Oh no the world is going to end!  Nope but it could mean we’re just about to get a Smoke competitor in FCPX and Motion.

So if the rumours are true that Apple has dropped Color from the Final Cut Studio range of applications what does this mean?

If true it means the Color Board in FCPX is the first stage in incorporating production level grading tools into Final Cut Pro X.  Surely this is something that many of us would prefer?  Round tripping to an external grading application with all of the hassles that entails is very often over kill for many projects, many of my projects, but I want more control than the FCP7 colour corrector!  Will the Colour Board be fully featured enough to grade a film for cinema release?  Probably not but then I’ve never graded a cinematic release and never will.  I deal with reasonably high-end corporate communication and marketing/advertising with generally short turnover but not scrimping on quality.  To be able to show the client the final edit with the grade, titles and graphics all live and in realtime takes FCPX into Smoke territory for finishing.  This fact seems to have been missed by the negative voices who are keen to sell the myth that FCPX is not Pro.

I’m completely confident and capable with Color and to some extent Davinci Resolve but I’d gladly ditch round-trupping for the benefits of being able to work on all the media in the timeline right up to the point the client says export.  So would my clients, especially those who’ve requested edits that have to be re-round-tripped who are then surprised by the hassle extending a fews clips causes not to mention the extra time it takes for “minor” changes up against deadlines.  In my work the benefits of a built in colour corrector with reliable scopes massively out weigh the (possibly) more limited grading tools FCPX will ship with.  I expect the, much derided already, Match Grade function to be a key component of the workflow  I don’t see this as an amateur tool but a pragmatic professional approach – if it works well.  I’m prepared to give it the benefit of the doubt.

I’ve never been able to find myself a satisfactory workflow with titles, effects and graphic media with the external roundtrip to Color (or any grading application to be honest) as there’s always some form of timeline.  Clients are well known for wanting changes to lower thirds and graphics at the last minute but how do you make sure they are video legal without round-tripping them too?  It’s been a pain in the ass so much so we were considering looking at Autodesk Smoke to limit the wasted time on round-tripping and to better offer what the client wants, continual options right up to the point we run out of time or they say the project is finished.

I have a feeling that FCPX and much tighter integration with Motion will be our answer.  Together they could be ideal for the promo work I do.
Leaked screenshots of Motion showed what looked like the ability to develop (Rig) your own effects in Motion then share (Publish) them to FCPX.  It wouldn’t be too much of a stretch to think that you could Rig and Publish a set of the more useful colour grading filters together to enhance the FCPX toolset.  The Motion workflow is probably much closer tied to FCPX than before and maybe live updates are possible while working in Motion.  One to look out for!  Whatever happens Motion is going to have a massive boost with OpenCL, GCD and 64 bit and may for the first time deliver RT motion graphics production that its previous architecture wasn’t quite able to in the past.  Motion has always been a favourite of ours and works well with Cinema 4D and could tie our post production together nicely.

My take is that with FCPX Apple is answering the needs of the users that need to finish often with the client behind them who often don’t feel they’ve done their job without making changes late in the day.  Will FCPX really be a Smoke competitor?  Not long to wait…