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?


My contribution to this week’s Free Effect Friday is a new free Final Cut Pro X transition: Alex4D Flashback.

For more information and download link, visit my website:

Flashback is a Final Cut Pro X version of a plugin I made for Final Cut Pro 6 in 2009. Although Final Cut has a built in ‘Flashback’ transition, this one is much more like the Scooby-Doo transition as referred to in Wayne’s World.

Here is a video showing what it can do:

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My contribution to this week’s Free Effect Friday is a new free Final Cut Pro X effect: Alex4D Timecode 35mm 4-perf.

Last week an editor emailed me with a request:

could you build a generator that would give me both a timecode burn in and a footage and frames counter?

I’m looking for one for a movie I’m working on, it’s the first FCPx studio picture and I’m trying to help out our sound guys. the timecode start should be user definable feet and frames should be like 35mm 4 perf  (16 frames per foot)

Building timecode plugins in Apple Motion 5 for Final Cut Pro X isn’t straightforward – partially because Motion is designed to build effects, titles and generators that work at any frame rate. The Final Cut Pro X built-in timecode tools are buggy, so I’ve been trying to make a fixed Timecode generator for a while. This request gave me the impetus to find a new approach to the problem.

Alex4D Timecode 35mm 4-perf is the result. If you are collaborating with people who want to see timecode in feet and frames, download this effect.

For more information and download link, visit my website:



Here is a video showing what it can do:

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My contribution to this week’s Free Effect Friday is a new free Final Cut Pro X title: Alex4D Random Move Horizontal.

For more information and download link, visit my website:


This title chooses a random order to move lines of text from off the edge of the screen to the other at randomly chosen speeds.

Although you can choose how much the animation of each line overlaps – whether the text moves one line after another, or more at the same time – In my video I used two copies of Alex4D Random Move Horizontal on the timeline to animate twice as much text in the same time.

Here is a video showing what it can do:

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Mac OS X  has many security features – the most important of which are default settings that protect Mac users. A recent addition is ‘Gatekeeper’ which has a function of preventing some applications from running on your Mac.

The default setting protects users: Only software downloaded from the Apple-curated Mac App Store can be opened.


If you want to install any of my recent plugins, that is a problem. I don’t yet sell software on the Mac App Store.

There are two ways around this: use an alternate method to open my installers, or change the Gatekeeper setting to allow my installers to open normally.

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My contribution to this week’s Free Effect Friday is a new free Final Cut Pro X transition: Alex4D Switch Channel.

For more information and download link, visit my website:


Switch Channel was inspired by my ‘Bad TV a4d’ effect plugin. I liked how it made the image roll up or down. I thought it would be good if as it rolled, another clip could appear. I realised that this transition would simulate the display of old TVs from the 70s and 80s – especially those without remote controls. When you turned the knob or punched a button on the TV it would take a while to retune and  handle the information coming in from the new channel.

This transition works well when you want to change the subject, or when you want the next shot to interrupt the current shot – or for a momentary aside. If you want to simulate switching through many channels, add the shots to your timeline and apply the Alex4D Switch Channel transition between them. Select all the transitions and type Control-D and enter a low number such as 5 or 6.

If you want a temporary interruption – such as a comment from an interloper – use pairs of Switch Channel. With each pair choose different Roll directions for the first and the second: for example roll up to start the interruption, and roll down when you return to the main story.

Here is a video showing what it can do:

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Many people are waiting for Apple to fully commit to ‘fixing’ TV. Following on from disrupting the music industry with the iPod and iTunes Music Store and the mobile phone industry with the iPhone and iTunes App Store, when will Apple take on broadcast TV? Also, is their answer TV hardware or software?

“It will have the simplest user interface you could imagine. I finally cracked it.”

One of the most repeated excerpts from the official Steve Jobs Biography, ‘Jobs’ by Walter Issacson, still prompts questions. On the eve of every Apple product announcement event, we wonder whether this time we will find out what Steve meant.

Apple TV hardware

Over six years ago Apple announced their TV ‘hobby’ product: The Apple TV. A small device connected to HD TVs designed to store, stream and play back TV shows and other 720p digital content via a network-connected Mac or PC. They made a point of not promoting it as a major platform at the level of the Mac or iPod. They described it as a product that would help Apple explore future media possibilities. Apple didn’t want analysts to presume that Apple TV would be a second market-disrupting product in the same way that the iPod and iTunes Store was.

Over the years since March 2007, Apple have slowly evolved their hobby.  In January 2008 a software update removed the need for a Mac or PC to purchase via the iTunes Store. Steve Jobs:

Apple TV was designed to be an accessory for iTunes and your computer. It was not what people wanted. We learned what people wanted was movies, movies, movies.

September 2010 saw the biggest change in the Apple TV: the ‘2nd generation’ version dropped the internal hard drive. It was also much smaller and much less expensive. The current 3rd generation Apple TV has a faster processor and more streaming services at full 1080p resolution.

Why does Apple TV remain simply a (very profitable) hobby for the iPhone, iPad and Mac maker? The complex TV and film market in the USA and worldwide.

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My contribution to this week’s Free Effect Friday is a new free Final Cut Pro X effect: Alex4D Inside-Outside.

For more information and download links, visit my website:


Inside-Outside is based on an effect I created for myself when I shot some interview footage too soft and didn’t want to oversharpen it. The prototype version slightly sharpened the interviewee’s face and slightly blurred everything else. This made their face look clearer than when I oversharpened it – and it hid my mistake.

It is especially useful for some DSLRs because their built-in sharpening isn’t very good, so camera people advise us to turn the sharpening off and sharpen with more control in the NLE.

Seeing as it sometimes helps to direct people’s view by brightening the subject and desaturating the surroundings, I added brightness, contrast and saturation controls to the inside and outside areas of the effect.

Here is a video showing what it can do:

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Today the HDMI Forum announced a big upgrade to their video connectivity standard: HDMI 2.0. What does this mean for this autumn’s ‘4K’ Mac Pro?


HDMI 2.0: 4K and more

HDMI (High Definition Media Interface) is a successful video and audio interface standard that has been used in over 3 billion devices since 2003. It is used to transfer uncompressed video and audio from one device to another.

The initial definition defined a maximum video resolution over a single connection of 1920×1200 at 60 frames a second with 24 bits used to represent each pixel, using a maximum throughput of 4.95 Gbit/s.

Today’s 2.0 definition includes the following specifications:

– Maximum resolution: 4096 x 2160 p 60 48 bits/pixel

– Maximum audio channels: 32

– Maximum audio sample frequency: 1536kHz

– Simultaneous delivery of multi-stream audio to up to 4 users

– Support for 21:9 aspect ratio

– Maximum throughput: 18 Gbit/s

The cables and connectors haven’t changed, the definition of the data that can be transmitted along the wires has changed.

Apple and HDMI 2.0

Apple is a member of The HDMI Forum, so what does 2.0 mean for Apple products?

In June Apple previewed this year’s new Mac Pro. Many were surprised that Apple included six Thunderbolt 2 ports and an HDMI 1.4 connection. Firstly, Thunderbolt 2 had only been announced a few days before by Intel with the first products using the new standard expected in 2014. Secondly, given that Apple said that the Mac Pro is designed to be a full 4K editing device, why include an HDMI port that can only handle 24 frames a second at 4K?



HDMI 2.0 could explain some of the Mac Pro specification. Thunderbolt 2 is implemented using Intel’s Falcon Ridge I/O controller. It doubles the possible maximum throughput of the connection in one direction from 10 Gbit/s to 20 Gbit/s.

Currently Apple’s Mac Pro page states that it will have an HDMI 1.4 connector. As the I/O controller on the Mac Pro will be able to transfer up to of data 20 Gbit/s along Thunderbolt 2, maybe the HDMI port will be upgraded to 2.0 on launch day to transfer up to 18 Gbit/s of video and audio. HDMI 2.0 is electrically identical to HDMI 1.4: the wires and ports are the same. It’s probably a matter of upgrading the firmware in the I/O controller. The HDMI site says that ‘The HDMI 2.0 Compliance Test Specification is expected to be released before the end of 2013.’

It also allows Apple to launch a range of 4K monitors that use HDMI 2.0 data standards. Knowing Apple however, they may transmit the HDMI video and audio signals along a special Apple-flavoured Thunderbolt 2 cable instead of using standard HDMI connectors and cables.

HDMI 2.0 might mean there’s more to the Mac Pro’s 4K ambitions than Thunderbolt 2 and a new version of Final Cut Pro X.

Links covering Final Cut Pro X 3D, Final Cut running on odd devices, Motion 5 animation, 4K, end credits …a Simon Ubsdell special.

3D competition

Last week I posted a link to some FxPlug test movies showing 3D model manipulation in Motion 5. This week it looks like motionVFX have upgraded their planned mExtrude plugin to do much more than extrude 2D text and logos.

This image shows a plugin working in Motion 5, it would take minutes to turn this into a plugin working in Final Cut Pro X:

Run Final Cut on your camera?

The problem some filmmakers have with DSLR rigs is that they are very unwieldy.

Here’s the tale of building a camera that pays homage to the revolutionary portable 16mm cameras of the 60s and 70s by incorporating a surprising ingredient:

Applifying Final Cut Pro X

With a subscription to Parallels Access, you can operate a copy of Final Cut Pro X on a remote Mac  using an iPad. Most reviewers say that it is better than previous remote access applications, but it is expensive – it is being sold as an $80 a year service instead of as a $25 iOS app.

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