I’m still quite new to making videos, but having recently (and very quickly) run out of space on my laptop, I’ve learned a lot about making space on your computer with Final Cut Pro X. I thought high quality photos (for my blogging) took up a lot of space, but I had no idea how large video file sizes were until now. What I’ve learned about making space on my laptop has resulted from necessity. I literally have no space left on my computer to import the rest of the videos for a vlog series I’ve been working on about Zumba Convention.
Currently, I’m working Final Cut Pro X using files stored on my laptop. I’m researching working on files stored on an external drive, but I haven’t switched to this yet. I’d love to hear about your experience if you want to leave a comment on this.
I thought others may be in the same boat and it may be helpful to share what I’ve been doing so far to manage the large video file sizes. But like I said, I’m still really new to this and welcome any feedback about this process. This seems like the type of thing that has no right or wrong way. There’s what works best for you and your situation. Still, if you have a process or tips that work really well, I’d love to hear about them in the comments or via an email, tweet, etc.
This is a fairly complex topic at times, but I wanted to share my approach based on my research/experience so far. I don’t have all the answers, but I’ve included links to additional resources that have been helpful for me.
Video Files: What to Keep?
The first key question you have to ask yourself is: what do you want to keep? I’ve read a few different POVs on this, and they seem to range from:
- Minimalist: Only keep your final videos*
- Hoarder: Keep all the things
*This is what I believe Tim Schmoyer of Video Creators does (I think I heard this in one of his videos).
Personally, I tend to fall closer to the last bucket. My tendency is to think, “But what if I need that clip/video/project one day?” I’ve asked myself the same thing over the years with blogging and photos. Honestly, rarely do I go back to my older photos. But, once you’ve deleted them, they’re gone forever, so while I can afford to keep them, I think I will. I may change my tune as I continue to accumulate content, especially since the videos are adding up quickly.
Minimalist Approach to Saving Video Files
The minimalist approach is the easiest. You could save three back-up copies (see below on “Saving Back-Ups”) of your final video and delete everything else. “Everything else” will be dependent on how you stored your original files (what settings you used on import, your file structure, etc.). For me, for the most part, I store one Project per Event, so when my Project is complete, I could delete the entire Event because it doesn’t have dependencies with other Events or Projects. Please see below section on deleting files.
Hoarder Approach to Saving Video Files
If you’re trying to make space on your computer, it’s important to know what is taking up all that space anyways. You can easily view this by opening your Movies folder. This is usually under your user folder. Open the Movies folder and look for the library icon (four purple squares with stars on them). Note for PC Users: The following are steps for a Mac. I don’t have a PC, so I’m not 100% on if the menus are named the same, but hopefully they’re similar.
Right-click the library icon and select “Show Package Contents”. You should see a folder for each of your Events here. You can right click each event and select “Get Info” to see the size of your event. More importantly, you’ll want to look at these sub-folders inside each Event: Original Media, Render Files, Transcoded Media.
What’s Taking Up the Space?
I looked at one of my Events for an unboxing video I made. It’s a fairly small Event. I didn’t do a lot of takes, and the final video is only 4:11 long.
(Screenshot is from when I moved an Event to a drive before I knew to delete re-creatable files…oops)
Here’s what I found:
- Top-Level Folder: 38.36 GB which makes up the following:
- Original Media: 9.95 GB
- Render Files: 3.65 GB
- Transcoded Media: 24.75 GB
What Do I Delete?
Do you see what I see? The Transcoded Media folder is crazy big. The Render Files is quite large, too. And according to Final Cut Pro support sites, the Render Files, Transcoded Media, and Proxy Media can be deleted because they can be re-generated at any time. You may not have these folders depending on your settings, but I typically have all three.
My strategy has been to complete my Project, get my final video file, back it up, delete the transcoded media, proxy media, and render files and move the remaining Event to an external hard drive.
You can read more about Render Files on this support site and more about Transcoded and Proxy Media on this support site (including what they are, how to create them, and how to delete them). There is a way to delete them from the folder view, however, I have been deleting mine from Final Cut Pro. It’s really easy, and you can delete all three with one action. I believe using FCP is generally the recommended approach.
See below sections for more on Saving Back-Ups and Moving Files to an External Hard Drive.
From what I’ve researched, you should back up your final video file(s) (or files, in general) in at least three separately stored locations. There are many options here, but you could put them on a combination of multiple external hard drives, a RAID external hard drive, and cloud storage. They key is the storage you use should be distinct and separate. As in on separate devices. Why? If you put three copies on a hard drive and the hard drive failed, you’d lose all of your files. If you had put one on one one drive, one on another, and a third in the cloud and one hard drive failed, you’d still have two copies. Also consider where your storage is physically located. You may think it’s smart to use three different external hard drives because what’s the likelihood of all three failing, right? But, what if someone broke into your house and stole all three drives? Yeah…they’d all be gone. If you had one in cloud storage, you’d be okay. The number of storage locations and types you use will depend on your own risk level.
Honestly, for me at this point, the final .mov file is the only thing I really care about. Holding on to the rest of the files is more of a nice-to-have. I make the videos for fun, not for work. If I were a wedding videographer for example, I’d adopt a much more stringent approach.
If you want to read more on back-ups, this post by Scott Hanselman has some nice information on the back-up rule of three.
Moving Files to an External Hard Drive
From my understanding, there’s no way to “move” an Event to another location. You can copy it and then delete the original. Please correct me if this is wrong because it would be easier to just move it in one step. Copying to an external hard drive is really easy. You just need to connect the drive, make a new Library on the drive (if there isn’t one set up already) via FCP, and drag and drop your Event from your computer’s Library to the external drive’s Library. Personally, since I delete transcoded and proxy media when I’m done with my project, which is right before I move the related event, I do not copy those things (you should be prompted about this on the copy). As mentioned above, they take up considerable space and can be regenerated later.
Here’s a nice (and short) video I found about moving your files to an External Hard Drive:
I covered Render Files, Transcoded Media, and Proxy Files above. Deleting everything else is a topic that could be its own post (or several posts) and can actually be a little complicated. Depending on how you set things up, your files could have dependencies that you may not be aware of. I recommend researching this a little more before deleting other files.
- This support post (click) about copying/moving files could be a good place to start
- Also see this support post (click) about backing up, consolidating, and moving projects
I know I need to read up on this topic more for sure due to the way FCP sometimes copies the actual files and sometimes creates references to the files instead.
This is the approach that has worked for me: finish my project, back-up the final file, delete the re-createable files (render files, transcoded media, and proxy media), back-up the remaining files, delete the Event from my computer. I’m hoping to come up with a better work flow, but this is making the cut so far.
Things I’m still researching:
- Should I work directly with files stored on an external hard drive (instead of my laptop)?
- What’s the best external hard drive to a) work from and b) use to store my back-ups/archives?
- What’s the best cloud storage to use as an off-site back-up location?
Do you have any suggestions for me on these research points?
Hope you found this helpful! And if you have tips for me, please leave them in a comment. Thanks for reading!