Final Cut Pro X: Autumn’s 10.1 update

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As part of the MacPro preview at this year’s Worldwide Developer Conference, Apple mentioned that “The Final Cut Pro team is hard at work on a version of Final Cut Pro X that will support all the performance and graphics capabilities of this machine.”

The current version of Final Cut Pro is 10.0.9, so it looks like Apple is numbering Final Cut updates in the same way as OS X. Free updates are numbered in 10.X.1, 10.X.2, 10.X.3 format, major paid updates will numbered in 10.0, 10.1, 10.2 format. So Final Cut users expect the 10.1 update to be at least as radical as the difference between OS X 10.0 and 10.1. Also like OS X, non-users don’t expect Final Cut Pro X to be ready for prime time until version 10.2 at the earliest.

So the 10.1 update needs to

- Reassure current users that Final Cut Pro X is evolving quickly enough and is following the right path

- Convince users of other editing applications that Final Cut is a better solution than their current systems

- Sell the new MacPro (also a controversial product – because of upgradability and compatibility issues)

Since Final Cut Pro X was launched in July 2011, people have been pointing out missing features. More recently lists of missing features have become feature requests. For the canonical list, visit Richard Taylor’s FCPX.TV site for the Top 101+ Requests for Final Cut Pro X 10.1.

Beyond specific features, I’m also interested in four themes for 10.1:

Multiuser editing

I hope Apple finally demonstrates how multi-user editing should be done. At the moment only one editor, sound designer, director or subtitler can make changes to a film at the same time. The very nature of film making is collaboration.

At the moment editors and others can share footage stored on a shared drive. Final Cut Pro X should show how many people can work on the same timeline at the same time. Multi-user databases have been used in business for decades. There are standard programming solutions for making sure databases can be shared amongst thousands of people all over the world at the same time.

The trick to implementing true multiuser editing is the user interface: an area that Apple has expertise in. Hidden within the earliest release of Final Cut Pro X, there were hints that multiuser editing was being explored. Here is a dialogue box resource in Final Cut Pro 10.0.0 that was programmed never to be displayed in normal operation:

protected-by-guard

For more on hints on multiuser editing read my Secret Final Cut Pro X 3: XML & multi-user editing post.

It is a matter of reflecting recent developments in post workflow in a way that human beings can handle. As well as the technological problems of keeping productions consistent, the UI needs to support the politics of collaboration as well!

Of the major video editing app developers, I think Apple has the best shot at solving the problem. If they do, they will sell many more high-end Macs let alone copies of Final Cut Pro X.

Andy Mees, senior editor at Al Jazeera English: “I’m intrigued by the possibility of multiple users actively editing / manipulating different aspects of a shared timeline simultaneously … but I also shudder to think of the potential for havoc that such an open system could introduce.”

Richard Taylor of FCPX.TV: “This would remove a huge FCPX impediment to some. This is a request that I have seen often.”

Better XML

One of the unsung features of older versions of Final Cut Pro was their well-documented and feature-complete XML implementation. It evolved into a format that could store almost every aspect of a Final Cut project. This meant that third-party applications could import Final Cut Pro XML files, make many useful changes, automate complex changes and generate files that could be directly opened in Final Cut.

Final Cut Pro Classic XML became a very important part of many post-production workflows, and was very much missed when Final Cut Pro X was launched and Final Cut Pro 7 was discontinued. Final Cut Pro X gained XML import and export in the 10.0.1 update.

Sadly the Final Cut Pro X flavour of XML isn’t nearly so feature complete as the previous version. Although it stores which effects and transitions have been applied to clips, it doesn’t store most the parameters used – including which typefaces are used in titles, or keyframes for any parameter that is animated. When this kind of XML file is imported into another copy of Final Cut, much of the original information is lost.

Maybe Apple is planning a different way of sharing timeline and media information with other applications that is more flexible than XML can be.

Many people want proper integration between Final Cut and Motion 5 (for motion graphics) and Logic Pro X (for music soundtracks). It would be amazing if Apple also allowed other apps to have deep links into Final Cut timelines and media as well – as long as they are running on hardware running an Apple OS.

I hope version 10.1 will show why Apple haven’t implemented app interoperability using XML so far.

Store integration

I wrote over 20 plugins for Final Cut Pro 5, 6 and 7. When Final Cut Pro X was launched I was surprised that Apple decided that old plugins would not work in the new app. The silver lining for me was that the plugins that other developers had produced would work either.

The next bit of news was even better, plugin development for Final Cut Pro X was much simpler than previous versions. The majority of Final Cut Pro Classic’s effects where implemented using the FxScript scripting language, including the built-in ones written by Apple. Final Cut Pro X plugins are created in Apple Motion 5 – a motion graphics application developed to compete with Adobe After Effects.

A plugin that would take me a day or two to implement in FxScript I could produce in a couple of hours in Motion. The Motion 5 authoring envronment attracted new developers to the Final Cut plugin marketplace. After just over two years, Final Cut Pro X has at least as many software extensions as Final Cut Pro 7, the previous champion when it comes to software ecosystem size.

One of the reasons behind the success of the iPhone and iPad is the easy access app developers have to millions of buyers through the iTunes App Store. The Mac hardware-software ecosystem was also invigorated by the Mac App Store.

I hope Apple implement a ‘sub-ecosystem’ – an in-app-based way for post production people to access products and services for Final Cut Pro X, Motion 5, Logic Pro X and Aperture. Users would get instant access to tools and services they need, and providers would be able to build businesses supporting people all over the world.

In Final Cut Pro X specifically, people could sell and buy…

- stock footage: be it video, music, sound effects or still images

- plugins: which would work i three modes: a free watermarked demo mode, a version that can display content without a watermark but without the ability to make any parameter changes and a fully-featured version. Users would be able to use their App Store account to upgrade their plugins without leaving the Final Cut.

unlock-effect

- colour correction services: “I’ll grade five reference shots from each scene of your film – you can match these when correcting the other shots, or I can work on the whole film while you edit.”

- freelance hours from motion graphics, sound designers, voiceover artists, subtitlers and other editors

- video tutorials and individual support using a combination of Facetime and Apple Remote Access “If you go over here to the Transitions Browser…”

For their 30% Apple would sort out the money, cloud-based storage for products and shared store. They would get a post production hardware-software-services ecosystem that would be hard to beat.

Andy Mees: “I’d also like to see master/slave support in FCP X for remote editing (and also great for tech support).”

Justify the ‘lack of tracks’

Although post-production professionals complain about X missing features from Final Cut Pro 7 and other NLEs, I suspect that for many the biggest stumbling block is  the Final Cut Pro X editing metaphor.

Avid was introduced as a corporate video alternative to tape-to-tape based editing systems. They based their track-based editing metaphor on 1980s animation software. Every editor since Avid has learned that editing is manipulating the start and finish times of video and audio elements arranged in layers – track-based editing.

One aspect of track-based editing is that editors can use like a painter’s palette: they use them as a place to keep alternate versions of shots, to show which shots are cutaways, or of a specific actor in a scene. Problems can can happen when timelines are shared with other editors and post people, when what a clip being in a specific track means isn’t encoded in the project – these meanings are only stored in the original editor’s head.

Final Cut uses a metaphor of connecting disparate clips to keep them in sync (such as a cutaway shot to illustrate a dialogue point), and ‘audition’ clips to store alternate options for a shot in a single clip. Also clips can be assigned logical Roles (such as ‘Video,’ ‘Titles,’ ‘Dialogue’ and ‘Effects’) to help collaborators understand the editor’s story thinking.

Apple believes that maintaining the relationships between clips is more important than keeping clips on specific tracks (for more on how radical the X metaphor is, read Final Cut Pro X: Apple’s bet against track-based editing).

Final Cut Pro X will get many more converts if the 10.1 update includes features that would be impossible to implement in ‘an old-fashioned 20th Century user interface.’

Andy Mees: “The medium of editing itself is that of sound and vision and the act of editing, the art and craft of editing, is a visual process. Metadata is great and I’m all for it, it empowers our workflows and with it we greatly improve our opportunities for effective automation … but the act of assigning metadata need not be constrained to database activities. For me “track” based editing is nothing more than a visual means of assigning metadata to clips, it’s a visual, physical process that just makes sense to me and probably also to most any right-brained editor.

“FCP X’s Roles are superb replacement for track metadata, but for me they require a more significant “role” in the UI itself. I want to be able to see my roles, and furthermore, I’d like to be able to assign my media to roles during the edit process itself … by assigning it directly to the role (or zone reserved for that role) as a fundamental part of the edit itself. If folks don’t want to call those zones tracks, that’s fine by me… and if the Final Cut Pro team want to take that and turn it into a many headed hydra of unnecessary complexity (I’m looking at you, multiple persistent media clip In/Out points) then that’s also fine by me!”

Apple’s skill has always been persuading people to interact with technology in ways they never did before. Removing an interaction metaphor that so many users have become comfortable with had better have a big payoff. If so, I’m looking forward to finding out what it is!

Specific features

Richard and Andy also shared with me which features they want the most from Final Cut Pro X – hopefully announced as part of the Final Cut Pro X 10.1.0 update in October.

Richard (@RichardTaylorTV):

Audio mixer, audio keyframe recording and audio editor.

Bulletproof media management, archiving and moving events and projects. Every item in an event and project, including customized titles, effects, compound clips and all media, is properly accounted for when archived or moved. Also the ability to trim a project to just the media that is actually used with optional handles and batch export.

Single folder/database for events and projects.

Effects and titles management and favorites inside of FCPX.

Save and recall window layouts with multiple color correction scope windows open at the same time, full monitor timeline window for complex projects, etc.

Dedicated Motion-style keyframe editor.

Roundtripping with Motion and Logic Pro X.

…and of course, a scrolling timeline.

Andy (@AndyMees):

I’m really hoping that Apple will tame the UI a bit with 10.1. In FCP X I find I’m forever tweaking windows to improve the layout as I expand and contract the existing windows to display scopes, viewers, inspectors, indexes and the like. By all means guide me, by all means offer a single window option … but also give me back user defined layout options please.

I’m hope they can get a grip on the A/V output controls too. I’m not at all that keen on having to jump in and out of FCP X just to change settings. In FCP 7 it was all so easy.

Advanced preferences. OK, I realise it’s never going to happen. Apple prefer to control the user experience to the point of removing as many preferences as possible… but I wish they would allow those users that want to control their own user experience a little more flexibility…

…from something as simple as being able to define your own Safe Area zones: FCPX offers what you see is what you get, on or off options only. Admittedly fine for probably 95% of their users … but for those 5% who need more control, the same 5% they love to crow about, the control is simply not there;

…to something more dramatic like being able to turn on real “background rendering”. Yes, we still a need preference that tells background rendering to kick in only on idle (ie. pause background rendering during playback etc), and we still need the option to turn it off altogether … but if I’ve got a big fat processing monster of a Mac and what I’m working on isn’t that intensive … where’s the hell is the damn “ON” switch for real “background” rendering i.e. the option to have it happen all the time regardless of playback state?!

For discussions on Final Cut Pro X 10.1, visit the FCP.CO forum:

- 10.1.0 pre-release discussion

- Would you pay for FCPX 10.1? (including feature suggestions)

Comment below on what you think Apple should introduce in version 10.1.

I wrote this post in response to a request to contribute to an article on the future of Final Cut Pro published by MacWorld UK. I sent the author  Karen Haslam some notes, and also sent them to Richard and Andy for their contributions to this blog post. The quotes attributed to me in the article are directly from the notes I sent Haslam.

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21 comments
  1. Anyone else want a quick way to select all the clips to the right of the playhead like the track tool in Final Cut 7?

    • Marcus Moore said:

      Yup. that definitely needs to return.

      • Darren said:

        I absolutely love how the dudes making the tutorial are learning stuff that even they didn’t know before they started making the tutorial.

    • Stu Brannon said:

      Dude. Learn X. There is ZERO reason for that. Simply insert A GAP at any point (option-w) and anything behind it will move the exact same way if and when you extend or shorten it.

      First rule of X-club: never think like A SEVEN USER.

    • Stu Brannon said:

      It’s what we call THE MAGNETIC TIMELINE.

      • Stu’s comments made me lol. WELCOME TO CLUB X. WE LOVE MAGNETS.

        Really though, if I catch anyone installing 7 on the new Mac Pro I will personally throw you out of your house.

  2. Ray said:

    I am wonder if 10.1 will be free. Aperture was released as 3.0 and is now at 3.4.5 or something and its all been free. Just sayin’.

  3. As someone who works on broadcasting, I see the obstacles fcp faces daily. There is one solution for fcp to take on broadcasting. Integration with Inews and Vizrt

  4. Hey Alex,

    great insight, analysis, and speculation!

    This is fast becoming the go-to FCPX blog

    Thanks

  5. Brian Ball said:

    really great information here Alex, as always — please do keep up the stellar work!

  6. Marcus Moore said:

    The larger issue around Multi-User editing may not be FCPX, but iCloud. CoreData Syncing problems have been well documented over the last year. And while WWDC supposedly had Apple Engineers doing a “mea culpa” and saying they were going to fix it, it’s doubtful to me that FCPX developers could have had a solid enough beta to build this functionality on in time for this fall’s release. But I’d love to be wrong…

    • Alex said:

      I hope they start with LAN/SAN-based multiuser editing first. iCloud can come later! Then after that non-Apple apps running on OSX and iOS…

      Final Cut Pro X would then be a great multiuser case study that people outside post production would be impressed by – especially be those creating apps for other kinds of workgroups running OS X, iOS and iCloud.

      • Marcus Moore said:

        True enough. As an editor working in 3 virtual offices, I won’t profit from the local network version. But I’d be fine if that’s where they had to start. I’m an edge case (though becoming less so).

        One of the things I’d love to see in shared projects is editor specific metadata for Events.

        There’s two types of metadata for clips- factual and subjective. And there should be a clear distinction.

        Factual metadata can be added by any editor, and is applied unilaterally to all instances. Because Jane Smith is going to be Jane Smith regardless of which editor is cutting.

        Subjective metadata is things like favourites. Those can be added by any editor, but it’s up to each editor whether they want to see that information. So if 5 editors are working on footage from a single Event, each one can turn on or off favourites or rejects from the producer, director, or other editors. And you know which dataset belongs to who. So if I wanted to take advantage of another editor who’d already gone thru 3 hours of b-roll to pillage his selects, I could. But if he has terrible taste and I want to ignore his input, I can do that too.

  7. I think 10.1 will still be free.
    For it not to be, would surely be product suicide. Everyone knows the release was a half-baked product, the idea that we have to pay again, when they finally get it up to scratch, is so ridiculous I can’t believe they’d do it.

    • Stu Brannon said:

      Oh WOW! What utter NONSENSE!! LOL!! To say that a TWO-HUNDRED AND NINETY-NINE dollar product would be “committing suicide” by asking the same price after more than TWO YEARS of free updates (you clearly have never actually owned any software before!) simply sounds like some clueless little kid rolling on the floor kicking his feet because his shitty burger-flippin’ job can’t afford him such “luxury”. Ouch!

      It most definitely will NOT be free, sorry! And for a DAMN good reason! It’s a supreme product that STILL comes in at HUNDREDS less than any of its (clueless) competitors. So do us a favor and don’t insult our intelligence and professionalism with your pre-pubecent, ad hominem drivel. Apple deserves even far MORE than just the measly 300 bucks. Even every year for all I care! That’s still less than FCP or any other NLE EVER cost in the past, so don’t be such a little spoiled brat.

      Little finger, whole hand. That simple.

      And Alex: no idea what you think could be more flexible and more powerful than XML as an exchange format. Suggesting that Apple could somehow be “looking for something else” is just plain silly. XML can be extended (guess what the X stands for?!) to ANY degree needed, as needed.

  8. Joe Mahma said:

    I’m still using v7, thank you.

    • Stu Brannon said:

      :-)))))

      I love how some people actually appear to think that’s somehow a SMART thing to say, maybe even (hopefully) be misconstrued by some other 72 year old editor as “professional”… brilliant.

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