Let’s all take a deep breath.


On day 1, this isn’t a rant about how great or not so great FCP X is. I’m in a very unique position to be impartial. Gratefully and luckily, I work with virtually everything within the walls of Post. Thus, I’ve attacked the issue of FCP X and have decided to examine the ramifications to this creature with many heads we call workflow.

I think we all need to put these 3 truths on a sticky next to our palette monitor. I believe:

  1. The good of the many outweighs the good of the few (or one, if you like movie quotes)
  2. Post Production? We are the few. We are the exception to the rule. There are many more dad’s cutting together their kids t-ball highlights than editing a primetime television show or feature film.  That’s the rule.
  3. This is version 1.0. Learn to accept that.

Quite frankly, if you plan on pulling stuff in from your digital camera, doing an edit with some color and effects, then outputting a digital file, I think you’ll love FCP X. It’s sleek, it’s shiny, it’s all in one – no muss no fuss. In fact, jeebus, it flies. On a new 12 Core Mac Pro with a Quadro 4000, I had 6 streams of Canon 5D material playing PLUS a Cineform 3D file. All with a size change (PiP). 77% CPU utilization. All of this – unrendered. Not one dropped frame. 1 stream of 5D can cause FCP7 to choke. That’s bad-ass.

But for those who sit in a darkened edit bay with stale client snacks and mini cans of soda – brace for impact.

My world here in Hollyweird has been abuzz about the very simple topic “Is FCP X for Pros?” My friend Philip Hodgetts delved into that very point here. For this blog post however, I am referring to TV, Film, and more elaborate professional workflow’d productions.  Professionals whose workflows require more than a 1 stop shop.  Multi-disciplined workflows.  This blog post is for you.  I thus ask that when I use the term “Professional” with a capital “P”, you get the picture.  Capiche?

I’m usually forgiving when it comes to 1.0 releases.  As a good friend reminded me, if software releases were delayed until everything got weaseled in, well, it would never make it to market (plus, you need to have something to charge for later). However, there are glaring omissions.  Either by choice or by time constraints, they are definitely wrapped up around interoperability. Aside from it’s own sandbox of Motion and Compressor, FCP X is an island.

  1. No Native OMF Import or Export.
  2. No Native EDL Import or Export.
  3. No Native AAF Import or Export.
  4. No Native XML Import or Export.

This means that you start in FCP X eco-system and end in FCP X eco-system. This is not a professional workflow. I believe a professional workflow (let alone application) requires some flexibility to play with others. Professional post people need to work with other apps. Rarely, if ever, do any Professionals begin and end inside the same application. And I fault Apple for believing that a v1.0 product would be up to the task of being an all in one. Maybe someday. But not now.

I am a huge fan of Wes and of Automatic Duck. His products, by far, are the most useful out there. But I believe it’s downright dumb to have Duck as the only solution. Would a car manufacturer not build doors, and let a 3rd party do it aftermarket? FCP innovated the open philosophy with XML almost a decade ago. Where did *that* go?

This only underscores the absolutely, massively poor omission of the ability to open legacy projects.  ‘Complete Rewrite‘ or not, the loss of at least a rudimentary ability to update your projects – is a travesty.

The Log and Capture debate has raged for months, and I don’t fault Apple for omitting the rewrite of it from it’s roadmap. AJA, Blackmagic, and several others have their own proprietary capture application to plug this hole. Telestream’s Pipeline is a fantastic alternative, as is the AJA Ki Pro family or the Cinedeck. On the flip side, a great feature I tout about Avid Media Composer is that there is one interface for every capture. Now that’s easy. I don’t fault Apple, but it does make this guys job difficult. Tape isn’t dead, but it’s dying. This same philosophy can be said for disc, so I understand DVD Studio Pro being deep six’d.

The key to any edit bay is the viewable output. Whether it be for color timing (not correction, you youngin’s) or simply to pacify the director and producer talking on their cell phones behind you, we need to see it. As of day 1 – only AJA has a solution. I love AJA; I’ve been a product champion for years. That being said, the Kona “extended desktop as a second monitor” is a shoehorn at best. It is virtually useless in a critical or output environment. This – even if everything else I’ve mentioned is rectified – is a professional deal killer. You simply cannot accurately color grade on a computer monitor, and just pushing a computer image to a video monitor doesn’t do it. Period. I anticipate Thunderbolt remedying this. Holy Grail, even.

Multicam? Yeah, I know. Yet another feature that only the “few” use. But those that do – it’s their livelihood. I do, however, understand it not being in 1.0. I imagine it’s in the pipeline.

I suppose this is where I can really let loose.  As a techie, and as a loyal servant of a VAR (Value Added Reseller), my rear is quite chaffed. As Apple VARs – ones that advertise your product, ones that learn to support your product, ones that defend your product when it’s on the client’s chopping block, it appears that we are no longer worth your respect and attention. With no way to re-sell and no way to easily deploy, we are being phased out. An App Store purchase is easier than a VAR, isn’t it Apple? While it may not make a dent in your bottom line, it’s a solid backhand to those of us who pumped, sold, and built facilities based off  FCP 1. FCP2. FC3. FCP 3.04. We helped make Final Cut Pro what it is. We didn’t even get put in a retirement home, we went straight to the morgue.

Quantity does not equate Quality, but VARs can bridge this gap.

Speaking of VARs, this may be of interest. See if you can follow my logic here:

Currently, FCP X runs on 10.6.7.

FCP 7 runs on 10.6.7.

FCP 7 has been EOL’d (end of life’d).

10.7 is right around the corner, as are the new gen of Mac Pros.

Will FCP 7 be updated to run on 10.7? If not…

Will the new Macs be back-revable to have 10.6 installed on them? If not…

You’re in a world of hurt. You can’t upgrade your CPU (that’s a chunk of change you’d lose, Apple) or you’ll lose FCP 7. If you stay on a slower CPU, you don’t get the features that are most certainly coming in FCP X.1, X.2, etc. Is a user really going to keep 2 Macs for daily work?  Reminds me of the whole Avid Meridien debacle back in 10.2 with the G4s.

Betcha didn’t think of that one. VARs, my dear reader. Tip of the iceberg.

You’ll notice I didn’t focus on the editing features much.  I actually dig the fact that Apple is moving forward.  We need to learn, we need to evolve.  Remember the now famous Henry Ford quote, popularized by Steve Jobs: ‘If I’d have asked my customers what they wanted, they would have told me “A faster horse.'” If Apple has developed something easier, faster, and more efficient, I’m all for trying it.  Really.  It’s the elimination of mission critical components with no viable or comparable alternative that doesn’t sit well with me.

While at the Vegas Supermeet, I was lucky enough to sit with some pretty level headed folk.  Every round of applause was peppered with “but what about…” or “well, how would you…” Most post people are good like that.  They look before they leap.  And that’s exactly what anyone making enough money to keep beers in front of the friends should do: look before you leap.

UPDATE – 6/23: Apple has addressed some issues on the “pro” aspect of FCP X.  I post it here as yet another angle with which digest: http://pogue.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/06/23/professional-video-editors-weigh-in-on-final-cut-pro-x/

UPDATE – 6/27: These are just funny.

New Coke and FCP X

FCP X runs on just about everything...