FCP-X – from ‘the editor’s NLE’ to ‘the content creator’s editor’?

The new version of Final Cut Pro has been announced, but we don’t get to play with it until June. Whilst the wild speculation is over, the Mac editing community still has to sit on the fence for a while whilst we find out just how revolutionary the new FCPX is.

Don’t get me wrong – FCP really needs a full re-write and rethink. FCP has been broken for a long time: nesting sequences can be a hairy experience. Font handling is so bad, I have to use Motion for lower thirds. Some fonts just didn’t even show up! FCP was so single-tasked you’d lose huge chunks of work time just to render out a finished file. Memory was so badly used, projects over 40 minutes in length got wobbly, requiring you to split your programme up. Managing bins became a zen like experience as dragging a finder folder into your bin didn’t make a link to that folder – any changes to the contents had to be done in both the finder and in FCP. FCP is riddled with little inconsistencies like this.

So, FCP needs a change.

However, there are times when the needs of the few outweigh the needs of the many. Final Cut Pro is a ‘professional’ package – people earn money with it. People build businesses around it. Large amounts of money are at stake based on the way a bit of software works. Muck around with the fundamental way a bit of pro software works, and it will affect the ability of a swathe of people to put food on the table. Okay, that’s a little too melodramatic, but you get the picture.

Another way of classifying ‘Professional’ software – for me at least – is to denote an acceptance that there are many ways of doing something. If I have problematic audio, I can choose the most appropriate combination of application and plug-in, rather than hand over the responsibility to the application.

For example: audio compression is a pretty standard need for voiceovers. FCP has access to a couple of compressors, albeit rather simplistic and built on an interface made of string and clothes pegs. Over time, I switched to the lovely iZotope Ozone 4 which admittedly costs almost the same as FCPX, but replaces many thousands of pounds’ worth of hardware to give the sound I want.

It’s not just that – I’ve invested a LOT of money in plug-ins that are essential to the work I do – colour correction, compression, animation, motion tracking and so on. I’ve invested in them because the raw tools in FCS weren’t up to the job.

Neither do I want Pro software to hide the annoying little details from me – I do need to know if I’m rendering in YUV 10 bit over RGB. I do obsess over little details that differentiate my work from others on both a creative and a technical level.

So, if the new version has some jaw dropping tricks to stabilise video footage and clean audio, can I please use the software I’ve already got to do that rather than rely on Apple’s implementation?

I see an interesting shift: Adobe Premiere used to be the ‘domestic’ editing application whereas FCP seemed squarely set on the Pro market as a serious choice over Avid. Now it looks like FCPX is positioned as ‘the editor for content makers’, rather than ‘the editor for editors’ – a role that Avid has always occupied, and Premiere Pro seems set upon establishing.

It will make a very big ‘ecosystem’ for Final Cut Pro, and will win new users – but at the expense, perhaps, of the higher end who will drift back to Avid or jump over to Premiere’s very comfortable way of working.

Editing is mostly about ‘In’ and ‘Out’ over ‘time’. We have a lot of choice of NLEs, but their interface shouldn’t be dazzling or clever, it should be invisible. I stopped using iMovie when it got all scrubby and trying to help me do the simplest stuff. I fear the new FCP interface is going to try to do the same thing and will interfere with how I do my J and L cuts, and require a whole raft of new plugins… But the really horrible truth may be that in 12 months time, I’ll have jumped to the new version and will love it so much that this little note will sound like the rantings of a ‘stick-in-the-mud’ grouch.

Editors are (and should be) a rather conservative bunch who take things like upgrades VERY seriously. Bumping up a ‘point revision’ can take weeks of agonising, months waiting for a gap in the schedule to allow for a full backup, the creation of a ‘sand pit’ of the new version, testing all the little things that make or break your given workflow, then rolling out the change. Apple are asking editors (EDITORS! for crying out loud…) to perform a leap of faith into what is basically a 1.0 NLE. Whilst my inner-geek is hovering over a virtual ‘buy’ button in the App Store, the editor within me is wagging a warning finger – do I want to bet the farm on this? Now?

So, even though I got up at 0400 in the UK to catch the first morsels of news about FCP X, I’m not in the least excited about it. There’s not much that’s really new, unlike Premiere’s useful approach to metadata. We don’t really know much about FCP-X other than a slick presentation. Hmph. Time to get back to work – editing in FCP of course.

A good summary, and another one. I note that the Apple website hasn’t updated its info, and FCP-X doesn’t even make the ‘Hot News’, though Larry Jordan’s blog has satisfied me that this natural and to be expected.

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2 thoughts on “FCP-X – from ‘the editor’s NLE’ to ‘the content creator’s editor’?

  1. I was thinking along those lines too.

    Just one question; does it mean now, with metadata, that video uploaded on You Tube for example will be indexed by Google by looking into those metadata as text, what video was lacking so far (at least that’s my understanding)?

    Or, I got it wrong, and metadata is simply just to help in collaboration between applications in post production environment?

  2. Firstly, remember this was a sneak peek, not an official launch, so details are sketchy and still subject to change. Frustrating, but it’s the way it is.

    That makes it hard to be specific on how FCP X will implement metadata. Adobe Premiere ‘gives good demo’ on this front, specifically using a transcript to tie into video. MP4 does have ‘text containers’ within its file structure, and this should be a source of searching. I don’t want to use words like ‘should’ here, but again, that’s reality at the moment.

    Metadata can also mean things like ‘shot markers’ and ‘essence markers’ – Sony cameras can insert these markers both on a shot by shot and a moment by moment basis, but FCP7 and below chuck this info out. I can insert useful metadata like the name and affiliation info of an interviewee into the QT-wrapped MXF, viewable in QT Player. FCP 7 and below ignores this info, FCP X should – ‘SHOULD’ – pick this up.

    Will the metadata fill in the Google/YouTube forms? Maybe, though I sincerely hope there’ll be more to it than that. I’m still playing with YouTube subtitles for a bit of video specific SEO, and I hope there will be more space for transcripts and so on.

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