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FCPX smoothiness

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Gary Bradley
FCPX smoothiness
on May 27, 2012 at 5:39:32 am

A lot of what's been written over the past year is about the wonderful responsiveness.

I've spent that time on the sidelines-- or rather playing a different game, contentedly editing multicam programs with Media Composer 5.something and now Symphony 6.something. But time hung on my hands the past few days, and a client who is in that familiar FCP 7 paralysis (afraid to go elsewhere, and so letting a massive enterprise ride on an EOL platform) wants to stipulate that a series of quick-turnaround projects be done in FCP... so I looked at the two softwares, 7 and X. Just for hardcore multi-cam editing, mind you-- switching angles, cutting angles, adding blow-ups and re-positions, slipping cutaways, adjusting playback speeds for dub-in purposes, doing draft color-correction to confirm that rehearsal footage will work... nothing fancy.

FCP 7 was just as I remember it from a few years back when I did a few multi-cam jobs on it-- very nice 16-way viewer, but not able to play back a full-screen picture with reliable sync-- I'm talking about a very simple setup, a brand-new Lion MBP going to Thunderbolt Promise RAID and then to an HDMI display, something that works faultlessly with Avid even when playing back a great big 2-3 hour timeline-- and of course I miss Fluid Motion slo-mo and Fluid Morph jump-cut fixes, and playback of the iso cameras while the cut sequence plays full-screen-- but FCPX is different; it does play the iso cameras while the cut plays in "full-screen" (Actually, only the computer version of full-screen-- a largish window in the cluttered display.) But again, sync seems to be a goal rather than a hard and fast rule... hit stop and start and picture might catch up... or not. And of course the absence of time-code displays or info is a bit unnerving when you're doing a Big Show.

But the slow, syrupy response is the greatest surprise-- used to Avid paying attention to me, I'm shocked that FCP's attention seems to be elsewhere.

Perhaps there will be point-by-point refutations here, or stony silence. For myself, 40 years of editing have given me an idea of what works in my professional realm: Avid, for the foreseeable future. If you're an editor, it just works. So FCPX or Not: No Debate.


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Paul Jay
Re: FCPX smoothiness
on May 27, 2012 at 10:49:39 am

Camera and media type that was used in your test?
Avid conforms to optimized codec in most cases.


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Bill Davis
Re: FCPX smoothiness
on May 28, 2012 at 6:52:40 pm

[Gary Bradley] "Perhaps there will be point-by-point refutations here, or stony silence. For myself, 40 years of editing have given me an idea of what works in my professional realm: Avid, for the foreseeable future. If you're an editor, it just works. So FCPX or Not: No Debate."

There's really no point in "point-by-point" refutations.

You have expectations formed by years of working with robust and fully developed tools that cost many thousands of dollars to assemble and many hundreds or thousands of hours to master.

Now you're asking that a new tool not yet even out of its first functional year match your old system feature for feature, performance for performance - and it simply doesn't.

If you've read here long, by now you should know that the same thing keeps happening over and over and over again. Someone looks at FCP-X in terms of their previous experience and when it doesn't measure up or exceed the expectations they've built over the years, they can't see it's value.

And those of us who've made the change keep trying to tell you that if all you can look at is how it replaces the things you've been doing the same way for the past 10 years, it's NOT going to work for you.

Because while it does many of those things - (some of brilliantly, some not so much) - it's really NOT trying to be a substitute for the way you used to work.

It's demonstrating a NEW way to work. One that's not so "timeline" centric. One where the power isn't concentrated exclusively on the editing, but more balanced along a wider array of tasks that absolutely include editing, but also include database management, library creation and maintenance, agile export and a bunch of other things that have been elevated to status that better compliments the peripheral tasks of not just "making" video, but managing libraries of digital assets, key wording them, assembling them, and using various arrangements and constructs of those assets in a variety of publishing and export formats.

Again and again people get stuck on "how it edits."

And if all X was was a "video editor" like legacy - this debate would not still be going on.

Heck, with the estimable experience of the people who hang out here, if "editing" was all this program was about the discussions would have died down after one month! Why? Because may of the people here are very, very smart and very, very knowledgable about the editing industry in all it's aspects.

And lots of them can look at any editing software and make value judgements about it in pretty short order.

The issue that's kept this group so active for the past year is that X was designed to be far more than JUST a video editor. It's really more a video management system. with editing as one core function.

So we keep trying to understand it. And explore it. And learn what the new tools is great at and what it's poor at - and how it might continue to develop.

Not "uh, it's not a perfect multi-cam tool, yet."

Granted, it's not.

I do think it's a really, really cool one and I base that on how it's performing on my current multi-cam project - but my needs are probably very, very different from yours.

As are my expectations.

I expected it to have trouble playing that many mixed sources - but it didn't. So that was an early checkoff. But then, before I got to even considering "perfect sync" the way X does multi-cam groupings caused me to re-assess my initial plan.

One light bulb moment for me was the idea that I didn't really NEED to cut with 16 cameras displayed simultaneously in X. I could certainly do that if I liked, but I found that it was simply too much visual information to keep track of. It was too hard to pick out the most beautiful trees in the constantly moving forrest. So I've started exploring cutting in "passes" instead. Cut a base from the four main cameras. DO another pass inserting the best of four more, then a third pass with even more "sweetening" shotes, etc.

For me, this is bringing better focus to the editing process. I'm rapidly learning that there isn't just ONE way to do multi-cam in X, but an almost infinite number of possible ways to group, display, sub-cut, re-cut and "perfect the cut". So I keep revising my process to try to improve it - I find this exploration absolutely exhilarating!)

16 cameras "switched live" is the traditional way. But X encourages breaking traditions. That's precisely what I love best about it.

So if all you need is a tool that does the traditional approach of displaying a bunch of cameras in perfect sync for you to "live cut" - and AVID does that for you - then by all means use AVID.

Thats the point of choice, after all.

"Before speaking out ask yourself whether your words are true, whether they are respectful and whether they are needed in our civil discussions."-Justice O'Connor


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Gary Bradley
Re: FCPX smoothiness
on May 29, 2012 at 4:00:13 am

Well, I had thought to register my informed reaction to the multi-cam capabilities of FCPX and then go back to work (on Avid), but passion that engenders such a lengthy response shouldn't go unanswered.

You make the case that FCPX isn't so much a video editing software as a Thought Experiment... it is, and I don't think $300 is at all excessive for a little excursion into exploring how things might be done differently..."Oh, that's interesting." But sometimes we just need to get work done, and we need Perfect Sync Playback because we work with extremely demanding producers and performers who are more interested in their own Thought Experiments, and don't care about furthering our Professional Development. That's why it took me several months to find the time to dabble in FCPX multi-cam; and I reported why it can't currently work for me.

I said, it doesn't do This; and you respond, Yes, but it does So Much More! And there we stand.

By the way, it's a common misconception that multi-cam software is meant to re-create the live situation in the truck, so that we contemplative editors can imitate adrenaline-fueled directors. As you report, there are many ways to use the multi-cam playback and some don't require all angles. Those of us who have done these jobs for many years on many systems would agree; but if the function is there, it should work reliably. Now, I've read since posting that my ProRes Proxy footage (chosen because it's so similar to the DNxHD45 footage that's worked on Avid) might not be exactly what FCPX prefers for best results; that I should load up my full-res streams and ask FCPX to generate proxies. Maybe that would work better, but in my workflow transcoding 80 hours of footage for each project (sorry, event) might take too long. That's an experiment for my next downtime period.

Oh, and reading threads elsewhere about the initial impossibility of making an audio-only 1 or 2 frame dissolve-- a problem now solved by torturous multi-step procedures-- doesn't make an attractive prospect for editing. Especially when Avid says to me: "You liked the way the dissolve smoothed that blip? Would you like me to apply that same effect to every cut on your selected tracks between your in and out marks? Happy to oblige, Master!"

From Barbara Eden to Talleyrand via Bertolucci:
"He who has not lived in the years before the revolution cannot know what the sweetness of living is."


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Bill Davis
Re: FCPX smoothiness
on May 31, 2012 at 8:04:24 am

[Gary Bradley] "You make the case that FCPX isn't so much a video editing software as a Thought Experiment... it is, and I don't think $300 is at all excessive for a little excursion into exploring how things might be done differently..."Oh, that's interesting." But sometimes we just need to get work done, and we need Perfect Sync Playback because we work with extremely demanding producers and performers who are more interested in their own Thought Experiments, and don't care about furthering our Professional Development. That's why it took me several months to find the time to dabble in FCPX multi-cam; and I reported why it can't currently work for me.

I said, it doesn't do This; and you respond, Yes, but it does So Much More! And there we stand."


Gary,

I thought that everyone understood by now that the central reality of FCP-X was a play to expand the definition of what a modern video editing approach could be precisely by examining pre-conceptions and looking at whether there were better ways to address the kind of tasks that people will be most likely to do in a future. We can never see the future perfectly, but it's pretty clear that everything from hardware to IP distribution is being re-imagined in light of this eras new technology.

You're bracketing this discussion largely in terms of functionality. And I appreciate that. Functionality is always important. But when things are shifting underneath an entire industry - I'm not so sure that the critical play (at least in terms of such a new product as FCP-X) is to tie the learning and operating of it to how "perfect" it is here in it's early days.

Back in July when it was introduced, it functioned decently for basic editing, but had it's share of very annoying issues. With each update it's overcome some of those and/or added new capabilities, but it's also had some persist. One area where it's had persistent issues is that it's never been particularly friendly to older systems or underpowered hardware. I think it's fair to say that X has always been aimed at the best hardware you can afford, and that it was plumbed from the start to fit into Apples future plans as much as their present ones.

So while issues like multi-cam display lag might still be a factor today, It's fair to speculate about how that same code is running in Apple's test labs on the machines we'll be working with tomorrow. If increasing acceleration in hardware covers a hardware performance gap in a reasonable time frame, then the problem changes from one of "I can't use it because it can't do it" to a different kind of problem - users that might have benefited from the new approach will see others who can use the new tools enjoying a competitive advantage over those who wouldn't approach the learning curve until it was "perfect enough" for them. I simply decided not to wait for perfection, betting that the Apple team was sufficiently bright and talented that they wouldn't be building the tool this way without good reasons.

And the more I uncover about it, the better I feel about my decision.

For me, the things that don't work ideally about X right now are eminently ignorable - in part because there's so much exciting new stuff to learn that's every bit as functionally empowering to me as the editing tasks themselves. (and because I'm having no problems producing and delivering the work with it that my clients require. That's always the bottom line for anyone in business and I'm no exception.

X requires a lot of change for me, precisely because like so many here, I'd developed deep "muscle memory" built on more than a decade or experience with how Legacy operated. A good example is what happened to me yesterday. I had a nasty encounter with stacked graphics with transitions in an X timeline taking an inordinate amount of time to render. Then I remembered to rethink my approach in light of metadata concatenation and the precision calculations X relies on and with some simple rethinking, I managed to get a render that after an hour of cranking away was 3 percent done - done differently - and managed to build a version of the exact same title sequence that rendered in less than 30 seconds.

That thinking started by acknowledged that the rickety old Quicktime model is gone, and has now been replaced with a system (Core Video, et al) that uses more precise video math to generate better quality results.

I want that quality. And if I have to change some stacking and transition practices in order to get it I'm good with that. The point is that I didn't break down and kick the computer because it was taking "too long" to render something. I had to put on my thinking cap and using my understanding of the new metadata underpinnings of X, rationalize WHY it might have been taking so long and whether there was something I could do about it. There was, and I did, and as a result, my understanding of the program got another boost. That's been happening for me for months now.

That stops if I let myself get sidetracked by every small "not perfect yet" function of how X works.

So "thought experiment?" maybe. I do think about it a lot. Precisely because so many of the processes built into it present, for me, a new way of thinking about editing. Nothing wrong with the old way that I did it along with so many for the past 20 years. But when I go back to it (and I try to avoid that like the plague!) it just feels old and clunky. My thinking has fully changed, now. I get that the new way won't fit plenty of people for plenty of perfectly legitimate reasons. But I honestly don't think X is better than "approach Y" simply because it's a fun 'thought experiment." I think it's better for precisely the same reasons any one thinks any particular tool is better than another. Because it helps them do the things they need to do in an efficient and exciting way.

Enough rambling.

Good luck with your projects. I hope you have much success with them.

"Before speaking out ask yourself whether your words are true, whether they are respectful and whether they are needed in our civil discussions."-Justice O'Connor


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Tangier Clarke
Re: FCPX smoothiness
on May 30, 2012 at 8:01:55 pm

I concur Bill. You've expressed my sentiments about FCP X as I've been telling others so well. If you try to shoehorn FCP X into the old way of doing things it will be terribly frustrating. I too had to have light bulb moments to really understand why Apple made the decisions it did. Fortunately I have a computer science background and really see how the media/data management will be HUGE. More and more I am seeing how Apple rolled in features from it's killed-off apps.

I'm for FCP X for the long-haul. It's potential are becoming more and more apparent and I'm using it regularly now. Going back to FCP 7 is painful now, but I still love my old workhorse. I tried MC6 went running back to both FCP 7 and FCP X.

For the record, I grew up on Avid starting in the mid-to-late 90s, then transitioned to FCP.

Tangier


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