Because I can’t resist.
Can’t resist super-mega-ultra tweeting about Final Cut Pro X. It’s Final Cut Pro X, from FCPUG’s NAB-ish SuperMeet, not from a FCP dude.
First off, big thanks to Michael Horton of FCPUG for getting me in on waitlist, and of course organizing this thing. Without FCPLUG, who knows what Apple would have done, since they are above and beyond NAB.
Those that know me technically, will know I lean toward using a combination of Avid Media Composer & CS5 (and only CS5, CS4 was a HD nightmare), but I am a FCP regular as well. I’ve edited a fair amount of projects on FCP, enjoy some things about it, enjoy learning the software, but have been annoyed by it every time.
Some small, basic features, that I want to accomplish to fulfill my creativity in the cutting room, also known as the hashtag “editcave”, I have to constantly send out to Motion and Soundtrack to do, and that annoys me to death, as well as dramatically affects FCP’s rendering times.
Well, several hours after taking in SuperMeet and the lovely FCP X sneak peek, I’m come to the conculsion it’s an enhanced-GUI mashup of just about every other NLE. The features that the hard-at-work and very trendy-looking Final Cut team showed today may have drew gasps, oohs, and awws from the time-tested loyal Apple audience, but in reality, not a whole lot new is being introduced. For the most part, just a fanciful way of doing it & showing it happening in the GUI.
To start, you can throw the old FCP out the window. FCP users will be starting from practically the same, ground zero level that someone new or coming from another system will be at. That is, unless that system is iMovie. Forget preview-program, source-edit windows, forget drag-drop overlay editing, forget how you manage media in Premiere and FCP 6 or 7, and forget the way the timeline works.
Which… so interestingly—Avid Media Composer just finished revamping their timeline to match Final Cut’s features, and Adobe Premiere Pro barely (v5.5) integrated the drag-drop overlay insert or overwriting, just to be more like Final Cut. That’s words straight from an Adobe rep who I talked with, by the way. Anyway, I think this all puts the market in a very unique position, given that Final Cut has, more or less, dumbed down their “pro” software, as, more or less, expected.
Let’s jump back to what FCP X has mashed up. And, give me a chance—I’m somewhat fair, not committed to any NLE one way or the other, & there’s both good and bad in this list!
A - a huge feature that was shown off was actually, literally, clip grouping. FCP only being able to link-unlink thus far, made a gigantic deal about being able to group clips together; something that’s been a part of Premiere and others like Edius for years. They branded it differently, it’s all about “making a relationship” or something or other with the clips so that they never loose sync or ‘how you want them to stay edited’. But, in the end, it’s the same thing as grouping, just branded much, much more eloquently by the presenters—genius.
B - Where did rippling go? FCP X didn’t even credit itself it the fact that it’s always been possible to do edits without affecting other parts of the timeline or messing up anything down the line. It’s called rippling and FCP used to be known for it. Apple completely resold rippling as if it’s a new feature that no one has ever done or thought of before. It’s not called anything, not rippling, just ‘it won’t allow you to accidentally mess things up’ and ‘keeps your edits exactly how you want them’. Yes, the timeline automatically makes room for changes you make. Yes, you can drag things around and change the order of a sequence of cuts, and things readjust accordingly down the line. Like usual. Just because it does it in a more graphical, animated type way, it’s apparently no longer rippling and it’s now ultra revolutionary. The other side is, with the magnetic timeline, essentially the timeline is kept very compact—rippling is much more practical when the timeline is kept simple, so that’s the hope for Apple on this in my opinion—the changed timeline forces cleanliness, revealing just how handy ripple editing can be when used correctly.
C - another big feature, related, collapsing down a section of edited clips into one “clip” to be working with more simply. Again.. something another editor, Media Composer, has been doing for years. In fact, can’t you also accomplish this as a subsequence already in most NLEs? Anyway, the concept has been part of what gives MC an edge. Same deal—you click into the clip, it changes the timeline area, going down “into” that clip, and you have your original edit & layers all sort of “nested” within that one simpler clip in the timeline. Granted… it’s made much clearer that it’s even possible in FCP X, uses a huge difference in the visuals making it look cool, and they give it their own name “compound clip”, and that’s the beauty of Apple.
D - Audio. Hello! FCP just took an overnight lead in powerhouse audio editing, inside the video app; taking, I think, most of it’s inspiration from real audio software like Vegas, which still is more of an audio app than a video app. Okay, Logic, Audition, Soundtrack etc. They all work similarly. Audio was my single biggest annoyance-complaint-grievance in old FCP—those AWFUL automatic upper J-shaped fades, that I’m constantly trying to fix manually with 25 keyframes. Now, I finally can change it to the type of fade I want—and it seems like audio rubber bands can work in conjunction with them, I can’t remember. Just go find the video demo to watch—the audio in FCP X is sick. It’s all realtime waveform based—all changes made tweak the waveform in realtime, as you drag, being exactly what I’ve ever wanted in a video app. That’s me versus goliath, all the typical product forum buffs, who are just waiting to tell you that you should be doing audio work in Pro Tools or some other dedicated audio editor. Well, shove it forum troll, it’s the primary (but not the only) reason I’ve stuck with Premiere so long & honestly, the audio tools in FCP X, look absolutely exceptional. As long as dynamic audio filters are there.. & track-based effects might hurt FCP X big time in the professional world, if they don’t allow for some sort of equivalent.
(post append | I’ve since learned all the cool audio tools I was so excited about are literally pulled straight from iMovie. I still stand by the fact that I really love how it works in FCP X; other non-linear editors really ought to step up to the plate and make audio editing good. Vegas remains the only NLE that, since it was built on top of an audio program, handles audio properly and with total freedom and little limitations.)
E - iMovie. Some went as far as calling it iMovie Pro, saying they’ll hold on to their Final Cut Studio 7 like no other, and they aren’t too far off base. FCP X inherits an extremely iMovie-esk ‘scrubbing’.. oh geez, in Apple-speak it’s skimming.. skimming everything everywhere. And this is where it get’s heavy and you’re thinking okay.. this is totally a consumer tool. Some, but not a whole lot, of actual manual controls were shown. However, tons and tons of overly-simple, 1-button, automagic features were shown. Clips are automatically everything as they are brought in.. automatically prepared to be stabilized, automatically prepared to be colored, automatically scaled, and automatically analyzed—it detects people, and it detects what kind of shot it is.. wide, medium, CU, etc, for media organization purposes. All of those things, seem very iMovie-esk, as far as I know b/c I don’t know iMovie well.
F - Additionally for media management, it’s super tag based.. they almost ditched folder and bin type organization (I think it’s still there, but not sure). Tag not only clips, but individual parts of clips, and taking the time to do all this taggings seems essential to a clean workflow; to being able to search, etc. Basically, a more friendly way of adding metadata, but a step that I know for a fact, most users will skip. Again it feels like feature Apple’s maybe approached as, “how can we make approach this thing creatively, to where it becomes a more standard part of anyone’s workflow?”. Well, tags aren’t called tags, and they sure aren’t called markers, they are called keywords or something like that, & Apple’s presentation liked to pretend markers have never existed in any other NLE before, & that “keywording” is revolutionary because you can now quickly mark and find a spot in a clip. Again, things possible in other editors, but sort of graphically improved upon and dressed up in FCP X, in my opinion, so that maybe people will be intrigued enough to actually use them.
G - Color? Entire filters have disappeared and have been replaced by flashy GUI color correction, for example, looking about as simple as it can possibly get—a few sliders here for gain, a few sliders there for colors. Impressively, secondary color correction is very much there and seems quite usable, decent masking (but who knows on tracking, it’s maybe an X factor to be discussed below). Not being familiar with Color, I’ve heard this all is perhaps inherited from Color.
H - Almost lastly, from what I can remember without listening to my Livescribe recording of the whole presentation, it inherits ‘cropping’ and ‘animation’ at least somewhat from Smoke. Coming right from a Smoke demo, I couldn’t help but tell the similarities of entering sort of a “mode” where cropping and animation takes place, and the way that doing so interacts in a very quick and efficient way—automatically taking the crop to fill the frame size, for example, instead adjusting values manually as we’re all used to: crop, scale, move, nudge till the black is gone. Animation-keyframes is all done right within the timeline, instead of in a separate window, which I think is great. I’ve always wondered why it wasn’t already done this way, and this is another inherit from Motion—it appears to be very similar in how Motion/AE/Smoke handles keyframing inside of 1 timeline, & very unsimilar to PP/FCP6&7’s separate panel.
I - In addition to audio, I’ll give it to Apple, the trimming mode and the magnetic timeline (and finally doing what PluralEyes picked up the slack on) are all really interesting, maybe great, features that should have been thought of a long time ago. I’m curious to see if the double click into trimming gets tedious and actually slows down the editing process. Another feature from iMovie I’m told.
J - time changes — I love how everybody missed Adobe’s rate stretch tool, for years, as if it never existed. Well, Apple’s finally stolen it and will finally make it widespread, as usual, via better marketing. When ‘stretching the time’ on the fly in the timeline was demoed on stage, you’d have thought the audience saw a ghost, magic; something that is mind blowing and never thought possible. Oh wait, it’s been in Premiere since at least CS3, that’s only when I noticed it. Further, as far as I’m concerned Apple is strike two on ramping clip speed changes already — in 6 and
7 it was an immense mess, barely usable, & this time around as far as I can tell it’s not possible. Instant change from 25 percent speed to 400 percent speed, no easing about it, which is essential for professional looking work.
All in all, I’m impressed, and FCP finally looks and feels (from what I can tell) like an actual Apple product, and not a Macromedia product that has barely been updated in a decade. Here’s my prediction, however, of what’s going to happen, mostly based on what other people at FCPUG’s own people were discussing about the preview right after seeing it:
It all rides on what we didn’t see.
How customizable is it? How far into ‘manual’ mode can we go on all this, and can we turn all this auto stuff—as nice as it is in theory—off? Performance is an enormous question—is it better than what Adobe’s accomplished or not? It’s 64-bit, the big RAM hurdle that we all hope helps out, & apparently it uses GCD—Grand Central Dispatch, whatever that means for the benefit of the software, probably the worst name to ever make it through the ranks at Apple and out to the public.
It was unclear what’s actually going on under the hood. At first, it was explained in a way that obviously pointed toward ‘background rendering into ProRes’, worded as “media being prepared for the edit process”. Everyone’s huge concern going in was, can I play media like CS5, like AMA, and be able to edit instantly; so this is an “ut oh” moment that brought a bit of a hush over the crowd. The presenter even had a hard time getting it out, he knew people might not like it too much. Then, later into the presentation, it was boldly announced, as we’ve heard year after year now across the NLE market, that you can “now work with your media… natively, instantly… right on the timeline!” and applause was rampant. If I had to guess, it’s likely doing what Edius does & lets you use the original media immediately, but queues up the transcode and background renders it to the butter codec.
IF the little things we didn’t see turn out to be able to highly customizable and professional and allow total user control, FCP is going to reign king again. Speaking of which, I wouldn’t buy their graph for a second, showing FCP as growing faster than any other NLE, and with a huge lead in market share. Apple shot their fellow A’s (one still a sponsor of the FCPUG SuperMeet) out loud as “competing for second”, when I think we all know Avid is the clear standard anywhere the money is actually at—TV and film. Face it, they had 2 shows to show that were cut on FCP, and the number per year isn’t even increasing year to year. Notice their graph was “new workstations sold” or something like that—hmmm.. well maybe one lasts longer than the other? One retains value, retains a workflow that actually works smoothly enough you don’t need to buy a new workstation, perhaps? A product that turns around more quickly, and that charges for entire suite version update that improves upon 2 or 3 tiny features, doesn’t equal market share. Back on track though… if Apple delivers a product that caters to a the professional market that they already have through customizability, if the settings are all there, etc, it will be a enormous success and FCP will be more popular than ever.
However, if FCP X is released and it really does feel like a fancy version of iMovie, with no options to get back the flexibility and more open environment of a more tradition editor, this is going to be a real game changer. For example, tracks are gone. Trying to keep music, sfx, titles, etc all on one ‘track’ for easy selection looks impossible in FCP X. How is this addressed? Is it, and does Apple care? So remember, Avid and Adobe both just adopted some very FCP 6/7-ish looks and feels. Media Composer’s timeline now reacts the way that FC does (err.. once did), making it feel quite familiar to the typical Final Cut Pro editor; and Premiere added similar tweaks, including improving their custom keyboard shortcut preset to completely cater to Final Cut’s hotkeys. Say Final Cut Pro X is released and FCP users are missing all their favorite features they’ve used for years. They can jump into PPRO CS5.5 and immediately get everything back, everything right there, familiar, and working almost exactly how they like it.
Which way will it go?
The price suggests iMovie Pro. High end features? Pro? No one’s expecting it for 299$. Either that’s a special price for some reason unmentioned, or we’re not going to get the Final Cut Pro we’re imagining. Secondly? That price point will likely drive down competition, putting them even more affordable than ever for people already are used to paying a higher price and don’t really complain about. This isn’t the 50,000$ Avid situation again; people are willing to pay a few hundred bucks for a better tool, otherwise they’d all be using Sony Vegas & Ulead VideoStudio.
I think the industry’s on a edge, there will either be some major market share changes or some major innovations & price drops all across the board. Quite the curve ball was thrown at SuperMeet 2011, from the crafty company obsessed with product design. Knowing their master plan would be incredibly interesting and help clear things up. Anywho, it’ll be fun to watch how it all unfolds.
- Weston Woodbury, Editor, www.westonwoodbury.com