Much to love

I heart XI’ve been loving my Final Cut Pro X for 2 1/2 years now, and I literally use it every day.

I use it personally, and professionally. I use it so much, I think my dreams now occur in their own magnetic timeline.

It takes me a little more work to get my material onto my Mac, but in the end, the editing process is so fast and streamlined, that it makes up for the extra time to ingest.

I work for a daily local lifestyle show in Seattle. Our media is all ingested onto our Sony XD News server. We’ve been shooting on HDcam tape since 2003, and we aren’t likely to change since it’s such a large capital outlay, but I have a path where I can pull my footage off the server as mxf xdcam 35 files, and use XDcam Transfer to re-wrap the footage into Quicktime files that come right into FCPX.

The best part, is that I’ve removed the optical disc from my 17″ MBP, and replaced it with an SSD. I now have a 240gb SSD with my OS, and a 1tb internal drive that holds my media, and I can load it up with hours and hours of footage. I don’t need an elaborate raid array, or even an extrenal drive with my media. It’s all in my lap. I can edit in my office, at my desk, in the break room, down the street at the coffee shop, or in my jammies at home. Personally, I think all future Macbook Pros should have a slot to insert an extra SSD.

For me, the FCPX debate comes down to two things: workflow and work. If it’s too hard to get the material in and out of FCPX, it can become a deal breaker. Need an XML export? Audio for Pro Tools? Files for color correction? There are ways to do it, but it can be a little tricky.

I do everything on my laptop, from basic color correction to audio mixing, so my workflow is good.

As for the work, I find FCPX very tactile and intuitive, and it lets me make creative decisions with a minimum of fuss about how to execute the edits. The use of metadata and keywords makes media management in the browser very fast. Between the keyboard and my trackpad, I can navigate and execute edits with great dexterity. There are sniggley issues that I run into that still frustrate me, but overall it’s a fast, responsive application that lets me be creative. It’s like touch typing for video.

I recommend FCPX to people all the time. You should know that the first time you open up the app, there is a LOT to get used to. It took me a number of days to retrain my fingers and my mind to get around the app. Now, when I go back to my old regular platform, it feels so sluggish and old.

I’ve been spoiled, and I hope I never need to go back.


Removing the ease from the linear transform

This is a super secret workaround.

You’ve done this: set transform keyframes to change the position and scale of an object. You set the interpolation to linear, yet the thing still eases in and out. You play with the bezier handles but no joy. There is hope, because there’s a simple workaround that will allow you to make your animations nice and direct with no easing.

It’s all about adding a keyframe to the frame next to your current keyframe, then deleting it. It’s quite simple really, and it works.

Still Here

Yep… haven’t gone anywhere.

I’m still working primarily in FCPX. I like the promise of it a little better than the actual execution. I still get too many beachballs, and there are still many workarounds I feel I’m forced to make, however, I have ultimate faith that the app will continue to grow, like legacy Final Cut did, but in an extremely accelerated manner. Not nearly as fast as I’d like, but it’s doing alright so far.

Top requests:

  • Get rid of the timelines in the project library. Slowness by design. Yikes.
  • Figure out an elegent way to keep the render files if I duplicate a project. Is it only because I’m used to legacy FCP that I expect it to be able to do this?
  • Please come up with a vault. More than once, I’ve fallen asleep editing. I’ve had the same short clip edited 50 or more times in my timeline, overwriting just about everything else, simply because I had my finger on the D key as I nodded off. If my program crashed before I hit my undo 50 or more times, I’d be toast.
  • Fix the multicam clips. I need to be able to edit the audio without stepping into the clips several times. You can’t see the multicam clip in timeline view mode to edit the audio. You need to first step into the multicam clip, to see the individual clips, then step into the one clip I’m going to edit, then find the range of the multicam clip that’s in my timeline, then edit the multiple audio tracks to get a proper sound balance, then step back out into the main timeline. It’s uber-awkward.
  • Paste properties selection, and copy and paste individual effects. This is a must. I’m hamstrung by this weakness nearly once a week. Give me back my favorites bin for effects, and that would be a first step.
  • Find all of the memory and processor leaks. I’m still getting beach balls, and I don’t even know why.m.
  • Bring back audio automation, normalization gain, round-tripping with motion, fix the photoshop import ( I actually loved the implementation in 10.0.2 and before. I could edit away at my psd, and all of my changes would show up in the clip. Magical. Now I need to create a new clip for every alteration, and re-ingest it. It super-sucks.
  • That’s a good first step.Yay.


Still editing… blogging not so much.

I’ve been a busy boy, editing almost exclusively with FCX on my laptop. I continue to like an awful lot about X, but then there’s the awful part that I don’t like at all.

I’ve had a recent run-in with a project size bloat. I posted it to the cow, and got some good information and feedback.

FCX gives you the ability to take a clip from the event browser and open it in a timeline view, where you can basically treat it like a sequence, and modify it any way you desire. This seems more than a little dangerous. If I modified a clip with effects and needed to re-import it, would it re-enter the event with the effects nested inside?

I had added some markers, and applied the loudness audio enhancement to two of the four audio tracks inside my two main clips. Then I placed the modified clip in my timeline, and proceeded to cut it into bits with the blade tool. After cutting it into a dozen or so clips, my project size ballooned to nearly 100mb, where most of my projects are in the vicinity of 20mb.

It seems that when I altered my clip, I essentially made FCX treat it like a sequence instead of a clip. This should be avoided.

Note that I’m not talking about applying the audio enhancement to the clip in the bin. I’m talking about opening the clip and applying the audio enhancement to individual tracks inside the clip.

I’m not going to do that again. Likewise it can become troublesome make a compound clip and slice that up into bits because every time you add an edit cut splitting a compound clip, you effectively double the clip, and start making the project size larger. This shouldn’t be an issue for one or two cuts, but if you start editing an entire sequence with compound clips it can be trouble.



Another day… another edit. This one was fun.

It’s fun to edit a story where I get to push the fancy button a lot.

This is a story about a local author who wrote a guidebook for affordable fun in Seattle. I used photoshop skills to change the names on signs and stores. I created an animated copy of his book. We interviewed the author in front of a green screen to give the keying a shot. I animated book pages in motion. It was a lot of fun.

I’m feeling more confident with the interface. That doesn’t mean that it’s working perfectly for me, but I’m familiar enough to know what I can do, and how to work around what I can’t. I’m still waiting for that update this summer.

This is my entire timeline. Click to open full size.

I like to have my timelines as clean as possible, including the audio. I generally group my audio files in tracks based on the content. It’s taking some effort to let go, and let the audio clips fall where they may.

I got to use photoshop to change some signage, and put it over rolling video to help “sell” the shot.

It's fun to use photoshop to modify reality.

Overall, it was a fun experience. The green screen key was instantaneous, and required no modification at all. I still want my “send to motion” back, and it feels to me like I should be able to drag the motion project file directly into an FCX bin, and drop it into the timeline. There may be a way to send the file back to motion for modifications, without rendering a new output file, but I haven’t figured it out yet.

Beware Premiere XMP may take your footage offline!

I imported a few clips from an FCX project into Premiere Pro. They played well.

Closing PP, I went back to FCX to find that those clips I tested in PP, are now offline.

Premiere Pro by default will inject metadata directly into the original files. You can disable this in the preferences, under the “media” tab. Uncheck “Write XMP ID To Files On Import” as well as “Enable Clip And XMP Metadata Linking”.

I did a quick test, and it looks like this will keep PP from altering your clips beyond FCX’s ability to recognize them.

Hopefully, FCX will have a more robust relinking tool in the next build.

Another story airs… learning curve? Maybe.

Scroll down for the link to the edited video.

I’ve been avoiding the beast lately, but decided to let it out of its cage and wrestle with it a bit.

Overall, I’d say it took me twice as long as usual to cut it on X instead of 7. After 2 1/2 days of editing, I seriously thought about starting over in 7. I was feeling like what little creative energy I might have, was being sucked away by the frustrations of dealing with the half-baked interface.

That’s not entirely fair… I’d say it’s over half way baked, but oh so many issues

This was a 4 1/2 minute very inspiring story for our show.

I usually lay all the audio out first, then fill out the “b-roll” shots and effects.

The audio editing was still difficult, because of the nature of the “hidden” audio that must be revealed to be adjusted. I set up a keyboard shortcut to expand all the clips in the timeline, and another to collapse them all. This has helped the audio editing considerably. I still miss adding multiple audio dissolves with one click. I desperately miss it!

Where is the overlapping audio?

Perfect irony: I figured that by selecting the timeline view mode that just showed the audio waveforms, that I could more effectively mix my audio. Guess what? The overlapping “hidden” audio is not there. Expanding and collapsing all the audio clips does nothing. Grrrr.

Rude discoveries: creating a secondary storyline, I discovered that using composite modes inside the secondary storyline did not work. I wanted to put three shots panning over sheet music, overlaid over shots the pianist playing, dissolving between the shots on both the overlay track and the main video track. Since the composite modes didn’t work inside the secondary storyline, I kept them spiked over the main line, and since you can’t dissolve between the connected clips, I had to overlap, and animate the opacity to create an ersatz dissolve.

A snapshot of my timeline. Notice the overlapping connected clips over the main timeline.

FCX is intended to be fast and simple. Until the interface works the way you expect it to, it’s a giant workaround machine.

Balancing the audio. Open the audio enhancements tab for a clip. Notice the lack of controls in the “loudness” effect. The effect is a fairly basic compression effect, with the familiar parameters of “ratio” and “threshold”disguised as if they are in the witness protection program. So why not just use the compressor in the logic audio tools?

I tried using the audio compressor effect on the clips to try to balance the audio, but ended up just adding a gain effect instead. I could add 12db just in the timeline, but I needed more on several of my clips. The waveforms on the clip in the timeline seems to be fairly responsive. It reflects the outgoing level of the clip, not just the intrinsic level of the clip. I adjusted the level of the gain until the peaks of the waveform hit the red, then backed off just a bit. This actually worked to get me in the ballpark of the right audio level.

I still miss my normalization gain! Nothing is faster than doing that in FCP7!

I hate the copy/paste effects in X. Every effect and parameter is copied and I have no control over which effects or parameters are copied over to the new clips. This is a huge fail.

I hate that “send to motion” is missing. I built a motion project that looks like a large scrapbook page, and animated the camera to fly over the photos. Selecting in-points for long video clips in motion is problematic, so I placed my shots in an FCP7 timeline and sent it to motion. Then I opened the motion 4 project, closed it, and re-opened it in motion 5, to animate. I discovered that if I didn’t open it in motion 4 first, it would open without video. Crazy workaround. So now I’m going back and forth between FCP7, FCX, Motion 4 and Motion 5. Really?

Deleting optimized video. It works! I had some mp4 video that FCX optimized in the background. Deleting this optimized video created no problems whatsoever. When the pro res video disappeared, it played the mp4 video with no problem, and didn’t complain that the optimized video wasn’t there. Small win!

When will the update be coming? I’m still on the fence about whether to ditch FCX or stick it out. It’s not about money since I’ve already purchased the bastard child. My big investment now is time, and that is not a small investment. If it takes me an extra day to edit an average story, that’s not winning. If I get faster, and Apple comes through with improvements, then the cool effects in X makes it a win.

I’ve decided to embrace my masochistic tendencies, and start editing my next story on X. More on that later.