From now on I’ll be posting more regularly on my main blog at Alex4D.com/notes.

I’ll summarise recent notes from there here on my old blog. To see my latest news, notes and links, bookmark my new place.

November 4: Apple’s October 2013 announcements: What’s in them for editors? The mainstream Mac sites aren’t focussed on looking at Apple announcements from a post production point of view.

November 5: iMovie (2013) and Final Cut Pro X 10.1 – what new features that debuted in the new version of iMovie might appear in a future version of Final Cut Pro.

November 6: Final Cut Pro X 10.1 revealed? iMovie (2013) is an unreleased version of Final Cut Pro X with a consumer UI

November 7: New MacBook Pros and MacPro: 4K at high refresh rates via DisplayPort? - will the fast storage, memory and GPUs in Apple’s newest computers be able to support 4K at higher frame rates?

November 7: iMovie and Final Cut Pro X 10.1 part 3: Scripting and plugins - more on what’s hidden within the new version of iMovie.

November 9: Final Cut Server: December resurrection?

November 14: iCloud collaboration for more Apple applications? – Apple added interesting collaboration features to Keynote, Pages and Numbers. Find out more about features that might one day appear in pro applications from Apple.

November 19: DaVinci Resolve 10 is Final Cut Pro X 10.1 compatible

November 20: Import Final Cut Pro X projects into iMovie using hidden workaround

November 25: iMovie and Final Cut Pro X 10.1 part 4 - including a rundown of accessibility features – which are useful for those who cannot use traditional control devices and those who want to use workflow applications to control Final Cut.

November 26: FCPX Grill – the new Final Cut Pro X podcast - a detailed rundown of the first two episodes of Chris Fenwick’s new podcast.

November 27: The case for a new Apple professional application – musing on how Apple might demonstrate the power of the new Mac Pro sends me off in the direction of wish-fulfillment

When the new Mac Pro was previewed at this year’s WWDC, Apple said it would be great at editing 4K.   4K is the next size up from HD – twice the pixels horizontally and vertically: four times the detail. UHD is the consumer brand name for TVs that can show 3840 by 2160 pixel footage.

Apple also mentioned that a new version of Final Cut Pro X is being prepared to make the most of the new machine. However, Final Cut Pro users have been able to create high resolution timelines since the mid-00s.

fcp-classic

Although it has been possible to create 4K timelines for many years, smooth editing of 4K footage requires instant playback of more than one stream of video footage at once. For example if you had clip A transitioning to clip B while clip C is overlaid as a picture in picture, your editing software would have to play back clips A, B and C at the same time – changing the transparency of clips A and B while scaling clip C.

Up until now, there have been two strategies of dealing with high quality video on systems that are too slow: wait for the computer the render the video to a single combined clip which can then be played back, or to make lower quality versions that can be edited without rendering.

What could the next Mac Pro / Final Cut Pro X combination bring to 4K editing? The ability to import 4K clips and to work with them instantly – playing more than one at the same time without having to wait for rendering.

Two problems need to be fixed to make this work – fast enough hardware to decode large amounts of video information and a fast enough connection to the storage to get large amounts of data onto the screen.

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To help people work out which Macs work best with Final Cut Pro X, it is useful to refer to a standard speed test.

All but one of the MacBook Pros with Retina configurations do not have dedicated GPUs. New Mac software is depending more and more on GPU power. Editors want to know if the integrated Intel Iris and Iris Pro Graphics GPUs are powerful enough to run professional software well.

Early testing shows that Iris Pro graphics are better than many expected. Take a look at a new post at Bare Feats:

In the past we sneered at the integrated GPUs and their puny performance. Not any more. The Intel Iris and Iris Pro are every bit the match or master of discrete NVIDIA Mobile GPUs — at least when it comes to OpenCL acceleration.

Although it is great news that integrated GPUs are getting better, many are worried that the MacBook Pros should be avoided until Iris Pro has improved a little more.

A speed test proposed by FCP.co was to time the render of Final Cut Pro X’s built-in ‘Far Far Away’ title on a 23.975 1080p timeline. This test puts enough pressure on main memory and GPU memory to separate older generation Macs from more recent computers.

Over at the the FCP.co forum, qbe asked me to do the ‘Far Far Away’ test on my new late 2013 MacBook Pro 15″ using only the built-in Iris Pro Graphics and also on only the Discrete GeForce GT 750M GPU which I included in my BTO Mac.

It turns out that the test wasn’t tough enough to show a difference between the two GPUs:

MacBook Pro late-2013 Discrete GeForce GT 750M 2GB 18.8 seconds
MacBook Pro late-2013 Intel Iris Pro Graphics 1GB 19.2 seconds

I’ve come up with a test that shows the differences between these GPUs and other Macs…

The BruceX benchmark

BruceX is a small Final Cut Pro X XML file that you import into Final Cut Pro. It creates a very short timeline at the highest possible standard resolution that Final Cut can handle: 5120 by 2700 (at 23.975 fps). It uses standard Final Cut generators, titles and transitions. As it uses many layers of complex content, it requires lots of GPU RAM.

The benchmark is based on timing how long a Mac configuration takes to export the project to disk.

To use this import the XML file at

http://Alex4D.com/BruceX_Test.zip

…and time the export of a 5K master file from the timeline.

1. Have both QuickTime player and Final Cut Pro X open at the same time.

3. In Final Cut Pro X, go to ‘Final Cut Pro:Preferences…’ – in the Playback tab make sure ‘Background Render’ is off.

3. Use the ‘File:Import:XML…’ command to import ‘BruceX Test – 5K.fcpxml’ to create a very short but complex 5K project.

4. Click the new ‘BruceX Test – 5K ‘ timeline (this makes the Share command selectable)

5. Export the QuickTime movie by choosing “File:Share:Master File…’

6. In the dialogue box that appears, click the ‘Settings’ Tab

7. In the ‘Video Codec’ section choose a flavour of ‘ProRes’ (this instruction used to require H.264 but this selection caused exports to fail in OS X 10.9 – the version of OS X require by Final Cut Pro X 10.1 and the late 2013 Mac Pro)

8. In the ‘Open With’ section, choose ‘QuickTime Player’

9. Click the ‘Next’ button in the bottom-right of the dialogue box

10. In the Save sheet, choose a name and location for the export – export to your fastest drive connected using your fastest connection.

11. Get your stopwatch ready and time from when you click ‘Save’ until you see the movie open up in QuickTime Player (some testers report that the movie plays as black in some setups – this is likely to be the player having problems with 5K H.264, the movie is probably fine and will work in other players such as VLC)

12. If possible do the export at least three times. Your configuration’s BruceX Score is the average export time in seconds.

BruceX Final Cut Pro X benchmark

These results include those posted at the FCP.co Forum and from BareFeats.com.

The results show that BruceX tests processor power, but also shows that Iris Pro Graphics has some way to go to match a discrete graphics GPU in the new MacBook Pro 15″ with Retina

MacBook Pro late-2013 2.6 Ghz Quad Core i7
16GB 1600 MHz
1 TB SSD
Discrete GeForce GT 750M 2GB GPU
OS X 10.9.0
88 seconds

MacBook Pro late-2013 2.6 Ghz Quad Core i7
16GB 1600 MHz
1 TB SSD
Iris Pro Graphics 1GB GPU
OS X 10.9.0
163 seconds

( To choose which GPU to use for the test on my MacBook Pro, I used gfxCardStatus by Cody Krieger – a Shareware app downloaded from gfx.io )

If you post results in the comments below, I’ll update the graph.

Although many Final Cut Pro X users were disappointed that Apple didn’t announce a new version on October 22, the day’s launches provided some interesting news.

The first of which is that most of the effects, titles, generators and transitions in iMovie 2013 were created using Motion 5, the animation software used to make plugins for Final Cut Pro X.

It is possible to open the titles, effects, generators and transitions built into iMovie using Motion 5.

Also, using an undocumented method unsupported by Apple, you can install Final Cut Pro X plugins into iMovie 2013.

More later today!

Three or four times a year Apple has press events that are designed to get media coverage all over the world. Although they cost up to a few hundred thousand dollars to organise, they get millions of dollars of PR all over the world.

For those of holding our breath waiting for MacBook Pro, Mac Pro and Final Cut Pro X announcements, perhaps we can reverse engineer what Apple might announce tomorrow based on what kind of coverage they want.

News articles, TV and radio reports have a limited amount of space to cover everything that Apple announce. The headline will refer to an update of the product or service known by the largest audience. The first paragraph will expand on the headline, explain the context (“Tim Cook on stage in San Francisco…”) and then go on to expand on other announcements.

Here’s a list of what hasn’t been updated recently and could be mentioned tomorrow in order of public interest:

  • New iPads
  • New free iOS productivity apps for home and work
  • New cross-platform HTML5-based iWork subscription service
  • New Mac OS X Mavericks - including integration with iOS and Apple TV
  • Update to OS X productivity apps
  • New MacBook Pro - with TouchID button
  • New 4K/UHD display – with TouchID button
  • New Mac Pro

If most of those items are announced, coverage of the new Mac Pro will be limited to a single sentence – or clause: “Apple also updated the portable MacBook Pro and Mac Pro computers. The Mac Pro will be the first Mac that will be assembled in the US for 10 years.”

Although the contribution of Mac Pros and professional software to Apple’s bottom line will struggle to reach single percentage digits, Apple would not have developed the new Mac Pro unless it fitted into an ongoing strategy.

In March, before this year’s Mac Pro preview at Apple’s developer conference in May, John Siracusa wrote that a powerful new Mac Pro model works like a ‘Halo Car’ – a “model that lends prestige or attractiveness to the brands and other models of its manufacturer“: 

It’s a chance for Apple to make the fastest, most powerful computer it can, besting its own past efforts and the efforts of its competitors, year after year. This is Apple’s space program, its moonshot. It’s a venue for new technologies to be explored.

The associated prestige that would be lent to other computers in the Mac range only is applied if the public hear about the ‘Halo Mac.’

What could Apple announce tomorrow that gives a hook for the world’s media to use when mentioning a new Mac?

A keynote slide with listing features and specifications won’t work. The public aren’t interested in Thunderbolt 2, fast GPUs or a new Haswell CPU from Intel. There’s a good chance that there’ll be a demo. What demo would be simple enough for the press to understand and interesting enough to mention in articles and news reports?

One strategy for being reporter- and reporting-friendly is to incorporate a famous person or a famous task. Here are three I’ve come up with – each would imply a different software story to go along with the Mac Pro hardware.

Famous task: “I’d like to welcome the editor of ‘Gone Girl,’ the next David Fincher feature film on stage who will show you how they are using the new Mac Pro in conjunction with a new version of Final Cut Pro X, our editing application. Here you can see then compositing multiple 6K clips of different takes in the same shot to make a perfect scene.”

Famous person and famous task: “I’d like to welcome Chris Martin of Coldplay who will show us how he worked with Logic Pro X on a Mac Pro to create their contribution to the new Hunger Games sequel soundtrack”

Famous person and famous task: “I’d like to bring on John Lasseter, the Chief Creative Officer of Pixar and Disney. He’s going to show you how the new Mac Pro works with custom Pixar software to render 4K frames from ‘Frozen,’ Disney’s next feature .”

How would you demo a new Mac Pro to the world’s media?

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