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January 8, 2014

by Austin Mace via nofilmschool.com

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Apple’s release of the Final Cut Pro X 10.1 update came with a number of new features. From more 4K software and hardware support to better project and media management, FCP X‘s new capabilities are many, and here to share his first impressions of the update is a filmmaker who has had extensive experience with the powerful NLE.

This is a guest post by Austin Mace.

Along with the release of the new Mac Pro earlier this week, Apple has also released a significant upgrade to Final Cut Pro X with 10.1. I have been using FCP X to cut projects since day one, ranging from music videos, commercials, live concert videos and more. I’ve since grown as a filmmaker and editor over the past two and a half years, as has Apple’s NLE. While I agree that the initial release of FCP X left much to be desired for seasoned veterans of the industry, the latest release offers incredible utility for Mac-based editors and does so at a competitive price point.

A bit about myself

I mostly shoot on a combination of DSLRs, FS-100s, Panasonic HMC 150s and a few GoPros. I have recently partnered with a music venue in the Midwest to provide video production services for touring musicians. We are growing as a company, and are beginning to bring on more editors. Being able to share projects is now hugely important, whereas before I was used to just working alone. I was almost going to switch to Premiere for this, but the updates in 10.1 are enough to make me stay. Here’s why.

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What I like


Where FCP X 10.1 really shines is in the updated way in which it treats project management. What plagued the software since day one was how the software handled media. Like many others, my workflow included Event Manager X as a workaround for handling my large library of projects, which were contained in a file structure created with Post Haste.

Now projects and events are contained within libraries, which is a huge improvement. These libraries can be brought up and then taken offline in-program, and eliminates the need to close the application when ejecting hard drives.

As I mentioned before, I spend a lot of my time working with musicians. In a day’s time, my crew and I could be shooting footage to be used to make a mini doc, acoustic session, live concert video and music video. In my workflow before the update, musicians would get an event, and in that event a keyword collection to parse out what kind of footage we had shot of them. This worked but was not ideal. Post update, I now assign a project library to a shoot with a musician, an event to what kind of footage we were shooting, and keywords to annotate clips as being wides, b-roll, etc.

Mark and Steve from Ripple Training have a great overview on how to manage media in 10.1 with the new structure.

What’s also been useful is the ability to hide the browser and libraries. I spend most of my time with the angle viewers up working on live footage. When I’d have to make edits off my laptop without an external display it was always frustrating to not be able to use my limited screen size for monitoring just the viewer, angles and timeline. This frustration is now gone with 10.1.

Being able to treat audio how you would video in the multicam projects is also great, as is the added Active Clip Indicator (little white ball on the playhead), which has already saved me loads of time. It allows for adjustments to be made on the clip without having to select it. Very simple, and very useful.

The Active Clip Indicator allows for adjustments to be made without highlighting the clip first.

The program runs much faster now, a lot of it I feel being owed to the new file management system and its utilization of OSX Mavericks. I also played around with some of Blackmagic’s recently released 4k footage from its Production Camera, which FCP X handles decently well. Our company just ordered two of the new Mac Pros, so I’ll be especially interested to see how it’s even more improved.

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What I don’t like

What I still don’t understand is why custom workspace configurations are not allowed like in Premiere. I’d love to be able to pop off the viewer, effects, or info panes, set them on another display or in a different place, and be able to save this configuration to be pulled up next time I am working on a project that follows the same editing style. Editing should feel freeform and conducive to getting projects cut based on their specific needs, not constricting.

Audio mixing still does not compare to what all one can do in Premiere. For concerts, we have a professional mix all of our audio out of program and deliver a finished and mixed .WAV file. The integration with Logic Pro X in the previous release of FCP X is nice, but still leaves much to be desired.

For being around for close to two and a half years, the number of plugins when compared to Premiere is still lacking. Companies like Pixel Film Studios and Crumple Pop have really stepped up in offering professional and effective plugins, but are still lacking. Red Giant offers so many desirable plugins for other editors, and I am hoping that FXPlug 3 offers developers like Red Giant the tools they need to bring programs like Colorista II and Denoiser II to FCP X.

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Conclusion

If you’re a seasoned professional and the past couple of years have felt left in the dust by Apple, I don’t blame you. The initial release of FCP X was not “up to snuff” for most professional applications, and until the refresh was announced, the Mac Pro had become a joke for its lack of serious updates. Editing in FCP X is comparably different then cutting in other NLEs. If you’ve already made the switch, invested in a PC based post production ecosystem, and/or have subscribed to Adobe’s Creative Cloud solution and have been cutting in Premiere since the release of X, this update would not be enough to sway you back.

To the other half of you – for $300, this FCP X is quite an impressive piece of software. It does so much for so little, and once you overcome the learning curve you’ll most likely be editing faster than before. When I first picked up the program I hated it, but after taking the time to learn the software you might learn to love it like I do.

Though important, at the end of the day what matters most isn’t the equipment or software, but the person behind the program. For those still unsure, take a look at what type of projects you work on or what you have coming up, and decide from there. Just as there is no perfect camera for every job, the same can be said for NLEs.

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