Posted by Philip in Apple Pro Apps


I’ve been wracking my brain for synonyms for “Awesome” and “Jaw dropping” as Larry Jordan described it, but really, that will do.

With the caveat that we’ve seen only a fraction of a brand new app and what we saw raised as many questions as it answered. Walter Biscardi does a good job of enumerating the unanswered questions and I’m concerned about XML out of and back into Final Cut Pro X. We got a very brief overview of some key features – the headline stuff – but no real depth. Heck, we didn’t even see a single menu being pulled down!

For myself, Final Cut Pro X (nailed the name) was everything I hoped for and more. Last September I opined:

With time to consider, maybe that’s too forward looking, but my fondest hope is that Apple has taken the time to re-imagine Final Cut Pro and a NLE interface in general.

That they have done. They’ve taken a completely fresh look at the tasks of editing in the modern NLE environment and built a foundation to take them forward for at least the next decade. The interface is fresh and exciting, losing the near-OS 9 era design. (It looked good for an OS 9 app, to damn it with faint praise.)

The fact that it is 64 bit, uses “Snow Leopard” technologies such as Grand Central Dispatch, and supports 4K means that it’s not based on QuickTime. While they could have rolled their own, I believe it’s based on AV Foundation – certainly no-one has tried to discourage me from that thought – although it is unconfirmed. It remains the most logical explanation for the performance improvements we’ve seen.

I also nailed the fact that it would ship on Snow Leopard despite a number of people’s speculation that it would be Lion only.

I really don’t know where to start with impressions of features, such as we have seen. I’m overwhelmed by them.

Overall I love the dark interface. It’s coming close to a signature look – the latest version of Quartz Composer has a very similar look. Yes, it does look like iMovie, but I don’t think it’s built on the iMovie code base (as iMovie still seems to be QuickTime because its needs are much less than Final Cut Pro’s, but there is a sense that this is “iMovie Pro” which, unlike most who use the term, I mean positively) because there are some excellent features trialled in iMovie ’11 that have made it into this release. It’s not “iMovie Prosumer” – the features demonstrated were way beyond even the most avid consumer or prosumer. They are features that only appeal to professional editors. When the modern iMovie was demonstrated at LAFCPUG a couple of years back, there were a lot of professional editors who wanted features from iMovie. Well now we have them.

Final Cut Pro X’s new fluid interface.

What they have done is take the best concepts of iMovie and applied them to the design of a new professional NLE.

The Event Library where every “Bin” is a smart one (Smart Collection)

Final Cut Pro X is a fitting sequel to Final Cut Pro. And a foundation for the next 10 years of NLE design. Now that we’re on a modern code base, with modern features and underpinnings that take advantage of every ounce of juice the hardware (CPU, GPU) has, the app can develop to accommodate changes in the future. If 3D should ever really become a task for more than a small percentage of users, it could be added. If we get new formats, support can easily be added.

I’m trying to pick “stand out” features but they all stand out.  Scott Simmons does a good job of describing the features, so I won’t take up space here to rehash.

Of course I love the “Range Based Keywording” and the Smart Collections. (I asked for smart bins and Smart Collections was the result, in fact the same concept.) What’s interesting is that in looking at the Event window close up, I don’t see anything but Smart Collections. Now, don’t get hating, you can still control where your media lives “old school fixed bin style” by simply adding the Bin name you want to clips as a keyword. You’ll get a Smart Collection for it.

So if you want to find all the relevant clips in a “Jindabyne” bin (for example) add “Jindabyne” to the clips you want as a Keyword (to the whole clip or to a range) and you’ll get a Bin you can use the same way you always have.

Anything that encourages people to add keyword metadata is just fine by me, even if my reasons are professionally selfish!

But you have more power because you can not only find them fixed bin style but also by any keyword, shot type, person count. I’m not sure if that counts as my “Rebuild the Bin/Browser structure” because we had a very superficial look, so I don’t know if we can view all source metadata, but my guess right now is that we can. The stand-alone Viewer appears to have disappeared as expected.

The new hybrid browser/viewer window shows how easy it is to mix formats!

The smart processing on ingest – all done in metadata so it’s not destructive and can be undone at any time – of stabilization, basic color correction (to neutral balance), etc. and the ability to start editing before the media has finished transferring from the source.

I love the trackless timeline. “Tracks” are created and removed automatically as needed. And if there’s a clip collision, one track just moves out of the way, into a new track automatically.

I think Compound Clips are a worthy replacement for nested sequences, hopefully without all the issues that nesting can bring to downstream workflow.

It appears the focus for editing, effects and trimming is in the Timeline. Basic clip trimming is done in the new hybrid browser/viewer window and then fine tuning is done in the Timeline. Not everyone will like this approach, but that’s where I’ve done my fine tuning pretty much all my NLE career, probably because I started in Media 100! I hope they have adopted the iMovie idea of quickly skimming through one clip after the other and having them automatically added to the Timeline when the trim is complete. Very fast for a quick first string out.

Without enough detail to really be sure, it appears that most editing, trimming and fine tuning of the edit is all done in the Timeline. So that functionality of the dedicated Viewer has simply moved to the “Inline Precision Editor” where you can see all the trim not already used in the edit. This seems to be a more fluid workflow than opening one of the clips into the Viewer for trimming, or trying to use the Ripple and Roll tools in the Timeline.

I totally, totally love the new Auditioning feature (probably my favorite). Where you’re uncertain of the clip that will be used and want to give a producer or director alternatives to pick between, it’s a wonderful feature. However both Scott Simmons and Dan Wolfmeyer point out that there are definitely times when you do not want your Timeline automatically adjusting in length, when the show needs to run to time and the time has been locked. We were told that many features were optional, so hopefully this one is too.

We didn’t see any title generation or filters used. Boris announced today that they planned to support Final Cut Pro X, so hopefully that means that FXplug still exists in the app. Alternatively they could have opted to support Quartz Composer for effects without an FXplug wrapper, as they’re quite similar in some ways. Even if FXplug support continues, plug-ins will need to be compiled to 64 bit before they can run in Final Cut Pro X. Filmlight have also clarified that their NAB-announced Baselight plug-in for Final Cut Pro will work with Final Cut Pro 7 and X. Good hints that FXplug survives.

The ColorBoard in Final Cut Pro X.

Combine the ColorBoard and the preset looks, with powerful Secondaries and most of the need for a separate application has been eliminated.

The color features – beyond auto white balance correction on ingest (optional and non-destructive) – show the ability to apply preset looks, fine tune them, and use both shape based selections or color range selections for secondaries provides more than 80% of the color correction features that most editors need. This is really indicative of the Apple philosophy at play. Make something that does at least 80% of what could be done, and make it really accessible to non-specialists.

There are now several great high end tools for OS X that meet the specialist needs of the true color timing specialist: Resolve, Smoke on the Mac and the Baselight plug-in. I have to conclude that Color is probably not going to be available beyond the Final Cut Studio 3 package.

While some have conjectured that Motion and Soundtrack Pro are also, in some way, incorporated in the Final Cut Pro X interface, I don’t see any hints in the interface. The Supermeet was a preview of Final Cut Pro X and it was explicitly stated that they wanted to keep the focus on that app.

What is obvious is that animated Text effects have been added from Motion.
The toolbar. Effects, iPhoto library, iTunes library, Transitions, Titles, Generators and what looks like Animated Titles (from Motion?)

I’ll have a lot more to write as I digest all we’ve seen but overall, from what we know, I’m actually very impressed. Apple’s Pro Apps team have done a total rethink of the concept of a modern non-linear editor. If you want “Henry Ford’s car” it ships in June for $299 via the app store. As I posted just before the meeting:

On the balance of probability it will be in the App store (only?) with a price similar to the last upgrade.

That I nailed. In fact so far I think I’m doing pretty well on my various predictions, but at this point there are still too many unknowns for me to go through the list and check my score card.

Thanks to Apple for the screenshots. They’re of course copyright to Apple so don’t share them anywhere.


About montyedits

San Francisco based film and video editor.
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