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Apple "X" FAQs, confirmation our move away is the right one

In the wake of the scathing criticism surrounding the release of Apple Final Cut Pro X, Apple has released a FAQ that attempts to answer some of the questions. There are a few in particular that caught my eye.

"Can I import projects from Final Cut Pro 7 into Final Cut Pro X?

Final Cut Pro X includes an all-new project architecture structured around a trackless timeline and connected clips. Because of these changes, there is no way to “translate” or bring in old projects without changing or losing data. But if you’re already working with Final Cut Pro 7, you can continue to do so...."

More than anything else, that is the complete deal breaker for us and confirms what some very smart people have been telling me all along. In our production workflow we refer back to projects 4 to 6 years old with a need to revise, pull elements from or sometimes complete re-cut using the original elements. While FCP X can access the media, it cannot access the original sequences and project organization.

As we have discovered, Adobe Premiere Pro opens up legacy FCP Projects very nicely and we know that we can share projects with Avid as well.


"Can I edit my tape-based workflow with Final Cut Pro X?

Yes, in a limited manner. Final Cut Pro X is designed for modern file-based workflows and does not include all the tape capture and output features that were built into Final Cut Pro 7....In addition, companies like AJA and Blackmagic offer free deck control software that allows you to capture from tape and output to tape."

Many of the documentary videographers we work with still shoot tape, predominately Panasonic DVCPro HD Tape. The ingesting of tape is not that big of a deal using the AJA capture software, but when it comes time to output, the way this works actually is actually much more inefficient than the ability to lay out to tape directly from the timeline. If Apple can convince every single network and station that HDCAM tape is no longer necessary, then they'd have their modern workflow, but for now, tape ingest and tape output is still here for the broadcast and much of the professional market.

Adobe and Avid support tape workflows natively.


"Does Final Cut Pro X support external monitors?

Yes. If you have a second computer monitor connected to your Mac, Final Cut Pro X gives you options to display the interface across multiple monitors. For example, you can place a single window — such as the Viewer or the Event Browser — on the second monitor, while leaving the other windows on your primary monitor."

Honestly can't believe Apple considers this "supporting external monitors." This is laughable at best. What Apple is actually doing is using my $1500 AJA Kona board and my $5,000 FSI Reference Monitor as a second computer monitor. The video output quality is marginal at best, AJA calls it "preview quality" in their documentation.

This is NOT supporting an external monitor that I require for accurate color grading of a project. Supporting an external monitor means allowing me to use two computers monitors via the graphics card while also sending a true video signal via my AJA Video Card (or BMD, Matrox if that's what you have). This FAQ in particular tells me Apple truly doesn't "get" the professional market.

Adobe and Avid support external video displays properly.


"Can Final Cut Pro X export XML?

Not yet, but we know how important XML export is to our developers and our users, and we expect to add this functionality to Final Cut Pro X. We will release a set of APIs in the next few weeks so that third-party developers can access the next-generation XML in Final Cut Pro X."

Translation: We know it's important to our users so we removed it from Final Cut Pro X and you'll now have to purchase it from a third party developer. Apparently it was so important the APIs weren't even ready at launch.

Adobe and Avid can export XMLs natively.

UPDATE: It was pointed out to me by an Avid editor that Avid canNOT export an XML. Thanks for the correction!


"Does Final Cut Pro X support OMF, AAF, and EDLs?

Not yet. When the APIs for XML export are available, third-party developers will be able to create tools to support OMF, AAF, EDL, and other exchange formats."

Translation: We know it's important to our users so we removed it from Final Cut Pro X and you'll now have to purchase it from a third party developer. Apparently it was so important the APIs weren't even ready at launch. (Is there an echo in the room?)


"Can I send my project to a sound editing application such as Pro Tools?

Yes; you can export your project in OMF or AAF format using Automatic Duck Pro Export FCP 5.0. More information is available on the Automatic Duck website:"

Wes Plate has been developing incredible plug-ins for pro users so make applications talk to each other for years when the manufacturers wouldn't. So what I'm about to say is not a knock against him, he is a business man and I applaud him for creating this and everything else he does for us.

This plug-in costs $495. So my $299 investment in Final Cut Pro now increases to $794 for a single application and plug-in.

Adobe and Avid export OMFs for ProTools natively.


"Does Final Cut Pro X allow you to assign audio tracks for export?

Not yet. An update this summer will allow you to use metadata tags to categorize your audio clips by type and export them directly from Final Cut Pro X."

In Final Cut Pro 7 we simply line up the audio by dragging or assigning them to particular tracks, particularly since we send our broadcast work to ProTools. But what if they don't fall neatly into a particular type? And what if I need to put this sound on Track 5 / 6 for full nat sound at this point in the show, but then I have to put it into Tracks 9 / 10 later in the show because I'm just using it underneath? How do I "Tag" the metadata correctly.

Apple assumes that everything we do falls into neat, compartmentalized categories. This is rare. Particularly with documentaries when I'm dealing with 250 hours of material. I can use the exact same clip as an Interview, Natural Sound, B-Roll and SOT.

Also note that this assignment will happen when you EXPORT the project from Final Cut Pro X. No way for you to simply visually look at the timeline to ensure everything is correct. What's easier than simply looking at the timeline visually? Apparently assigning metatags and then asking the ProTools engineer, did everything line up? I would really like to know how many of the professional editors that made up the Beta team really thought this was a good efficient idea?

Adobe and Avid allow you to assign tracks as you're editing within the application.


So the FAQs definitely cleared up a lot of things for me. Now I know that if I were to stay with Final Cut Pro X that I could potentially be looking at an investment of $794 to $1,000 (depending on what the cost of the third party XML plug-ins are going to cost) for a single application per machine. With Final Cut Studio 3 I had a suite of fully functional applications that worked together (for the most part). Now I will get a "$299" application that rolls in some of what the old suite did, tossed out a bunch of other features & apps and I'll have to add on OMF and XML support at the very least which will drive the price up at least $500 and possibly another $500 after that. Of course the price can continue to rise as more features that we use today are added back in by third party developers at a cost. This will be for each and every machine. I'm gonna use $1,100 per machine as a nice round number on the amount of money I'd need to spend for this $300 machine that will actually make our production workflow more inefficient with the lack of tape ingest / output natively.

Let's not forget this "modern new application" will also lock out all of my old FCP projects for good. I have around 1,000 of them over the past 10 years.

Let's not forget Apple discontinued sales of Final Cut Pro 7 the same day as the FCPX roll-out so I would not be able to purchase anymore at this time anyway. Yes a limited number may still be available from VARs but why stick to an application that was "modern" two years ago and is very inefficient in digital formats.


I can spend about $400 per machine and upgrade my Adobe CS 5 to CS 5.5 which gives me pretty much every single feature that Final Cut Pro 7 had and includes Adobe Premiere Pro, Adobe Photoshop, Adobe Illustrator, Adobe After Effects, Adobe Audition, Adobe Flash Catalyst, Adobe Flash, Adobe Encore (for DVD and BluRay). Other bundles include Illustrator. In other words, a suite of products, each specialized to a set of tasks extremely well, working together. Here's how Steve Forde describes Adobe's approach to ripping apart CS4, which was not well received in terms of Adobe Premiere Pro, and created a brand new 64 bit CS5.

"In CS5 Adobe had done a complete rewrite of the guts in Premiere to 64 bit on both MAC and PC, and listened to users about how the application should change – dozens of changes throughout the application to make it ‘just work’."

They ripped apart the "guts" creating a modern 64 bit, very efficient product, but listened to the users and kept the workflow for the post production community completely intact. Avid managed to do the same. Only Apple decided that moving to 64 bit would require a "revolutionary approach to editing."

Thanks to the Final Cut Pro X FAQs, I'm convinced we have made the correct decision for my company to move away from the Final Cut Pro platform. It's clear that Apple will stick to their path with no looking back while I just need a more efficient tool that fits into our workflow. Moving to Adobe and Avid will allow us to continue our jobs without an upheaval in the way we tell stories.

Quite honestly we're all excited about the possibilities moving forward!

Posted by: walter biscardi on Jun 29, 2011 at 4:59:07 amComments (139) Adobe Premiere Pro, AJA Kona

Transitioning Part 3: AJA Kona boards with Adobe Premiere Pro

As we transition from Final Cut Pro to another NLE, I'm running a series of tests to determine which NLE will best suit our needs.

We have been using the AJA Kona boards for years with FCP so it's really important to me that the board work with whatever new software we go with. Happily I can now run my AJA Kona boards smoothly with CS 5.5 thanks to the new 9.0.1 Plug-In release.

In this walkthrough I show you how to properly set up the AJA Kona board so you can do some testing yourself. It's a little different than what I'm used to from Final Cut Pro, but this brings us one step closer to transitioning away from FCP.

<iframe src="//" width="800" height="500" frameborder="0"></iframe>

Posted by: walter biscardi on Jun 29, 2011 at 4:53:59 amComments (1) Adobe Premiere Pro, AJA Kona

Transitioning Part 2: FCP Workflow in Adobe Premiere Pro

As we transition from Final Cut Pro to another NLE, I'm running a series of tests to determine which NLE will best suit our needs.

One concern is whether any of the workflow that we've developed through the years in Final Cut Pro will translate to another NLE. As in the part 1 of Transitioning, we're looking at Adobe Premiere Pro. Do we have to re-train ourselves completely or develop an entirely new workflow to use Premiere? I take a look at the basic layout of the two applications and some of the basic features used in FCP to see how they translate over.

This is not a tutorial, but more of a walkthrough to help those of you who are considering whether to stay with Final Cut Pro or transition to something else.

<iframe src="//" width="800" height="450" frameborder="0"></iframe>

Posted by: walter biscardi on Jun 27, 2011 at 5:59:20 amComments (1) Apple Final Cut PRo, Adobe Premeire Pro

Transitioning Part 1: Moving an FCP Project to Adobe Premiere Pro

As we transition from Final Cut Pro to another NLE, I'm running a series of tests to determine which NLE will best suit our needs.

Of paramount concern is to ensure that we can still access the 1,000+ Final Cut Pro projects we have on file dating back 10 years of production. We often have to do revisions and updates, particularly for news stories.

<iframe src="//" width="800" height="450" frameborder="0"></iframe>

Posted by: walter biscardi on Jun 27, 2011 at 5:58:06 amComments (3) Final Cut Pro, Adobe Premiere Pro

Anatomy of an Edit Suite

Because so many folks have asked me "What's in your Edit Suite?" followed up by "Why do you have that?" I created a new blog entry to answer the hows and whys of what we install in our suites.

I was originally going to re-create the blog here on the Cow site, but it would be so time consuming, forgive me for just linking to the original blog on my website. But feel free to post comments here.

Anatomy of an Edit Suite

Posted by: walter biscardi on Jun 19, 2011 at 4:13:02 pmComments (1) Editing, Final Cut Pro

Ethernet SAN Primer

Ok, I got a bunch of emails yesterday asking to explain exactly how an Ethernet SAN works. I've done a full article on this in the past, but here's a quick primer on how it works.

1 - The SAN controller computer. In our case, a Mac Pro 12 Core machine with 32GB RAM.

2 - An Ethernet controller inside the SAN controller computer. In our case it's a Small Tree Communications Card.

3 - A RAID Host controller inside the SAN controller computer. In our case it's the Atto R680 SAS Host controller.

4 - A high speed ethernet switch. In our case, a Small Tree 24 port ethernet switch.

5 - A high speed media array. In our case, a brand spankin' new Small Tree 48TB ST RAID II. 16 drive chassis with 3TB drives.

6 - Client computers connected to the ethernet switch via Cat 5 / 6 cable. Mac Pro, iMac, Mac Mini, Laptops, anything with an ethernet port.

So in a nutshell, the high speed RAID connects directly to the SAN Controller computer.

The SAN Controller computer connects to the Ethernet Switch.

The Client computers connect to the Ethernet Switch.

Set up the Network settings correctly on the SAN Controller Computer and all Client computers.

Set up the File Sharing correctly on the SAN Controller Computer and all the Client computers.

Go into the Mac OS on the SAN Controller Computer and all the Client Computers and tune the heck out of them.

That's it in a nutshell. Mount the SAN to each client and start working.

There is zero control software needed to run the SAN. Just set it up, tweak it and start editing. Of course I'm not going to get 500MB/s to each client workstation like you might with Fibre Channel, but we get well over 100MB/s to each workstation allowing us to cut and view Apple ProRes HD files all day long across 14 workstations simultaneously.

Here's a diagram of what the system looks like in our shop. In our case, we've decided to keep one of the original 16TB Expansion chassis from our original SAN so we can use it as a direct connect to our Resolve system for RED / Alexa playback and to use as a "dump drive" for the big SAN when needed to clean up the RAID.

Posted by: walter biscardi on Jun 7, 2011 at 4:30:57 amComments (2) storage, video editing

Small Tree Ethernet SAN Installation with new ST RAID II

DAY ONE: Sunday

It was a very hot and sticky weekend here in Atlanta, but it was nice and cool inside the shop. A great time to install a brand new SAN. Steve Modica, Chris Duffy and I all met up bright and early at 8am to get a nice early jump on things. Turned out to be a good thing because we had to transfer almost 32TB of material from our original SAN.

Chris and Steve get to work removing the original switch.

First test was to ensure that everything still worked with just changing out the switch. That's a very important first step when you're making a major change to your system involving multiple parts. When feasible, always test your system with each newly introduced part.

Steve Modica behind the rack checking the clearance for the new switch.

Testing the new switch with the old SAN configuration was an easy first step. Then it came time to unpack the shiny goodness that is the Small Tree ST RAID II storage array. All 48TB of it, configured in RAID 4 which gives us about 38 TB of available storage space.

Like Christmas morning!

Installing the chassis.

No, there are no drives in there, so it's much lighter than it appears. Once the 16 drives are in there, then that thing gets super heavy. You can see our older 16TB RAID sitting up on its side to the left. This single 16 drive chassis replaces 32TB in two chassis. We'll use the new 48TB for shared storage and keep one of the 16TB for direct connect to our Resolve system for super high speed 4k and higher playback.

Molly sitting outside The Core, apparently unimpressed with the shiny goodness going on inside. She would apparently rather we play with tennis balls. But I digress.....

Close-up view of the Small Tree ST RAID II

And here it is sitting above one of our older arrays.

Yeah, I know what you're thinking. "Gee that looks exactly the same, so why go with Small Tree?" Ok, you'll find that multiple vendors all use the same chassis, it's a nice silver box that looks really nice sitting next to the Mac Pros. That's probably why they all use them. BUT when I say they use the same chassis, that's exactly what they use. The silver outer box and the drive sleds on the front. At least as far as Small Tree goes, that's all they use that would be the same as other vendors. Once you get inside with the cards, the electronics and the setup, that's all proprietary Small Tree and THAT's where you get the difference between something that "looks the same" and something that operates completely different.

Same with the overall configuration of the entire Ethernet SAN, Small Tree are network experts who really took the concept to a new level and which is why I went with them to configure the entire system and added their storage to equation. The next step was to transfer one of the 16TB arrays to the new array because we needed to use the other for a rare Sunday edit.

While the transfer was going on, Steve and Chris went through our 6 primary workstations and 7 iMacs to configure all the network settings. They literally had dozens of configurations to set up to get the best combination of speed and stability for our system. Various configurations for the client workstations, the client iMacs and also the SAN computer itself.

5 hours later, the 16TB was finally transferred over to the SAN so we could start running some speed tests. Here Steve and Chris monitor the SAN while the workstations play video down. After several hours of tweaking and tuning, for the first time since we moved into the new facility, we had all 6 workstations and the four edit suite iMacs all playing video projects simultaneously. It felt great to finally get the full system up and running. By then it was 8:30pm and time to call it a day for day one.

The best part? These guys had more ideas for further tuning AND we seem to have discovered an interesting condition or maybe it's a bug between older and newer Mac Pros. Will require more testing in the future, but we seem to be on to something interesting that really shouldn't be happening.

DAY TWO: Monday

On the second day we completed the installation of the new Small Tree Ethernet SAN featuring the 48TB ST RAID II storage system. The thing that continues to blow me away about these guys is their knowledge all ALL things Mac. In particular the inner workings of the OS.

One thing they did with our SAN computer was to DROP the amount of RAM in it. When we were having playback problems a few months ago, one of the solutions thrown to us by our previous vendor was to up the RAM from 20GB to 32GB to help the problem. Normally, more RAM, better performance. Turns out, with the brand new 12 Core Mac Pro, this was more inefficient on the computer because of the way it uses RAM. We were creating a bottleneck in the RAM rather than helping the problem. I never would have known that, but it was one of the first things Steve Modica did with the computer to help performance.

As mentioned earlier, in the course of testing we discovered that two of our edit suites performed completely differently when playing the exact same project off the SAN. The older model played it perfectly while the latest and greatest Mac Pro dropped frames at odd times. If it was just me working in the shop, I would immediately point to the RAID as not being fast enough, but that is definitely not the case. More than enough speed coming off of that.

So Steve and Chris started investigating all sorts of things within the Mac. Running test after test and eventually started to find some interesting things about how the two machines handle data, particularly through the processors. Without going into all sorts of technical data, the slower machine was actually more efficient at handling the type of data required for video playback than the faster machine with more processors. It was weird and something Small Tree will follow up with Apple. Of course, all of this applies to Final Cut Pro 7 which of course as everyone knows, will continue to work even after Final Cut Pro X comes out (or we switch to Avid).

Chris and Steve were amazing at testing, tuning, testing some more, not only on the SAN computer but on each and every client. By the end of the day today, we had 6 solid workstations and 7 iMacs / Mac Minis all running on the the SAN. The first of the 13 episodes of This American Land was laid down to tape and all seems to be well. Speeds are up, all of our Macs have been tuned to operate the most efficiently with the system and we no longer have the lack of Bond issues that caused bottlenecks.

Bottom line, Small Tree delivered what they promised and we all learned more in the process. We already discovered some things that can be improved to make the system even better. Again, it's their knowledge of all things Apple and Mac beyond just "let us put in a faster storage array / switch, etc..." that really sets these guys apart and why I decided to make a complete switch in our storage solution.

We've been using Ethernet SAN for almost three years now and the evolution of this concept has come a long way in a short time. First it was just a very nice cheap alternative to Fibre Channel shared storage. Now it's a very efficient and very stable storage solution.

And in the immortal words of Steve Jobs, "there's one more thing......" Alas, can't talk about it right now, but soon.

Click here for more information about Small Tree.

Click here for more information about Biscardi Creative Media.

Posted by: walter biscardi on Jun 7, 2011 at 4:24:11 am final cut pro, video editing

This American Land Interview with Co-Host Caroline Raville

A new behind the scene interview has been posted on the website for the new PBS series, This American Land, being cut at Biscardi Creative Media. This time with Co-Host Caroline Raville. An 8th grade teacher for Gwinnett County Georgia Schools, she's making her national television

Interview with Caroline Raville

Posted by: walter biscardi on Jun 4, 2011 at 5:02:13 am Final Cut Pro, Business

This American Land Interview with Exec. Producer Gary Strieker

A new behind the scene interview has been posted on the website for the new PBS series, This American Land, being cut at Biscardi Creative Media. This time with Executive Producer, Gary Strieker, a longtime CNN correspondent / bureau chief. Gary and Walter Biscardi, Jr. have been working together for many years now on environmental and global health projects.

Interview with Gary Strieker

Posted by: walter biscardi on Jun 4, 2011 at 5:00:26 am Final Cut Pro, Business

Ethernet SAN - Taking the Next Step Forward

This week we’re finally going to be upgrading our ethernet based SAN, which as most of you know is a Maxx Digital Final Share system. And of course most of you also know is that Small Tree Communications came up with “secret sauce” to make editing HD video via Ethernet a stable reality. So Final Share SAN was really a hybrid between Small Tree technology and Maxx Digital RAIDs.

Unfortunately since we moved into our new building the system has been under-performing. Many tweaks and changes have been made along the way, but nothing seemed to solve the problem of dropped frames across all systems since we got into the new building. The system is over two years old and definitely showing its age.

During the original development of the product, Steve Modica from Small Tree Communications would spend hours connected to our system tweaking, modifying and changing many things about how the system worked. Turned out we were pushing the ethernet SAN pretty much to the breaking point because of the long form work we were playing off (300 hours of material in a documentary) in addition to the multiple weekly series. Through many hours of tweaking and massaging, Steve was able to get more speed out of the system and made it incredibly stable.

So now that the time has come for us to step up to another system as we grow our facility from four workstations in the old space to 7 workstations plus 8 iMacs in the new space, I just feel more confident going back to the guy who started it all. And I’ll be honest, it doesn’t hurt that I’ve already been exposed to the “next thing” coming down the road.

So this weekend Steve and Chris Duffy from are coming down from Minnesota to install a new Small Tree GraniteStore ST RAID II 16 drive, 48TB system which is a 6Gig system paired with a new 10Gig Small Tree Ethernet switch.

“But wait Walt, other folks are releasing 10gig systems already, why go with a slower system?”

As I’ve learned over the past few months, it’s not just about having a very fast pipe, it’s knowing how to intelligently direct data through the pipe. So if your data is flowing efficiently to all the workstations, you can get the same performance from a “slower” pipe. Again, these are the guys who basically created the technology and they have many many tricks up their sleeve.

Including that “next thing” I mentioned. Can’t say anything about it right now, but I can say that as soon as it’s ready for real world testing, we will have it in our shop and we will tell you about it. The growth of this technology is just so exciting. What began as a cheaper alternative to Fibre Channel with some major tradeoffs in speed is maturing into much more.

In the mean time, I’ll have lots of photos and maybe even some video from Steve to explain the system as we install it this weekend.

Posted by: walter biscardi on Jun 2, 2011 at 5:14:00 pm Final Cut Pro, Avid

Professional Video Editor, Producer, Creative Director, Director since 1990.

Credits include multiple Emmys, Tellys, Aurora and CableAce Awards.

Creative Director for Georgia-Pacific and GP Studios, Atlanta. Former Owner / Operator of Biscardi Creative Media. The show you knew us best for was "Good Eats" on the Food Network. I developed the HD Post workflow and we also created all the animations for the series.

Favorite pastime is cooking with pizza on the grill one of my specialties. Each Christmas Eve we serve the Feast of the Seven Fishes, a traditional Italian seafood meal with approx. 30 items on the menu.

If I wasn't in video production I would either own a restaurant or a movie theater.



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