Why I like FCP X

When Apple launched Final Cut Pro X in June 2011, the reaction from professional editors was fast and furious. “iMovie Pro,” as it was often referred to at the time, looked nothing like its predecessor in look and function.  After reading all the negative opinions about FCP X, I pretty much made up my mind that I was moving to Premiere Pro.

I already had the software and Premiere resembles legacy FCP in its functions and layout.  It also has a pre-built keyboard preference that loads all of Final Cut Pro’s keyboard commands.  It would have been pretty easy for me to switch.

 

 

 

But after a cooling off period (and two FCP X software updates), my curiosity got the best of me and I decided to give FCP X a try. After all, you can’t say you don’t like broccoli if you’ve never tasted it.  The learning curve was a little difficult based on the fact that the entire FCP X interface is much different from legacy FCP.  I also had to get my head around different terminology: Event Library, Connected Clips, Primary Storyline, etc.  Once I understood the concept, things went much smoother.  Here are my two cents about FCP X.

PROS

Native Support:
I shoot on P2 cards. On legacy FCP, time would stand still while the MXF media would be transcoded to Pro Res during Log and Transfer. This could take a while depending on how much media you shot that day. Now the waiting game is over. FCP X lets you import your footage and start cutting immediately. While you are editing, FCP X is transcoding your media into Pro Res in the background. Huge time saver.

 

 

 

 

Background Rendering:

Option/R, Option/R, Option/R. I get carpal tunnel just thinking about it. Before FCP X, rendering clips on the timeline was a manual process which took over your timeline while that thin render bar casually moved to the finish line. The new Final Cut has eliminated this by adding background rendering. You no longer need to stop and wait for a render to finish before editing again. If you add an effect to a clip or place a transition in the timeline, FCP X automatically starts rendering in the background so you can keep on chugging along editing your project.

 

Skimming:
At first, I didn’t really like it. But after editing several projects, I can’t do without it. Instead of double clicking on a clip in the browser (as with FCP 7), an editor needs to just move the mouse horizontally over the source thumbnail to scroll through the clip. By the way, you can kill the audio while skimming (SHIFT/S). Visually searching through source clips has moved into “light speed” status.

 Metadata:

Anyone who works with me will tell you I am organized. What can I say? I’m an efficiency fanatic who likes a smooth workflow. FCP X is a welcome tool for those of us who like to label, sort, and organize our media. Final Cut makes it very easy to label clips to search them later during your editing. And because of FCP X’s native support, you can start organizing your media before you can say the word “transcode.” Don’t be intimidated by the new lingo (Keywords, Smart Collections, Favorites). Spend time organizing on the front end because it will save you lots of time on the back end.

The Inspector:

Being a regular user of Apple Motion, I have grown to appreciate the Inspector, which is the all-in-one control panel of adjustable parameters for a selected clip (scale, position, anchor point, opacity, rotation, filter attributes, etc). Apple did away with the Motion Tab that was in legacy FCP and incorporated the Inspector in FCP X. It may take a little getting used to but trust me, you’ll love it after only a few edits. It streamlines parameter adjustments you make to clips.

Magnetic timeline:

I didn’t understand the importance of this function until I started making changes to a finished project on the timeline. This is especially true if you have music mixed throughout your project. If you perform any kind of trimming (ripple, roll, slip, slide), your video footage stays in sync without you having to take precautionary measures.

Patching:
Because FCP X has done away with timeline tracks, you no longer need to patch video and audio tracks to their desired destination. Just pick your source clip, add it to the timeline and move on to your next edit. For most editors, this is an uncomfortable prospect. We’ve been used to timeline tracks, no matter what non-linear editing platform you’ve used. I’ll be honest… this functionality needs a little getting used to but once you edit a few projects, you understand what a time saver this can be.

 

 

Color Correction:
I was downright mad when it was announced Apple Color was an end-of-life application. It is a very powerful color grading tool that I really sunk my teeth into. Even though FCP X’s color correction tools don’t replace Apple Color, there are some positive additions to color correction within FCP X. Each clip in FCP X has adjustable parameters for color correction. You don’t need to add a filter on a clip to adjust saturation/hue/contrast. Just select a clip, open the Inspector and make your color adjustments. One color correction parameter that I use routinely is called “Exposure”, which is like using “Levels” in Photoshop.

 

 

Just call up your waveform window and go to work to improve the contrast by adjusting the highlights/midtones/shadows. You can even copy the color correction and apply it to other clips. Like Apple Color, you can also apply secondary color corrections to the same clip. This can be helpful if you want to alter the color for part of the image using a built-in mask (ex: make the sky a richer blue) after you have already adjusted the clip’s contrast for the entire image. All of this is possible without having to leave the FCP X application. That is a big improvement.

 

Stabilization:
I’ve used it on several clips and it does a good job. Just select a clip on the timeline, click the Stabilization button in the Inspector and FCP X does the rest. The clip is even auto-scaled. This function is a massive improvement from its FCP legacy predecessor, which processed the entire raw clip (not just what appears on the timeline.) I’ve noticed that the Stabilization works best on excessive shake (ex: hand-held dolly move) as opposed to moderate shake (ex: stationary hand-held shot).

Conclusion:

Based on my workflow and project delivery, FCP X works very well.  It definitely improves the overall speed of editing over FCP 7.  It does resemble iMovie in its layout but is nothing like iMovie under the hood.   Does FCP X need improvement?  Absolutely.  In an upcoming blog, I will cover what tools are inexplicably missing from ‘X’ and what editing functions need to be included in a future software upgrade.

 

One response on “Why I like FCP X

  1. Jan Fisher says:

    Hi Kraig,
    I really enjoyed this blog. I had not edited in some time before I grabbed Final Cut Pro X. I too am a believer, but I am having one problem. I have a photog who insists on shooting with a Sony HDR-CX760. He shoots with a frame rate of 60P AVCHD. Final Cut will have nothing to do with that, and I am constantly searching for a work around. Do you have any ideas?

    jan

    1. Jan,

      I have not worked with files from this camera in particular. But FCP X should recognize the video inside the .MTS file that is produced from the camera. IF you have the SD memory card (or duplicate) that contains the files AND complete folder structure:
      -Mount the SD memory card on your Mac.
      -In FCP X, go to File>Import From Camera. FCP X should show the card’s name under the “Cameras” list
      -Select desired file(s) and choose Import.

      The key is to keep the .MTS folder structure intact (don’t pull the video files out of any folders and try to Import them into FCP X).

      If you are only provided the video files and NOT the entire folder structure, you need to download software that will turn the .MTS file into a usable .MOV file that you can import into FCP X as a “File”.

      http://www.divergentmedia.com/clipwrap/
      http://media-converter.sourceforge.net/

      Hope this helps.

      Kraig

      1. Jan Fisher says:

        Thanks Kraig,

        Final Cut Pro X would not recognize the 60p file, but clipwrap does a good job with no loss of quality. Thanks for the tip!

        jan

  2. Jan Fisher says:

    Hi Kraig,

    Sorry to be a pest, but you seem to be the go to guy. My final projects average about 6 minutes in length high res. That means the files are really large and I need to bump them down to less than a hundred megs for a specific web site. The best I have been able to do is 4 hundred and change. Any words of advice?

    jan

    1. Have you tried using the MPEG-4 setting in Apple Compressor? It can reduce file size significantly (from 1.5GB to 30ish MB).
      You can also use the H.264 setting, illustrated here for Vimeo uploads: http://vimeo.com/24014623#

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