– We asked filmmaker and DOP Den Lennie for his thoughts on Apple FCP X in this guest blog…
Perhaps I’m different because when Apple first announced Final Cut Pro X I sat back and waited. There was fury from the die hard edit community. How could Apple do this to us?
Well, I have a different view. You see, I started life as an editor back in 1997. In fact, I cut news on a two-machine, front-panel-driven suite bolted into the back of a VW Caravelle crew van. I traveled around Scotland with my cameraman and reporter, covering news for GMTV. I then became a cameraman myself, and worked for the BBC and then London Tonight before going freelance as a lighting cameraman, and rarely touched an edit suite again.
But around 2003 I started playing with FCP7 and ‘taught myself’ how to do the things I’d previously done when linear editing. Perhaps since the leap from linear two-machine editing to an NLE like FCP 7 was so huge and liberating, I was just excited to have so much power at my fingertips.
I have never regarded myself as a proper craft editor. I could not go into Soho and offline the way the highly skilled guys (and girls) do, so perhaps that is why I view FCP X so differently. While I’m still getting to grips with FCP X and its new way of working, there are so many features that blow me away in terms of speed and efficiency that seem to go unnoticed over slating the software. My view is that FCP X is a little misunderstood.
Take for example the fact you can take a Motion VFX template from www.motionvfx.com, pull it into FCPX and edit 3D graphics in real time’ and drop 24P graphics onto a 25P timeline and the iMac just deals with it. Pretty cool, huh?
My next big ‘ah-ha’ is keying. Previously I had to buy a £300 software package (I used Red Giant Primatte Keyer Pro) and I never really got it to do what I wanted it to do. It was too complex for my impatient, not particularly technical, brain. This simply led to me feeling stupid and frustrated.
Well, FCP X is a doddle. In fact, it’s so simple I worried I was missing something. Here’s how it works: you drag in your clip (even with an uneven or badly lit key it works) on to the timeline, then drop the keyer tool on to the clip. Add a solid colour beneath the clip (I use white a lot, and there are about six tints to choose from) and boom, you’re done. Now, in 10.0.03 there are even more controls to clean up the key and edging if needs be, but as yet I haven’t needed to. So what used to take me half a day to figure out is now literally seconds. This is huge for me. My passion is lighting, shooting and teaching, so I want to spend time creating images and not feeling frustrated because I don’t understand a complex edit process.
FCP X is taking a little getting used to, and some of the features like magnetic everything can get annoying. But in fairness, I’ve never been patient enough to read manuals, so I tend to create more work for myself trying to ‘figure stuff out’ intuitively – my bad. Having said that this is largely how I do most things on the Mac, so I’ve come to expect an intuitive workflow from Apple.
The other cool feature of FCP X is trimming and editing during playback. You are able to make changes while the timeline is in playback, which is very useful. I also like how you can fade your audio in/out by simply dragging the slider on each clip. This is another super fast time saving feature.
I recently finished a project in FCP X. It was shot on the Sony FS100 and EX1, so AVC HD and XDCAM EX respectively. This was then offlined on Avid MC and sent back to my colourist, who converted the files to QT and graded in DaVinci Resolve. I then imported the files into FCP X added Motion Graphics, titles and a music bed, and played out into full-res QT before sending all files to Compressor for my playout versions.
I did this all on my iMac!
Previously I had an 8-core Mac Pro and a Quad-core Mac Pro. I was looking to upgrade memory and graphics cards, but when I spoke to Lewis Brown at Jigsaw24 he explained how the new generation of iMac with Thunderbolt was optimised for FCP X. So I got rid of my big, noisy Mac Pro, the multi-monitor setup, and now run everything off my quiet 27″ iMac. I have a 2GB graphics card, 12GB RAM and 1TB internal HD. At the moment I’m using G-Tech FW800 G-Raid for editing my projects and they’re pretty fast, but I’m told if I go to Thunderbolt I could experience a 10x faster edit read/write, and as time is precious I’m almost ready to press the button on that storage.
To get the best out of FCP X you have to get the right hardware. You need a powerful GPU, otherwise forget it. On my old machine, it took me two weeks to create 16 motion sequences – but with my new machine I can do the same thing in two days. That’s worth taking notice of! Also, I think Thunderbolt is the way to go for speed. While my FireWire 800 drives at RAID 0 are fast, there’s no security of my data, and that is risky.
I just flew back from Chicago a few days ago and edited a nine minute VT on the plane, shot on a DSLR. I did not need any special software to ingest – FCP X just sucked it in and I began cutting using my 13″ MacBook Pro fitted with an SSD, and using a G-Tech 1TB mini. FCP X handled it no problem.
FCP X is challenging but only because we’re used to doing things in a certain way. It really is worth getting over the pain barrier. You will feel liberated if you stick with it. I really believe we’re just scratching the surface with what this new powerful edit system can do. I’m sticking with it.