Sunday, 3 July, 2011

How FCP X will really matter to India

I bought and downloaded FCP X the day it was launched. And now I'm reading the manual and watching training videos to get the 'funda behind' FCP X. It's taking time because FCP X is a whole new app. It does a whole new set of things in totally new ways. Its almost like how I made the transition from Steenbeck to linear tape editing to editing on a computer (first Avid, then FCP)

My preliminary observation is that FCP X is meant for the 'new editor'. The person who will shoot a movie on a tapeless camera. Someone who finds bins, sequences, master clips and their tenuous  connections very hard to fathom. Who doesn't bother with Easy setups, settings and all those 'pro features'. I come across many such because they call or write me with some rather basic questions.

So FCP X is for that newcomer who needs to quickly and easily put together an edit and output it to a modern distribution format like web video, DVD, Blu-ray or a variety of file formats. Such a user probably doesn't even know or care about what a DigiBeta or HDCamSR is.

And such users are in the millions, while the pros are only in the thousands. These 'new age pros' make documentaries, corporate films, AVs, small commercials, news capsules, even wedding videos. Some of them are really accomplished film-makers or directors who have no time or patience to learn the intricacies of editing on a computer. But they do have editing sense. And have gotten sick of waiting upon 'pro editors' and their fusses about systems hanging and crashing and all the jargon.

But as I ponder on the impact of FCP X on large post facilities and workflows in India, and particularly in Mumbai here is how it breaks down.

FCP X can not capture from, or output to tape, so all our DigiBeta and Beta based workflows which form a major part of advertising and TV in India, cannot work with FCP X. But you can edit an ad film if it was shot tapeless and you're OK with mastering out of FCP as a file.

FCP X does not have the 24@25 film edit workflow that FCP 7 and earlier versions do, so you can't edit a feature film, shot on film and needing a cut list or EDL on FCP X. But you can edit a feature that's not shot on film and does not need an EDL or cut list.

FCP X cannot make an EDL, so if your workflow involves going to Smoke/eQ etc via an EDL, then you can't use FCP X. Not even XML is possible. With the addition of a $ 500 plug-in from Automatic duck you can make an AAF from an FCP X timeline if you're really desperate.

FCP X does not (yet) support capture cards like Blackmagic or Aja, but that will change soon.

Apple has a FCP X FAQ up at their site explaining some of the changes in FCP X. 

But how much of an impact is all this to post and TV in Mumbai? India and Mumbai are somewhat of a 'special case' as far as FCP is concerned. Here's how...

I went over to a large post house in Bandra. There, out of 7 FCPs, 5 were FCP 6 (not even FCP 7), and two were FCP 7. The two FCP 7 licenses were not purchased, but…

Then, over to Khar where another international post house has about 3 FCPs and many more Avids. The FCPs here were some on G5 systems, and some on Intel. They also have a 'broadcast division' and some asset management thing with as many as 16 FCP systems. As far as I know none of these FCP licenses are purchased, but…

At a TV channel in Andheri East, there are 21 FCPs for internal channel work. This is largely tapeless. so maybe they can use FCP X. But their 21 FCPs licenses are not purchased (at least that's how it was when installed, maybe they've gone and got licences now) so even they are probably on 'free FCP'.

At a TV channel at Malad, they have 20+ FCPs all licenses purchased. Their VP told me that they are watching FCP X closely. Maybe at a future date I may go over and do a small workshop on how FCP X works out for broadcasting. I believe it does.

At the hundreds of 'hole in the wall' small studios at Andheri's Adarsh Nagar and Aram Nagar, I've not come across too many FCP boxes. In fact many post houses here don't even know FCP comes in a box. The Apple dealer usually 'bundles' FCP with the MacPro purchase.

Apple in India usually turns a blind eye to this and emails to their Sales heads normally don't elicit any response. Apple sells a system anyway, so what if the software isn't exactly paid for. 

So, what impact can FCP X have to a land where tape still rules, where film editing is still SD based, and FCP software is totally free for many if not most users?

In the near term, for institutional customers, the impact of FCP X will be practically nil. They will persist with FCP 7 for 1-2 years more till their existing hardware breaks down and new hardware doesn't support FCP 7. 

After introducing FCP X, Apple discontinued selling FCP 7. This doesn't matter to India one bit as most resellers and customers are stocked up with FCP serial numbers. And FCP 7 disk images are very easy to come by. So FCP 7 will be available in India approximately forever.

But over the next few months, individual film-makers will go out and get MacBook Pros and iMacs, and use FCP X by themselves. They will turn out good looking movies. As FCP X does some really advanced colour correction, and handles defects like camera shake, and adds pretty advanced effects quite easily. 

These individuals will quickly find out that if they apply themselves to learning the reasonably easy interface, they probably need not go to finish their movies in Smoke or eQ or Resolve. And so will emerge the new film-maker, armed with a machine, a software and a will to excel. That's how far I think FCP X will go.

As for Apple, where they sold probably (by my wild guess) only about 1 FCP license per 10 Mac system (sold for editing) In India, they will now sell one FCP per machine sold since FCP X is really hard to pirate. In any case at $ 300 Apple is not likely to bother with FCP X piracy when they didn't bother when FCP 6 or 7 at $ 1000 - $1200 was brazenly pirated.

Some users will crib and turn to Adobe Premiere or Avid Media Composer, both easily available 'for free' in India. Then they'll find that these are also complicated and not without their own shortcomings. So if you've got to learn something new, why not learn FCP X.

By the way if anyone in India had to really choose between paying... 
FCP X for Rs 13,000, or FCP 7 for Rs 55,000, or Adobe Premiere for Rs 85,000, or Avid Media Composer for Rs 1,40,000, and if that person wasn't a 'pro' who had some definite affinity to any of these, then its clear to see which one will come out on top as far as sales numbers go.

So that's the impact of FCP X in India. Largely 'free users', old arcane workflows, not-so-new machines, will skip FCP X. And a new breed of movie enthusiasts will embrace FCP X and drive the aforementioned 'pros' out of business. Wait and see.


  1. Can I edit a film on FCP X shot on Canon mark II? Do let me know as I would really like to do that.

    Also, could you pl share some more of your experiences editing on FCP X viz-a-viz some new features apart from CC. Thanks

    You can reach me on twitter @amitmehra



  2. Yes you can edit Canon 5D MkII video with FCP X. Take some time to learn how FCP X works. Even if you have a lot of experience with FCP 7 or earlier, or with Avid, FCP X needs some learning.

  3. Anonymous2:06 AM

    Earlier you made the point that FCPX is to post what Canon 5D/7D was to cinematography or iPad was to computing. Now that wording seems to be gone. Did you delete it? Just curious.

  4. I'm not sure where I made that comment. Maybe I tweeted it. But I certainly have not removed it from this post.


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