OK, I’m sold. Final Cut Pro X is a badass.
I recently returned from the Philippines, where I took an Apple certification course in FCPX over the course of four days at a training center in Manila. Like many people in my profession, I often have to learn new software in the studio, all alone, working on deadline. Much of what I know of design, audio and multimedia applications is self-taught. However, I was fortunate to learn the ins and outs of FCP7 from an Emmy Award-winning editor in Washington, DC years ago. And as Gypsy’s portfolio increasingly involves video production, I decided that formal training on the new FCPX was more than appropriate. Now, I’m proud to say that I am officially an Apple-certified Pro (the only one in Vietnam, I am told!)
So it is with that experience that I submit the second half of my review of FCPX:
One thing I realized when studying FCPX—something you are less likely to explore when self-training—is how extensively the program emphasizes organization. From your initial ingest of footage to the editing stage, you are constantly offered opportunities to organize, organize, organize. When importing footage, you can tell FCPX to analyze your footage for everything from camera stability and color balance to the number of people in each shot. Then you can group your clips according to these parameters. You can create groups of clips based on keywords, shot type, and “ratings.” You can create Smart Collections and Keyword Collections, and you can search your clips based on any of these criteria, or even overlapping criteria. It’s insane how much you can organize, categorize and filter your footage for editing. For someone as disorganized as me, it is like having a personal life coach sitting next to you throughout the edit. And I dare say I’ve had a couple breakthroughs!
As I mentioned before, Apple seems to be moving away from the concept of users having to save their work; the programs want to do that for you. Personally, I’m not too keen on this development. Believe me, I need all the help I can get and auto-saving can be a lifesaver in the event of an application or system crash (which, by the way, are becoming less frequent with each software update.) But I’m also old school. Sometimes I just want to mess around with a project, knowing I’m going to close it out without saving. Well, you can’t do that with FCPX, because before you know it you’re screw-around file will be automatically saved and then bang! it’s official: that crazy upside-down rainfall effect that you were dying to show your wife is now in there, ready for client review. Of course, all things can be undone, but the best way to avoid ruining a working draft due to autosave is to duplicate the project in your Project Library, and rename it something like “Bullshit File-Safe to Fuck Around With.”
-The Learning Curve
This is no doubt the greatest challenge of FCPX: the learning curve. There’s no getting around it; it’s a completely new program, redesigned from the ground up. What was really wrong with FCP7 in the first place? Nothing, really. But I’m telling you, the new version of Final Cut Pro is leaps and bounds ahead of FCP7 when it comes to speed and convenience. That’s because of its 64-bit capability, better memory management, and optimal utilization of multiple cores in your computer. These are all things the professional community had been clamoring for, and it all means it had to be completely re-engineered. There were a lot more than aesthetic considerations behind the new FCP platform.
Of course, changes like these create a learning curve that many people are simply not interested in, or don’t have time for. Not long ago, I was among the former crowd. It takes time to learn new things, and to unlearn old things. This, certainly among other reasons, is why so many editors have made the switch to Avid or Premiere as their NLE of choice. Me, I’m glad I stuck with it. I say full speed ahead! I believe FCPX will stake its place again among the standard applications for professionals in my line of work. But Apple can’t expect that to happen overnight.
I must point out something here: professional editors will all agree that FCPX version 1.0 was not suitable for professional use. There were too many pro features—many of which had become industry standards—gone missing. That being said, following the often-enraged cries from the editing community, Apple has been making significant improvements with each version. Final Cut Pro is currently at version 10.0.7, and it’s safe to say that FCPX is now a solid professional application. In fact, many production houses in film and television have embraced the FCPX platform.
-The Real World: Who’s Using It?
I don’t work in broadcast TV. For the most part, I create micro-documentaries for international NGOs. There are others out there like me, and they are the ones using FCPX, I believe. From everything I know, post facilities in Hollywood prefer Avid systems, and the release of FCPX only emboldened the Avid loyalty. At this point, FCPX is probably a tool best suited for freelancers who often need to work fast, and on the go. I’d venture to say Premiere enjoys a similar target audience. Of course, there are always exceptions to the rule. From Apple’s own website, here’s an article on Electric Entertainment, a Hollywood production company that uses FCPX on the hit show Leverage.
I use Final Cut Pro X on client work now. I love it. It is super fast compared to Final Cut Pro 7. Now that I know the software well, I no longer look for excuses to go back to FCP7. The organization tools in FCPX actually encourage me to be more organized and, yes, they do speed up my workflow, as promised. Considering that, plus additional features like background rendering, the magnetic timeline, and built-in color tools, I’m glad I stuck with Final Cut. Even if the new version meant going back to Square One.
The Internet has no shortage of FCPX reviews. But if you’re looking for more insight from professional editors, I can’t recommend this blog post from Philip Bloom enough, featuring the perspective of 7 different professional editors. Note: this article is about a year old and, as I said, FCPX has made major improvements in recent versions. It’s long, it’s comprehensive, and it’s worth a read! A more recent (and glowing) article from the MovieMaker folks can be found here. Enjoy!
*Photo of Dean Delvin, Electric Entertainment © Apple, Inc.