The “SHIFT-Q Lifestyle”

Consider the lowly SHIFT Q shortcut:

You probably know that it brings up the System Settings panel. Big deal, right?

Well, it really is a big deal to me and it’s the first command I hit every single time I open Final Cut Pro. In fact, using the System Settings panel effectively is, for me at least, one of the most important things I do in FCP for my sanity and my business. I call it the “Shift-Q Lifestyle” and here’s the deal…


As you may know, the first time you open a new project in FCP, the app creates a series of folders (see image at left). These folders are, by default, created in the following location: User/Documents/Final Cut Pro Documents and this is probably on your internal hard drive. This is where FCP will now dump your captures, renders and various other files it creates as you work on your project. If you don’t point your “Autosave Vault” away to another disk (which you should really do as you hate to put your safety copies on the same disk as your project in case that disk fails), it too will be located there.

This is a problem for a couple of reasons. First of all, it’s not a great idea to store all of these hefty project files on your main internal systems boot disk. You should have a separate disk for FCP projects (which might also be internal, of course, but I often have dedicated external FW800 disks for large projects and I use secondary large internal SATA drives for multiple smaller projects). Secondly, if you are working on several projects (who isn’t?) or especially if you are part of a team that has to pass projects back and forth or access them over a network, the way FCP nests all of your projects into this single set of folders makes separating and quarantining multiple projects very tricky and time consuming. For each project you start, FCP will create folders with that name within this same set of folders such that there is no way to quickly pull one project out by itself without a lot of surgery in the Finder.

In my days as an FCP instructor at San Francisco State, I can’t tell you how many times I had to help various of my students untangle a gordian knot of convoluted, nested folders that had swallowed up their projects. It can be a real mess.


Here’s what I have done to streamline the workflow in my own shop. I created a comprehensive set of nested folders that not only provide a place to point my projects (using SHIFT Q), but that accomodate all the related files for my projects in one neat clean package. You can download this set of folders for yourself here or you can access it via the “Goodies” link at the top of the page. It’s a small gift to you.

Here’s what you get: A complete set of folders that will provide a parking space for every conceivable element of your project in order to give you a consistent way to organize and manage your projects. No more saving things out to the desktop for lack of a better place to put it. This will make handing files off between members of a team a snap and give an organization a consistent way to manage files so that everyone knows where to look for the things they need.

Best of all though, it gives you a place to point all your System Settings options every time you open FCP (and that’s important). Make sure that you start work on every FCP project by hitting SHIFT Q then quickly pointing your captures and renders (the stuff in the check mark boxes at the top) and the Waveform and Thumbnail Caches all to the “Project FCP Folder” and here’s a critical note: do not point them down into the folders within the Project FCP Folder (even if the Thumbnail or Waveform Caches already exist there) because it will create a new set within those and things will get messy. Again: only point to the “Project FCP Folder” and let FCP figure out the rest. I have given this folder a distinctive icon to make it easy to hit.

I do recommend that you point your Autosave Vault to a separate disk (I actually do save them to my boot disk) for redundancy. If you do, god forbid, lose the drive containing your project, at least you can rebuild by using your autosaved files.

I save my Projects to the appropriate “Project Files” folder–there are some options within the “Project Files” folder you see above. In fact, there are sub-folders in most of those folders, so check the whole thing out a bit and see where things go. I think it is pretty self-explanatory and you can, of course, modify it to suit your own needs. I keep a zipped copy of the folder set on all of my FCP disks and I unzip a fresh copy for each new project as soon as a client calls or emails me about it.

Hopefully this folder set will help you keep your own FCP projects well organized and neatly contained in separate, easy-to-move buckets for each project and I also hope you will now see the importance of using SHIFT Q every time you open FCP and join me in living the “Shift-Q Lifestyle!”

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