Monday 11 July 2011

FCP X cannot (yet) do 24@25 film editing

This is to clarify FCP X's capability, or lack thereof, of some workflows being used in some parts of the world. Specifically India.

FCP X is not currently capable of doing a feature edit in the 24@25 method with an EDL or cut list as the final output. Or even if you need to make an OMF for sound at the end of the edit.

One can, however edit a feature on FCP X. Something shot digitally where the final output for release can be made from within FCP X.

FCP X may not support some of the tape based workflows in use in TV here. But FCP X is still an editing system. So, with some third party help for managing tape, FCP X can still be used in TV shows.

On '24@25 editing'

A lot of editors in this part of the world still edit feature films... 
...shot on film at 24fps (yes, there is such a thing as 24fps) 
...transferred to SD video at 25fps (4% fast, but frame count intact)
...captured into FCP as 25fps, conformed to 24fps using CinemaTools and edited at 24fps.

After editing is complete, EDLs are made for the DI process, or cut lists for manual negative cutting.

India releases close to 800+ feature movies a year using this method. Editing is done on FCP or Avid Media Composer, but I don't have figures for percentage of each.

So, for these features, FCP 6 and 7 are adequate and will continue to be so. 
FCP X currently lacks any feature that would make this 24@25 editing possible.

And then there's Television, 300+ channels in 20 languages. TV is largely dominated by FCP. And TV is still largely SD, with channels requiring a DigiBeta or Betacam tape master. For these workflows too FCP X can be used for the editing, but a third party app like Media Express would need to be used to make the tape outputs.

After observing some editors I've encountered here, FCP X may actually be a better choice as it really is simpler than FCP 6-7. No easy setups to mess up, no frame rate issues. Media is managed by FCP so no maze of Capture Scratch folders. Colour correction is automatic. Clip organization could be automated too. Rendering is background so less time spent making masters.

Thursday 7 July 2011

Apple FCP X remedies?

Apple to Allow Additional FCP 7 Enterprise Licenses and More on FCP X

Is the headline and there are some issues that Apple has seemingly assured users would be fixed. Particularly the ability to be able to still buy FCP 7. I'm not sure if these assurances really amount to much, or frankly, are even necessary. And, in the absence of a real time frame for implementation, I'm putting these down as, like they say in our Government, "in due course".

So here are the assurances and my observations (in italics)

1. FCP XML in/out is coming via 3rd party soon…no FCP 6/7 support project support coming ever it seems…

If XML in/out is supported, then porting FCP 7 projects to FCP X should be easy/possible. I've been working with FCP X for a few days, doing real edits. I see no reason for going back to FCP 7 for real editing, if you're really happy working in FCP X. Also, opening an FCP 7 project in FCP X has no real utility for me after the FCP 7 project has been delivered. But for some people its necessary to be able to open old projects.

2. Ability to buy FCP7 licenses for enterprise deployments coming in the next few weeks…

This will be applicable only to those who have a volume licence and wish to add more seats. Individual users still won't be able to buy FCP 7. In India it doesn't matter as most FCP seats in India are obtained from a supplier called 'Bit Torrent' and most Indian FCP users obtain their 'licence' from a volume licence source called Serial Box.

3. FCPX EDL import/export coming soon…

This should be helpful. But I don't think all features in FCP X can be supported in an EDL.

4. FCPX AJA plugins coming soon for tape capture and layback…capture straight into FCPX bins.

You don't need to capture to an FCP bin. If media is added it will show up in the Event library. In any case Blackmagic's Media Express v3 application that's free with any Blackmagic card is vastly more useful than FCP's log and capture window.

5. XSAN support for FCPX coming in the next few weeks…

XSan will be free with MacOSX 10.7 Lion, so this is really good.

6. FCPX Broadcast video output via #Blackmagic & @AJAVideo coming soon…

This is good and needed.

7. Additional codec support for FCPX via 3rd Parties coming soon…

Depending on which codecs. FCP still needs to be able to directly import 'orphan' AVCHD .MTS and XDCamEx files that are delivered without the correct folder structure. Very common in India. And, Premiere Pro and Avid MC 5.5 can directly work with AVCHD .MTS
8. Customizable sequence TC in FCPX for master exports coming soon…

Lukewarm. Why do you need sequence TC when you don't have edit to tape. And Aja's and Blackmagic tape output utilities can do ETT. You can always export as QT from FCP X and modify the exported QT's timecode in CinemaTools or QTChange. Then do ETT with Aja VTRExchange or BM Media Express.

9. Some FCPX updates will be free some will cost…

Let's see the free and let's see the cost. Once again, Indian users are used to 'managing' software costs.

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.