Ryan E. Walters, Cinematographer

Cinematic Excellence at 24 Frames a Second

A Second Chance For Final Cut Pro X?

Those of you who have been reading my blog for awhile already know that back in August I wrote that FCP X was dead. Those were not easy words for me to write, as I used the program since version 1. At the time, when I gave it another spin, I still found it to be a tightly closed system that didn't fit my needs, so I continued to use Premiere.

In the last several months, Apple has updated the app to version 10.1.1, so I decided to give it another chance. After three weeks of solid use, I still have some frustrations with it- but overall I'm liking what I am experiencing.  So here is the low down on FCP X.

The Act of Editing Has Never Been Faster
This time around, I decided to dive head first into the application, and tackle editing eight simple training videos. Nothing too complex- talking heads along with B-Roll. Two of the videos began in Premiere and were finished in Final Cut (more on that later).

I have to be honest- it took me some time to get up to speed with FCP X, as it is a big paradigm shift. But thanks to Larry Jordan's training, I was able to get up to speed in about 1 week. After adjusting my thinking, I am cutting content faster and easier than I was in Premiere. Things like the magnetic timeline, automated background rendering, keywords, and ratings have dramatically shortened the time it takes me to assemble a rough edit. Which means I can get to the real work faster.

What I really like about FCP X, it that it is a "visual" app. What I mean by that is that things are laid out intuitively, with images and keystrokes that make the editing process a breeze. I'm a visual person by nature, so I like having pictures instead of a bunch of small type and text...

Sure Final Cut Pro Can Do That, No Problem! (But it will cost you ...)
Even though I'm enjoying the act of editing a lot with FCP X, the first bitter taste that the app left in my mouth was when I went to move the edit I had done in Premiere over to Final Cut. The edit in Premiere was very basic- edits only, with a couple of text files from Photoshop*. So I went and exported out an industry standard XML file of the edit to take into FCP X.

And that's when things came to a screaming halt. FCP X could not import my XML file. Really? I couldn't believe that. I have the latest version of Premiere... So I did some searching and found this little app called 7 to X that would convert the file to something FCP would read. (7 to X worked great- the edit survived, frame for frame. Effects, etc, did not. But that isn't a surprise, as those kinds of things never surviveā€¦).

Having to buy an addition all to make FCP work is like buying a car, and just as you go to drive it away, you notice they took the tires off. "Oh, you want tires, do you? Well that's extra ..." It seems there are a bunch of "extra features" that are missing from FCP X, that people have built solutions for. I'm glad there are solutions out there, but it does leave me scratching my head.

This experience did not sit well with me- I realize that I'm using the free trial version, but am I really going to be nickel and dimed to death by this "affordable" app in order to get it to read industry standard formats like XML...

*I still hate that FCP does not seamlessly integrate with Photoshop. After using Adobe's dynamic linking, I've become very spoiled with the ease of integration, and updating graphics in Photoshop...

The Touch For Final Cut Pro X - A Must Have "Accessory"
Speaking of spending extra money on Final Cut Pro... if you do any color grading in Final Cut at all, I HIGHLY recommend that you get this handy app from Arctic Whiteness: The Touch.

Another frustration I have with Final Cut is its approach to color grading. They had an amazing app called Color, and now it is this little hobbled window with small balls I have to drag everywhere. Talk about a time consuming and finicky way to color grade... but I digress.

Fortunately, The Touch actually makes color grading in Final Cut fun! I can use my iPad, or my trackpad to easily and quickly adjust any parameter. It is almost like having a dedicated control surface! What makes this app great is that the whole surface of the iPad or the trackpad becomes the "knob" or "slider." So I never have to look down to know if my hand is positioned correctly. I just place the appropriate number of fingers on the pad, and start creating- it really is a joy to work with. I just wish I had more controls within Final Cut...

Now Arctic Whiteness needs to do the same thing for Resolve ... ;)

Another Gotcha!
I acknowledge that I'm on an older Mac. But it's a 2x 2.8 GHz Quad Core, with 28 GB of Ram, a 256 GB SSD as the OS drive, and an Nvidia GTX 570 & GT120 - so it isn't a slouch either. At least it hasn't been when I have been editing with Premiere. (All I'm editing is 1080p ProRes HQ Files).

But Final Cut seems to be able to bring my system down to a crawl as soon as I move from editing to anything else. For example:

- As soon as I import my footage and have the app create optimized footage, if I want to do anything with that footage- like create a synced multi-cam clip- things take forever. Granted, if I turn off the background tasks, everything is fine, and the synced multi-cam clip gets created in under 30 seconds. But then that defeated the purpose of background tasks...

- Adding text, grades, and using filters like Film Convert bog it down, and clicking around becomes painfully slow

- And then I can't help but notice that if I am editing for awhile, my whole system seems to slow down. I can't place what is happening, but if I shut down the program, and reboot it, everything springs back to life- just as snappy as when I first launched it. (This doesn't happen with Premiere).

So if I read the marketing material on Apple's website correctly, my fix to this problem is to buy a $3,000 - $6,000 machine? Hmmm, FCP X is looking less and less affordable...

Final Cut X Is A Bit Of A Tease...
With the release of version 10.1.1 Final Cut is finally at a place where I think it is a viable editing app again. As a big Apple fan, that really excites me! However, with all of the additional apps you have to buy (I didn't even mention, MotionCompressor, Logic...), and the upgrade that has to be done to my computer system, it feels like a bit of a tease... there goes that affordable price of $299.

I can see the speed benefits that the app offers. I just wish that Apple would do a better job at supporting existing hardware- like Adobe does. I don't feel hobbled at all when I'm editing in Premiere... but then, I guess, Adobe isn't selling computers either...

In the end, I do see what all of the fuss is about with Final Cut Pro X. It is finally starting to live up to the term "pro." If you haven't checked it out yet, I encourage you to do so. Once you get over the learning curve, the act of editing itself becomes a very intuitive and enjoyable process. (Even on an older machine- just lock in your edit before adding anything else to the mix).

What has your experience been like? Have you switched back to Final Cut? Are you still on Premiere? Do you have any tips you can share?

Until Next Time - Get Out There And Shoot!
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