FCP X is shown to the world. Flashy things are seen, questions are asked

As cool as the demo was we are left with many more questions than answers.

All the Final Cut Pro hype culminated tonight we some 1700 people filed into the Bally’s Event center for the 2011 SuperMeet to get a sneak preview of the next Final Cut Pro. Once the people were seated and the music stopped we saw a slick presentation of a greatly redesigned application. New features abound but in the end I was left with a lot more questions than answers.

First let me say that all of this speculation and all of these questions are almost a moot point as we won’t really know what Final Cut Pro X (that’s FCP ten) is going to be like until it ships, in June for $299 from the Mac App Store. It may seem almost pointless to speculate here and ask these questions but if Apple is going to present this demo to a large group of users at the largest professional trade show in the world for our particular business then these questions need to be asked.

All of these notes, thoughts and questions came directly to my head as the event was going on so they are somewhat just a stream of conscience line of thoughts. Hope they aren’t too confusing or hard to understand. Any terms in quotation marks are the exact terms that Apple was using for a function.

The event started with some impressive slides saying that FCP X is as revolutionary as the first FCP. The application currently has a 94% customer satisfaction rate and some 2 million users. Impressive stats indeed.

Peter Steinauer, the architect of FCP took the stage to give us more facts on FCP X. It’s going to be a 64 bit application, able to handle larger, more complex projects. It will take advantage of the best of Snow Leopard so no waiting around for Lion to ship. I think that was surprising. Apple is looking address problems in new and unique ways.

They want to maintain image quality by having a fully color managed FCP so you can trust color all the way thought the pipeline. It will use a resolution independent playback system, scaling from HD to 4K with native support for most all cameras. And it will have background rendering.

Starting with organization: there will be a “content-auto analysis” system. It can copy media off a camera in the background so you can begin editing quickly, while it’s still copying. “Media Detection” will begin happening with things like image stabilization happening in background.

There will be “People Detection”, shot detection (think one shot, two shot), automatic and non-destructive color balance as well as audio cleanup (excessive noise, hum, and the option to automatically fix a lot of audio problems).

“Range-based Keywording” means you can drag an iMovie like selection around just a part of a clip and keyword on part of a clip. All these keywords will live in a new Event in an Event window that looks a lot like iMovie. In that Event window you can have “smart collections” that can collect a lot of different parameters.

Editing in the timeline has been revamped with “clip connections.” Think primary audio and video being locked and synced together. Not just video and audio from a clip but things like music and sound fx, that’s primary and secondary content that can be locked together and always move together to stay in sync. FCP X can establish a relationship between specific audio and video frames and keep that relationship throughout the edit.

The biggest oooo and ahhhh feature was the “magnetic timeline.” Slide clips around this new trackless timeline and clips move out of the way and shuffle around so they don’t overlap and collide. It’s quite cool to see but I immediately windered if I could turn that off. If I’ve cut a show to time I don’t want my timeline length changing!

“Compound clips” allows you to take any number of clips and collapse them down into single clip. Double click to reopen the compound clip. If that sounds a lot like nesting then well … it looked like a modern version of nesting.

The “inline precision editor” opens an edit into a 2 timeline like view to see unused media. This looked very iMovie like. Frames not in edit is kinda grayed out. Thankfully the precision editor can be driven from keyboard but there was A LOT of mouse based things during the demo.

“Auditioning” is a really cool way of having a container like window associated with a clip that can hold different version or takes of a clip or totally different ideas for the edit. It’s a new and unique way to really think about reviewing different cuts without actually cutting in new clips each time.

Randy Ubillos, the chief architect of video applications then did the actual demo.

Indeed the Viewer is gone and he showed a very iMovie-like list view full of filmstrips. You can the do what Apple calls “skimming” – scrubbing w/o pushing the mouse. Yet another feature lifted from iMovie. He would drag to make his edit selection and there was no mention of IN and OUT point marking via keyboard or no preview of a pop-up Viewer.

And items that are Auto detected are added to the Event Library. You can do some hefty keywording of clips and those things are added to an Event.

There was a favorite button that looks iMovie like as well.

He showed a very handy “timeline index” that seemed to keep track of most events that have happened in the edit. You can jump to any event right in the timeline index.

There’s a built in syncing function similar to what PluralEyes can do. It also seems to include true sub-frame audio editing and slipping.

There was something called “secondary storylines” that can be used for doing broll stories. It behaved like it’s own drag and drop timeline within a timeline.

The “precision editor” can be opened with a double click. I mention it again as it looks so iMovie like.

Audio fade handles are built in to audio clips and you can choose eases for those fades too. Use a range select tool to grab part of audio clip and duck it under. With all of this the waveform changes.

Speed changes and retiming, the built-in Ken Burns effect and keyframing happens directly in the timeline. You can open the “animation graph” to show and manipulate keyframes in timeline.

With “color matching” you choose “Match Color” and click a shot you want to match. It’s that easy.

The “color board” is a pop-out color correction tool. Change color, saturation, exposure, highlights, mids, shadows. Secondary correction happened using an eyedropper to pick color range (ala Colorista II). It can do shapes as well.

FCPx ships in June and will be available in the app store for $299. There’s no more Final Cut Express and he made it sound like there’s no more Studio applications but that will remain to be seen.

This was obviously meant to be a flashy demo but with that kind of demo comes the inevitable questions:

What about 3rd party plug-ins?
What about XML and EDLs in and out of FCP X?
What about multicam and multi-clips?
Can I turn the “magnetic timeline” off?
How does media management work?
Is there a Media Manager tool?
Can I remap the keyboard?
Is there a Timecode Window?
Is there a better title tool?
Is Color DOA?
Is Motion and Soundtrack Pro DOA?
Can I make FCP X less iMovie like? (It seemed really iMovie like)
How do filters work?

You get the picture. This list could go on and on. It’s also important to note that many of the whiz-bang features have been around for quite a while on other NLEs. We need to keep the reality distortion field in check.

It’s late and I’m tired but I wanted to get these initial impressions of FCP X down on paper while they were still fresh in my mind. A slick as the demo was it’s very safe to say there are way more questions about FCP X than there are answers.

Scott Simmons

Scott Simmons

Scott Simmons was born in rural West Tennessee and didn’t really realize that movies and tv had to be made by actual people until he went to college. After getting degrees in both Television Production and Graphic Design he was in one of the early graduating classes at the Watkins Film School in Nashville, Tennessee. During that time at Watkins he discovered editing. While most of his classmates in film school wanted to be directors, Scott saw real career opportunities in post production and took a job as an assistant editor after completing film school. In 1999, Scott took the leap into freelancing and in 2007 accepted a position as an editor at Filmworkers – Nashville. In 2005 Scott created The Editblog a website dedicated to all things editing and post-production which is now housed here at PVC. Someday he hopes to edit on a beach with a touch screen device, a wireless hard drive and a Red Stripe.