excerpts, quips, and musings on the production and post-production industry, and other stuff of interest

To FCPX or not to FCPX

I'm not sure I've ever seen a piece of software be so hottly debated as FCPX has been. It seems editors either love it or hate it. There appears to be little to no middleground. Here are two different editors' takes on the software - 1 siding with FCPX and the other migrating away.

Rick Young - Final Cut Pro X and the Road to Hell (and back again)

I could continue to list all of my likes and gripes, however, the big picture is what matters. Final Cut Pro X performed well on the job, under pressure, and I give it credit for this. I need to test the software on long-form work - like a thirty minute or one hour documentary. I can say with confidence that FCPX is now a permanent part of my workflow and toolset. This doesn't mean I won't use other editors - or investigate other options, though FCPX has definitely proved itself to be worthy of professional work.

Richard Keating - Avid Media Composer or Premiere Pro CS6: Saying Goodbye to Final Cut

The lack of control in FCPX extends beyond determining how your project assets are organized. The highly touted "no more rendering" that the Apple marketing machine has been pushing is a bit misleading. Rendering is still required, just the choice of when to render has been taken away. It may happen automatically "in the background", but that background activity takes up a lot of processing power, and I found that it ground the performance of the application to an excruciatingly slow speed every time it happened – and I have new machines with SSD and RAM to the hilt.

The project I was working on was fairly standard corporate video fare – talking heads, b-roll, and some motion graphics from After Effects. Every time I made a change to a transition effect or title, I would literally just wait for it to render – which it started automatically – because there was no point in moving on to the next edit because it slowed everything down to the point of frustration. With FCP legacy versions, I would wait to render after all the changes on the timeline had been completed. I found the edit-stop-edit-stop workflow painful to say the least. FCPX didn’t eliminate the need to render per se – it just took away the need to make a keystroke and the choice of when to do it.

I do find it interesting how Rick Young's endorsement doesn't really seem like an endorsement. It runs along the lines of, 'Well it doesn't suck as much as the other options out there." His article documents many problems with FCPX that I won't tolerate in my workflow. Ultimately, for him it's the right tool for the job. Bottom line: if it allows him to hit deadlines and make money, then keep at it.

Richard Keating's experience closely parallels my own in working with FCPX. I quoted his rendering section because I feel this is one the biggest strengths and weaknesses of FCPX. On the surface, no more rendering is sweet, sweet music to my ears. In my actual experience with FCPX, it takes all of my cores to process through the footage making editing, and multi-tasking, unbearably slow. And, to be fair, you can set when you want the baackground rendering to take over in FCPX, but it will still kick in at some point (5 minutes, 10 minutes, etc.). If you leave FCPX and decie to work in Motion or After Effects or even just catch up on some email all of a sudden your system bogs down under the weight of background rendering. Richard rightly identify's the fact that Apple hasn't eliminated rendering. They've just eliminated the choice for when you, the editor, get to do it.

Even beyond the rendering or media management implmentation (i.e. database approach) I don't respect the editing metaphor being used by FCPX. As Keating commented Apple has tried to fix something that wasn't broken. The metaphor or interaction between an editor and the software has developed over many decades, much of it stemming from the film or tape broadcast industry. And while more and more professionals move to digital over tape or film, the actual metaphor used to interact with those "sources" in a NLE will need to be modified, but not necessaairly rewritten or expunged.

Apple's rewritten metaphor includes terminology like calling "Projects" "Events"," calling timelines "projects," dropping the source/record window setup, the magnetic timeline, and not allowing multiple editors to work on the same project at the same time (a limitation of  media management implementation). I also have a growing angst in regards to Apple's shift towards a more mass-market consumer company. I love my Mac Mini, I love my iPhone, and I've loved the various iPod's I've had over the years. My fear is that Apple has continually shown a propensity for minimal support for the "pro" community. One can point to Shake, XServe, XSAN, Final Cut Server, Color, or DVD Studio Pro as case-in-point. As I've already argued for previously, we'll probably be able to add Mac Pro to that list in the not too distant future. There is nothing wrong with Apple moving towards the bigger profit and bigger market of the consumer arena. But if they do that then there's nothing stopping me, or professionals like me, from moving to other companies that will provide the features and support that I need.