Sparse Bundles

Steve Martin of Rippling Training was probably the first to introduce the benefits of working with sparse bundles (or sparse disk images) when FCP was first released in 2011. Sparse bundles are a great way to isolate packets of material for training as I do with my book and with my online training.

Sparse bundles are useful for every FCP editing system. They are a simple, effective way to isolate the events and projects you need to work with from the events and projects you don’t need. Because the sparse bundle only takes up as much space as it needs it doesn’t consume unneeded drive space, which is what normally happens when a disk image is created. A disk image takes up as much space as you assign for it, like the space needed for a dual layer DVD. A sparse bundle only takes up as much space as the content actually uses and has a predefined upper limit. It’s much less complicated than it sounds.

There are a couple of  ways to make a sparse bundle. You can either use the Disk Utility and select File>New>Blank Disk Image and set the Image Format to spare disk image. A simpler way is to use a piece a shareware from Andreas Kiel. It’s called Create Disk Image and can be accessed here. This is what the tool looks like:

You set the sparse bundle’s name. You set the maximum file size of the image. Remember the bundle will only take up as much space on your hard drive as the contents take up. So if you have a couple of gigs of media, that’s how much space it will take, not the whole 500G.

The real power of this utility is its ability to allow you to modify the sparse bundle size and to compact the disk image. If you’ve made the sparse bundle too small you can use the Reset Disk Image button to change the size.

The way the sparse bundle is that it keeps increasing in size like topsy. It doesn’t get smaller. So if your sparse bundle gets a lot of render files in it your sparse bundle will get larger. If you trash the render files the sparse bundle doesn’t get smaller. That’s the gotcha, and that’s where the Compact Disk Image in Andreas’ tool comes in handy. If you need to share projects and events, you can go inside, clean out all the render files and thumbnails, compact the disk image and then zip it share it on an FTP site or hard drive or however you move your material about.

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