Posts from June 2011

Things I’d like to see in Final Cut Pro X 10.1

Final Cut Pro X is out, and there’s much wailing and gnashing. Walter Murch may have walked back to Avid, there’s nary a hint of Bruce the Wonder Yak. Vocal critics decry the lack of export formats and monitoring support. “This is not,” they say, “A professional tool.”

What’s changed, I think, is what ‘professional’ means. In a post-tape, post-broadcast world FCP X looks elegantly minimalist. Those are the circles in which I now move. If my former broadcast colleagues don’t think this is a ‘professional’ environment, well, I can sympathise. But the world is moving on.

There’s lots of focus on what’s missing from previous Final Cut versions. More interesting, I think, is what should be added to X. Which isn’t quite the same thing. My current wish-list is a mix of things that, on reflection, I think should return — and whole new approaches that would have made no sense previously.

  • More than one clip browser. We were used to having multiple bins open at once, and while the discipline of having just one browser is refreshing, it’s also limiting. Let me spawn more, please. I have a whole spare monitor waiting for them.

  • Tag-based filters and effects. Let me tag clips on the storyline, and then apply video and audio filters to those tags. For example, I’d tag dialogue as ‘voice1’ and ‘voice2’, and drag preferred EQs to those tags in the storyline index. Instant global EQ; tag groups become sub-mixes and I’ve regained most of what I miss from Soundtrack Pro. To the tag set “EXT, dayfornight” I apply a day-for-night grade. This would make me very happy.

  • Global filters. In Soundtrack Pro I habitually drop a soft limiter on the master mix; lots of people chuck a broadcast safe on their final video render. Give me a special tag ‘global’ and I can do those within the filter-on-tag interface.

  • Shared metadata. Lion brings Xsan into OS X for the first time; between that, low-bandwidth codec support, and Thunderbolt storage we have all the tools we need to make shared storage and editing a core feature. This has to be part of the plan, right? — but let’s have it sooner rather than later. Thanks.

  • Photoshop layers support. Bring that back, please. Make a PSD a compound clip of a 10-second freeze, let me step into it and enable/disable/extract individual layers. Thanks.

  • Timeline zoom and autoscroll. The storyline doesn’t autoscroll on playback? Tell me that’s a bug. Also: when I zoom in and out on the storyline, I expect the playhead to remain centred. We fought for that in FCP for years, and we were right.

  • FCP7 import. Tags for bins and we’re done, surely? Premiere Pro can do it, it’s kinda necessary.

  • Multiclip editing. It’s coming, right? Oh, but how are you going to show me a multitrack preview when there’s only one viewer window? Backed yourself into a corner there, huh?

  • Subtitle (closed caption) authoring. I’ve yet to find a genuinely pleasant workflow for producing subtitle tracks.

  • ProResLT. Project rendering options include vanilla, HQ, and 4444 flavours of ProRes, but not LT. Shame, it’s a great compromise.

  • Show me the clips I just synchronised. Minor detail: I’ve tagged clips with their take, which makes it easy to select all the material from that take and ‘Synchronise Clips.’ Trouble is, the synced clip ends up back in the Event, named for one of the video clips, and I have a devil of a job finding the damned thing. Since tagging it with the take is likely the next thing I’ll want to do… take me back to the Event and highlight the synced clip, please? Or tag it so it appears in the current collection, maybe?

Note that I’ve not talked about external monitoring, OMF export, YUV grading and all the other ‘professional’ stuff. Just the bits I’d actually use. The more I think about it, the more I think applying filters to tags is the killer here. And that’s interesting because such an approach would have made no sense at all in earlier editing packages. If it looks like progress and smells like progress…

For me, right now, Final Cut Pro X is probably closer to being the editing tool I need than Final Cut Studio 3 was. That’s impressive. But I want it to be clearly better. It’s not. Yet.

[Update 25/6: added Subtitle (closed captioning) to wishlist. I’ll keep updating as explore more; also added ProResLT.]

[Update 26/6: added ‘show me the clips I just synchronised’]

Cheltenham, what’s next, and all that

Andrea exhaling

I should probably bang on about the Cheltenham Science Festival, since I’ve finally been. However, in a scant few hours I’m on a train to London, so I’ll have to be brief.

It was fun. It was more fun than I’d expected, which is all the more amazing given that it’s about as over-hyped as I’d expected. There’s lots for a curmudgeon like me to scowl at, but it’s still fun. Well, apart from a certain contretemps between one of my peers and a peer of the realm. More on that another time, perhaps.

I learned stuff, I met some great new people, I caught up with friends old and new. Perhaps best of all, it’s put me in the right frame of mind to tackle StoryCog’s next adventure.

We still have some stuff to sort out and it’s premature to offer any details, but it’s an open secret that it involves the Royal Institution. And you can guess that video is involved. And the web. And, you know, trying to change the world for the better.

That’s what we do.

Meanwhile: there are more of my photos from Andrea Sella’s insane Over-Ambitious Demo Challenge on Flickr. Enjoy.


StoryCog is a communication consultancy and film production company; see more about us here, or explore the links above left. The views expressed in this blog are those of the authors, though they're quite likely to represent the company's position too.


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