Hi there. This is a little blog about FCP X. “The internet is full of blogs about FCP X” you say. “Why bother?” Well, this one comes from the perspective of the tiny world of (generally) offline movie trailer editing in Hollywood. And it’s specifically aimed at those folks who use the discontinued version of FCP and need to eventually switch to another NLE. And especially at those who have heard, mostly from people who don’t use it, that FCP X isn’t any good. If you’re bored, check out the original It Doesn’t Suck post to see where I’m coming from. In any case, I just thought I’d add my opinions and experiences to the 800 billion others out there. Also, I am selfish. I Like FCP X😛
After another online “discussion” about FCP X vs. other NLE’s, the usual “You need to do things differently in X than in others” comment from an FCP X proponent came up. The point attempting to be made was that In X you must work in a different way than anything else. “Edit in the browser before you start to edit in the timeline!” In the course of the thread I wrote the reply below. Since I have nothing else to write about right now… here it is.🙂
Telling people that X is a completely “new way of editing” is a pet peeve of mine. (what is a peeve anyway??) It’s not reinventing the process, as editors we are doing the same thing in X as anything else. Watching the footage, making selects, organizing it all, and then cutting pieces together. As we all know, getting all your stuff organized and prepped to cut is something you need to do no matter what you’re cutting with, from flatbeds to an editing app on your phone.
What X offers, IMO, is a different, and easier way of doing the same thing. The Browser, Collections, all the metadata goodies are great of course, but to me, the things that set X apart from everything else are:
The Timeline- being able to just cut stuff in and move clips around without any thought at all as to whether it will collide/overwrite/screw up anything that’s in your cut is a huge advantage.
Embedded Components- much easier to deal with than separate A/V. And you can of course separate these if you want.
Roles- Also huge, particularly for audio versioning, and I feel like there are some very powerful possibilities that remain untapped here.
Compound Clips- Nested clips on steroids, and also have some cool potential.
Motion Templates and Compressor Bundles- Create these in Motion and Compressor, load them into X, done. You can share them with other users who don’t have the apps which is very cool. Compressor bundles don’t get enough press IMO.
Having the ability to make a preset where you can create a 2k, 1080p, 720p and SD version of a cut with a couple keystrokes in the NLE is very nice. You could do all that and also upload a cut to YouTube, Vimeo and Facebook at the same time. Whatever deliverables you need… 1 command, no other apps needed.
Filmstrip View– Nothing else compares to this, it’s an enormous timesaver.
The Skimmer- love this thing, especially clip skimming.
Live A/V Effects Previews- Enormous time saver, and the quality and ease of the built in audio and compositing in X is really great.
Timeline Index- I’m not sure people get how useful this is. I mean, you can do basic editing from the index if you wanted to.
Anyway…. I could drone on and on… My point is that X is an NLE, and like any NLE, you should use all the tools it offers to get your material ready to edit. What keeps me hooked is all the other stuff that really isn’t in anything else. Makes my life much easier. What do you think?
When it comes to color grading, I pretty much have no clue what I’m doing. I bumble around though, and I stumbled on a neat trick. Forgive me if everyone knows about it… When visually comparing two shots, it’s easy if one shot can be loaded in the source monitor so you can check the two side by side. But when the 2 shots are in a timeline, I’ve always been annoyed by needing to click back and forth between them to see whether they match well. I’m probably doing it wrong, but here’s the little trick, courtesy of our friend the skimmer.🙂
Select the clip you want to work on and place the playhead on it so it shows in the monitor and scopes. Then, turn on the skimmer and hover over the “source” clip. You now see your “source” in the monitor and scopes. Then, just hit the S key to turn it on and off, making adjustments to your selected clip. It’s a super fast way to ‘A/B’ shots from the same timeline. See the gigantic gif below for a “demo”. Excuse the blur… top secret stuff! lol
Helpful? Common knowledge? Let me know!🙂
The other day someone was asking (again) about the reasoning behind the FCP X Magnetic Timeline. I started to (again) attempt an explanation, and then realized that about a year ago I wrote an article for The Creative Cow that explains it pretty well. So, because I’ve been busy working and stuff and have nothing new to post, I thought I’d regurgitate the link to the article here, in case it’s of any use to someone. Many of you have probably seen it, but it’s all I got right now.😉
I just re-read it and it’s actually not bad. Maybe someone else wrote it. lol
Click Here or on the pic to check out the article.
Since the day FCP X was launched, it’s been dismissively called a “prosumer” application. The implication being that it is not made for “professionals” to use. Well, I think it’s time to put this BS to bed. First of all, ‘prosumer’ is a noun:
Oxford English Dictionary Definition
An amateur who purchases equipment with quality or features suitable for professional use:
‘The magazine is aimed at the prosumer who uses a $10,000 camera to make home movies of his dog’
Now, it is true that FCP X is probably the most accessible Professional NLE for people who are new to editing. The basic operation is very simple, and can be easily explained to novices. Not so with other NLE’s. At all. From what’s been said publicly, Apple aimed to make a program that ‘democratized’ video editing. And, arguably, they’ve succeeded. But that doesn’t mean that FCP X is not just as good an NLE for “pro’s” as Media Composer, Premiere and others.
Feature Films, Documentaries, Broadcast Television, Commercials, and lot’s of other ‘professional’ content has been, and will continue to be created in FCP X. But there are a lot of people, and companies, with vested interests in perpetuating the perception of FCP X as less capable than other options. And nowhere are these voices louder than in the relatively tiny ‘high end’ market.
I don’t understand why so many pro’s still cling to the inane perception that Apple doesn’t care about them, or that FCP X – and by association FCP X Editors – aren’t capable of doing exactly the same high quality work as anything else. But here’s what I do know…
In Hollywood, we still use EDL’s for turnovers and finishing. In Hollywood, we still need to deliver motion graphics as image sequences rather than just transferring HD 2k or 4k (or whatever) movie files. We still sometimes finish material to tape. Yes, tape! In many ways, people producing hairstyling and makeup tips for YouTube are using more advanced workflows.
Some people don’t want to learn a new program even though it may make their job easier. Some people don’t want to use a program that might reduce their billable hours. Some people don’t want you to use a program that can do things in software that have been traditionally outsourced to them. Some people only want to use what their peers say is ‘good’. And some people don’t want you to use a program that decreases, or does away with, your reliance on their program.
If you’re a producer, FCP X can potentially save you time and money vs. other options. But if you depend on complexity and confusion for your livelihood, I imagine FCP X is seen as a threat.
So complain all you want that it’s iMovie Pro, whine about how Apple has abandoned the high end market, call it a prosumer program. Because name calling and FUD are really the only defense you have.
But… that won’t make FCP X go away. So you might as well just stop.
As anyone who produces content for Broadcast or Theatrical Exhibition knows, there are very strict loudness requirements these days. EBU R 128, ATSC A/85 and CALM Act, and many more. And, as usual, there are lots of Meters and Plugins to help you achieve compliance. The problem is, they either don’t play nice with FCP X, and/or they are very expensive.
I was hunting around for a solution today that wouldn’t drain my bank account, and came across the updated version of Klangfreund LUFS Meter, a formerly free plugin with a lot of great features. I’ve tried a bunch of plugins for this, and LUFS Meter is by far the most user friendly. It’s of course designed for DAW’s, but works in FCP X on individual clips, or on a Compound Clip of your mix.
It’s really easy. Make a Compound Clip of your Project, apply the plugin and choose your setting. Play through once to get an analysis, press the “adjust to” button, export your cut and you’re done.
That said, this plugin is quite deep and has a lot of options and advanced settings, but the basic operation is very easy… Kind of like FCP X.🙂
Press a Button to Make This:
It’s simple, inexpensive and has worked well for me. I’ve found it to be very transparent sonically, though it’s always best if you start with a mix that isn’t as insanely hot as my example above. Even that mess sounded fine after processing though.
If you need to comply with loudness regulations but don’t want to spend a fortune, you should definitely check it out. The full version is $49, a “light” version is $25, and there’s a demo available with a 60 second analysis limit so you can try it out.
EDIT: OK, this thing is seriously cool… check the manual, but you can apply multiple instances of the plugin, and sync them together. So if you had 3 stems (compound clips) DIA/FX/MX, you can apply a LUFS Meter to each stem, assign them to the same sync group, and control them all at once from any instance. Normally all you need is 1 instance for a comped mix, but this feature could be very handy.
I also found out it’s been tested fairly strenuously with FCP X, unlike any other plugins like the that I’m aware of. If you need to deliver compliant mixes from FCP X, you need this.
About a month ago, I posted a little teaser about a “transformation” effect I made in FCP X for the Nine Lives movie campaign. As the spots are now rolling out, I thought I’d post a bit more detail. First, have a look at the effect, it’s about 10 seconds in:
For the campaign, we have 3 or 4 editors working on different spots in Premiere and FCP 7 (yes, FCP 7…) so, for logistical reasons, I cut this spot in Premiere. Trust me, it would have been easier in X for a number of reasons, but that’s another story…
The tricky part of doing 30’s and 15’s was getting the main character quickly transformed into a cat, it’s not a quick bit at all in the film. And, as I was skimming through some dailies in X… I had an idea. “CoreMelt Drive X has a cool Track Sparks Color effect” I thought, “why not incorporate that and make some ‘magic’ in FCP X?”
So… I made a rough version which was cut into some spots that went to focus groups. Audiences liked it. The marketing folks liked it. The director liked it. It was going into everything, so it was time to make a 2k version for finish. All this was done right in the timeline, I never left FCP X. I used Coremelt Slice-X & Drive-X, the built in Keyer, Draw Mask, Droplet and Glow effects.
Replace Purrkins Head
(can’t show the raw footage… sorry!)
I found a shot where Purrkins (Christopher Walken) gestures in a way where he could maybe be throwing something. Great! Well, except for the fact that he was talking while he did it. So… I had to replace Walkens head. I used slice X to cut it out, then placed another part from the same scene -where he wasn’t talking and looked ominous- under the cutout clip.
I resized the shot and keyframed the movement, then put it in a compound clip so I could fine tune the sizing without screwing up the keyframes from the first pass. Got that done, and exported a comped QuickTime master.
Make Brand Disappear
Again, skimming the dailies, found a long take where Brand (Kevin Spacey) is in the shot, then walks out so there’s a “clean plate”. But of course, the camera moved a little bit in the interim. So, I used the free Andy’s better 3D effect to line up the the empty room with the earlier section with Brand in the shot (seen above in the Secondary). Added a soft edge wipe from top to bottom, done. Put the whole thing into a Compound Clip so I could resize it.
Make Fuzzypants Appear
More dailies skimming… I found a shot of the cat sitting on a green cyc. Keyed him over the empty room part of the previous Compound Clip, resized and flipped him, did some tweaks to try to get him to match the scene, and then cut out a section of the empty room to partially obscure him for some depth. Used opacity to fade him in as Brand fades out… done. Made that chunk into another QT master.
Now to make it all work, hopefully… First I took, the 2 QT comps, and used Coremelt Drive-X to track some magical sparks on them. They were thrown by Purrkins, and then come into the next shot and envelope Brand as he disappears.
I then put these clips into Compound Clips, added an adjustment layer in each one, pasted the Drive-X Effect onto these, and disabled the clips from the film. That left me with just the magic sparks effect that I could tweak as needed. I then copied a bit of one clip to make a little sparkle when the cat appears.
Assemble The Parts
Last step was to duplicate the 2 Comp QT’s and stack them. On the top clip, I keyframed a Draw Mask on each clip to open up the area where the effect should travel. I then stuck the “magic” clips in the middle. On the bottom clip I added a keyframed Droplet effect that followed the magic sparks. Lastly I stuck the little spark for the cat on top.
A little tweaking and… OK, a bunch of tweaking. This is for a worldwide campaign so I wanted it to not suck. I don’t think it’s perfect, but I had to stop somewhere… Once I got it looking decent, I exported it as a 2k ProRes 4444 file, and off it went. If you watch tv, use the internet, or go to the movies you’ll be seeing it.
There’s actually a lot of stuff created in X in all the Nine Lives spots that will start appearing everywhere. Some I cut, some were cut by others. I recreated the Europa logo to freeze the goddess and remove her reflection (too distracting). FCP X 3D text, keyer and draw mask made that easy.
Many of the screen replacements for the trailer and in the spots, lot’s of retimed VO etc.
Could I have used other apps for all this? Sure, but why? It was quicker and easier to do all this in FCP X and export as clips that can be used by everyone, regardless of NLE. Everything I need is right in the FCP X timeline.
I would have preferred to cut the spots in FCP X as well, but whatever, I got to do all the fun stuff in it! FCP X is hands down my favorite NLE, but you can do a whole lot more with it than just edit.
Oh, go see the movie, it’s cute and you can safely bring your kids!
As can be inferred from reading anything I post anywhere, I really like FCP X. Apple have, in their words, created “A more advanced take on pro video editing”. FCP X has “Unprecedented power for the next generation of post”, “…A dynamic editing interface (that) lets you experiment freely while working with extraordinary speed and precision”.
The trackless Magnetic Timeline, Roles, Keyword Ranges, Favorite/Reject. Powerful compositing capabilities built in to the NLE, Filmstrip View, the Skimmer, Auditions… the list of innovations goes on and on. Apple has created an amazing, brand new NLE. What they have not done, and have not claimed to have done, is re-invent editing.
I make this distinction because there are some fairly insistent voices on the internets that do make this pompous, counterproductive claim, and I think doing so makes people who are on the fence less likely to give FCP X a fair shot.
Now, I certainly understand being passionate about a platform, I am. And I’m not above spouting a little hyperbole myself, as can be seen on my blog and in my videos and presentations. But I’ve never claimed that Apple have re-invented editing, because they haven’t. What they have done is modernize it in some very helpful ways.
But this post isn’t about how great FCP X is – and it is great.🙂 What I’d like to address is what I feel is the most egregious inaccuracy that is persistently presented in forums and on blogs… that being, and I’m paraphrasing here: ...in FCP X alone, you can do the majority of your editing in the Browser! You can’t do that in any other NLE!! Um… Not true.
Keyword Ranges and Favorite/Reject are simply a massively improved implementation of subclipping. X takes what was a tedious, mostly manual task, and effectively automates it for you. You create and tag ranges (subclips) and they get put in Collections (bins) for you. And you can tag Ranges (subclips) from within Ranges (subclips) without leaving the master clip. Create “stringouts” in the Browser. Way less clicking and dragging than in any other NLE, it’s really fast and efficient.
But here’s the thing, as anyone who actually uses more than one NLE will tell you… you absolutely can do that in any NLE. What Apple has done with FCP X, is make it wildly simpler. There’s more innovation in the FCP X browser than just Keyword Collections and Ranges, but it’s not a “new” way of editing, it’s a better way of editing.
The bottom line for me, is that FCP X does in 1 step what in other NLE’s require 2 or 3 or 4 etc. You can do many more things, and get better results, right in the FCP X Timeline and without round tripping to other apps. Retiming, Resolution Changes, Keying, Audio and Video Exports with Roles, Compositing, live preview of Effects, on and on.
It’s (mostly) the same stuff you can do in anything, but more efficient, faster, and with less distraction from the software. You can “program” your Library with Smart Collections etc, and then you edit like you always have, but faster, and you don’t have to keep re-organizing things like you do in everything else.
Editing hasn’t changed since the days of razor blades and tape. You get your footage, chop out the crap you don’t want, and assemble the bits you do. Add layers of audio and titles etc, mix it, and you’re done. Videotape was a huge improvement over film, Digital was a huge improvement over tape. The process is the same, the tools we use to accomplish the task have gotten much better.
FCP X is definitely a new, powerful, modern, reinvented NLE. It makes it possible for more people than ever -including “professionals” – to get “professional” results. Video literacy is a skill that, like printing, music creation etc., is now accessible to more people than ever before. And that is a very good thing.🙂
But Apple has not reinvented editing. What they have done, is make it a whole lot easier. And that works for me, I can go home early.😉