Thursday, 28 October, 2010

What's the big deal about FCP?

A little birdie asked me quite recently. "Really, what is the big deal about FCP?" Especially now, with Avid growing in leaps with every new release. So I pondered...

What really is the big deal with FCP? Is there even a big deal in FCP? Sure, here is a bullet point list of the important features that make FCP score over Avid.

Some of these differences may not apply to the absolutely latest Avid ver 5.0. But for most Avid ABVB, Meridien, or even Adrenaline owners, ver 5 is a huge upgrade. So, for them, these still apply.

So,  in India, in 2010, the big deal about FCP is...

Huge format support
Apart from Beta/DigiBeta/DV, FCP can import and edit Red, Canon 5D/7D, XDCamEx, DVCProHD, JVC HDV, P2, NXCam, AVCCam, AVCHD and many more that Avids older than maybe 2009 cannot.

Smoke-Flame quality
FCP uses the same Aja Kona hardware that Smoke, Flame and even Lustre use, so the video quality of FCP is identical to Smoke, Flame and Lustre. No offline-online with FCP, both same same.

Compositing while editing
Any motion graphics kind of stuff - DVD moves, resize, skew, keyframed moves, crops, rotates etc - can be done while editing. Avid can't even rotate a frame.

Import without convert
FCP uses most file formats without creating new media. Avid needs to import everything and create new media.

Multi resolution
FCP has no project setting as such. You can happily mix HD, SD, PAL, 24, 25, NTSC, YouTube movies, MP3 files, CD audio, BWF audio, all in one project. Even place them in one timeline. Avid needs you to make a project of a fixed setting and prohibits you from importing anything of a different setting.

'24-25 thing' easy
In PAL-film land the '24-25 thing' comes back to bites you from time to time. FCP allows you to interchange from 24 to 25 in a flash - picture and sound.

HD without tax
All FCP systems after about 2004 can do HD. In fact almost all FCP capture cards can do HD from about 2006. So, FCP has HD without costly DNExcel cards, HD upgrades, MojoDX boxes that cost lakhs of Rupees for Avid owners.

Easier to use

For the novice, FCP is easier to use. And master.

Scalable over systems

FCP is the same whether on a laptop, an iMac or a desktop MacPro. All that changes is the hardware that's used for capture or monitoring. And that's optional.

XML interchange

FCP sequence information can be exported as XML which carries more info than EDLs do. Letting you carry over multi-track edits to other systems like Smoke, Quantel eQ and others. XML works great for subtitle work too.

Online review and approval with iChat
Edit and show your timeline to someone hundreds of kilometers away whilst still being able to make changes on the fly. With iChat sharing.

Easy speed change tools
Motion effects don't need to make new media. And ramps are easy drag and drop too.

Easier to keep upgraded
FCP has a software update about every year or so. And upgrades cost less that Rs 20,000 mostly. You don't need to buy costly annual maintenance plans to get upgrades. Most Macs support the next version for at least 3 years.
By that time, FCP has made you so much money you can afford a new Mac. Most likely, your cards will work with the new version.

Final Cut Studio
Final Cut Pro is only a part of a suite of products collectively called Final Cut Studio. All bundled with FCP. They are… Motion, Soundtrack Pro, Color, DVD Studio Pro, Compressor, Cinema Tools.

Advanced colour correction in Color
Colour correction that could only be done in million dollar DaVinci and other systems can now be achieved in Apple Color. A good colorist and a 'grading panel' can make this into a full-fledged grading suite.
Sequences can be sent to color and returned without any EDLs. Even DPX, and 4k is possible withinFCP and Color.

Motion graphics in Motion
Easily send your sequence or some clips to Motion and do complex match moves, stabilize, tracking, chroma keying and other advanced 'online' stuff.

Complex title graphics in Motion or LiveType

Amazing title work within Motion or LiveType with older Final Cut versions.

Sound design in Soundtrack Pro
Pro Tools like sound design work is possible within Soundtrack Pro. Even easy Dolby surround work. FCP and Soundtrack automatically synchronize timelines so change the edit in FCP and the sound work changes automatically. Great clean up and noise removal tools too

Royalty free sound samples

Final Cut Studio ships with Gigabytes of free sound. If you know how, you can compose an entire background music, or even song track for a long film too.

DVD/Blu-ray making directly
Make a DVD or Blu-Ray directly within FCP.

DVD authoring in DVD Studio Pro
For advanced authored DVDs with chapters, menus and sub-menus and stuff that's sold in shops, DVD Studio Pro lets you make them. And send them off to a duplicator to make thousands or lakhs.

Media database and film workflow with Cinema Tools
All the 24-25 stuff, telecine logs, cut lists pull lists. Even managing Red and Canon files, is done within Cinema Tools. Frame accurate, perf accurate.

Encoding to various formats with Compressor
After editing one almost always needs to send out stuff to the web - YouTube, Vimeo, H.264, Windows media and many other formats created automatically and in the background.

I have only 6 years experience editing on Avid systems on a daily basis. And the rest of the 10 years following, I worked mainly on FCP.

I don't use Avid as extensively as I used to, therefore, maybe newer versions of Avid have addressed some of the inequalities above, which I may not be abreast with.

But you know what? Most Avid owners can not or do not upgrade when a new version is available. Because in Avid land, an upgrade can often mean new hardware even a new PC or Mac. Even two year old Avids used Avid hardware that costed lakhs of Rupees. Which have now been replaced with hardware that costs only tens of thousands.