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Thoughts on learning FCPX

Day 45 of FCPX. Been teaching it and using it.

Warning, I'm not trying to have an opinion on if I think the software is good or bad - I'm trying to understand what's going on.

Really thinking through the interface. I think it's a major reimagining of the way to handle media for editors; and there's lots of change that is offputting.

The Bin/organization concept has grossly been changed. It's a shift in thought.. Keywords, favorites and the lack of a permanent in/out point.

The timeline has changed. Another shift in thought.. I like music below my main tracks.

That's much of what we reject. when I look at what I consider the major flaws of FCP7, I think about the problems we have as editors.

1) Too much media.
There's a huge influx of material; people are shooting worse than ever and more than ever. I learned a tight budget of ratios. Narrative? 3-4:1. Doc? 10-20:1. I was talking to a buddy who won an oscar for documentaries. How much are they shooting? 150:1 (or more.)

I nearly fell over. He's working with some of the BEST people in the business, and dealing with a ratio that I consider just plain sloppy. Is that because they're truly 'finding' the story? Is it because they didn't have vision?

I don't know - I do know that 200+ hours means over a month of just watching the footage for moments. And I thought projects I'd worked that had 150 tapes were crazy.

So, something is 'missing' in the industry. A way to handle, all this media intelligently - and I think the idea of keywording, analysing for people and intelligent auto updating smart lists are certainly crucial factors.

2) Media management is insane. See #1
Yup. F'bombed Media is out of control. Doesn't matter if you call it the Media Manager or Mangler, the one in FCP 7 really confuses people. During MM seminars, I now just tell people "Copy everything. That's safe. Trim nothing. Keep it all."

3) Complex timelines suck.
Wait, I've had 30-40+ track timelines. It's a mess. I know all sorts of trickery to keep stuff in sync. And FCPX doesn't worry about that.

As I watch people learn FCPX (at this point it's all existing editors) - the major comfort zones, bins and timelines are where they rebel. I watched two students argue with each other about the merits of connected clips. Sigh. You can't understand a tool until you use a tool.

So, the big observations from a learning perspective, it's different enough that many 'experienced' people will struggle due to the change - and yet the changes are aimed to address the problems even smart, experienced people struggle with every day.

(P.S> I'm not just going to be posting about FCPX - just that this is what happened when I went to write.)


Posted by: Jeff Greenberg on Aug 4, 2011 at 6:30:21 amComments (13) FCPX, FCP

A personal Opinion: A Zen Approach to Final Cut X. A long (but balanced) view.

It's been just over a week since FCPX came out.

I feel like I've been asked nearly a hundred times "What do I think?"

I'm reading a dozen forums (with the Cow first), watching pundits and gurus pontificate about how great the software is, how bad the software is, how stupid Apple is, funny videos on Youtube, Vimeo - even petitions to turn back time.

What do I think? I realize a single thing: I think change is scary.

I learned to edit on film. Difficult. Painful. Slow. Methodical.
I remember learning to cut on tape (instead of film) it was scary. What if you needed to make a change?
I remember learning to cut on an Avid, instead of tape or film it was scary. How could I edit at such a low resolution?
I remember learning to use Final Cut, Avid DS and Premiere Pro, and each time it was scary. How many times am I going to have to learn more?


Change has always frightening. I see it all the time in the classrooms where I teach.

You did know that It was impossible for Apple to have a 1.0 release that encompassed everything, right? At some point they had to say 'stop' and get the product to market - even missing features.

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Why is it aggravating?

It is a dichotomy between those things you wanted and expected versus what was delivered. Bonus: It occurs on a schedule you don't control. Apple's marketing/business model is to let design happen not by consensus but by vision.

You may not share Apple's Vision. It doesn't make Apple evil nor you great.

I teach bunches of professionals every year; We are most uncomfortable in life, when we're told our prior experience, that we've earned at the cost of time, effort and blood, isn't relevant. Do you know how many people are dragged kicking and screaming through change? And yet, change exists all the time, as long as we're alive on this planet.

Before June 21
Did Final Cut Pro 7 meet your needs? Possibly.
Was it worth considering the Adobe workflow? Absolutely!
Was it worth considering the Avid workflow? Absolutely!

After June 21

Does Final Cut Pro X meet your needs? In some ways yes, in some ways no.
Was it worth considering the Adobe workflow? Absolutely!
Was it worth considering the Avid workflow? Absolutely!

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Is it a good tool?

I think very few people can really evaluate whether or not FCPX is good or bad yet. We just don't know it well enough yet. You're going to have to grit your teeth (once again) and learn - whether it's Apple's software or not.

If you're a large facility, you shouldn't have touched the damn software anyway for at least six months, beyond having to assess and evaluate the release. In fact, you know never to touch a 1.0 of anything. You wait for everything to settle a bit. Being 'big' like that means you have to be a bit behind the curve unless it saves you buckets of cash.

If your workflow depended on something like Multicam, DPX, RED, XSan, you still have a working system with FCP7

You can't buy new systems with old software (and perhaps not be able to use FCP7 with Lion) but you still have working systems today. I predict there may be a grey market in buying people's older FCP7 licenses.

Most of these modern workflows evolved over time in FCP; They weren't there in day 1, much less 100. Then again, most of them weren't possible until version 5 or 6. The question is: how fast will the fixes come - and will Apple give you the transparency you need to make your decisions now?

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Apple isn't going to start making product announcements because you say so.

Apple's marketing vision is to keep as much under wraps as possible. They do this because its part mystique and it's part of their strategy to force competitors to know as little as possible until the day of release.

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Has Apple has become an consumer company?

When the BBC sends reporters out with iPhones to acquire material; and CNN has a submission from the field called iCNN, is there such a thing as a consumer or professional en masse?

A decade ago, there were one tenth of the amount of video editors for the simple reason that the software was so expensive and out of reach. Now that it's cheap (I consider editorial under <$5k cheap) there are quite a number more of us; enough so that the competition is at an all time high point.

Someone smarter than myself noted "It's a race to the bottom." The market isn't just what we'd consider seasoned pros. I can't tell you how many times I've gone to teach an 'advanced class' and people don't know how to trim or what a three point edit is.

Software needs to learn for mass adoption. Professional software has to have depth to support sophisticated users.

I don't know if FCPX is easier yet. I know I have lots to learn before I can say it's easier or harder - good or bad.

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Your immediate future/ecosystem.

1) Wait.
Somewhere between 1.0 and 1.5(?) 2.0(?), so much of what's missing may be reintegrated. Some stuff won't. If I were in this category I wouldn't bet the house on one system. But you shouldn't have been betting the house on that either; how many times in this industry have we seen someone create a piece of software that truly changes the power structure/ecosystem? I'd argue yearly (Color, Smoke on a Mac, DaVinci free (soon)) etc. You've seen that changes come - they come fast, maybe not as fast or as stable as you like, but they come.

2) Think about investing in an Adobe Solution.
Probably many of your preconceived notions about Premiere Pro are wrong; Yes, it has things that are aggravating (again, behave differently than your expectations), but Adobe will openly tell you they're releasing CS6 (they may even tell you the general date) - they'll give you an idea of things to come - they seem to be intentionally working the opposite of Apple in their plans and marketing. And they are listening to editors.

If you own After Effects and Photoshop, you may already own Premiere Pro - if you own the Production suite.

If not, they have a 30 day download - you ought to open it up and take a look- and it does pull in FCP projects + media. Even in ProRes. Handles RED and DSLR footage just fine without transcoding.

No matter what - you should check it out and stay relevant on what they're intending for the future.

3) Think about investing in an Avid Solution.
There's a reason that Avid is the 'big choice' of pro film/TV. It's reliable, nails workflows (not every workflow- but certainly news/narrative workflows) and it's strengths (such as color correction, organization, media management, script sync and phrase fine) should not be overlooked. They have a 24/7 support line and 'heavy iron' if you need to run a SAN that was built for cooperative editing.

If you've been away from Avid, the 5.5 release is their best yet - it's solid and fast (the way the meridian releases were) and AMA - Avid Media Access) permits all sorts of interoperability that has changed the way their product works - and it does work with DSLR and RED native media.

No matter what - you should check it out and stay relevant on what they're intending for the future.

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Last thought

If you're still angry, write a long letter and vent. Come back to it in a week.
Do you still feel the same emotional edge? The best thing you can do is write Steve Jobs directly. At this point, shouting, screaming, threatening gets lost in the din of noise.


Posted by: Jeff Greenberg on Jun 30, 2011 at 12:05:45 pmComments (7) FCPX, Opinion



Here is where I try toss out some thoughts in the wide fray of information here on the Cow (in other words, it's my opinion.)


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