We’re not “Throwing the Baby out with the bathwater.”

Since my article appeared on the Creative Cow Website, Final Cut Pro X: What’s missing for some Pros,  I’ve gotten multiple references to throwing the baby out with the bathwater.   This one is quite good:

“So I take it that FCP X completely vaporized your copy of FCP 7, and melted your CPU, and that’s why you’re going to spend tens of thousand of dollars to buy new equipment, buy and learn new software; spend hundreds of hours migrating data, and kiss Apple goodbye forever?

Funny. My copy of FCP 7 is running just fine. Wonder what happened to yours?…. I can only wish you the best. You’re about to throw the baby out with the bath water, and you’re in for a rough ride.”

So in other words I’m about to completely uproot everything we’ve done for the past 11 years and throw it all away.  Actually what we’re doing is moving to maintain our workflow and continuity we’ve developed at our facility.

As you might have read in some of my other responses in that thread I have said (multiple times) that our 6 copies or so of FCP 7 are still running just fine here. It’s still the same inefficient tool with the digital formats that have been brought to the post production marketplace in the two years+ since it was originally released.

I have been planning to move away from FCP 7 for 6 months now at least and while I knew FCPX would not be the replacement for us back in April, I did wait until the final public product to make the final decision. I wanted to see specifically what Apple put in the product. People seem to think this was a rash decision, it was not.

The final nail in the coffin is the lack of legacy project support. We do a lot of news and documentary programming which often requires us to go back 4 to 6 years to pull out old projects to either revise them or pull elements from them. The new FCPX will never support legacy projects moving forward due to the nature of the underlying design. You might be able to move a sequence forward, but your entire project with full organization as it was, won’t happen. I never say never, but from what I’m told by people who know a lot more than me, it won’t happen.

So what I need today is a very efficient tool that works natively with any digital codec that walks in the door. Being an independent Post Production facility, we do not shoot original material nor do we own cameras. So on any given week we will literally receive very format under the sun and we need to edit with it. An example I’ve already cited, it took three days to convert 24 hours of GoPro material to Apple ProRes before I could start to edit with it. That’s very inefficient.

FCPX does work natively with codecs sort of, it converts everything to ProRes in the background, and that’s better, and worse. You know how it “renders seamlessly in the background?”   Well it’s literally rendering constantly in the background so you’re apt to fill up your media array in short order without even realizing it.  Read Richard Harrington’s brilliant blog for more details.   But it’s the lack of legacy project support that’s at the very top of the list why we are not moving forward with the product.

As I’ve already shown, Adobe Premiere does a great job of opening FCP projects with no third party tools required so that’s a huge relief for a production company like ours.

So right now, FCP 7 still works and it’s currently an inefficient tool for our workflow. FCPX is not ready for us at this time. With Apple’s secrecy, I have no idea what features they will truly add back to the application nor their timeframe. Nor do I expect them ever to add legacy project support. In addition, the removal of FC Studio 3 pretty much forced our hands to a new tool as I will be adding one or two more suites before the end of this summer.

So this is a decision on my part to leave the application and move to another, more efficient product for our workflow that allows us to retain access to our legacy projects. Whether that is Avid or Adobe remains to be seen based on our testing.

I’ve edited on 10 different platforms in my 20 years. Premiere Pro would be the 11th, Avid Media Composer would be a return to the first NLE I ever used. My editors are very excited about what they’ve already seen from Premiere and I have to say, it’s a much more efficient tool in just my short time using it than FCP 7 is today. There’s also very little my editors will have to learn to make the transition, it’s a very easy move from one tool to the other.

So I’m just presenting my opinion here on my decision to leave FCP at this time. The beauty of all this is that I’m not “throwing the baby out with the bathwater.” All of the infrastructure that I’ve built for the past 11 years will plug right into the Adobe / Avid workflow. So I literally just have to change the software. If I had to change out all the hardware too, well THAT would be throwing everything away for a new workflow.  If anything, I’ve thrown out the bathwater and saved the baby.

Everyone will have a different opinion on what to do for an NLE moving forward. Nobody is right, nobody is wrong. You have to make your decision based on your needs. I’ve made mine.

 


6 Comments

  1. It is refreshing to read such a rational post written without the clouded judgement that comes from anger or other emotion.

    If inability to open legacy projects *in and of itself* and *in the absence of any other issues* is truly a deal-breaker for your business, and assuming your confidante is correct that backwards-compatibility really will never come to FCPX, then obviously switching seems inevitable (the only alternative would be to maintain FCP7 for use with legacy projects while using FCPX for new work… certainly not ideal, but doable).

    I do think it is likely that most of the most common complaints I’ve heard about FCPX will, in time (and sooner, rather than later), be addressed: 3rd parties (camera companies with proprietary formats like R3D or Alexa, software companies with tools like Magic Bullet, ext. monitoring providers like Matrox or Blackmagic, etc.) will all get their plugins written and that functionality will be restored, and I do believe even Apple will be responsive to complaints and fix most problems and deficiencies that can’t be fixed through 3rd-party plugins (perhaps even including FCP7 compatibility through some creative solution like XML metadata or something… who knows. But maybe not).

    Once that happens, and once editors learn the new interface, perhaps the strengths of FCPX (yes, perhaps, maybe even including the interface that everyone hates, having spent 72 hours or so with it…) may actually make it a better solution than CS5.5 or MC5. Maybe the new architecture, digital distribution model, etc will actually make it more responsive to new codecs that get developed (therefore making it even better for dealing with whatever footage walks through your door, as you say).

    Maybe. Or maybe not. Time will tell.

    It seems there has been a LOT of rush-to-judgement (as a result of the passion and emotion that editors have revolving around the tools with which they make their living) here, and the best judge will be time. There’s no question that Apple royally screwed up from at very least a PR perspective… time will tell whether they screwed up from a product perspective as well.

  2. In my opinion, it is not only a matter of things that are missing and could be implemented. There is a lot of small other things that are not well designed and make impossible to deal with complex edits with Final Cut X. I’ve been playing with it the last three days and trying to put together a couple of videos. I am not going through the major issues everybody is pointing at, but other silly/weird things going on.

    1. You can’t copy color corrections from one clip to another. There is no way to do so, except with copy-paste effects command. But there is no longer a window to select what you are copying. So all your video and audio effects, adjustments, opacity and even audio keyframes get copied into the new one. There is no workaround so far.

    2. You can’t change the order of effects or color corrections, and you can’t rename them either.

    3. You can’t invert masks in secondary color correction (!)

    4. Clips don’t retain In and Out points in the bin (the so called event). Select a range, go to other clip, and when you get back, selection is gone !!!!!! The only workaround is to assign a keyword to the clip (found out in a forum, no word on this in apple’s help). If you do so, then it will appear in another sort of sub-bin containing clips with that keyword, and it will retain In and Out. A keyword system is very powerful, but honestly, I can’t assign keywords to all the clips I have in a project, even if I can assign commands easily. I would rather create bins or events or folders or whatever and throw quickly whatever clips on it expecting to retain my In and Out range. Way faster to organize. Besides that, since that keywords remain in the system independently of the project, imagine the huge amount of keywords you will have in a year or so, that you will have to constantly remap into new commands. We are not organizing pictures here. Footage is normally related to one project or versions of the same project. I do not need to search with keywords my entire system. I can live with clips in folders.

    5. To get things worse, you can’t do subclips

    6. You can’t export anything other than the whole sequence. Go to the sequence, select a range, export it with current settings (there is not really much more options) and then it will export the whole sequence. From the beginning to the end. No way to keep out those clips you have in the end and didn’t use it. No way to send one clip to someone else. I mean, you can’t export a clip from the bin or from the timeline. All you can do is export the whole timeline. Only workaround is sending it to the new Compressor (which remains just as it was so far – and this one really needed a huge change) and set In and Out points there (!). I don’t get if this is a bug or if I am really missing something. You are literally trapped inside the program.

    7. With the new timeline, everything that is dropped out of the main and only track gets connected to whatever is in that main track at that time. You can change that point of connection but you can’t disconnect it from everything else. So if you happen to move, slip or slide the clip in the main track, the other moves with it, staying in sync with the point of connection. This is really annoying. But things get worse. You can’t connect in between the clips or audio tracks you have outside the main one. Each one connects independently to the main track. So if you happen to edit your piece of music making some cuts or mixes to make it shorter o larger or whatever or you have any effects that are related to the music, then you have to collapse them (in a non destructive way, being fair). Otherwise you will have a lot of connections over there and you can easily mess the whole thing while editing. Even when you collapse it, you still have to point a connection to the main track. So be careful and select something you are completely sure you are not moving, or change connection to do so. Strange behavior to say the least. I should have the ability to put something in a certain time at the timeline, and expect it not to move if I do not do so, completely independent of everything else (like the BG music, for example). Same for everything else like some logo or text staying the whole program. Of course, since there are not tracks, you can’t lock them, turn off, or export separately unless you select one by one and disable them.

    8. You have a sort of white balance thing called Color Balance. It didn’t work very well in my case but, anyway, the thing is, that once it is applied, you can’t tweak it. Whatever is done, you can’t access it. Like it or not, accept it or not, do some color correction after it if you like. All or nothing. Same with match color. If a feature like that has any utility is only in the case you can adjust what is done.

    9. In the new unified viewer, there is no longer a playhead or shuttle or in and out marks or anything. Only play, go to next and previous frame or edit. So to play or scrub through the timeline, you got to move the playhead in the timeline. And with the clips in the bin, you have to scrub the thumbnails! You can extend them as filmstrips to get more room, but…. The worse thing is you cannot use a playhead to do this, but a new horrendous tool called skimming that basically is something like if the playhead followed you whenever you move through the interface, resulting in a constantly awful dizzy scrubbing of everything I really hate. You also select your In and Outs in the thumbnail (!), but if you happen to click outside the selection when you try to drag it to the timeline, you will lose the range again. All this needs a rethinking, but not exactly from the users.

    10. Of course, there is no way to know the duration of any range you define, on a clip or the timeline. Well, you can always do maths.

    11. No way of inserting numeric values in most of the settings, you are limited to move sliders.

    12. The inspector, the audio enhancements, the color corrector, the effect stack, motion properties and a lot things more share the same little and fixed window. No way to expand it. You have to constantly cycle between them. Very bad design, I think

    13. Same in the timeline. you can’t make bigger manually the tracks. You got to go into a submenu and drag a slider. You also have to access to change constantly the format of clips to display video frames or decent audio waveforms.

    14. You can’t do more than a sequence per project, and you can’t modify settings of a sequence / project. No way to change it from 1080 to 720 or changing the codec or whatever.

    I could go on and on because I found a lot of things like that while I was editing. I am completely aware that some of them have workarounds to get the job done. And can be also that I am not figuring things right. But what I don’t get is the reason behind all this. Why on earth we should do things in a so different manner, especially those ones that where already fast and efficient.

    And of course I am giving it an opportunity, and I will eventually go back to it if matches my workflow in the future. In the meantime… I already switched to CS5 four or three months ago.

  3. Another thing that I do not like at all is that whenever I want to make a version or store a safe point of my edit, I have to duplicate it, since every project has only a sequence. So all the render files and peak files also duplicates in the hard drive. For my workflow this is nuts, since I do a lot of versions and also need to do different cuts in length or content. For doing backups it is also a nightmare and an incredible waste of space.

    Then if you want to jump to other sequence, you have to navigate through a fancy browser that shows a filmstrip of EVERY sequence you have in a given drive. You can’t even make room to see the project names if they are too long, but you get a fancy filmstrip of the whole edit that of course, takes a while to update.

    • The one thing you left off your extensive list is Trust. I simply don’t trust Apple with my livelihood at this time. This is not a consumer product, there are thousands (maybe millions) of people who make their living using this tool. Instead of adding to my already established workflow, Apple felt the time was right to completely disregard the tools we need to develop something they wanted. Something clearly modeled on their consumer application which would appeal to a much larger consumer market.

      Regardless of what their next steps are moving forward for the foreseeable future, we are moving on and the statement released today by Adobe is nothing short of the class that we expect from a company dedicated to our success as a creative company. Will I ever return to Apple? Never say never, but they will have to earn back my trust. Right now, they don’t have it.

  4. Hi Walter,

    I just want to commend you on your journey away from Apple and even more so for sharing it with us. You are 100% right about us being spoon fed how to edit, the apple way or the highway.

    I’ve been keeping a close eye on FCP for years, i could never justify the upg to FCP 7 from 6 and have been waiting in anticipation and whoaaaa, what a major disappointment.

    What annoys me about people spewing “baby and bathwater” etc is that they’re not seeing the bigger picture. Think about the time and money invested in nailing a video editing package, it doesn’t come over night and for a business what about the training and the likes of Final Cut Server and Xsan that have disappeared in to oblivion?

    My biggest gripe with FCP has always been the lack of realtime playback. When i came from a Premiere PC setup in 2005 to FCP on a G5 a crossfade was about the extent of RT and not much has changed. With premiere yo used to be able to press shift-enter and get some pretty heavy RT playback with premiere. Like many i was hoping for a face lifted version in V8, something that followed suite of the newer versions of Motion and Soundtrack, the slicker cocoa GUI’s.

    It would be great if you could touch on RT with one of your video blog entries. I know that you are an acceleration card user but it would be nice to see a native comparison.

    All the best

    • Well, I can tell you that the way Adobe Premiere works in terms of scaling and performance is much different than the way FCP works. You can get a lot more realtime just because the system runs essentially resolution independent. Of course as you start to pile on filters and effects that will slow the system down but I’ve yet to run into a situation where the video will not play back smoothly during editing.

      I will have some more video blogs this weekend and will definitely be sure to address a little of that. The next one I do will just show all the things I’m really REALLY liking in Premiere Pro. Will be old hat to PPro users but very cool to the FCP user making the switch.

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