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The Position Tool Does Not Disable Ripple Mode - Here's Why

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David Lawrence
The Position Tool Does Not Disable Ripple Mode - Here's Why
on Oct 10, 2011 at 6:44:06 pm

This topic continues an earlier conversation on the open timeline and spatial workflows. I gave a simple example of my typical use of the timeline in FCP7 as scratchpad/workspace during my editorial process and invited comparisons with the magnetic timeline. You can view and join in that discussion here:

This topic is the second part of my response to Jeremy Garchow's excellent post and examples found here:

I also want to address a couple items brought up by Steve Connor:

[Steve Connor] "I'm still interested in exactly what constraints are making the process inefficient, is it the lack of tracks? is it connected clips?"

Much of my efficiency is dependent on quickly and predictably manipulating objects in the open space of the open timeline. I'm very fast working this way. I'm sure there are thousands of other editors who work in a similar fashion. Jeremy demonstrated and I've myself tried working in a similar way on the magnetic timeline. While it's entirely possible, I find my efficiency breaks down almost immediately.

Here's why:

[Steve Connor] "David, you do understand that the position tool disables ripple? If you use the position tool nothing on the timeline ripples, it just automatically creates gaps when you leave a space. That is the only way it is different to FCP7 in terms of clip positioning,"

This is typical of many comments in these forums since June, usually in response to complaints about the magnetic timeline being ripple only. While correct on the surface, I believe comments like these reflect a fundamental misunderstanding of the Position Tool, gaps, and the magnetic timeline's true nature.

Consider this:

The magnetic timeline is ripple only. The Position Tool does not change this fact.

Instead, the Position Tool simply acts as a workaround in the same way that the 10.0.1 update automatically creates secondary storylines when transitions are added to connected clips.

Connected clips cannot have transitions unless enclosed in a storyline container. The 10.0.1 update doesn't change this constraint, it simply saves a couple keystrokes. Similarly, the magnetic timeline always ripples. The Position Tool simply inserts or extends gaps to hold space open depending on where a clip is placed. This is not the same as disabling ripple mode.

The magnetic timeline is ripple only.

Here's why I believe this is true:

1) The Position Tool is a tool. If the Position Tool really disabled ripple, it would be a timeline mode, rather than a tool. There would be a toggle button on the timeline just as there currently is for snapping, soloing, and skimming. A tool is not a timeline mode change.

2) When we observe the behavior of the timeline as we manipulate gaps with the position tool, we see its ripple-only nature revealed. We also see a very serious bug.

Here's a video that demonstrates both:

In the video, I'm simply lifting a gap above and below the primary storyline. Notice what happens to the clips to the right of the gap. They ripple. And the clip to the immediate right of the gap gets eaten. That's the bug. If you keep pulling and dropping the gap, eventually all clips to the right will be swallowed up! This bug is verified repeatable on an entirely different machine in Los Angeles with entirely different media. Please test this yourself and report back what you find. If you notice the same bug, make sure you file a bug report with Apple so they can fix it ASAP. Hopefully, it gets addressed fast, before the next major update.

Even after this bug is fixed, I still have a problem. It has to do with the intrinsic nature of the magnetic timeline itself. As demonstrated above, the magnetic timeline is ripple only. Gaps are required to fill any space between clips. And here's the part that for me at least, is the deal breaker -- gaps are objects.

Why is this a big deal? Some pictures will hopefully make it clear:

This is another example of my typical rough-cut timeline. It's similar to the editorial timeline in my previous example. Space is a key organization tool.

Here's how that same timeline would look in FCP7 if it behaved like the magnetic timeline in FCPX. All space is filled with slug objects. This is what FCPX storylines behave like as soon as you start using gaps and the Position Tool. Don't be fooled by the shiny new chrome. It may look different but make no mistake, in terms of interaction, this is exactly what FCPX makes you deal with. See why this might be a problem?

In FCPX, space in no longer space. Space is now an object.

This means you must now manage all the negative space between your clips in addition to the clips themselves. For anyone like myself who depends on a spatial workflow, this is simply unacceptable.

Consider is how unintuitive things quickly become. Here's a simple example:

On an open timeline, if I want to delete a clip or a range, I simply select and delete. In FCPX, a simple delete aways ripples by default. If I don't want to ripple, I must insert a gap.

Think about that for a second in terms of intention and required action.

In order to delete, you must insert space.

You're essentially being asked to perform the opposite action of your intention. You're training yourself to work backwards. Sure, you can learn to do it. But why? Does it make sense? Is it intuitive? Is it really a better way to think and work?

I think this is a big reason why so many advanced editors have trouble adapting to the mechanics of the magnetic timeline. I don't think it's about muscle memory. I think it's a natural resistance to the design's inconsistencies and counterintuitive demands.

Taken together, these are the things that grind my efficiency to a halt and why I feel like I'm constantly fighting against the magnetic timeline's design.

When I want to work quickly and at a frame level, having to account for both clips and gaps and when to use the Position Tool vs the Select Tool and whether to trim from the clip or the gap and when to insert when I want to deleteā€¦ well you get the picture. And this is just for the simplest possible example. We haven't gotten into tracks vs trackless or the trim tools yet!

Again, there's a lot I like in FCPX, especially the organization tools. I have no doubt many find it useful and will easily adapt to its optimal workflows. Oliver Peter's list is pretty much spot on.

But for me, Apple's direction with ripple mode and gaps in FCPX means it will remain a curiosity for editorial work for a very long time, possibly for good. For heavily lifting, I'll be cutting elsewhere. And for the same reason, I think it will have a very difficult time gaining industry traction. Michel Gissing nailed it in this other thread. He's speaking as an audio guy, but we have similar workflow styles and I share his sentiments:

[Michael Gissing] "I do broadcast post finishing (grade & sound post). FCPX is effectively useless as an editing app in my workflow. Until robust OMF and XML round tripping, ability to open years of FCP legacy projects and proper monitoring via Kona/ Matrox/ Decklink cards is available, it remains a curio.

As broadcast dies sometime in the next decade, it might become a mature app and useful to my business. I resent Apple trying to engineer the demise of broadcast like they have with floppy drives and bluray, regardless of whether history eventual proves their point. Software and hardware companies are best when they coerce with superior product but not when they decide a formats fate and force it upon you. Secrecy and forced legacy make me nervous of any supplier."

Yep. That sounds about right to me. But it's still fun dissecting this thing and learning what it is, what it can do and how it changes our industry.

Alright, your turn.

David Lawrence

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