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.

My audio adventures

Grrrrr. What’s the matter with this thing?

It took me over 13 minutes to do what should have taken less than a minute. I did a screen capture. Take a look.

FCP7 gives us many ways to get to the destination. That flexibility is one of the things I love about it!

FCPX has many roads as well, but some are especially bumpy, many are dead ends, and some are filled with robbers and thieves (time thieves).

Looking at the promotional videos, they are trying to make the application look professional and easy to use. In practicality, I think they started building the basics to cover the basic editing that most people will use, then they added the extra functions that professionals need. And by “added” I mean they pressed, nested, hid, and squeezed the extra functions into the interface, making the workflow so clunky you’ll want to go back to cutting film with a razorblade.

<exhale loudly>

I’m going to keep wrestling with this play preview. I should never have tried to cut it on X, but I’m not going to get faster without practice.

X makes the air again.

I love deadlines. They make things happen in my life that don’t always get done otherwise.

I work for a local daily magazine show, and we do all sorts of stories. Generally they are 3 to 5 minutes long and require single camera field shooting, followed by script writing, tracking, editing and all sorts of fun effects. “Street Style” is a new segment (new for us), where we go to a public street, accost some unsuspecting¬† pedestrian who’s style catches our eye, then throw him or her on tv, sometimes against their better judgement.

It’s meant to be light and full of fun, which is why I thought I would edit it on FCP X.

We edit on an ancient Sony product called Xpri. It was an affordable HD option back in 2003 when our show went HD. It looks great, but it’s not fun. Far from it. I’ve been editing on FCP for years, and our show recently got one booth with FCP 6 running on a G5 tower. We got it mostly to handle codecs that Xpri doesn’t like (pretty much all of them). The side-benefit is that I’m freed from Xpri. I can now ingest from our hdcam tape source, and either edit on our G5, or take the footage on a portable drive, edit on my MBP in FCP 7, or X, and export the flattened quicktime file back into FCP 6 to archive on tape. I like FCP so much more than Xpri. I think it’s much more fun, and let’s me untether my creativity and let it run unbounded, like Julie Andrews at the beginning of The Sound of Music. On the Xpri I’m working in a dark little room, but on FCP I may be sitting in a dark little room, but my soul and spirit is bounding the alps in widescreen technicolor!

Will I ever get there with FCP X? I don’t know. I hope that FCP X is built for fun. It doesn’t seem to be built for getting work done. Too many things missing. But that’s another blog.

I have a project and I’m going to start editing.

This is my second story I’m editing in X.

ain't this beautiful?

This is hours of edit decisions graphically represented as a series of ugly little boxes. Click to see the full sized image, and read the little yellow notes.

Spine and spikes. My first story, I tried several strategies for sticking things together. This time, I laid out my spine: the stand-ups, the interview bits, the full sound clips. Then I added the bits of music, spiking them to the first clip in each little music sequence, or the end of the last clip just previous. The goal here is not to spike the clips to the music. I want to keep the video clips free to slip and slide so I have freedom to move things around easily. Likewise, if I wanted to be able to mix things up, I placed b-roll shots into small storylines, so I could stay in the alps and play with my b-roll shots. This mostly worked for me. There were a number of times where I would just spike a shot or two to the spine. These were most likely direct references to a piece of apparel, so I added a close up that wouldn’t likely change.

Audio is 75% of the editing. Of course Video is the other 75%, adding some points for effects, organization, and coffee breaks, and you get over 200%, but hey, that’s why you hire a seasoned professional for your project. Who would pay for just 100% of an employee? The audio however was arduous. I tried very hard NOT to break clips up into separate video and audio. It was impossible. In the field I record 4 channels of sound. I generally have two wireless lav mics feeding channels 1 and 2, and the camera mic on 3 and 4. I tried to adjust my levels as the reporter was asking questions and the subject was answering. Didn’t seem possible. If it was, I just haven’t discovered it yet. Have a secret way to do this? Please post! I need to be able to set separate sets of keyframes for each audio channel. I could do that easily in FCP7.

Where’s my normalization gain? One day I discovered this menu item in FCP7, and made a button for it. My life has never been the same since. Normalization gain. What a wonderful thing. With one click, it adds a gain effect to raise or drop the peak of the clip to any desired level. I select several clips: all of my narration and soundbites, click “normalization gain” and set the peak to -6. It usually keeps the audio between -6 and -12 where I can use cmd +/- to bump the level up or down 1db at a time until it sounds good. Where is my normalization gain? It must be hiding, along with my cheese.

where is my normalization gain?

The audio inspector. The first level of controls. Don't worry, there will be more, but they're hidden for now.

It seems to have been replaced with the rather nebulously named “audio enhancement” controls. Cmd-4 opens the audio inspector, but to get to the enhancements, you need to click the pointer in the blue circle at the right of the inspector window, or type cmd-8. Look! A parameter for “Loudness”. I tried some different settings, and settled on 40% for the amount and 10% for uniformity. This got me in the ballpark, and I then bumped the clips up or down 1db at-a-time until it sounded balanced.

ah, you though compressor was too scary, so you called it loudness. Thanks for not offending my delicate sensibilities.

Look. The hidden settings. You have been brave soldier looking for this. Enjoy your reward.

Loudness? Amount? Uniformity? Technical audio terms universally used by professionals? That’s like having effects in the bin called “fancy” and “extra fancy”. I discovered that if you select the clip in the timeline and open the audio animation (ctl-a) you see the audio portion of the clip and can see any parameters used by active effects. If “loudness” is selected for the click, there will be a teeny-tiny, barely visible triangle next to the word “compressor”. Click it, and bingo, there are your standard compressor settings, if “amount” and “uniformity” doesn’t make you feel like you’re using a professional application.

crazy small hidden compartmentsYou’ll also see that you can keyframe and animate the compressor settings. I probably never will. I use the compressor so I don’t need to ride audio every second. However I need a simple way to ramp the different channels of audio for a clip, and that’s not there without breaking up the clip.

Making my audio edits smooth was very frustrating. Arduous is the operative word again. I like to add very short 10 frame transitions at every audio edit to soften the abrupt nature of the edits. I like abruptness in my video edits, but not my audio edits. In FCP7, I select my cross dissolve, set the duration for 10 frames, make it the default transition, select multiple audio clips and type opt-cmd-t. In the blink of an eye, crossfades are added to every audio edit. Try that in FCPX.

I spent much time zooming into an edit, expanding the outgoing clip, extending the audio just a bit, grabbing the small built-in fader to ramp the audio track, collapsing the clip and repeating for the incoming clip, then repeating for every audio edit. This is progress? This makes editing easier?

Apple threw out something that wasn’t broken. The thing they replaced it with is pretty cool, but is missing much of the functionality. The purpose of this blog isn’t to complain, but find a way to make this wayward child obey.

Overall, it was a fun experience. I don’t mind learning something new, and having the reward of seeing my work at the end. It’s very painful however to run down dead-ends when looking for your cheese.

I expect that as I follow the steep learning curve for this new software, that Apple will backtrack, making the modifications they must. Somewhere those two lines will intersect, and I hope it’s somewhere close to the point where my needs and expectations live.

Here’s a link to the finished story.

Where’s My Cheese

It’s either been hidden or it’s non-existent. The problem with hidden cheese is that it eventually begins to smell.

Look at the things that are missing: omf and xml, tape support, multiple timelines open, ability to edit from one timeline to another, pasting selective attributes to clips, multicam, audio output track assignment, video output, control surfaces, automation gain, and no way to open old projects! Really?!? My camera records separate audio on its two channels, but I cannot easily adjust them on my timeline without excessive gymnastics. It seems obvious that with FCPX, that Apple is trying to democratize video production. With the previous versions of Final Cut, they opened the door to high-end production to the masses. That meant that people didn’t need to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars to buy a production studio. Anyone with a firewire camera and a laptop could produce broadcast quality videos. We still need a high-to-medium-end camera, microphones, lights and monitors, and the know-how to use them.

Welcome to the next stage of the evolution. Now anyone with a digital camera or iphone can produce high quality videos for fun and/or profit.

I’m all for evolution, but I make money using my talent and tools, and I will use every function they give me. I’m going to continue to use FCS 3 as long as I can. I can edit quickly and accurately, and I have numerous tricks and shortcuts for managing my media that won’t work with FCP X, and that bugs the crap out of me. It’s like telling me that I must write a story, but I can’t use verbs.

I know where most of the shortcuts and workflow alternatives are. I’m afraid that they haven’t just moved my cheese, but they’ve removed it, or turned it into cheese whiz.

X has enough going for it that I want to continue to try to make it work, but is it really so difficult to let us know the road map for this thing, so we can decide if it’s best to get off the road, and go another way?

With that said, I completed another project in X that has already made the air. More on that later.

FCP X makes the air.

What makes something intuitive?

For me, it’s when I think “if I designed this… I would add a function like this”, and then when I find that function, and realize that I have become one with the programmers, life is good.
I’m waiting for that to happen with FCP X. There are definitely plenty of power and controls under the hood, but it’s challenging to find the knobs and dials. It’s as if someone said I’m going to give you a new car, but there’s no steering wheel, or pedals, or gear shift, and by the way, the windshield moves around, and the GPS only speaks Swahili.

Professionally I’ve been editing for the past 8 years on a piece of software by Sony, called Xpri. It’s Similar to Avid, but it’s a product that hasn’t been upgraded for 5 years. The video looks great, but it’s not flexible. Personally I’ve been editing on Final Cut pro since FCP 3. I work for a local tv station shooting and editing all sorts of interesting stories.
It seemed like a good time to make the jump, and take FCP X to the air.

We’re a long way from digital acquisition. Our show went HD in 2003, shooting on Sony HDW730 cameras on hdcam tape. One of our reporters just got back from Moscow for the press junket for the latest Transformers film. After a series of stories about the film, Reporter Kim took her still camera, that also shoots video, and shot a little travelogue.

It was a short piece, about 2 minutes. The footage is all the things our tape based system hates: progressive video, digital acquisition, 24fps footage. Seemed like a perfect time to break out the FCP X.

Workflow distress.¬† I usually start my edits by laying down the reporter’s narration track, insert any interviews or sound-ups, add music, and then select shots to cover the black. Then comes the molding, squeezing, finessing, polishing and finishing.

How to start. Do I edit the same way I normally do? When you deal with tracks, you can lay everything out, like clothes. Only when you set your clothes out for the next day, they stay where they are put. They don’t slide around on your bed getting out of the way of your other clothes. I’m going to need to think about this.

My editing timeline.

Spine and spikes. I’m trying to think of the timeline like one long spine, with vertebrae that you can shuffle around. Everything else is spiked to one of the vertebrae, or spiked to another spiked clip.
I tried laying out the audio like I always do. I then spiked the video into a secondary storyline above the audio track. This way I can make use of the bumper car nature of arranging my clips. If I spiked each clip directly into the audiotrack, you can’t slip and slide the clips around.

Later in the timeline I used video clips for the “spine” and spiked the narration and music to the shots laid down. I think this is how I’m going to need to think when I edit.

Here’s the finished video. Nothing too special. I needed to overlap my audio, isolate the audio channels, adjust audio levels, animate still frames, do the variety of slipping sliding and trimming. Nothing that’s very complicated, unless you’re a righty trying to learn how to sign your name with your left hand.

I stabilized several of her shots with one click – pretty cool.

I’m going back to FCP 7, but I have another creative edit I’m going to try doing on FCP X.

Wish me luck.

Coming up next: what’s missing, or “Where’s my cheese?”

I drank the Kool-aid.

Ever since I was a kid, I’ve been dazzled by new things. It’s taken a very long time for me to realize that not everything is as advertised. That wonderful piece of technology might claim to do everything short of making your morning coffee, but nothing can deliver everything. If it could, how would you compete?

So I waited to push the buy button… a whole 10 hours.

Did you find some interesting reviews? I did. I think most of us made it to the same 10-20 pages that first day.

A quick read of a review of the Ripple Training videos for FCPX by Ken Stone, and I decided to get the training series. If I like the new software, I’ve got training. If I don’t like it, then I’ve saved the $299 I’m about to spend.

As I started watching the very progression of uber-cool features, I got excited. I didn’t get past the first hour of the tutorials. I drank the Kool-aid.

There have been many other resources available since that first day. I recommend checking out Izzy’s Final Cut Pro X tutorial. It’s totally free, and the guy’s excitement is contagious.

The next chapter: what’s IN the Kool-aid?