How does Final Cut Pro X fit into the visual effects workflow of a feature film?
Quite comfortably, as we discover on this week's episode of MacBreak Studio, where I get the opportunity to speak with Mike Matzdorff who was the first assistant editor on a big-budget studio feature film using Final Cut Pro.
Mike demonstrates the basic VFX workflow he employed using a very simple mocked-up example. He first creates a separate event for each VFX shot which contains all of the assets for a “proxy” of the effects shot, such as video clips, reference shots, stills, audio, notes, and compound clips. He then builds the proxy of the visual effect in Final Cut Pro to demonstrate to the effects artists what he wants to see, using the compositing and animation tools built into FCP X, like connected clips, compound clips, masking, keying, and animating transform parameters with keyframes.
The robust third-party plugin community comes into play as well, because Mike depends on a free title effect from alex4D.com called Feature Overlays. This simple yet quite useful effect lets Mike easily add a header, label, and two timecode counts (both feet+frames and video) to 23.976 shots in order to communicate key information to VFX, sound, and subtitling departments.
Mike also uses a companion application called Producer's Best Friend, which uses Final Cut Pro's robust XML export to create a spreadsheet of customizable data for communicating shot information to collaborators. While Mike's focus is on visual effects, the application can include data on clips, roles, subroles, markers, keywords, and transitions in addition to visual and audio effects applied to clips.
By combining the power of Final Cut's organizational tools in the Browser, compositing toolset, and metadata-rich XML interchange format with a couple of third party applications, Mike has been able to create a highly functional workflow for communicating with the visual effects team on this project. If you work in a collaborative editing environment, you'll want check out not only this episode, but also his upcoming book that shares his insights gleaned from the front lines of posting a feature with Final Cut Pro X. Follow Mike @fcpxfeatures.