how I learnt to stop worrying and love the new final cut

There’s a strong declaration of intent over at CrumplePop¬†where they explain why they have tied themselves to the mast of FCPX. In particular they are predicting that everybody will be over the fear of change and the learning curve (and the bug fixes) within a year. That’s pretty bold.

Call me skittish but right now I don’t even know if I will have done a ‘Day Job’ Job on FCPX by then.
Probably. But not likely enough to bet the everybody will be doing it.

Motion, on the other hand, is a different case.

Turns out my mum is reading this (hi mum) so I’ll explain. Motion is the tool for making text, images and all that magicky stuff fly around on the screen. Like PowerPoint but better.

There are three reasons why I will be using the new version of Motion in ‘combat’ conditions long before I take that chance on Final Cut Pro.
1. It hasn’t changed as much.
2. It runs 64-bit which is more efficient and that’s a bigger deal for this kind of work.
3. It over-writes the old version when you install it.

Number three means that I’ve been working with it today at the office. I could re-install the old one but that would be a hassle I could avoid.

Here, then, are my first impressions:
Doesn’t play well with Final Cut Studio 7 – Roundtripping is just broken but I never really trusted roundtripping before.
Fast but erratic – works, renders and plays back quickly and well. Then it kinda freezes up for thirty seconds for no particular reasons. I had a couple of crashes but I didn’t loose any work to speak of. Some of the controls were kind of twitchy.
Not immune to the Apple mind control juggernaut – I spent a few minutes looking for the export command. Apparently we ‘share’ everything now. Because nothing says Pro User like a Sesame St reference. It’s all very friendly and stuff but it’s one of those changes where Apple has actively asserted something and it has no clear benefit for the user. Therefore you can only assume that it is more valuable to their master plan.
Fortunately the default keyboard short-cut is still command-E so you can think export even while you’re sharing.

Alternative Approach

There’s a lot of talk in the Post Production community about how to react to the new Final Cut Pro.

A recurring theme is people looking for a completely different editing package to switch to. Both Avid and Adobe have been aggressively marketing to people ready to make the jump. It makes sense. If you’re going to put the time into a learning curve you have options.

The very talented Rob Tinworth has taken a long hard look at his Final Cut Pro experience and made a video retrospective about it. I worked with Rob in the Avid environment back in the days when it was more or less unheard of for an individual to own one and FCP was just a second fiddle to Media100.

Clearly Rob had committed to a growth and learning path. If you scroll down to the comments he elaborates on the Avid work-arounds he has found already. I hope he posts more so I can keep track of the Avid offering as well.

Sculpture vs Painting

henry dancingWhen I start a project my habit is to throw all of my material down on the timeline then go through it and cut out the bits that are totally useless. If they are really good I might move them up a track for easy finding.

Then I duplicate the sequence and go through again and take out more.

Depending on the scale and complexity of the project I’ll keep repeating the process. In some cases this can more ore less finish the edit.

That’s the sculpture approach. Chip away everything that doesn’t look like my creation and what is left is what it is.

FCPX seems to favour the opposite approach.

Locate the good shots. Find the good bit of the good shot. Put that in the Storyline (we’re not supposed to call it a timeline anymore). Then find the next bit you need.

To extend the painting metaphor the script is your sketch. You apply a base layer. Then flesh out the details. It’s an entirely sensible and logical way of working. It may even be the sensible and logical way of working.

Now if only I could work on a project which had a script and was shot according to plan to fulfill the promise of that script. It happens but it’s handy to have techniques for when it doesn’t happen too.

Maybe its just my because my comfort zone is tweaked. Perhaps someone who habitually works in the ‘logical’ script-first manner would feel like their favorite buttons were missing too. But I genuinely felt myself being pushed into that style.

The other possibility is that there is a new way of working that I’m not seeing that will solve all my problems.Chances are its a bit of both.

I spent most of a decade working out the best way to bash together a project in different circumstances. No one taught me to do the sculpture thing. It wasn’t in the manual. It was trial and error.

So trial and error is what I’m doing.

What do I know anyway?

Now the last thing I want to be is a big old elitist banging on about all the videos I’ve made and that kind of thing. On the other hand it makes sense, in the context of this blog to explain who I am and what my background looks like.

And goldurdurnit I died in the non-linear wars so that you young whippersnappers could command-Z your lives away.

Part of my motivation for creating this blog is that having gone through the paradigm shift between tape-to-tape editing and non-linear there are a finite number of radical re-inventions of the industry in my lifetime. That’s why I want to get on board with this thing even though there is a vanishingly small chance that I will use it in a professional capacity any time soon.


I was trained at the South Seas Film and Television School in New Zealand. We used VHS machines with burnt in timecode so that we could ‘Online’ onto S-VHS. As I was graduating they got their first NLE. I only touched it once and I can’t remember what it was called.

Then I moved to Hong Kong. My first proper industry job was as a tape librarian. I built a database of all their old stock footage one FilemakerPro2.

Since then I’ve been assistant editor, offline editor, editor, freelance editor, director, senior editor, and I am currently titled Post Production Manager. Mostly, though, I’m an editor.

I’ve made sports shows, corporate videos, documentaries and commercials. I’ve made DVDs, Flash Games, screensavers and and iPhone App. I’ve worked on my own, for other individuals, in teams and for at least one really big media conglomerate.

And you know what?

After all that I still feel like I haven’t seen a fraction of what this industry has to offer.

So please, If you think I’m talking nonsense, assume that I am and tell me so.


Drinking the Kool-Aid

To be completely up front I do not yet love the new FCPX. Or the upgrade to Motion. Compressor seems to be about the same if a little more bubblegum-esque.

This blog is intended to be about the journey as much as the destination. I hope to give an honest account of my deliberate decision to learn these products, figure them out and, hopefully pass on some useful information to other people putting in the flight miles on these strange, new creatures.

The road may be long, Grasshopper, and it might be dangerous (probably not) but I do believe that this mad plan of Apple’s will be important in the future of Post Production. When the day comes I plan on being ready.