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Re: Towards a better NLE

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Joe Marler
Re: Towards a better NLE
on May 17, 2018 at 3:35:13 pm

[Oliver Peters] "...most editors think visually. As such, an NLE interface should be designed to accommodate visual organization in a freeform manner... Every other NLE...structure the interface design along a spreadsheet-like grid. You can sort lists according to some alphanumeric criteria, but you can't simply rearrange frame tiles at will or add some sort of markup to the bin..."

It's ironic he said "open letter to....Apple" and "NLE software hasn't changed in decades" when FCPX entailed vast changes and is by far the closest to implementing his ultimate goals.

Many of the things he was complaining about can be done right now in FCPX, he's just not familiar with it. Maybe not done the *way* he's thinking but that's an implementation detail. Examples:

Bell: "....huge amounts of material, greater and greater every year, more and more cameras..I need to manage this footage...in an effective way..."

FCPX gives him that. I was 1st AE on a documentary that had 230 hrs, 8,500 4k clips, 20 TB of material. FCPX was not perfect; it had various issues but it was far better than when I did large docs in Premiere.

Bell: "need...visual tools....all these clips over here"

What he needs is improved media management. He he's thinking of it visually -- and that's OK -- but it's not the only or necessarily the best way. This is an old issue that goes back to the origins of database management. This has been debated and researched ad infinitum for many decades. People tend to think of data navigationally or hierarchically, e.g, "Brown" is before "Smith", or Smith is in nested folders Year/US/State/City. The problem is it's not effective to design databases that way. Since the 1970s it's been generally understood that a relational database query/response model is better, more flexible and more scalable.

In the relational model Brown does not exist before Smith, only queries and result sets exist. If you want Brown you request where lastname = "Brown". Many other criteria can be added such as state of residence, age, etc. This is essentially how the Finder query works. You do CMD+F then start adding query criteria for files. It's not an unfamiliar concept to Mac users.

FCPX media management generally uses a similar model, although it has Events as a single-level folder.

Walter Murch used a cobbled-together primitive version of this method when he edited Cold Mountain in legacy FCP. He used a Filemaker Pro database to keep track of scenes and clips. He kept Filemaker print outs on his table. He pasted up a physical "Event Browser" next to his desk. In this photo it looks like a crude mocked-up prototype of what FCPX provides today: http://newcdn.transom.org/wp-content/uploads/2005/04/M1246.jpg

Bell wants to make notes per clip. You can do that in FCPX per *range*. Admittedly this currently requires list view. The overall idea of clicking on a clip in thumbnail (or filmstrip) view, then adding pop-up queryable notes seems valid. FCPX could be improved but it supports range-based notes and querying now.

He wants "bin overlays". What he meant is he wants to selectively filter on clips containing his assistant's notes. FCPX has this right now in keyword collections and notes. He described it as a graphical spatial implementation but FCPX already achieves his ultimate goal, he's just unaware of it.

Bell: "I don't want to always load the clip into the source monitor to see the notes I've added"

This was a fundamental design issue on FCPX -- to allow rapid browsing of video and metadata without loading each clip into a source monitor. So he can already do that on FCPX if he only knew about it.

He made various remarks about visually organizing clips in Avid's "Frame View", which is like FCPX's filmstrip view shrunk to one frame per clip and without the skimmer. He mentioned drawing on the screen, annotating clips with icon images, scrolling in two dimensions around the frame view window with a mouse. Those are simply one way to browse and organize material -- not necessarily the best, only, or most scalable way.

Imagine if a die-hard still film photographer's only exposure to organizing media was putting prints on a table. He has little notes stuck to them. They are in piles. He's running out of table space. When describing his ideal computerized version he will tend to think in terms of his limited experience. He might request a computerized version with a larger virtual table he can scroll around faster. He might request computerized post-it notes since he's using those. It's unlikely he would envision or request the database organizational system that Lightroom uses today, yet it works a lot better than a 2D scrolling virtual table with graphical post-it notes. Photographers think visually just like videographers. Yet they mange to use database systems like Lightroom to organize, manage and navigate large amounts of content.

The European feature film The Unknown Solder had 500 hours of 4k material (168:1 shooting ratio), and was edited by Ben Mercer on FCPX. He feels strongly that FCPX helped him manage this huge amount of material. Maybe video editors think visually but Mercer had no problems using the spreadsheet-like database features of FCPX. He'd like an enhancement to allow spatially repositioning clips in the Event Browser, but that's very different from saying "NLE software hasn't changed in decades": https://www.provideocoalition.com/art-of-the-cut-with-ben-mercer-on-editing...

I think if Alan Bell was more familiar with FCPX he could make a more compelling and informed argument. FCPX is not perfect and I've had many problems with it. It needs improvement in various areas. But it already provides solutions to several of the things Bell mentioned. Other professional feature film, TV and documentary editors are using FCPX effectively to manage and edit very large projects.


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