Tuesday, 22 May, 2012

So where are we on FCP X?


FCP X, which is Apple's name for the next version of FCP after FCP 7, was first shown at a large exhibition in Vegas (NAB 2011) in April last year. And then released a few months later. At the first preview, many people praised it, some even cheered and applauded. But when it became available and editors began using it, they criticized it for the lack of 'professional' features.

That, coupled with the fact that no new MacPro has been introduced for over a year, let some to believe that it was the end of the road for professionals on the Apple platform. Some moved on to Avid, some to Premiere Pro. Maybe a few even 'came back' to FCP X, to give it a second look and maybe because the alternatives were equally frustrating.


One year later, where are we on FCP X?

In India, has it become the successor to FCP 7? Probably yes, or probably not. The exact number of FCP X licenses is not easily available as it is only sold online through the App Store. Further, how many people who bought it are actually using it in India is also hard to get a hold of.

So only Apple know exactly how many people have bought it. They also know how many of these are existing FCP 7 license holders.

Apple released 4 updates to FCP X in this past year. Features like XML import and export, video out and others were added. So has this made FCP X better and more usable? Here's a look at where FCP X doesn't work out, and where it probably shines.

What FCP X can't do (yet)

Film 24-25 editing off DV or Beta tapes. Keycode, cut lists, pull lists, telecine logs. All this doesn't work in FCP X. So if you're stuck with this kind of editing, either move on to simpler 24fps HD workflows, or stick to Avid or FCP 7.

Shooting on DigiBeta or any tape based material, where you need an EDL at the end of the edit. Or editing where you need to output an OMF or single tracks of audio. Dump to Digibeta or any other tape. These are some situations where FCP X cannot be used.

Getting used to FCP X

FCP X is a completely new editing interface. It's magnetic timeline, 'skimming', single monitor, and lack of a traditional project-bin-clip-sequence structure, appear a bit confusing at first. But as you get used to it, the real power becomes obvious. FCP X is not limited to 4 GB RAM, and uses all the cores of CPU your system has. So rendering, mostly in the background, is really fast. It's simply faster than FCP 7 by a large margin, in many editing tasks.

For a documentary project shot over many months, various sources, and file types, FCP X has a better method of organizing media. Even automating a large number of naming and classifying tasks. So identifying and locating your media is much simpler.

FCP X, for an editor used to working in Avid or FCP 7 may be very different. But for someone who has no previous editing experience, but a good editing sense, FCP X is a very easy software to master. I believe FCP X is a boon to first time editors who find FCP 7 and Avid too difficult to master.

FCP X resources

For a quick start, there's a paper at the Apple web site called 'Final Cut Pro X for Final Cut Pro 7 Editors white paper
which outlines the difference between the two. And Philip Hodgetts book 'Conquering the metadata foundations of Final Cut Pro X'
is an excellent guide to how FCP X manages data about footage.

There are also excellent online resources on FCP X. 

Ripple Training's 
Apple Pro Video Series - Final Cut Pro X

and Larry Jordan's 
Final Cut Pro X Quick Start

These cost a bit to buy, but are worth every cent. 
MacBreak Studio is another excellent resource, and is free too.

For actual classroom learning, there are a couple of places in India where one can learn FCP X. 
There's Evolve at Andheri W, Fine Tune in Hyderabad, and probably Whistling Woods.

I am planning two comprehensive course on FCP X, one for existing FCP 7 editors, which will be a one on one comparison between the two. And the other would be for complete freshers, who I believe are the target market for FCP X. And some customized courses for anyone who wants to integrate FCP X into an existing workflow - for TV serials, talk shows, documentaries, and such like.

Will post details as they get fixed.

For actual day to day experiences, there's a Facebook group called 'I honestly love FCP X'

and a Creative Cow forum on the FCP X debate 'Apple FCP X or not'


There are now utilities like 7 to X which let you export an XML from FCP 7 and import it into FCP X. And X to 7 that does it the other way around. Another neat tool is X2Pro that lets you send FCP X sequences to ProTools. These and more tools are at Apple's site

If outputting to tape is absolutely essential, then Blackmagic's Media Express Utility and Aja's VTR Xchange allow you to capture and playout to tape with insert. So you can simply export from FCP and use these to output to tape.


So FCP X is an exciting prospect. It will be loved by some, hated by others. But it is definitely here to stay. In fact, I think the transition from FCP 7 to FCP X is about as dramatic as the one many years ago, that made us switch from Steenbeck to Avid. We survived.