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Author: Flash Kit Staff

This article is an excerpt from Getting Started with Final Cut Server, written by Matthew Geller and just published by Peachpit Press. It's an outstanding book for anyone planning on setting up a Final Cut workflow or preparing for the Apple Pro certification exam.

Final Cut Server gets its name from its nature: It is server software that runs on a Mac somewhere in your organization. However, the main way to interact with the software is through a client application on any other computer, inside or outside the organization. This client application was developed in the Java programming language and can run on a Mac or PC that is connected to your network.

You’ll use the client application to work with all of the files within Final Cut Server, including placing new files inside it and transferring files from it into the applications you use often, like Final Cut Pro.

Your administrator has connected Final Cut Server to any number of devices containing media and other files that are important to your staff and your workflow. For Final Cut Server to work properly, any place where your organization stores files should be defined as a device. Here are some device examples:

  • An Xsan volume
  • A network-accessible file server
  • Disk drives that are directly connected to Final Cut Server

The files on these devices are accessible through the network that connects your computer to Final Cut Server. The speed of that connection, whether it is contained within your organization or handled remotely by a virtual private network (VPN), will determine how fast you can access these files.


Final Cut Server is the gateway between you and all the places where files reside in your organization. These are called devices.

If your computer and Final Cut Server are Xsan clients accessing the same Xsan volume, Final Cut Server will simply provide pointers to the files on that volume, enabling you to access the files instantaneously. Even in this case, Final Cut Server can also act as a gateway to other devices in your organization.


Final Cut Server is used to search for assets on the Xsan volume while it remains the gateway for other devices.

The Building Blocks: Assets, Proxies, Metadata, Productions, and Jobs
Final Cut Server contains a central catalog of assets, which are references to actual media files located on a device. Each asset contains pointers to the original high-resolution version of the file, which we’ll call its primary representation.

When an asset is added to Final Cut Server’s catalog, it makes a proxy of the primary representation— a much smaller, lower-quality (and therefore easier-to-transmit) version of the primary representation that is usually stored on the hard disk(s) of Final Cut Server. Users that connect to Final Cut Server using low-bandwidth connections will view and use proxy files in order to save transmission time and hard disk space.

Each asset contains a thumbnail image of the primary representation for quick identification. The asset also contains a rich assortment of metadata (data about data), which helps you in searching for the asset, using it in your organization’s workflow, and categorizing it for special tasks such as archiving or deletion. Some metadata is generated automatically when the asset is created, but a lot of metadata is input by you and your colleagues in order to document the asset’s attributes and usage.

Assets can be pooled together in a group called a production. A production is like a virtual folder inside of Final Cut Server: a group of assets being used for the same purpose. Final Cut Server can assign metadata to productions automatically, and users can add metadata to them. Productions have their own catalogs within Final Cut Server that can be searched and categorized.

Final Cut Server also tracks jobs—the actions you, your colleagues, and Final Cut Server itself perform, such as adding assets to a catalog or copying original representations from one device to another. All jobs are logged and can be searched by users. Jobs have certain metadata attached to them, including error messages that can be looked up in case a job fails.

Excerpted from Real World Video Compression by Andy Beach. Copyright © 2008. Used with permission of Pearson Education, Inc. and Peachpit Press.

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Added: 2009-01-26
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