7 professional editors share their FCPX experiences

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FCP X or in the more unforgiving circles iMovie Pro has divided opinion. It has alienated many people who were die hard FCP 7 users, like me, due to the lack of key features and no backward compatibility with the older system. I have more of less moved over to Premiere due to increasingly impressive features (I am also eyeing the new Avid MC6 which has taken a giant leap forward with the new release, but more on that in a future post) but I am still checking out FCP X. I own it and would never dismiss something outright.

I have asked 7 professional editors (yes seven!) who are using FCP X why they are using it and to share their thoughts about it and the recent update which gave us, finally, multicam and various other features. Why settle for one when you can have a diverse group like this offering up their thoughts? Sit back with coffee in hand and see what these guys think! Big thanks to all the contributors!!

Thoughts on Final Cut Pro X

by Michael Friedman

 

The backstory.

The core actions of non-linear editing haven’t changed much in 15 years.

Insert. Trim. Lift. Overwrite.

We’ve enjoyed incremental software improvements year to year, but rarely a giant leap forward.  If anything. the trend was steadliy towards ever more features, at lower prices.  Avid, Final Cut Pro and Adobe Premiere had far more interface similarities than differences, and they were eventually all priced within reach of anyone serious about editing for a living.

As recently as the Spring of 2010, I was asked to edit a primetime television show on an Avid Meridian editing system from the 90’s.  It was more of an ‘edit box’ that a full-service modern computer, but it worked perfectly.   As television editors, we just make choices about picture, music and story.  When the choices are complete, our assistant editors make EDLs for online and coloring and export OMFs for the audio mix.   We suffer no consequences for using ten-year-old technology.

But editing the ‘television way’, with teams of assistants and days lounging at the audio mix with a steady stream of fresh baked cookies, is a niche workflow and, in my opinion, an ever decreasing method for creating great content.  Today, most editors work independently and need to perform their own ingest and media management as well as titling, motion graphics and even coloring.

Since you are reading this on Philip Bloom’s blog, you are likely one of these media ‘master of all trades.’  Shooter, editor, mixer, colorist.   You also likely know that last summer there was an earthquake in the non-linear editing world.  What many had expected to be a long overdue update to Final Cut Pro, ended up being a full-scale application rewrite with a completely new interface –  and many missing features.   The feedback from editors was overwhelmingly negative.  We editors aren’t exactly known for our sunny dispositions to start with but with FCP X, Apple unleashed a hornet’s nest of professional users who understandably felt confused and betrayed.

Working in film and television for 20 years I’d personally seen editors unhappy with change many times before:

In 1995, I knew a flat-bed film editor who was resistant to non-linear editing and said ‘if I wanted to work on a computer, I’d be an accountant!’  In the years that followed, he worked less and less.

When Final Cut Pro came along, I trained many seasoned Avid editors how to use the new software  More than a few said  said it was ‘not suitable for professional use.’  But in 2001, my first primetime television editing job was on Final Cut and, as recently as 2011, I edited Project Runway on FCP.

When FCP X came along.  The grumpy and resistant editor was… me.  While the new approach and interface intrigued me, I felt totally disoriented and was unable to perform even the most basic editing tasks.  Mind you, I beta-tested version 1.0 of Final Cut in 1999 and loved it.  Since then, I have spent more than 20,000 hours editing, mostly on Avid, but with healthy doses of FCP and Premiere as well.

In the 90’s, I was an aspiring editor, but now I am a grizzled veteran. So, with version X, I said “why should I bother to learn yet another interface? Where’s my FCP 8? What can X do that I can’t do now? What’s in it for me?.”

However, having witnessed the waves of resistance to change in the past, thinking ‘I may be missing the next big thing’, I’ve forced myself to work through the discomfort and learn Final Cut Pro X.  Now, I wanted to share my impressions, so far, with you.

Trouble in the timeline.

We have seen an escalating arms race of buttons and widgets and dials at the head of our timelines.   In an effort to allow us to mute and solo and patch our tracks and view waveforms, all at a single click, Avid went off the deep end in version 5.5   Check out the interface widgets at the head of the AVID timeline in this review.    On a laptop screen, these controls can obscure a significant portion of timeline real estate.  Here’s Avid 6 compared to FCP X:

FCP X has gone to the opposite extreme.  No widgets, no tracks, and the timeline just emerges from the dark, left edge of the interface.   This is a monumental change.  Those widgets are there for a functional reason, so removing them means you must weave that functionality throughout the timeline interface.  In my experience, Apple has pulled this part off.  Patching tracks does not apply any more, and the audio adjustments in the timeline are, if anything, an improvement.

But those widgets are also there to identify tracks.  Which leads to the fact that… there are no ‘tracks’ in FCP  X!  In my opinion, this is the single biggest shift non-linear editing since its inception.

At first, editing without conventional timeline tracks felt unnerving.   I did not like it.  Like driving on a busy highway with no lane markers.   As my first FCP X deadline approached, it was as if that unmarked highway was now rain-soaked and lit only by moonlight.  It induced waves of panic.  I typically organize my audio tracks by content.  Natrual sound on tracks 1 and 2.  Interviews on 3 and 4.  Music and FX on 5 through 8.  When working with other editors, it makes it easier to collaborate with these standard track assignments.

In FCP X, that’s gone.  No track numbers.  Just metadata.  There are automated solutions for identifying music and dialogue, but the tracks are gone.  Instead, there are storylines and clips that tack on to storylines.   It’s a departure from every major editing platform currently available.  It’s taken months to feel familiar, but the panic is now gone.

It’s very hard to break sync with the default settings in FCP X.  But, as much as Apple is trying to prevent us from losing sync, my editing habits are formed around breaking sync constantly,  and then repairing it.  That’s how I edit.  Broken sync indicators often help me track my edits in progress.

After months of editing with FCP X, I am still aware of the ‘missing tracks’ but now, instead of driving a car, (bear with me, I am jumping metaphors)  it feels more like skiing or surfing.  There’s a freedom, a flexibility.  Now, ‘tracks’ seem out of place.

If you think this sounds like flowery hyperbole, you may be right.  It’s hard to think of ways to convey feelings about software.  So, I am merely trying to express the small sense of elation that I felt when I realized the upside of losing my trusted track framework.  I felt encouraged to experiment more.  I felt slightly liberated in my timeline edits.   For someone who grinds away in editing interfaces day after day, year after year, for more than a decade,  this was a notable change.  There is something new here; a different way to edit.

Where’s my source window?

Another source of uneasy tension was the removal of the traditional ‘source’ widow from the interface.  Three point editing has been synonymous with the professional non-linear interface since day one.  With FCP X, it’s still there, just not as obvious.  As it turns out, the default clip view is my least favorite.   When I switched to List View for Event browsing,  I found that I actually liked it more than any source window I have used.  I can easily skim the footage and scan the waveforms for audio indicators.  This is a specific feature I miss when I edit on Avid daily.   A huge improvement, in my opinion.

The unfortunate Event.

You may have seen me refer to ‘Event browsing’.  This is the new alternative to bins, folders and source clip viewing.  It’s also tied to how Final Cut X organizes and  interacts with media on your hard drive.  By default, FCP X wants you to ‘wrap’ all of your project’s media in Events.  Basically the iMovie and iPhoto way of managing media.  The objective seems to be to ingest media into the program and eliminate the obvious file structure that relates to the original clip.  If that’s confusing, let’s call it baby-proofing your media.  I don’t like it.   One thing I preferred about the previous versions of FCP was that I could import a clip and it would have a direct relationship to a file on my computer that I could break and relink at will.  Avid generally wants to organize your media and have you interface with it through a ‘Media Tool’.  FCP X takes this to a whole new level.  Until their 10.0.3 patch of this week, there wasn’t a way to relink media that had lost it’s way.

Whatever the intention, this is the feature I dislike the most about the new Final Cut.  I’d like to put files on any drive and move them at will – then, relink them.  This ‘baby-proofing’ of media  seems so out of place in a professional program.   I understand the upside of keeping files in a project linked and organized,  but for me the tradeoff in flexibility is not at all worth it.

Plus, even with the new relinking option in the  10.0.3 update, you get the dreaded yellow exclamation point with no direct way to fix it.   For me, something seems off in an Apple interface when you can’t right-click an alert and have an option to take action.  To relink the file above, I have to go to the File menu and choose ‘Relink Event Files.’  When I found that, it felt like Apple saying “Ok! We will let you relink clips, but  we don’t like it… and we’re still calling them Events!”  I can’t click on that offline file to fix it.  I don’t get it.

The smallest Aha! moment.

I’ve had a roller coaster of emotions with FCP X.   Yes, when you are editing, creating, screening, and outputting, it’s an emotional experience.  There were so many times I was cursing this software.  But there were many small moments where I was loving FCP X as well.   One small Aha! moment happened recently, when I was using the ‘precision editing tool’. – aka ‘trim mode’.   I was tweaking the A and B sides of an edit.  At the same time, it was impacting the titles and graphics on the layers above.  In FCP X, you can access all of timeline clips while in ‘trim mode’.  In the screen grab above, the red indicator on the top left is me adjusting that clip while in trim mode.   I know this is obscure, but it surprised me.  When it happened, I actually launched my Avid software as well as FCP 6 to make sure I wasn’t crazy.  Sure enough, when I tried to adjust a title while in trim mode, both platforms exited that mode.

I’ll be the first to admit that this is the smallest, most insignificant feature, but it was one of the moments that made me stop and look at this new software.  In fourteen years of editing, this was something I had never done.  Something that felt off-limits and too demanding for the software.  I wasn’t in trim mode.  There was no mode.   Modes are part of my workflow.  Every day I work in edit mode, trim mode, overwrite mode (Avid) and effect mode.  If the barrier between modes are gone, and I am free to adjust effects while I am trimming,  then perhaps it’s time for me to rethink how I am editing.   And that – rethinking how I edit – is the Aha! moment.  Suddenly, this new, dynamic timeline made my Avid timeline tracks feel like layers of sediment that buried my clips like fossils (sorry for yet another metaphor).   When you get over the frustration, there is something fast, fluid and flexible in FCP X that I haven’t experienced before.

Again, I know this is flowery stuff.  Not a compelling argument if you own a post production house with 40 editing stations sharing many terabytes of storage.  But for a veteran editor, who has spent tens of thousands of hours editing, it was sort of exciting.  Without tracks, without rigid  modes, there is something that emerges that is a more freestyle, intuitive, instinctual experience.  And I liked that.

With any tool you grow to like; your favorite camera, or trusted software,  it comes down to little moments.  Small interactions that add up to create a feeling of comfort and familiarity.  You can compare features online, but your feeling about any software will emerge from a thousand small interactions.  Like modifying a title while in trim mode.

I encourage you to download the demo of FCP X.  Try it.  Get frustrated.  Work through the frustration.  Get angry.  Be surprised.  Keep going.   In the end, it may not be a good solution for you.  But, if you spend some time with it, you are bound to find some small, new way to to approach editing.  And you may find it exciting, like I did.

When editing first became non-linear, it afforded the luxury of experimentation without consequences.  New styles of editing emerged.  For me, this version of FCP X feels like a peek into the next wave of editing possibilities.  Gone are tracks and timecode. Now, there’s metadata and storylines.  You can mix frame rates and formats without dire consequences.  This feels like the beginning of a leap forward.

But don’t expect to figure it out intuitively.  It’s a different paradigm.  I don’t read manuals but thankfully, there are great training resources available at Lynda.com or from Ripple or Larry Jordan.  I would not have been able to progress with FCP X without those resources.

This is very deep software.  It’s really hard to cover much in a guest blog post.  In short (I suppose it’s too late for that), I will say there are many things to love, and many things to revile in the new Final Cut.  What makes it worth trying (and working through your frustration), in my opinion, is the prospect of seeing a new way to approach to the way you cut.

The way forward.

You can’t reasonably make a choice about a professional software platform without considering the path forward.  Whether you are a designer, audio engineer, or a film editor, you need to have faith that you are on a viable platform for the future.  You’re bound to invest money in plug-ins, hardware and countless hours of workflow knowledge.

So is FCP X the ‘next big thing’? Are you ‘missing out’ if you don’t get on board.  That’s where things get very murky. Whereas the editing software platforms were on parallel courses before, it seems like the introduction of FCP X establishes a fork in the road.   Let’s look at if from the perspective of three types of editors:

The independent creator: Master of all trades.

Adobe’s Production Bundle just got a lot more appealing for editors who utilized wide ranges of the former FCP Studio.  Round trips to the very powerful After Effects and Media Encoder can take the place of Motion and Compressor.  If I was starting today, building my first editing station, I would likely opt for Adobe’s offerings.  (Interestingly, my first editing platform was Premiere 5.1).  Also, Adobe software is cross platform – meaning that you can build a lower cost PC tower with all of the hard drives and tricked out video cards you want.  Apple has not exactly inspired confidence lately with it’s Mac Pro line, and if you bought a new tower today, you’d be getting a pricey machine that was first released in 2010.   However, if you only dabbled in Motion, Color and Soundtrack Pro, there may be enough in FCP X to meet your needs and you can run it on an iMac or MacBook Pro, like I do.  And, get this, the Apple option for FCP, Motion and Compressor is the much less expensive option.  The full version of Premiere, on it’s own, is $800.  If you want the bundle including After Effects and Media Encoder, double that.  Final Cut X, with Motion and Compressor is $400. At this point, I know I won’t use the features in the Adobe bundle that make it four times the price, but you might.

Most troubling for an independent or aspiring editor is Apple’s commitment to the professional platform.  When I started editing, this ‘Pro’ page from Apple had amazing stories about people making cool things with Apple pro software.   The page has not been updated since 2009.  That’s not good.  If you are committing thousands of dollars into hardware and software, and thousands of hours of your life into a platform, you don’t want it to be neglected or abandoned.  I’ve never owned a PC in my life and the lack of a Pro roadmap from Apple is troubling for me.  Options to switch computing platforms,  at this point, are good and by moving forward with FCP X, I am definitely limiting my options.

The professional television and film editor.

With FCP X, it would appear that we are headed for an Avid monopoly of Hollywood editing again.  FCP had made some inroads into production companies and commercial trailer houses, but it was still an uphill battle.  I know several editors who refused to work on certain shows because they didn’t want to work with Final Cut.  This new version of FCP X is likely to make their heads explode.  It’s just too different.  We also get back to the argument of ‘what’s in it for me?’.  For studios and production houses, there is little reason to resist the gravitational pull from Avid.  In fact, the most notable show I cut on FCP, Project Runway, is now headed back to an Avid workflow as a result of their disappointment with FCP X.  For production houses, the Avid user base is there, and it’s the safe choice.

For me..

When I show up to work tomorrow, I will be sitting in front of an Avid.  But for my independent projects, documentaries,  DSLR shooting, basically, for everything I am working on in the future, I am sticking with FCP X…for now.  It’s fast, flexible and worth the time I am investing.  It has all the features I used in Color.  I can do light mixing and FX and export using Compressor. Also, outside of television, I don’t intend to ever shoot or deliver on tape again.   I suits my specific needs, just as an ‘edit box’ from the 90’s still works for some TV shows.

I do reserve the right to complain about FCP X, or give up on it in the future.   For now, ‘what’s in it for me’ is a renewed excitement in the fundamentals of editing and an opportunity to rethink the way I cut.

Michael Friedman is a Producer and Emmy Award winning editor who’s credits include The Amazing Race, Project Runway and The Bachelor.   You can find him on Twitter @Oynk and he blogs occasionally at Oynk.com

Reconfiguring a New Paradigm on Your Brain.

By Jason Horner

The Final Cut generation never had it so good – an unmitigated seven years or so on a solid platform.  I’ve been on a graveyard of systems – the Abekas’ Turbocube, Media 100, Abekas’ Stratasphere, Edit*6 and Media 100’s 844/x. Final Cut had its nuances of course, but that could be demystified by diligent experienced posters at Creative Cow.

The anticipation of a 64 bit Final Cut was exciting for me – especially when I spend a lot of time watching render bars of HD programs. More speed is always what an editor wants.

And then it was released.

Forums started teaming with insults.

Fans and users were betrayed.

Slander ensued about the new iMovie.

Despite feedback on their beta program for FCPX, Apple released their software without some of the pro features – OMF, Broadcast Monitoring and Edit to Tape functions. I can understand why they didn’t include OMF – as it would put the price up due to AVID licensing. Edit to tape within the program I could understand too – around 2005 I went between BlackMagic and Apple to fix a print to tape problem that would always be one frame either side of my desired edit point and occasionally on the edit point. Apple blamed BlackMagic and BlackMagic blamed Apple and I was tearing my system apart doing full re-installs. As it happened BlackMagic found the fault and updated their drivers within a few days. Thanks again BTW. So to put this function in the hand of the card manufacturer makes sense – well, kind of.

Broadcast Monitoring was a strange one – every pro editor should know a properly calibrated monitor is your true reference. Is Color Sync – which provides color accuracy on Lion – supposed to be that good?

Anyway forget about the negative press – there’s got to be some positive points for Apple to do this – so I downloaded the demo. I had a project I could try out the software on, one I planned to shoot on my new Canon 7d. Just a simple promo video for a seafood festival in my local community at Port Chalmers, Dunedin, New Zealand. Just the idea of not having to transcode to ProRes and editing in native H.264 was impetus enough to try it.

Did the shoot, fairly straightforward – we just wanted lots of smiling faces and lots of food, of course. Took the shots back home and opened FCPX for the first time.

Started FCPX – the interface is now a nicer darker grey – I haven’t used iMovie for years so have no idea about this reference. Set up my project – which now is a lot simpler with fewer options – it only has a few ProRes and Uncompressed settings – but no ProRes LT strangely enough. So many students I encounter would try and render in Long GOP formats like HDV or render graphics in DV timelines, making them pixelated. ‘Always render in ProRes’ I would tell them.

Imported the clips easily enough, put them in a bin they now call ‘Events’. Usually in FCP7 I grab all my clips, chuck them down on a timeline, cut out all the bad shots and trim the good ones, then I can just use the arrow keys to fly through the clips. This saves me double clicking on each clip – as I had an operation from a deformed muscle on my tendon a few years ago (from using a mouse!) and use shortcuts wherever possible. Then I just ‘match back’ or copy paste into a new timeline.  Could I use the same technique here? Yes I could – however there’s a new feature called keywords – kind of like smart subclipping but more powerful, as you can search the metadata stored or assigned in each clip. So set my ‘Event’ view to thumbnail – yes I would like it as big as the viewer window in FCP7 too – and realised that with the skimmer this is an extremely fast way of viewing clips – you just run your pointer over the clips. This I envisaged would save me hundreds of mouse clicks a day.

I started pushing my F10 button to overwrite and nothing happened. Ooh they changed the shortcuts – why? Who knows? I read the manual for the new shortcuts. Ok use ‘W’ instead. I set my in/outs using ‘I’ and ‘O’ and chucked a few clips in the timeline. I hit the L key for play – plays H.264 without rendering! Hit the L key again to fast forward – it plays double time and pitch shifts the audio down – very handing for reviewing interviews at double the speed. It seems fluid like an AVID without the audio stutter of the jogging in FCP7.

Laid down some music for the base track to cut too. I find this a little confusing – primary storyline, secondary storyline – huh? Checked some forums, attached my first clip to the audio, then proceeded to cut my clips into the sequence (now called the project) by using a new key – ‘E’ – append to the end of the storyline. I now know why the magnetic timeline is a ‘new paradigm’ – you don’t have to patch tracks! Just skim set in/outs and whack E – append, W – insert, Q – overlay and D – overwrite (not in the icon bar for some reason). Can see myself getting real fast in this program.

Checked my cut – could do with a few trims to be in time with the music – simply T for trim which the timeline ripples the clips further down the timeline. I can see this as being a curse and a feature – can I turn it off? Check forums. I discover the ‘P’ position or ‘FCP7 tool’ – trim with it on and it doesn’t ripple. Thank goodness.

Ok, now for some speed changes and ramping. Select a clip and hit Command R for Retime. Control click on clip to adjust speed – Slow – 50%, 25%, 10% or Fast 2x, 4x, 8x, 20x. Why can’t I punch in say 40%? – oh, I have to drag the clip to get custom speeds. Not good, as it ripples the timeline even with the position tool. Frustrating. I have since found out you should place on a secondary timeline before doing this. This was one of the new features of FCP7 update from FCP6 – you could choose if you wanted to ripple the timeline or not when making speed changes. Please put it back in!

Ok, how about a speed ramp? I find it in the retime dropdown menu. ‘From 0’ or ‘to 0’. Huh? Where’s my speed ramp editor? There is none. For the love of God, editors have Attention Deficient Disorder and use this constantly in montage sequences. We need smooth bezier curves! Anyway I clumsily achieve some ramps – very nice that they have Optical Flow as an option.  Usually I achieve beautiful smooth ramps with Twixtor and After Effects. On higher end jobs, all slow-motion, (without ramps) I’d run through compressor to use Optical Flow. Be warned though, if your background is too detailed you will see some artifacts.

Ok, time to do some stabilising for some of the jerky shots. I find you have to stabilise the whole clip, not just what you’ve used in the timeline – so depending on the length of the clip this can take a while. I wish Apple would take cues from the CoreMelts’ Lock and Load plugin to save processing time – on FCP7 I would export and import to apply. It doesn’t always achieve the desired results either – it can look wobbly depending if you move your camera towards your subject. I use After Effects’ Warp Stabilizer (which is especially great in CS5.5) if it doesn’t work in FCP.

Ok, cut is done, time to do some colour grading. Open up the effects panel. Select a clip. Skim over one of the effects – hey, you can see the effect in realtime! This is cool, no need to render for a preview. I find the scopes and color adjustment board. No colour wheels…strange. Watch some tutorials. Ok, straight forward enough. Great you can adjust the sub-RGB (below 0) levels now to make it broadcast safe. Speaking of broadcast safe, I just wish they’d include a button to clamp everything on output like the ole Media 100 used to do. This would save us time rendering. There were problems with clamping highlights with FCP7’s broadcast safe filter and couldn’t be trusted. I’d like to see a rock solid solution without going to a third party, (I currently use the Grading Sweet Pro 3 free legaliser) as in high turnaround TV sometimes this is all you need to do. You can now apply adjustment layers on to the top, most layer via a title and add colour corrections like you can in AVID. This may be handy for applying different grades to clips or effects over a series of clips.

OK, a quick audio mix next. I love that you can see visual feedback of the volume in the audio clip, and when you select an in/out it uses automatic handles. Nice touch, those things were so fiddly in FCP7. You can now use Audio Units with their proper interfaces for Reverbs, Compressors etc. Great. However I would like to see at least a Master Buss (a roles audio mixer with inserts even better) so I can put a Compressor and Limiter on the output for those fast jobs – then I wouldn’t need to go to another program.

Time to render this thing. Background processes? Not really. It’s just like auto-render and background processing in FCP7. They only render when you’re not playing back. I think if Apple really wanted a feature that would blow away the competition, this would be it: true background rendering. Even if it meant buying other machines to place on a network to do the rendering/export duties ala Final Cut Server or Grid Irons’ Nucleo on After Effects. Post Houses would definitely shell out to have a render farm, (imagine the Macs you’d sell!). Ooh and also could we network with Thunderbolt too?

Right, time to output. I exported to Vimeo via the ‘share’ function. Seemed to work just fine.

You can check it out at: http://vimeo.com/32688717

Now with the arrival of 10.0.3 things are where they probably should have been when they released it: Broadcast monitoring, Multicam, a cheaper OMF solution, XML, importation of Photoshop files with layers and the ability thanks to Philip Hodgetts, to import your FCP7 projects via 7toX. I’d like to give this program a good run on a beefier tower configuration (I cut the promo on a 17’ MacBook Pro) with lots of RAM, dual screens and a calibrated monitor. With this setup, I’m feeling the interface will need some changes – I can see myself having problems with screen real estate when I have 20 video plus 20 audio tracks.

All in all, I’m intrigued with FCPX. It’s fast, more realtime and really smooth. It has the basis to become a great NLE. There are some nice features but steps backwards on some functions of its predecessor. Yeah I know you were let down. They’ve seen the error of their ways and they’re trying their best to become friends again. At least give them a chance for all the loyalty they’ve given you over the years.

Jason Horner, February 2012.

Jason is a Producer, Editor, Compositor, Colourist, Sound Engineer and Musician. He has worked for Disney, MTV, United Pictures and TVNZ to name a few. He currently freelances in New Zealand mainly for Natural History NZ making documentaries for Discovery, Animal Planet and National Geographic Channels. And if given half the chance would just edit Phantom footage all day long.

FCPX: A Love Affair

by Cameron King

I was born Avid. I believed it. I preached it. As a young Editor in News, I cursed other NLEs as childish, foolish, and naive. Editors “played” on FCP or Premiere, which in my head were equivalent to Windows Movie Maker. I had a man’s tool. I was ignorant.

After a few years, I wanted to make a career change. Enter Final Cut Pro 5. This was my next employer’s software of choice. My skills translated well, of course. I fell in love with FCP and tried to figure out why I was so stubborn towards it in the past. So much of the program made so much sense! Why wasn’t Avid doing some of these great things. Then came FCP 6 and 7. I was growing professionally. I was maturing. I was learning that there was more to my career than software.  Enter 2011. The world changes.

The (Bitter)Truth

Our professional world is ever-changing. For arguments sake, the post world has changed more dramatically in the past 2 years than in the past 15ish years.  We have adapted. I can see how this makes people…irritated.

As a freelancer, I need to adapt. Clients hire me for my talent, not my software skills. So I need to be ready for anything. I’m not sure if clients will be adapting to FCPX in the future, but you bet your booty I will be ready. Plus, I definitely see a future in FCPX or at least the need to invest my time in this radically different professional NLE.

Using Professionally

Last week, FCPX added multi-cam synchronization. Overjoyed, I jumped right in because this was the one function I absolutely needed. The producers and directors I work with love using more than one camera. Why not? Camera’s are so cheap right now. You can have 3 GoPros, two DSLRs and an Alexa covering the same shot. Syncing all those shots makes my life easier.

In FCPX, everything syncs beautifully. It’s awesome. It’s also fast, which you would expect from FCPX. I am also getting use to the way FCPX organizes footage. It was a little weird at first, but I am really enjoying it. It’s doing a lot of my organizing for me while still allowing me to have control with Folders and Keyword collections.  So now not only can I sync up some multi-cam shots with separate audio, I can organize and sub-clip with keywords to my likeness.

I’ve  actually started doing some client work in FCPX.  There are certain things, that frustrate me still, but that’s only from ignorance. The more time I spend with it, the more comfortable I become. It’s working out nicely. Plus, I really enjoy the aesthetics of the software.

Moving Forward

 Avid is a keyboard-centric NLE. The original FCP is mouse-centric. FCPX is touch-centric. I honestly believe this. I think it is a glimpse of how NLEs will be in a few years, when we are all editing on touch-screens. For more evidence, look at Avid’s new iPad app. FCPX is touchscreen editing in its infancy. I am extremely excited about this. We are getting back to creating and editing with our hands. Now it will be in a digital environment.

There are and will continue to be grumbles about this wave of change. I’ve done my fair share of grumbling, yelling, worrying, and stressing about the future of my beloved NLEs, all of them. My livelihood and happiness depends on these things. I’d be dumb to not worry a little. I will continue to have my complaints about FCPX…and FCP 7…and Avid…and Premiere.

Will I let these complaints and fears take me down a dark and dangerous road filled with negativity and unnavigable uncertainty? No. I will do what I always do when things stir in my belly and create tension in my heart, mind and spirit. I will thrive and create.

About the Author: Cameron King is a Producer and Editor living in Washington, D.C.  You can find more info about Cameron at his website: madbageltrio.com.

FCP x
By Adam Barton

In 2000 I was working at The Whitehouse Post in Soho when the editor Rick Lawley turned up with a copy of the brand new FCP.  Excited, we fired up the software on a crappy iMac and had a play.  It seemed a bit like Avid but clearly it wasn’t.  Frustrated Rick drifted back to the ad he was cutting. I grabbed the disk, installed it on the macs in the basement, and got to learning.

Immediately it struck me that here was the ability to edit without the clunky Avid hardware. It was pretty mind blowing and I set to work on a number of projects. Over the years quite a few directors asked me to help them use FCP.  To them it meant no more annoying editors to contend with! I kept up with the new versions and did a variety of work on it including docs, ads and TV programs. In 2002 I cut a feature film on FCP and in 2003 a doc about ‘Cold Mountain’ where I met Walter Murch, who was also cutting the actual feature on FCP.  He loved editing standing up which was fine by me.

When FCP X appeared last June I was shocked by the re-vamp but also intrigued. Was this the Tonka toy of NLE’s? It looked like iMovie, did similar things, but felt faster and more intuitive than FCP7. I didn’t understand the magnetic timeline. It’s not the best feature, but I worked around it and I didn’t mind it after a while. I loved the preview function, it became very useful when grading, using titles and audio effects. But what was crucial for me was the speed of the software. I don’t want to slow down because the app can’t keep up. FCPX was beating FCP7 in these stakes and I was pretty happy about that.

But without the pro features I couldn’t see anyone really taking it seriously.  All the outrage from the pros reminded me of an old school editor I worked for, complaining about linear editing being better than non-linear? its not quite the same thing but there’s often a tendency for people to want things to stay the same. Learning new software is a pain but I say, don’t close any doors.

Recently I loaded my new short into FCPX using the new XML plug-in and realized I could use it simply as an online tool. Cut in FCP7 then finish it off in FCPX! That was very useful and a bit of a game changer. PreviousIy I graded all the music videos I shot last year with it. I did titles, music effects, and even tried the groovy optical flow for other pro jobs. Now I’m hoping the BBC doc I’m doing can be cut on FCPx too, its certainly looking good with this last update. Maybe its time for us to accept its here to stay.

Long live the new tech!

Adam Barton

Ken Bostero Films Ltd

http://vimeo.com/user3615903

http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0059085/

http://twitter.com/Kenbostero

Final Cut Pro X: One Man’s Journey from Denial to Acceptance

by: Eli Ungar-Sargon

When the Final Cut apocalypse hit, I was an independent filmmaker working in LA. Many friends and colleagues would soon jump ship and go over to Premiere, or Avid, but I was curious about Final Cut Pro X. It’s not that I was any less upset than the rest of the Final Cut Pro community. I too had seen the tools that I used for the better part of a decade killed in one fell swoop. But I was in denial and I ponied up the $300 to start exploring Apple’s latest non-linear editing application. What became immediately apparent to me was that our friends in Cupertino had decided to completely rethink non-linear video editing.

I liked what I saw and I decided to take FCPX out for a spin. For three years now, I’ve been working on a documentary film about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. As part of that project, we collected 500 street interviews: 250 in Israel and 250 in the Palestinian territories. During the summer of 2011, I tabulated the data from the Israeli side and wrote a 2200 word report based on the results. What I needed, at the time, was a video to accompany the written report. This seemed like the perfect project with which to test out the new Final Cut. I challenged myself to do everything from editing and sound mixing, to titles and color correction inside of FCPX.

At first, things seemed to be going really well. While I had to unlearn some old muscle memory (no more Shift-Delete!), the logic of the new paradigm made sense to me. Nevertheless, the overall performance of the application left something to be desired. I work on a 2.8 GHZ Quad Core i7 iMac with 8GB of RAM and for some reason, FCPX didn’t feel as snappy as FCP6 on the same system. When it came to subtitles, working in FCPX was actually a breath of fresh air. It was really nice to be able to work inside a unified interface without any round-tripping and it did save me time. But there was a glitch in the application and every time I closed FCPX, the tracking of the subtitles would get screwed up. I ended up finishing the video, but the process of making it was incredibly frustrating. I had moved to anger.

It was clear what Apple was thinking. The concepts in the new paradigm definitely had the potential to make things faster and easier. But their implementation was so sloppy that it made me feel like I wasn’t in complete control of my own work. Moreover, the feature omissions that had caused so many to jump ship, were a problem for me as well. There was simply no way that I would edit a feature-length documentary in a system that couldn’t hand off files for professional sound work. So I left FCPX and went back to editing in FCP6.

A couple of weeks ago, I was getting ready to launch an IndieGoGo campaign to raise finishing funds for my film and I needed to produce a short appeal video. I figured I’d give FCPX another shot. After all, it had received two updates in the interim and I was interested to see whether things had improved. Nevertheless, I was nervous about working in FCPX , because of my previous experiences. So I made a rough assemblage in FCP6, exported it as a Quicktime, imported that Quicktime into FCPX, and finished it there. The updated application was much more stable than I remembered it and the editing process was reasonably smooth. I understood, of course, that this hybrid approach (bargaining?) was not a feasible editing strategy for my feature-length film, but at the same time, the siren call of background rendering, automatic audio syncing (all of my interviews are shot with two cameras), and quick subtitling was very seductive. Still, there was no efficient way to move all of my FCP6 work into FCPX.  That’s where I stood until about a week ago, when Apple released its third update to FCPX, 10.0.3.

With the latest release, not only have the vast majority of missing features been restored, but a new utility is now available on the Mac App Store which allows you to move legacy FCP projects and sequences into FCPX. I paid the $10, downloaded the application, and moved a sequence over. It wasn’t perfect, but I’d say that 98% of my work made the transition intact and after a little bit of cleanup, I was up and running in FCPX. So far, the experience has been good. The performance is much improved over the first few versions, although it’s still not as snappy as I’d like. Multicam works a charm as do all of the features that originally made the application attractive in theory. In sum, the benefits at this point in time far outweigh the remaining issues and I think that it’s a good time for my colleagues to reconsider Apple’s contender. Final Cut Pro X is a powerful tool that has finally come into its own and I, for one, am well on my way to acceptance.

Eli Ungar-Sargon is an independent filmmaker based in Los Angeles. He is currently working on his second feature-length documentary film, A People Without a Land.  

FCP X

By Alan Seawright

As you may have heard, Final Cut Pro X was updated to 10.0.3 this week, adding several much-requested features, yet still not becoming the Holy Grail. And somehow the world keeps turning.

In all seriousness, I’ve been using FCPX since the first day of its release, on professional projects, and the updates have matured the software to a significant degree.

I’ve been editing professionally for 7 years, in a mid-sized market in the United States. I started in Final Cut, and only briefly dealt with tape ingest and deliverables, as the local TV stations are pretty quick to adopt technologies that save them money, and never seem to invest in enough equipment to make it impractical to upgrade. I also use AVID Media Composer, and Adobe Premiere Pro, but I learned editing on Final Cut, and have been partial to it ever since.

Not long after FCPX was released I was contracted to cut a reality TV show shot on Sony FS100s, which record AVCHD files. I was eager to experiment with the native editing capabilities, and the powerful metadata support in Events. Each episode of the show also featured music performance sections shot on 4-5 cameras, with separate audio, so I had to quickly find a workaround for the lack of multi-cam. I also had to work out a couple of workarounds with my assistant editor so that he could share his updated logging work in our Events while I was busy cutting.

It worked with only a minor hitch. Turns out that due to the way FCPX keeps thumbnails and audio waveforms present constantly, it’s a real bandwidth hog when your events start getting big (by big, I mean I was working in Events with 4,000-5,000 clips.) Once I upgraded from Firewire 800 drives to Thunderbolt RAIDs, we were set. I was a little concerned about the lack of broadcast monitoring, but the built-in video scopes were more than adequate. It’s also worth noting that I had a file deliverable (XDCAM HD422 to be precise) so we weren’t concerned about the lack of tape output.  Compressor was able to take care of our deliverables without a problem.

Then the updates started rolling in.

Audio export and upgraded Roles support has been very valuable, and there seem to be more options coming thanks to:

XML! and it’s still only in the early phases of its adoption. Resolve Lite has filled the hole in my heart that Color left, though I’d still like to see a more robust color correction option in FCPX.

The Multicam upgrade was worth the short 7 month wait. It’s simultaneously the most powerful and easiest-to-use implementation I’ve used. I haven’t had a chance to check out the broadcast monitoring yet, as I’m waiting on Blackmagic Design to release their new Thunderbolt peripherals. XML will continue to get better, and I’m sure we’ll see richer implementations from other software vendors.

There are certainly some downsides to the software, foremost being the re-education necessary to change your editing process, and the requirement to invest in high-speed storage, if you want to do any kind of large-scale work. I have a personal list of items I’d love to see changed in future releases, like the ability to reorganize the layout, better color correction abilities, more and better options for sound export, and a hundred other tiny details.

The fact is though, I have a similar list for Premiere Pro, and MC6, and I’m able to churn out quality work for my clients faster with FCPX. I don’t work at a major post facility, but for the work I do: broadcast, theatrical, and web, I’m faster using FCPX, and looking forward to it continuing to grow.

Alan Seawright is an editor based in Provo, Utah USA. His work includes several features you’ve never heard of, several TV series you’ve never heard of, several music videos for bands you’ve never heard of, commercials, industrials, and web content. 

Why Final Cut Pro is not the Titanic of Non-Linear Editors

by Chip Dizárd

 The famous American author Mark Twain famously said  “The reports of my death are greatly exaggerated.” This is how I feel about Final Cut Pro X. Since its release in July 2011 it has come under heavy scrutiny from the professional editing community. The crucible for most editors (including me) is whether or not I could use the software for paid projects. I was one of those harsh critics. I cheerfully downloaded FCPX on the day it was release in the Mac App Store and to my amazement, I saw iMovie Pro (like many other editors). I immediately shut it down and used it for only video blog projects and edits that weren’t pay gigs or things that didn’t require much effort.

In August 2011 I started a new job teaching media production and I had to make a decision. To teach the often bad reviewed/much maligned Final Cut Pro X or teach what my colleague was teaching, Final Cut Pro 7. I was hesitant, even nervous about this decision because this could be a decision that could shape my new students lives if they continue on media production career pathway. I decided to teach Final Cut Pro X to my students and it was one of the best decisions of my young teaching career.

Here is why:

  1. I started my students off with iMovie and within the first month moved them to Final Cut Pro X.
  2. Students who never edited  were able to grasp trackless editing quickly.
  3. Students were editing creating videos within weeks instead of months. http://www.baltimorecityschools.org/Page/16177 (that’s the URL to see my students videos)

I also have a portfolio of professional work that I create outside of school. The decision for me to switch my professional work in July was a little more challenging because of these reasons

  1. Most of my work-in-progress was in Final Cut Pro 7or Avid Media Composer and there was no shortcut or app available at the time to export footage out
  2. Final Cut Pro interface was so different than FCP 7 it was like learning how to drive all over again.
  3. Many plugins that I use like Magic Bullet looks and Alex 4D that relied on were not available at the launch.

One of the most powerful features in my opinion of Final Cut Pro X is metadata. You can add keyword collections, smart collections, and what Philip Hodgett wrote about called derived metadata.

As of this post Final Cut Pro X 10.0.3 is out and Apple has delivered on most of their promises for updating the software.

Multi-camera editing: You have the ability to sync clips by camera time code, camera name, in or out points, markers, or using the source audio. FCPX offers up to 64 angles and that is more cameras than you will ever need for an event or television show edit.

Layered PSD Files: All of us who used Final Cut Pro 7 brought our layered PSD files into the system and we expected to do this when the software was first released, now you can do this in FCPX.

Chroma-keying upgrades: Adobe After Effects and even iMovie have some pretty powerful Chroma-keying options and FCP 7 always lacked in this area.  With this update apple makes chroma-keying even more powerful with adding and fine-tuning advanced controls.

Media relink: This is for manual reconnect of projects and Events to new media. This is often overlooked, but if you are familiar with relinking media in FCP 7 you will appreciate being able to re-link your own files.

XML 1.1 with support for primary color grades, effects parameters and audio keyframes. I am a huge fan of this because now I can use my Magic Bullet looks while using the software.

Broadcast monitoring. For editors who want to see their work on a professional broadcast monitor this is a God-send.  I am sure more accessories and third-party devices will be added soon.

There are many people who still want the print to tape feature of Final Cut Pro 7. And I was one of them, especially if you, like me edit a show that requires you to print to tape for broadcast delivery.  Apple, like only Apple can do (reminiscent  of not allowing flash on an iPad) has basically rendered tape-based workflow dead. I don’t know if that is a good thing, but as I tell my students “it is what it is” and you must find a work around.

Working with Final Cut Pro X has been like being a cruise that starts off really bad, but you know by the end of the vacation it  will get better, and it just did.

Chip Dizárd is a media production teacher and Final Cut Pro X Apple Certified Associate you can find his trainings on line at Web Video Chefs.com or follow him on twitter @chipdizard.