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My collective thoughts at this point

COW Forums : Apple Final Cut Pro X Debates

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Jonathan Dortch
My collective thoughts at this point
on Jun 27, 2011 at 7:13:33 pm

I’ve been chipping in on this forum since release as much as work will allow, but reading every article, every comment, every ounce of information about FCPX since release, mostly as a hopeful type of therapy. I write these following impressions with the same hope.

It’s funny how many times the old Henry Ford quote is being thrown around on this forum and others --

“If I had asked customers what they wanted, they would have said a faster horse.”

To raise this analogy implies that FCPX is an automobile, a paradigm of industrial progress. For transportation, there were few things a horse could do that an automobile could not do better. The Model T couldn’t traverse uneven terrain, climb, or jump, but it sure as hell got you from point A to point B faster, and with proper support, more reliably than a horse from day one.


The major fallacy with this argument is that there are few things that FCPX can do, that a twelve year old archaic program cannot do better. My horse, FCP7 is old, and ailing and farting in my face on a rather daily basis, and it’s still a far more robust professional tool than FCPX.

The Henry Ford/customer desire analogy would work if FCPX was the first alternative to the flatbed. Today a more appropriate analogy would be replacing a BMW M5 from the late 90s with a Prius. They are both cars, but designed for totally different things, different consumers, with a totally different philosophy and driving style.

A lot of people are spouting the argument --

“Well just keep using FCP7 until FCPX is ready!”

I’ve been a user since 2.0 and have found 7.0 to be generally the most unstable iteration of FCP in years. This is the FCP where the “Close Gap” command was inexplicably broken for several months after an update. The Reconnect Media dialogue has pretty much lost all reliability in sourcing correct file paths. I’m getting really tired of corrupted project files and losing days on transcoding media just to get to work.

The underpinnings of FCP are over a decade old. We need a more modern platform to keep up with client demands. We needed it last year. We definitely needed it Tuesday. Changing platforms is expensive and extremely time consuming. The entire post-production industry has been waiting four years for Apple to deliver an update to the FCP platform. If FCPX represents four years of development, and the direction Apple is pushing their platform, we’re in major trouble.

My career has come to prominence in the age of the computer. I used a flatbed in college, and still have a scar on my arm from an eager clip grab too close to the splicer one late night in an edit bay. But the majority of my career has been based around Final Cut Pro. In 2001, I had a choice between FCP and AVID. One was forward thinking, one was really expensive, already feeling outdated, trapped in the past. The choice was clear, and I never looked back, becoming one of the biggest FCP evangelists working in Los Angeles. I still feel I chose wisely. Final Cut ended up becoming the only platform to challenge the market dominance of AVID, and my FCP skills remain very much in demand.

I know FCP, by its democratic nature, attracts a lot of hobbyist and prosumer users. I myself started out on version 2.0 as a film student, hoping to one day break into the professional market. FCPX provides a lot of very user-friendly interaction on this level. If I was teenager poking around in my first NLE, I’d probably be totally enamored. I applaud any increase in accessibility and increase in user base. The most beautiful thing about Final Cut Pro historically, was that it allowed the hobbyist, through dedication and hard work, to build professional editing skills on their home computer. The platform’s trajectory through the years built up the feature set to directly compete with AVID with robust professional features and workflow. I know also, all too well, how crotchety and stubborn the post industry is to adapt to new standards. FCP fought a long, hard battle to get where it is. It was, until Tuesday June 21, an industry standard.

A few words about “standards.” There’s been a lot thrown around insulting the post industry for being close minded to a variety of platforms, for adopting and promoting a program as a standardized tool.

“Any editor worth his salt knows Premiere and Vegas and AVID and FCP!”

This is a very uninformed point of view, and I would probably gather from someone who doesn’t spend a lot of time working in shops, working with others, or delivering assets for professional finishing. Even in a freelance market, I was never once brought a Premiere project, or ever asked to touch Sony Vegas. Efficient Post-Production requires interoperability. It requires collective skill sets and program familiarity. Standards exist because we have to be able to maintain reliable systems with the maximized number of users in the talent pool. Editors are artists first and technicians second, and an industry standard allows them to focus their technical attention on the appropriate platform. Standards allow a talent pool and professional community to form around unifying software.

For single user environments, on personal projects, by all means use anything that gets your creative juices flowing. But knowing a little bit about every platform holds little weight in most professional post environments. For editors, since the early part of the 2000‘s and until last Tuesday, being an AVID or FCP operator carries a lot weight because that’s the platform you’ll most likely be using on a professional level.

That said, standards will change -- less frequently than technology advances -- but change is imminent, especially in such a competitive market. Adobe holds market dominance in motion graphics, desktop publishing, vector and bitmap graphics, and they undoubtably smell blood in the water with FCPX being such a lame duck release. FCP was born from Premiere, they share a very similar interface, and Adobe has made impressive strides in bringing CS5/5.5 back into the post standard discussion. Even Lightworks is back around with an interesting free open source beta to shake things up. Say what you will about the GUI and under the hood advancements of FCPX, the limitations of the program are astounding given it’s professional heritage, and there is no question that it’s role as a standard is in serious question with such a disgraceful release. It’s simply not fit for service.

Despite the vague showings at NAB, and killing off Shake (and possibly Color), I don’t think any of us expected Apple to release such an dramatically stripped down program in replace of the dominant NLE on the market. It signals either a.) clear exit from the market, or b.) a complete disconnect with the end user. Both are immensely troubling. At best, for Apple to drop FCPX in it’s current state is utterly insulting. Insulting to the dedicated video professionals, designers, artists, and all of our creative industries that helped keep Apple alive, before the iPod/Phone revolution, when the company was essentially on life support. If all creative professionals had pulled out of Apple, would they have had the talent, capital, and gumption to release the consumer products that have redefined computing forever? I think the question is legitimate.

I have zero interest in pissing contests, or petty definitions of what a “pro” is, but for those of us who have been making a living off of FCP -- basing our shops, our studios, our facilities, our freelance systems, our project legacy -- around the promise of FCP and the decade of Apple very vocally creating a platform to rival the exclusivity and pompous attitude associated with AVID, this new release collectively stabs a knife through thousands of hearts. In so many ways it redirects the pompousness to Apple.

To me, after a week of kicking the tires, I think FCPX is the best, most user-friendly consumer video editing program ever released. It’s accessible for the non-editor. Most of the advanced features are hidden away under the hood. If you’re an iMovie user looking to learn more about editing, it’s probably the best $300 you could ever spend. But it disregards the last 20 years of non-linear editors, the FCP legacy platform included. It disregards professional workflow. It disregards any level of customization beyond the keyboard commands. It strips away about 60% function for a few basic increases in form. It is priced and poised to dominate the consumer video market.

The problem here is that Final Cut Pro was not a consumer editing program. It was friendly, and encouraged freedom, but proudly structured for professional workflow. If the legacy of Final Cut Pro started out by aiming to fill the gap between AVID and Premiere, Apple’s sites were clearly looking up, not down. Towards professional feature sets. Towards the broadcast industry. Towards feature films. Towards Emmys and Oscars and all of the prestige around which they’ve eagerly marketed Final Cut Pro.
I’m really tired of reading reviews like David Pogue’s, or the thousand of comments rapidly firing across the forums that seem to have no real concept of the shortcomings of FCPX for the legacy user base that Apple fought to secure. From us, most concerned conversation seems to be directed towards to big omissions that break FCPX for a real professional environment -- no mulitcam, EDL, XML, OMF, or legacy project support. All unforgivable. The absolutely most troubling thing to me, is how utterly confused FCPX is at what it tries to be. This is a program with native 4K support where every project defaults to surround sound, yet I have no ability to --

- set a custom frame size
- import media with non-standard frame sizes
- copy and paste clip attributes
- quickly mark clip in/out with timecode input in the viewer
- set custom Event directories, not just the root
- Not have EVERY Event on the drive load in the program
- Adjust the parameters of every transition -- check out “Slide” No ability to remove the blur or
feathering effects.
- Export a selection from the timeline with in and out markers
- Export in a custom size or format
- Use the Text tool without crashing the program
- Use any sort of custom window layout
- Ability to volume license the software for enterprise/educational use

So on and so forth...

It makes no sense. It literally seems like FCPX was made with zero consideration for the strengths of the past software by someone who had a few ideas to make iMovie more powerful. There is no excuse to be lacking so many necessary features, some of which have been present since the first incarnation of FCP twelve years ago. It’s such a sloppy release, it’s even missing features highlighted in the official documentation (No Countdown Generator).

It’s tragic, because despite some of the great improvements made in FCPX (beautiful GUI, metadata, 64-bit architecture), all of our dialogue is forced to be directed at the loss of so many critical features. “But wait there’s plugins coming!” You can’t fix fundamental interface or company philosophy problems with plugins. Even if major revisions come -- and we’re talking 100+ critical tool and feature additions, software distribution changes, actual company to user communication -- will it be too late?

How about another Henry Ford quote.

"A business absolutely devoted to service will have only one worry about profits. They will be embarrassingly large."

Some people are guessing FCPX further signals a withdrawal from the Pro App market, that catering the core iUser is far more profitable. Even if so, where is the service with Final Cut Pro X? Where’s the heads up for the thousands of us who just got the rug pulled on our professional software? What's the reason fo FCPX being in no way ready for prime time if they DO remain committed to the pro market?

Releasing it in its current state while removing FCS3 from the market has created a monumental industry-wide storm. For the first week, as the waters have risen, Apple have remained typically silent. It’s sadistic really, for them to watch this unfold, to watch the many thousands of professionals who have based their livelihood around the legacy of FCP cringe in fear, not of the future, not of technology or advancement, but to the wavering commitment of our partner to maintain an acceptable level of professional courtesy. One thing must be made clear to Apple if they plan to continue in the professional software marketplace. Professional industries need support and service, not shrouds of secrecy. There is nothing to be gained by keeping us in the dark, and everything to be gained by listening to us.

I look to Apple and I see a marketing machine. We were promised jaws dropping. We were promised a “revolution in creative editing.” The only revolution here is how quickly Apple has alienated the professional market they spent ten years fostering. Well they got one part right. I think all of our jaws have dropped.

To me, without an official statement from Apple, all of the chat and clamor of Apple adding in missing features, basing FCPX around a plugin environment, are simply just theories. Short of storming Cupertino with pitchforks, cursing Randy Ubillos, emailing Steve, or ranting like upset children on internet forums, can we do? Maybe Walter Murch can give Steve a call.

If you haven’t used the software, please hold off on defending Apple or FCPX. Ask questions. To us who are struggling to find use in the program. To Apple for neutering their platform. I knew I was going into a drastically redesigned 1.0, but to my eyes, there’s such fundamental changes you will hardly see any inkling of the professional heritage, feature set, or workflow of Final Cut Pro. There's improvements that are promising about FCPX, but as a whole I find the software incredibly depressing.

Luckily we already have alternatives, FCS3 is still functioning for now, and if Apple is pulling out of the game, the void will be filled, just probably not as elegantly.

The emperor definitely has no clothes, but the Apple garden walls are high, and even if they're listening, a week gone by with nothing to indicate the slightest care to the thousands upon thousands crying for answers.

JONATHAN DORTCH
BLACK WOLF CREATIVE


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Chris Jacek
Re: My collective thoughts at this point
on Jun 27, 2011 at 8:30:54 pm

I thought you post would be an appropriate time to draw the correlation between FCPX and the Edsel. Big hype, innovative design, revolutionary new technologies, and a complete failure.

Here's just a snip from the Wikipedia page. I think FCPX is far more similar to the Edsel, than New Coke:

The Edsel offered several innovative features, among which were its "rolling dome" speedometer and its Push-button Teletouch transmission shifting system in the center of the steering wheel. The Teletouch pushbutton automatic transmission selector proved problematic, in part because the steering wheel hub, where the pushbuttons were located, was the traditional location of the horn button. Drivers often ended up shifting gears instead of sounding the horn. While the Edsel was fast, the location of the transmission pushbuttons was not conducive to street racing. There were also jokes among stoplight drag racers about the buttons: D for Drag, L for Leap, and R for Race (instead of Drive, Low and Reverse).

Professor, Producer, Editor
and former Apple Employee


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