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Latest additions 8/20/11


EditIng gone south




Final Cut Pro X

Updated 12-22-11


The Scathing Review

or

A Bridge Too Far

or

Slaughter on Tenth Avenue


A lot has been written about the new Final Cut Pro X, from glowing fanboy cheering to professional editor denigration.


Some of the cheering and some of the booing are both deserved. Our own first take on this program included a number of boos, but the more we work with it, and especially after this free tutorial course, the more we like it. Still, there are flaws.


Over and over and over, Apple has presented FCPX as the replacement for Final Cut Pro Studio, a suite of programs built around Final Cut Pro 7 which has been with us since 2009, 850 days ago. FCP7 is a timeline-based edit program that works with the paradigm of orchestrated parallel timelines and multiple separate sequences. With it you can edit a single stream of video with internal cuts and dissolves on one line and add overlays for cutaways, titles, combining effects and so on, on other parallel tracks. It’s not unusual to see three to ten parallel lines of image stacking up over the root timeline which contain visual elements that complete the shot.


One technique popular with editors is called multicam. With it, several different camera angles or parallel image feeds are combined into a special form of clip, then switched between as the show unfolds. It’s like being able to cut the show live, but in editing. Here’s a YouTube demonstration that is mercifully brief.


If you’ve ever used it, you know that it can achieve much in a short time. Some TV shows swear by it. Many live performance videos require it. FCPX doesn’t have it, but it is one of the features Apple has promised to reinstate.


The lack of multicam function seems to be a Big Deal with a number of very, very vocal editors. As if 78.3% of all projects with Final Cut had been multicam-based.


The truth lies farther from the tree. Less than 1% of all Final Cut projects have been made with multicam. If you see moaning about the loss of this feature and that influences your buying decision, dismiss it and look for other data.


On YouTube, TheSavage042 shows a useful non-pro work-around. Click to view.


In the mean time, on June 21 when FCPX appeared, Final Cut Pro Studio vanished from view. Apple pulled it off the shelf. Gone. Forgotten. Disintegrated.


Around 4300 days ago, I bought Final Cut 1.0. All those dozen years of working with it: out the window of evolution and support. This new program has nothing at all in common with Final Cut Pro except the name and, um, er...


It’s its own Version 1.0 of a very different type of edit program. If Apple had called it the new Apple Edit Prime instead of Final Cut Pro X, the spit storm over it would never have been born.


For a different angle on this new program, here’s another take on the idea. from Digital Outback Photo.


Scroll down to the bottom for our enthusiastic review of Apple Edit Prime, the new replacement program for Final Cut Express!




Fanboy Love

The glowing fanboy element saw FCPX as the great new paradigm of editing that tossed out the old, implemented the new and carried the process into the Brave New World of tomorrow, never looking back. Certainly there are a lot of brand new features, attributes and work-flow processes that have changed for the better.


But doesn’t “watch your back” mean anything? The more experienced Final Cut Studio users will quickly realize that Apple’s so-called FCP development team were watching nobody’s back. Especially those who have been using Final Cut lo, these many years and paid upgrades.


Big Improvements:


Speed. You can sling things around faster. It’s 64-bit. Your Mac is 64-bit. Stuff moves. Until you run into any of the many ergonomic roadblocks. More on this, later.


Clip ID: You notice is that a huge new emphasis has been given to facilitating the analysis of footage before editing begins. You can identify the few moments or frames within a camera clip that are worthy of considering as edit-worthy and tag them with a keyword that tells you what’s what. A simple “good” will suffice, if you are a minimalist. Any key word you apply can be searched for. Place, character, action, camera angle, script page—you dream it up, and it becomes a quick category that can be added to any shot.


You can have a global keyword for the whole clip, detail keywords for isolated parts within the clip and even keywords for individual frames. “Bam” can be applied to a one-frame muzzle flash, and searching for it later is a snap.


Another big improvement is the relationship between working and rendering. As you work, rendering and moments of image analysis can be happening in the background. Every core of your computer is burning the transistor oil, catching up with your latest command. A thin orange line in the timeline view shows you how quickly the computer is solving any image processing for you, and hooks into your graphics card are being exploited at all times. This is the first editing program that can be accused of being ultra fast. Not just for cuts and dissolves, but for virtually everything.


BUT: does it work as smartly as it should? Heck no. (I cleaned that up.) You must WAIT five seconds before it resumes rendering, and it starts with the earliest un-rendered moment in the timeline. Suggestion: Start rendering with the last-touched event, Apple! Last in / first out.


Although the program tosses out previous metaphors and structures such as numbered audio tracks and parallel timelines, it actually invents these as you work. It fails, however to institutionalize them into the previous paradigm on demand. You sort of see parallel video and audio tracks, but you can’t resolve them back into something that resembles Final Cut Pro 7 territory. And that’s where much of the ugly has come from.


Professional Editor Denigration

As FCPX got closer to its release date, rumors got out that this or that function, feature or attribute might not make it into Version 1.0. Once it hit the App Store (the only way you can buy it), those rumors entered into a period of Trial By Reality. Many of the assumptions and negative speculations were flat-out wrong, but too many of them were dead on, prompting a few loud critics to declare FCPX DOA. It’s not really dead. Just sick and twisted.


Improvements have been slow and minimal.


Before anyone had ever tried to do serious work with it, the App Store reviews shot into overly negative (one star) and overly positive (five star) ratings. Apple pulled the plug on reviews when the average hit 2.5 stars. Perhaps they’ll refresh the review comments once people have gotten to know the program, or after some of the missing features become available.


Professional editors are coming from a unique place.


They’re working long hours every day—often seven per week—with a tool that pays their mortgage, kid’s tuition, grocery bill and gas expenses with every keystroke. They’re focused on the story-telling aspects of the shots at hand, and for television or internet videos, they’re fluidly multi-layering ideas like graphics, effects, titles, image qualities, image repairs and audiovisual transitions. This is what the clients see from the back of the edit bay as they watch the process unfolding.


To the editor himself or herself, what they are really doing is marking this, numbering that, finding this place in the shot, making this adjustment, typing things, finessing this tweak, moving this chunk of stuff, adjusting this geometry, shoving this, searching for something, cropping that, opening up this box of things, pasting this idea, playing with this notion, locking down this image, toying with this theory, following a hunch, inventing this work-around and flash-refreshing their mind as they try to look at the final monitor with fresh eyes for the umpteenth time. Being an editor means doing all the tech that must be done while adopting the innocent viewpoint of the final observer—the intended audience—and feeling for what should be done.


Final Cut Pro has represented the professional standard by which most other edit programs were compared.


Competing edit programs like Adobe Premiere Pro ($800), Sony Vegas Pro ($600) and Avid Media Composer ($2,500) were sold with the promise of the Greatest Experience Ever, but in head-to-head challenges among professional editors, Final Cut Pro usually ended up beating or equalling the best. It used to deserve an A++. Now it deserves a C-.


Each program has its own strengths and weaknesses, but the Final Cut Pro Studio owner, the $1,000 investment brought editing, sound mixing & sweetening, graphics & titles & effects, professional image grading and image compression—all in a unified grand suite of programs. In short, they bought power. Power over images and sound.


And every upgrade retained that power by institutionalizing the program through the brilliant employment of one single quality: consistency. Familiarity breeds content.


Now every editor is in a strange limbo-universe. Many are embracing FCPX, while others are continuing in FCP 7; some are jumping ship to Premiere. Trading edits around is now a morass of incompatibilities.


Basic Review

The last major upgrade to Final Cut Pro was in early 2009. That’s a long time ago in computer software terms. It is 20% of the entire life of the program since its introduction in 1999.


To say that the professional community was ready for Final Cut Pro to grow up would be an understatement. Professionals want their tools to do it all. They want it to evolve into being a modern, effective, supremely controllable image and sound manipulation tool with all the speed their multi-core supercomputers can accomplish. They want it to do the simple stuff quickly, the tough stuff with minimal effort and the hard stuff with as much help as knowledgable software producers can provide.


FCPX is peppered with shortcomings that do not let it achieve these goals gracefully, considerately, deeply enough or powerfully enough. It has the taste and feel of a program written by people who questioned every aspect of computer-driven image editing (a good idea), then flipped coins on evaluating the new and/or alternative ideas they wrote into the final code.


  1. “I’ve got an idea,” said somebody,“Let’s throw out the layering timeline! Not completely. We’ll bring it back when it suits the moment. But we should never, ever let it back as parallel numbered tracks!”


  2. Practical flaw: If you lay a title over a track, that title becomes a track over picture. Two layers thick. But if you follow that shot dissolving to a two-layer image (like a split screen or picture-in-picture—also two layers thick) and dissolve each layer into its following element, random blinks ruin the transition. Why? Because type doesn’t behave like pictures.


  3. “It has to be an all black-screen interface. That’ll look cool and offer zero eye relief when eyes tire of any given color or contrast range!”


  4. Practical flaw: On a well-adjusted monitor, some delineations of the work-surface drop below visibility. The size of a black numerical entry box is not obvious against a 95% dark gray surround. You can NOT pick the shade of interface color.


  5. “Here’s an idea! Let’s change a lot of keystroke shortcuts to ones my daughter likes! S will no longer be for Saving. It will be for—what was her word for it?—Oh, yeah, the milk word: Skimming! Can I get an amen on that?”


  6. “What about my idea for space-hogging video scopes. One at a time only! Force those guys to pay attention!”


  7. Idiots! Obviously the designers don’t WORK in video.


  8. “This should look different. Let’s get rid of the tedious render bar. We’ll put it into a small optional window called ‘Background Tasks’ and most people won’t even know we hid it! We can say we got rid of it, forever! Clever, eh?”


  9. “Wait a minute. Wait a minute! Do any of you realize that the collective experience invested in Final Cut Pro up to this point has passed the two billion hours of human experience mark? Professional careers only last about 150,000 work hours of a person’s life span. That’s over 15,000 lifetimes!

  10. “Don’t we owe those editors who have built their habits, keystrokes, fundamental work habits and ability to predict the behavior of their primary editing tool some degree of respect? Anybody?

  11. “Ha, ha! Gotcha. I was just messing with your head. Continue...”


  12. “Let’s not keep numbered audio tracks, okay? Nobody uses that. Has anybody here EVER needed track one to always be the announcer and another to be dialogue? Anybody? I rest my case.”


  13. Idiots! Obviously the designers don’t WORK in video.

  14.   

  15. “Let’s get rid of that oh, so 1900s goofball graphic chart of keyframes! Now keyframes will be hidden. No chance for someone to reach out and touch several of them and slide them sideways to a different time in a coordinated manner. I always hated keyframes, anyhow. Never really understood them.”

  16.  

  17. “Hey, we don’t have to stop there.  Let’s call the output monitor the Viewer instead of the previous ‘Canvas.’ That’ll do it. Now what do we call that clip viewer thumbnail? Call for suggestions…”

  18.    “How about the ‘Source Viewer?’”

  19. “Nah, too spot on. Besides, it’s too much like ‘Viewer.’”

  20.    “How about the ‘Event Observer?’”

  21. “I like where you’re going with that. But too many syllables. How about “Event Watcher?’”

  22.    “You’re getting warmer. Watcher. Watcher. Something too—I dunno—clock-like.”

  23. “Oh. Look at Randy. He’s smiling like he aways does when he’s got it.”

  24.    “Here you go, gang. We’ll call it the ‘Event Browser!’ It’s got that sleek, modern, search-googlie feeling!”


Then they broke the meeting and went out for beers. One of them got plowed and lost his iPhone prototype. But that’s another story.


Seriously, this program has the feel of something no day-in/day-out working professional editor ever consulted on. (Apple swears that many pros and consultants were polled. These “consultants” haven’t dared to announce their names to the edit community.) Too much legacy structure was lost from the comfort zone, needlessly.


Much of it has a feeling that was dreamed up by an editor wannabe, or maybe a designer maven that never paid the rent through editing, not someone who’s car payment depended on it.


Keyframe heck:

A good example of that comes in the way Keyframes are set. You used to be able to see them charted on a coordinated graphic view across different functions. Want to coordinate the moment an Opacity change ties to a Scale change in FCPX? Good luck trying to see any obvious matching of that. You can graphically see ONE set of keyframes per view. You can see a few related keyframe combinations at once, but the process is dismal, time-consuming, difficult and prone to error, at best.


The only workaround is to add a marker to the timeline, then add your keyframe there for several functions. Not impossible to do, but if you want to tweak an idea by dragging all those coordinated elements to a point a few frames later, you’ll have to make a new mark, then reset or move each of them individually. The chances of your doing all this correctly the first time is virtually nil.


The way keyframes is implemented speaks to the notion that the designers were complete rubes when they considered the idea. They had the opportunity to really make something great, intuitive, easier and more flexible, but they didn’t just shoot themselves (and by extension, us) in the foot over this, they blew off the whole leg.




Gloomy Tunes


FCPX certainly will do a lot more than the very simplified iMovie, but it suffers from too much of the same mind set, which is not a pro’s favorite mode of thinking. Certainly, that’s an oversimplification.


It does edit. Its features are often strong. Perhaps the fairest thing to say about it is that it is unfinished. Right now Version 1.0 has numerous bugs and shortcomings. Here are a few of both.


Professional editors wanted Final Cut Pro on vitamins and exercise. What FCPX delivers is not iMovie on steroids as some have suggested. It’s iMovie on double steroids. And you know what happens to creatures that double up on steroids. They get belligerent, grotesque and lose their sex drive.


Apple is complaining that when they moved to the New Architecture around which FCPX is constructed, the act of simply translating previous FCP7 projects into it no longer made sense.


That’s sort of like saying you will never get a Windows PC to run OS X. If Lifehacker can show you how to make a PC version of a Mac Mini that runs OSX Snow Leopard, Apple can bite the bullet and get older FCP7 projects to translate into FCPX projects. If not perfectly, then close enough to recover 98% of prior effort while flagging the missed parts.


“If the redesign process had started from a premise of including as much of FCP7 as possible, plus a second mode of display that included the new FCPX features, there would have been no problem, no denigration, no flames and no cursing.”


The entire notion of not being able to open FCP7 files in FCPX is a stunner. The quote you never wanted to hear is this from Randy Ubilos, who I used to like:


We never expected anyone to switch editing software in the middle of a project, so project migration was not a priority.”  —Randy Ubillos, 2011


Switch editing programs? Are you insane? It’s Final Cut Pro. There’s no perceived “switch” here. When FCP7 came out, we completed our FCP6 shows on it. Why didn’t you call this “Apple Edit Prime” if it’s a “new edit program?”


Little things ruin the learning curve:


Not all functions report their shortcuts if you pause the mouse on them.

The interface is dark, foreboding and contrasty without gray neutrality to refresh the color perception of your eyes.

The color correction attributes are ...ah... paltry, and a long, long way from the now-unavailable Color grading program.

The Help documentation is spotty at best.

Audio is a mix of very good and very incomplete functions, exportable to no known support program in a direct, 1:1 relationship.

You can’t adjust the comfort level of the interface in any way other than to change the size/shape of media display windows.

Too much fussing is needed to open up certain frequent ideas to the level at which they can be changed.

Gloomy shading makes fast reading of some settings difficult and slow.


Perhaps the core realization I’ve come to is this: FCPX is really the most evolved, best version of Final Cut Express they could have produced.


FCE is the one you could use for many, many things, but not all things. The one that does most things well but not the one you want when you edit an effects-heavy television show.


After you take Izzy’s short course in FCPX (free on the internet and highly recommended), you’ll see how its parts work together. Or not.


Even more help here from Richard Taylor.


Overall, the interface differences between FCP7 and FCPX didn’t have to happen in the way they did. A more respectful design of  the relationships between elements could have produced a much more transition-friendly product. By transition I mean learning curve. The previous program, though a dozen years old, had many very worthy and credible design attributes that were lost, needlessly.


Features Not Thought Through

In many ways, FCPX has created problems for itself that have not been in its own best interest. Ideas were half-completed and under-considered as they joined the program. The millions of hours of previous experience-building in the edit community was never respected.


Here are come cases in point:


Text (updated 7-12-11): We have had time to work with the various title generating abilities of FCPX. Steve Jobs was a typographic-adept person whose skills with text, lettering and typographic functions is a major driving distinction that has separated all things Mac from all things Windows.


If he had found out how truly inept this area of FCPX is, heads would have rolled.


The text handling of FCP7 was better. The text handling of iMovie is better. Numerous Apple programs enjoy better text manipulation. Pages, Numbers, Keynote, iWeb, iMovie for iPhone and iPad—all work more surely and easily in the preparation of text than this.


It is capable of truly phenomenal titles, yet it is balky, poorly designed, buggy and difficult to work with for the simplest of text additions. Things that are out of whack include:


  1. BulletText line positioning. No exactness. No numerical guidance. No grid guidance. No help to fit two consecutive tiles into the same window of space.

  2. BulletText size setting. Arbitrary. Not pixels, not points, not inches, not centimeters. Numerical without meaning.

  3. BulletDrop Shadow setting. Arbitrary number entries. Not pixels, not points, not inches, not centimeters. No relationship to previous experiences. Slow updating preventing WYSIWYG tweaking.

  4. BulletBugs. Features drop away without warning, leading the operator to try to debug the layout interminably.

  5. BulletCustom Title option is a joke with so many controls that it seems to be an exercise in “belligerent obedience.” Somebody said, “there’s no title option to provide maximum control.” And somebody else came up with this abomination (right). The question should have been, “why isn’t there a set of clear, ergonomic title options?”


Skimming. It used to be scrubbing. Now it is skimming. Should have been sailing. Could have been skating or gliding. You skim scum. How did they not know that? It’s the prime entry in Apple’s own Dictionary and the first thing you see in Apple’s Thesaurus. Skim, scam, scum. Not a great words to pick for any process.


The VP of Terminology had to justify his existence. No, it has nothing to do with taking an illegal pre-IRS profit off the top of gambling revenue in the Counting Room of every casino in Vegas.


You decide what skimming options will follow your mouse around as it moves over the timeline by clicking icons attached to the timeline window. Here you can decide to scrub with or without audio, whether to snap the time indicator to events like cuts, markers and so on. Skimming is thus initiated for both the timeline and source preview windows.


But that’s the problem. When you are happily skimming though an image and sound in the source preview, you may wish not to skim with sound when your mouse flies over the timeline window or you may wish to not skim at all there. You can’t set your skimming options differently for each. One size fits all. Take it or leave it.


What’s needed is a sprinkling of icons that let each window behave in its own custom way. There is no shortage of room for this.


Scopes. As with FCP7, you have the option of viewing waveform, vectorscope and parade histograms—and now with more options. The display graphics and detail level of these is exceptionally good. They’re responsive, clear and informative. Great, eh?


The problem with them stems from the decision the design team made to show them completely at the expense of eyeballing the picture:




Scoping the shot, one idea at a time. This real estate was filled with picture, a second ago.
Now it’s a waveform monitor with grid lines too dim to see. &^%$#@!!


The only way to see the scopes is to have their graphic space carve out a huge chunk of the image real estate. When they appear, their section of the screen is not negotiable. They show up at full image height on the left of the image window pane. In doing so, either the image gets cropped to fit in the remaining area, or it shrinks to the remaining width, which can be quite small in some cases. In the mean time, other portions of the screen that you may wish to use for scopes can’t be used for them.


And you can not adjust brightness of the reticle markings. &^%$#@!!


Another prime example of a Non-Professional use of graphic space and metering resources.


I don’t need a vectorscope that is bigger than God. I don’t need a waveform monitor, an RGB channel display and a Vectorscope in serial views. I need to see them all at the same time, but not all the time.


It’s another example of ignoring the professional’s core needs. If FCPX were the standard for the future of editing, then future editors would be lacking in capabilities present-day editors use all the time. We would be teaching them to be lesser editors.


Out of the many scopes you can view, you can only view one at a time. This needs to be fixed so you can see as many at once as you find helpful. And control the reticle lines, too, please. Especially as you tweak image qualities. Which itself suggests seeing the largest possible screen image at the same time, not the opposite.


It gets worse. If you throw the “final output” image onto another screen and switch on a scope, THAT screen is the one that gets the scope. Giant. Obtrusive. Helpful not at all. The giant plasma display across the room for the client to stare at is now covered in techno crap.


&^%$#@!!!


Gotchas. Buried in the interface are some peculiar brand-new puzzles that can leave you thinking you’re trying to edit with the video game, Portal. In other words, it’s a test, a challenge or an enigma, not a well thought-out move, choice or change.


You can, for instance, elect to view an edited clip in the timeline area by itself. There you can work on it, adding things, changing things, tweaking things. All that is fine, but then you are faced with getting back to the edited timeline where you can continue editing.


Did I mention that the docs are &^%$#@!!? As you right-click on the clip to expand it, and it alone, into Timeline View, a drop-down menu includes the desired option, labeled Open in Timeline. That gets the clip open as the only thing showing.


Now, how do you get back? Re-clicking on the Open in Timeline item doesn’t work. It is grayed out. Nothing on the timeline itself hints at a return path. So you go to the Keyboard Shortcuts pages of the docs and look for Open in Timeline. Nothing that is suggested applies.


After tearing out 32165 hairs by the roots, somebody on the Apple Help Forum suggests that the two unmarked arrows above the Timeline Index window can move you between the two ideas in the timeline. B’ b’ b’ but those are part of the Timeline INDEX, not the Timeline edit window, right? Wrong.


Another, wiser person lets you in on a Big Secret: Command-] and Command-[ can get you in and out of the clip-only view, an undocumented feature that isn’t in the Keyboard Shortcuts list at all.


At all. Ahem.


Out of frustration, I found a third option that does the trick. Command-0 (that’s a zero) hit twice in succession does the trick, and is perhaps the least effort.


&^%$#@!!


Text Entry. Through all the iWork and iLife programs that use text, Pages, iWeb, Keynote, Numbers, etc., there is a handy, universal Text manipulation window that can be called up and used to set a bunch of text attributes. Command-T lets you see, scale, color, shade, shadow and tweak text. But it is not in FCPX.


FCPX has removed the logical, ergonomic presence of this handy and familiar tool and gives you a balky, serial—spread over several windows, difficult interface to work with.


It is far easier to change text attributes here in iWeb, than to do the same thing in an FCPX title.


(Insert curse here.)


Drop Down Menu Ergonomics. Many windows have options to their content that are presented by clicking a light switch icon in the upper right of the window’s header bar. This drops down a list of available items that you can select from. Selected items often show a check mark identifying their status. Others change the wording of the selection line to avoid ambiguity.


The problem comes from what I term “the endless hand-eye coordination game” that software designers compel us to play. When a menu item is chosen, the whole window instantly snaps shut. To UN-select anything you’ve touched, you now must go back up to the header bar, open the window again, find the item you invoked, and re-invoke it to un-invoke it.


There is no way to force the window to stay open while you try things with its options. Every decision you make to try-this/try-that, forces you to play the Open-The-Window;-Find-The-Item-Video-Game again.


This gets very old, very quickly. And it’s an attribute that appears in every drop down window I’ve found. It’s worse: You open Scopes in one window, then select the scope type in another. &^%$#@!!


Apple: End the madness. Avoid endless eye-mouse coordination games to do simple changes of state for as many things as is humanly, ergonomically possible. Let windows stay open as long as the mouse is in the vicinity. And this little switch-in-the-corner icon is a pest.


Control Functions. A very handy new idea replaces a number of FCP7’s Viewer options. It’s familiar to users of iWeb, Pages, Keynote and other Apple programs, called the Inspector. It’s a window with a collection of functions all in one handy spot. Previous versions of Final Cut Pro forced you to do certain things in various tabbed windows that each contained a limited number of tweaks. The prior Motion window gave you control over the angle, crop, scale, distortion and position of the image within the frame, for instance. A completely separate window tracked filters. Add a title?: Add a tab. Add a Color Corrector?: Add a tab. Pretty soon you were spending a lot of time playing the Jump Between Tabs Game as you made changes, but now things are better organized. Still, some things are tragically (meaning unprofessionally) missing.


In old Final Cut Pro, you could rotate thing universally with numbers like 90°, 270°, 720° (for two complete rotations), and so on. It’s at right, the FCPX version on the left, down below.


This very vital aspect of rotation has not made its presence fully in FCPX and all clock-simple attributes have been removed. It’s there in the Transform item that tracks scale, position and angle of the image, but it’s not there in certain effects that also include an angle function. A kaleidoscope effect has it, but an effect called Scrape, which slashes through your image at a defined angle while smearing pixels out to infinity from that cut line, does not.




Scrape applied to an image at 179°.


The Scrape control will let you animate an angle change for your smeared pixels, but if you travel into negative angle territory or beyond 360° of rotation, you will find that it simply will not cross 0° or 360° ever. It’s a bug, and far from the last in the few effects we’ve tested.


You can use an on-screen rotation handle to set it just the way you want with as many spins as you wish, but the effect will not respect your hand-made adjustments. This is one of the most insidious forms of programming failure; one in which the same control behaves differently in two or more different situations. At first, when you encounter a control failure, you will think you did it wrong. An hour later, you will finally realize that it wasn’t you, it was the programmer who simply didn’t have a clue that he (female programmers don’t usually make this sort of mistake) was yanking half a lifetime of hours of frustration out of the world by not appreciating a small missing line of code. Editors need detailed, intensely accurate control and coordination over their images and effects.


There was nothing wrong with the layout of the Rotation control in FCP7. Now look at it. A dim, information-free, hard to read skinny mess. Very chic. Very moderne. Very small. Very unprofessional.


Can you make out the important target area around the “0°” on the right of the control? It’s there. Invisible under nearly all viewing conditions, but there.


In all functions that we have found, none of them that control keyframes affecting angle will let you smoothly ramp into the angular move if it animates over time. Nobody solved that.


All controls with X / Y adjustments allow you to change them by clicking and dragging in their number field. In the Y direction only. There is no X / Y coordinated starting point. &^%$#@!!


Let’s say you want to rotate the image one complete time in 60 frames. You set a keyframe at the beginning of the rotation and one at the end. You want this spin to look the way it would happen if a hand rotated the image. Meaning you want it to take the first ten frames to ramp up to a constant rotation speed, then take a few more frames to ramp out of rotation speed. As if it were an object being manipulated organically within the laws of physics and momentum. As if it had an accelerator.


No can do.


It is not possible to smoothly transition into rotation. What? Jugglers do it all the time. Pendulums do it all the time. Car wheels do it at every stop light. Why can’t FCPX? In fact, most translation controls have zero ramping abilities. You can’t smoothly transition from keyframe to keyframe with most controls or decide to have them move in a linear fashion. There are no options to make a Smooth or Bezier or Linear transition from one state to another.


It’s as if Apple’s design team had major missing clues about what real-world editors would like to do with images as elements in a sequence.


Just for grins, try to find anything called “smooth” in the Help Files. Back in FCP7—when you could see keyframes—you could click on many of them and a pop up menu would offer you the choice to “smooth” them. No more.


Effects. Many of the effects that FCPX has available are really Motion X templates. Some of them suffer from Motion X slickness.


Here’s an example. If you add the effect called “Tile” over your clip, it lets you repeat the current image as identical tiles all over your frame. All tiles are the current, live image, moving without hesitation, including all previously added changes.


You can keyframe the number of repeating images with a simple slider that starts with 1.0 image, ranging all the way up to 20 repeats that display 400 tiny pictures within the screen. It’s not an effect you will use every day, but it is deeply flawed. Animating it is useless.


If you set a keyframe at the beginning of a shot with 1.0 instance of the image in it (one full image), you may not notice that the single image has been inappropriately stretched about 3% in the horizontal. Call that Minor Bug #1.




Tile at the default 3.0 setting. Three wide by three high. Get it?


Now if you set the last frame in the shot to 20 instances of the image, you will expect a sort of “cosmic zoom out” with active repeating images shrinking back and filling the scene as it linearly zooms from 1 to 20.


Since there are no smoothing attributes to be assigned to this move, it should go according to plan. But it won’t work. It will zoom from 1.0 to a 3.0 magnification (its 9 tile default condition), slow down smoothly, then resume its journey until all 400 postage stamp images are represented at the 20 setting.


That’s Major Bug #2. If you try this using the same effect in FCP7, it works fine.


Why 3.0 as the place for mid course change you never programmed? Nobody is saying.


You can’t fix, or change, or keyframe your way out of this. The effect your client wanted is out of reach. Later that night, your spouse will hear you sobbing in your sleep. Moreover, the number you enter is not tied to the number of repetitions viewed except at 1, 3 and 20. In other words, if you put in ‘10.0’ you get five tiles across. Why? Ask Apple.


Photoshop Layers Missing Here. While Final Cut Pro Studio was massively enhanced by its intelligent integration of Photoshop multi-layer files, FCPX won’t even consider them for import. When .psd layers arrived into FCP7, they could be optionally opened up as layers in that layer-based architecture.


The ever-so-new architecture of FCPX is not layer-based in the way that would easily accommodate Photoshop layers, so it’s not possible to accept a multi-layer image and manipulate its layers one by one in this new program. The Photoshop image will load, but it has been flattened in translation. All layers lost as individuals.


Is this a rivalry between Adobe and Apple thing? Or is it merely an incompetent, unprofessional mistake in designing the architecture of the new program?


You now must revisit any multi-layer Photoshop image and save it layer by layer as 24-bit .png files or single layer .psd files in order to potentially reconstruct it in FCPX with all layers separately animatable. Don’t make any mistakes in labeling. Have hours of fun doing computer image housekeeping. And don’t forget to add any drop shadow effects while you are in Photoshop, because you can’t add them in FCPX.


Oh, and tell your client’s ad agency that Photoshop layered files are no longer acceptable resources for you, any more. Don’t tell your client, though. Let the agency do that for you. Behind your back. With daggers in their eyes.


Startup Time. Opening up FCPX is simple. Just click it into being. But for whatever reason, it starts up slower with just a few shots on the timeline than FCP7 will start with dozens of sequences and/or projects in it. Much slower. Like several minutes to boot up to usefulness while FCP7 with tons more material to track takes under a minute.


This hints at coding shortcuts or poor engineering of the “new architecture” that Apple is bragging about. Very unprofessional.


Does Not Play Well With FCP7. Both old and new Final Cut use a folder called Final Cut Events. In your User > Movies>Final Cut Events folder, you will find files from both FCPX and FCP7.


Apple suggests that the ‘right’ way to handle this is to put FCP7 on a different boot disk or repartition your drive into two boot drives, thus relegating it to the trash bin of history and requiring you to reboot your Mac every time you want to switch between programs. But it’s not as bad as I’m making it out to be.


If you have been clever enough to find this Apple Support File, you might be okay.


If your software is up to date and you have installed the ProKit Update Version 7.0, both FCPX and FCP7 can boot up on the same drive at the same time. They’ll still share that FCP Events folder but presumably they’ll play nice and not kill each other.


Apple: Name one Final Cut Events. Name the other Final Cut X Events. Would that work?


Sequences And Layers. Old Final Cut Pro allowed you to make any number of sequences within your project, and you could have several projects open at one time, which made borrowing things, experimenting with things and tweaking complex segments easy. You could, for example, build a shot that contained some pretty hairy effects as a separate sequence, then drag that sequence onto the timeline as if it were a single shot.


FCPX does not allow you to use another project as an image clip. You can render it out and reimport it into your current event, but then it doesn’t update if you go back into it and change something.


The whole idea of layering is powerful. Music depends on notes in layers, and orchestra scores are the epitome of successful layering of musical ideas. FCPX does allow you superimpose things and build up multiple composites, but it’s not the same thing.


With layers, you can revisit everything on an individual basis as you are stacking them. You can tweak things endlessly, because they’ve never been mushed into a common entity. You can plan them in your head and execute that plan on the timeline in the same intuitive way a musician writes a multipart arrangement.


Layers are intuitive, flexible and easy to think through. FCPX’s design disregards this bit of wisdom. At our professional peril.


&^%-


wait for it...


-$#@!! *


The End Of The World. According to people who haven’t a clue about the workings and physics of the Universe, the world was supposed to end on May 21, 2011. Instead, it ended for the universe of Final Cut Pro development and reputation a month later on June 21, 2011 with the introduction for sale of the Final Cut Pro X editing program.


Confidence in Final Cut has been lost. In one product release, Apple has managed to lose hundreds of millions of dollars worth of good will around the world.


People are looking around for alternatives. Alternatives exist. Ones that don’t insist you learn all new habits of conceptualizing and button pressing.


  1. BulletPremiere from Adobe is now available to FCP owners at half off.

  2. BulletVegas wants to sell you something including a non-Mac computer.

  3. BulletAvid is looking at you, bro.


The new architecture that Apple’s development team has so completely embraced, along with the many shortcomings inherent in the graphic user interface, feature design, omissions of vital control elements and sheer boneheadedness of the current program may prove fatal to FPC’s dominance in the world.


We have only highlighted a few examples here, but they show up in nearly every test we’ve challenged the program with.


To be sure, the program looks promising, but it commits the worst possible sin against the nature of things:


There is an audience of known size, work habits, expectations and comfort zone out there who will throw tons of money at you if you deliver the thing they perceive that they want and need. You, Apple, may be able to teach them new things, but the chances are great that they can teach you more than you ever supposed.


Apple, you missed your target audience. This is the clearest experience with you I’ve had that gives credence to the rumor that you have become deaf. You don’t seem to be capable of listening.


This is something no effective editor can ever afford to do. Effective editing is a whole process of making the guest experience of the edited media something wonderful for the intended audience.


Apple: wake up.


Apple deserves this wake up call. It’s one thing to come out with a new tool like an iPad and sweep the imagination of the masses. Pro editors are not the masses.


Professional editors live and die on how well they meet and exceed their target audience’s expectations.


What should Apple do now?

In my dreams, I speculate like this:


First, they should start a parallel development program made out of a core team that includes not one single person who is on the Final Cut X project at this hour. The Fresh Eyes Theory. Call it Project Phoenix.


That team’s job will be to turn Final Cut Pro 7 into a screaming, evolved, 64-bit, multi-layer, program with vast amounts of feature cleansing, new feature incorporation and ergonomic refinements that deliver the speeds our 8, 12 and future 16 and 24-core Mac Pros can provide.


Then call it Final Cut Pro 8. Or Final Cut Pro XI. Or Final Cut Pro Phoenix.


Then start calling FCPX, "eff see pee eks," so later when it becomes the ex-tool, there will be no confusion.


Being new to the program, the new team will require input in massive doses. That means working pro consultation and argument, plus tons of beta-testing from actual users of FCP.


Why is Photoshop CS 5.5 so damn good? A team of beta-testers with a fearless attitude toward the code writers is one reason. I know. I was one of them. And I see features inside the final product that would not have been included if I had not stamped my foot when necessary. But the people at Adobe show a far greater willingness to listen.


Right now Adobe is offering Premiere for FCP owners who "want pro level tools that address cutting edge work but also allow them to use legacy footage and workflows" at HALF OFF, in response to this debacle.


From the outset, FCP XI should contain every money-making feature that FCP7 currently provides, while bringing as many new and useful features from FCPX under its umbrella.


In the meantime, Apple should bring back a slightly revised Final Cut Pro 7.5 in a few months along with slightly revised Motion, Soundtrack, Color and DVD Studio B (for BlueRay) at its previous price of $1,000 for new purchases and $300 to all previous owners or FCPX owner/buyers. Included within it should be FCPX, Motion X and Compressor X, just to sweeten the deal.


The uber-goal of this parallel project will be to establish Apple as the leader in professional editing prowess for the Macintosh platform.


If they don’t, in two years or less, the tech writers will be packing the dirt on Apple’s professional applications’ grave.


It’s that serious.


In real life, Apple should restore the missing pieces, parallel timelines as an option, numbered audio tracks as an option, sequences as an option, improved text, improved control interface graphics, multiclip, the ability to read legacy projects to a reasonable degree of fidelity, improve startup time, view the scopes appropriately, reduce Project memory footprint, attend to coordinated keyframe manipulations, find a way to respect Photoshop Layers and fix all the bugs in the Effects.


At minimum.




The Review of Apple Edit Prime:


Wow! What a program!! Four thumbs up!


Fast to use, easy to learn. It’s no Final Cut Pro, but as the new replacement for Final Cut Express, it’s a killer!


Still a little rough around the edges in this Version 1.0 release, but shows real potential as a new evolutionary path for prosumer and advanced enthusiast editors.


Way to go, Apple.


Now, can we have our Final Cut Pro 8, please?




Note: I have not tried everything in FCPX, so some of the things I’ve noted above may be in error. If you spot something, let me know through the SEND button on top.


* The term, “&^%$#@!!” should be pronounced as “You scum-sucking, skank-oozing, clown-barfing, mega-pile of donkey snot!” I cleaned that up.


 
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