Category: Final Cut Pro X

Since a vast proportion of my future business will come from online content production and it was a conscious decision to target the burgeoning new media markets, primarily because I found it more exciting and people are more willing to take risks.  I’m very happy to be in that Vimeo crowd rather than producing tired low budget scraps of programmes and having to invest in all the broadcast level monitoring to service that crud.

The vast majority of the critical voices of FCPX came from the so called Broadcast crowd but let’s not be under any illusions Broadcast does not mean quality.  Broadcast means working to defined limitations of the broadcast network. Some “Pros” are deluded into thinking this is the epitome of media creation, I’m not.

Clearly there are some exceptional documentaries and dramas that could only exist in the Broadcast realm (currently) but alas these landmark shows are the exception. The vast majority of material broadcast is below lower common denominator quality. I’ve recently ditched Pay TV in the UK (Sky) and gone to Freesat because I was paying £40+ a month for drivel we never watched, several hundred channels pumping out chewing gum for the mind.

I have seen the term “Vimeo Crowd” used in a disparaging way when I spend many happy hours a week watching the amazing creative content posted there. The vast majority of which would never be “broadcast.” Google have announced Youtube Channels which may go someway to answering the question of making online content pay and be a real alternative to the closed shops of the broadcast media.

The future is bright.


The sky is falling again!

The neurotic “Pro” community are up in arms again at the hint of a baseless rumour that Apple are considering the retirement of the Mac Pro. This is my take.

Let’s assume these rumours are in fact the truth and my current 12 core Mac Pro will be the last one I own, so what does this mean as a creative professional using Apple computers for his work? To be honest in almost every task I use my Mac Pro for can be very easily carried out by a much cheaper iMac/Macbook Pro the only area that I need the Mac Pro is for 3D rendering where CPU muscle still counts. In every other area of media creation the Mac Pro looks like an anachronism from a bygone computing era.

Killing the Mac Pro now would be no different to the early removal of the floppy disk drive from the Power Macs of old, a decision that perplexed the myopic but in due course proved to be the right decision. We are entering a new era of computing with heterogeneous high powered mobile devices, high speed interfaces like Thunderbolt and cloud computing. These are all technologies that spell the end of desktop computers as we have known them.

I fully expect in the next 3 years I will be doing all my work on a Macbook Pro and have a render farm comprised of Mac Minis all connected via Thunderbolt running OpenCL to combine the GPU and CPU power for the most demanding tasks. This will be a huge change to the way I/we work as I’ll have the best of both worlds, a powerful mobile computer which I can carry out 99% of my tasks on and for the 3D rendering I can plug into an easily extensible network of cost effective render nodes. I may not even need the Mac Minis as Cloud services are improving all the time. I may choose only to rent CPU power as and when I need it and with the proposed improvement of the internet access one the coming years means it will be almost seamless between local and cloud computing.

You will not miss the Mac Pro and it is absolutely not a sign Apple is dumbing down it’s just about kicking you screaming into the future.

The overwhelming view (on Twitter) appears to be FCPX is not a “Pro” level tool, in fact I received this tweet:

@BeetleCarDriver @fineblendmedia I am a professional editor, and FCPX is not “pro” yet. Sorry.
22/06/2011 01:32

This pretty much sums up the vast majority of the sentiment that was floating around on twitter shortly after the release.  It’s an interesting on points because it’s a comment about FCPX but also a comment about how Pro people see themselves.  The insinuation being that because you can see value in an affordable mass market product that immediately means you’re less Pro.  Frankly, that fucks me off.

A Bit of Background.

Quite a lot of My/our work is non broadcast corporate communication which is never seen by the public at large.  A typical example would be a large shopping chain is keen to communicate with all their staff about a change to their branding and store layout.  We produce those videos that explain to the staff the new direction that the company is going in and why.  Because it is vital that these videos are watched by the staff they are not typically dry and corny corporate videos.  We produce videos that mirror the company’s own external marketing using current broadcast aesthetics to appeal to their staff because it is vitally important that they receive the message.  The mode of receptions can be staff training day presentations, DVDs to take home or web based video hosted on the company intranet.  The point is these presentations have to be as good in production value as external marketing or very close otherwise the presentations reflect poorly on the companies’ brand to their own employees.  The production quality is way above a lot of what constitutes broadcast TV quality.  Our main constraint is of course budgets and with the credit crunch our budgets have been further constrained so we continually look for competitive advantages and offerings.

Our budgets do not come close to approaching typical Broadcast spots but we offer the very best pragmatic and cost effective solutions using tapeless workflow, HD compact video cameras, DSLRs, VFX and 3D animation to punch well above our weight.  In a short while and once FCPX has had a couple of point releases I believe it will be making a huge contribution to our output.  We do not have the need nor budgets for a dedicated grading suite with everything that involves because if you don’t do it properly you’re wasting your time.  I have been a vocal proponent of Apple Color for a long time which has helped us get that Broadcast aesthetic but at a cost of a lot of assing around with the round-tripping, with some media supported and others not, only really a single layer grade-able at a time and no way of seeing the final composite with blending modes live in the colour corrector.  Sorry but our clients want to see these things with titles and graphics all live ready for them to change — as is their right as the people paying for the work.  FCPX answers so many of those needs.  The Color Board at first glance looks primitive but it also does a good job of hiding its power and umpteen layers of colour correction can be applied with vignettes and keys with no apparent slow down.  This is absolutely going to be a game changer for us especially when we have a client with us in the studio who is signing off the work — which enables us to get paid — so the sooner the project is finished the better.

Am I going to rush FCPX right into the frontline straight away?  Of course not.  In the few short hours I’ve used it I’ve noticed several bugs and interface inconsistencies and until they’re worked out FCPX will not be used on client facing work.  Over the coming weeks we’ll continue testing workflows and the moment we are happy we’ll roll out the use of FCPX in a controlled way.  There’s no point showing the client the future of video production only to take longer than the old school way.  But….

Having said that, we are immediately going to make FCPX part of the back room process by using the wonderful media management tools to bring all our previous client files into its database.  This will enable us to quickly access client files should the need arise.  In the past when we’ve had previous requests for a quick montage it has been anything but quick to locate relevant clips taking many times longer than the actual edit.  I’m surprised all the “Pros” that are demanding refunds couldn’t see the worth of a fabulous set of tools for managing a huge media library.  In my view these tools are worth the £180 I paid for the whole of FCPX and are immediately going to impact our bottom line.

How “Pro” do you have to be before it becomes an impediment to spotting the obvious?

FCPX has arrived to a storm of criticism.  😦

My  strong feelings are that Apple missed a masterstroke by not including the ability to load FCP7 and to export XML.  It would’ve allowed people to continue with FCP7 and integrate FCPX into their workflow just like the other parts of the FCStudio.  I could foresee editing in FCP7 then finishing inside FCPX with all the realtime goodness of the filters, Color Board and Motion templates.  The finished project could then have been sent back to FCP7 for output back to tape.  This would’ve enabled FCPX to be useful straight away and deflect much of the criticism.

I am firmly of the mind that in six months all this launch nonsense will have been forgotten as Apple will have released a couple of updates that will have addressed the main criticisms and squashed a few bugs too.

Anyway, in the most I’m really enjoying the FCPX and Motion5 experience in fact I love it.  Yes, there are a few bugs to iron out so too some workflow improvement, especially in being able to copy colour corrections to other clips on the timeline without having to resort to using the Paste Effects option.  It copies colour correction well enough but it also copies all video and audio effects onto the target clip too making it a bit of a blunt tool.

Give it time, think of it as an iPhone 1.0.  No one remembers how limited that was do they?

Back to it….