by others and it does work.
There are some problems with this method though:
- It is not automated.
- It requires the project to be loaded in the timeline for the relevant clip you wish to delete.
- People get confused by the filter unused clips (shortcut ⌃+U) in the browser window.
With this method you would complete a project, then with that project in the timeline you would find unused media, then using the shortcut ⇧ + ⌘ + R you would find the clip in the Finder and delete it.
“Unused Clips” Filter – Beware!
In the browser window of Final Cut Pro there is a shortcut that will show you “unused clips”.
DO NOT SELECT THIS OPTION!
What this option does is show you every unused frame of the footage, it does not show you clips that are not used at all.
Therefore, if you were to delete those clips from Finder, you would be deleting footage that you have used in the timeline by mistake.
All of these orange bars above show you footage that is used in the currently loaded timeline. By selecting “unused clips” in the Browser window you will see every frame of footage that does not have an orange bar.
So just avoid that filter altogether.
You can go through the Browser window and find clips that have no orange bars at all and delete them that way, but there is an easier way that automates the whole process!
Method 2 – Copy Projects
The best way to save storage space in Final Cut Pro by deleting unused clips is to copy projects from one library to another.
This is the method that I recommend for those who want to control their final cut pro storage and stay on top of the file sizes but don’t want to spend ages in doing so!
If you’re sure that you no longer need the files that were unused after you have completed a project, this is the best way to clean everything up before moving it all onto an external SSD or hard drive.
Create a library dedicated to completed projects
For this I like to have two versions of a library:
- The working library – for editing.
- The finished projects library – for storing projects.
The reason for this is because when you copy a project from one library to another library, only the used clips will be copied across to that library.
Make sure that the library that is used for storing completed projects has the media storage location set to “In Library”, this is found in the inspector window or ⌘ + 4 keyboard shortcut.
Set the library to store the content within the library.
Create a blank Event for the completed Project
Now we can create a new Event in the library that is for completed projects, then drag the completed Project over from the working edition of the library to this new Event that is empty.
As you can see above, the two Events are named exactly the same thing, this is entirely up to you how you name everything but I like to keep it to one Project per Event in this Library that is dedicated to housing the finished product.
Once we have done that, we select that we want the original media.
Now, we have dragged the project over but the media is not properly in the library yet, for that we need to…
Consolidate project media
Make sure the project is selected and not the event, then go to the menu as shown below and click it.
You will get another pop up, select that you want the original media, then you’re done.
The end result
This process is super easy, the best way to save storage space in Final Cut Pro and also the quickest.
What you have achieved here is an automated version of method 1, the computer has dragged across the used clips only and after consolidating them, you have those original files stored in that library.
From here you can delete your previous footage for this project, all of it, because you have the used footage stored elsewhere.
Then you can move that footage wherever you want it from inside the library (right click > show package contents when viewing the library in Finder), knowing that you’re moving all of the used media and none of the unwanted bits.
Put it on an external SSD or follow your general back up plan until you have as many copies of the media as you want. After that you can delete it from the computer/laptop to save storage space.
Other ways to save storage space in Final Cut Pro
So the above has explained how to save storage space in Final Cut Pro, but this is only good after you have finished the project. There are things you can do outside of Final Cut Pro that will limit the media size.
There are also some other things you should consider if you really want to save storage space that will keep your hard drives clean. Of course all of this is on a case-by-case basis but let’s look at the options.
1. Don’t save a ProRes “master” copy
You probably don’t need to save the finished project in ProRes 422, especially given the fact we have just gone through and weeded out the unused clips and still have the original media on a hard drive.
There is no need to save the project as ProRes as we’re not sharing with others to edit, it is complete, just save it as H.265 and if it ever needs editing again you can edit the original media.
As an example, a 30 minute project of mine gives the following results:
ProRes export = 110 GB.
H.265 export = 10.4 GB
2. Delete the footage entirely
Be honest with yourself, will you ever need the footage again?
It is hard to admit, but you probably won’t ever need this footage again. Save the storage space and delete it off the hard drive, this is the single best way to save storage space in Final Cut Pro.
Just make sure you keep the export of the finished project, if anything ever happened to Youtube you would want to be able to re-upload the video to another platform, but the raw footage can go.
Where this applies
This portion needs some further explanation. When I say delete the footage I am referring to the generic Youtube videos, things that are shot in a studio, “A-roll” and talking heads, things that can easily be re-shot.
You don’t need that footage and it isn’t special in any way so just delete it and forget about it.
Where this doesn’t apply
I am not suggesting anyone working in a professional environment follows this path in case a client ever wants a project re-worked, you will need to go back to the stock footage and tinker with it.
I also believe that if a particular thing is difficult to re-shoot, say a holiday for example, then keep the footage that is good. It would not be easy to go back to a location to shoot it again.
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3. Shoot at a lower bitrate
This is dependant on the power of your computer and editing setup, but you should try and shoot with H.265 where possible and avoid using an all-intra codec. This can help save storage space in Final Cut Pro before you even import the footage.
I personally edit off the Macbook Pro 16″ M1 Max (Amazon) and it has changed everything. It can edit the highly compressed codecs on the fly without the need for proxy media or even optimised media.
What this means is that I can shoot with my Sony A1 or Sony a7 IV (Amazon links) at 50mbps instead of 400mbps in certain scenarios.
Where this applies
As already discussed, this works better with better computing power, but the workaround for that is working with proxy footage during the edit which is what I used to do before I had my current laptop.
This is for locked off shots with static backgrounds.
Again, we’re talking about controlled environments and pieces to camera for Youtube instructional videos, interviews, talking heads etc.
The reason this works is due to the way the camera captures the footage using long GOP.
Basically, it is only recording data that has changed from one frame to the next, or predicting the differences. So if you’re in a studio and the only thing changing is your mouth and facial expression, you don’t need a high bitrate to capture that.
Where this doesn’t apply
If you’re shooting a scene that is dynamic, such as a travel video where the camera is moving in space and the contents of the frame are also moving (people, cars, waves, trees) then you need to shoot a higher bitrate to avoid losing this detail.
For travel videography, go the highest bitrate and colour sampling you can afford to do in your circumstances to get the most out of the footage in the edit.
For stationary shots/backgrounds feel free to capture lower bitrates without degraded quality.
So there are 3 ways to save storage space in Final Cut Pro (or outside of it) and the best way to delete unused clips in Final Cut Pro as well.
If there is any confusion, try the video out and see if it makes more sense, otherwise leave a comment.
If you shoot a lot of content I strongly recommend both shooting at a lower bitrate where you can and deleting the unused footage (or all of it) afterwards, only keeping the final video export.