An amazing week with FCP X!

What an amazing week with FCP X. A client came in on Monday with 14 hours of GoPro footage. We started at 10. Had the footage copied over by 10:30. Imported by 10:40. Keyworded by 11. And finally, a first cut of the :60 spot with some fx and color by 4:30.

On Tuesday, we made revisions of the cut in the AM and early afternoon. We then started in on a completely different :30 spot culled from the same footage. That was done by 6:30. Using roles, I was able to export multi-channel splits in the full-res prores.

It was very sad, but due to unforeseen issues, we had to transfer the project over to Avid for the east coast editor to work on! So, on Wednesday, I used Xto7 (which worked brilliantly) and then Automatic Ducked the timelines to Avid. That took until from 10 until 4:00. Such a bummer.

At 4:01, client rushed in needing a comp reel with over 250 effects shots to choose from… footage was all h264 at 960×560…. And I needed to leave by 7 at the latest. This was clearly a rush job and not meant for to be edited with precision. But that didn’t stop me. By 7, we had a fully exported cut with music. It was nerve-wracking, but the software didn’t fail me. In this scenario, no transcoding was the key to making things go insanely fast.

To top it off, last night, a business partner came over to my place with a drive of footage for a series of web spots that we shoot every month for Lamps Plus. I’ve been trying to get him over to FCP X from 7 for the past few months. Frankly, it’s a job that’s literally meant for X, especially because Slice X really comes in handy with the all-white backgrounds. While he was overwhelmed by the newness of things, he was amazed at how quick we got the first cut put together. He clearly saw the potential.

Sad as this may sound, my evening ended in bed with a portable thunderbolt drive and my Macbook Pro, logging interview footage for a mini documentary I shot two weekends ago. Luckily, my amazing fiancé, who is also an editor, was happy to watch the footage with me since this will be her first job cut in FCP X, too!

Admittedly, I couldn’t have cut the :60 and :30 GoPro in this amount of time without the producer’s fore-knowledge of the footage. But FCPX really came through on everything. No need to transcode and super-quick organization were the keys to making everything happen.

Role Playing Just Ain’t What It Used to Be

**Before reading this post, please note that there should be a fix coming out in a few days from Intelligent Assistance which will render most of these steps unnecessary. This is great news. I’m keeping this up in the event that you are in need of a fix for this issue today.

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In the last post, I mentioned some of the issues that I experienced using FCP X 10.0.8 and 10.0.9 on my most recent jobs. Here, I’ll expand on those issues and I will show you how I would deal with them when starting a new project (until a sufficient update in the software is made).

The good:

Using Roles in FCP X is an incredibly powerful way to tag different components of clips (audio or video, including separate channels) with a designation. Roles are the bridge between a trackless environment and a track(ful!) environment.

Working with Roles allows you to keep your timeline simple, while providing you with powerful flexibility for outputting different kinds of masters.

For example, if you want to export a Textless Master, then you simply need to tag those clips with the Titles Role. When you export a master file, you can choose which roles (video or audio) you wish to turn off (or leave on). In this paradigm, you no longer need multiple timelines for your Texted and Textless Masters. This is amazing!

The same can be said for audio. You now have the power to export the best and most detailed AAFs of any NLE. And in doing so, the timeline never stops looking like the magnetic timeline. It’s all “under the hood.”

As FCP X continues to develop, I hope that we’ll continue to see Roles (or something like them) become a more developed and integrated part of its workflow.

The part that means “more work for you”:

After this last job, I feel that it’s necessary that you add the proper role to every clip upon import. If you import a PSD file with text, make sure it has a “title” role. Another PSD file that doesn’t have text and could end up in the Texted Master could get a “Graphics” role. If you import SFX from the Finder, make sure it has an SFX role. If you import video with attached audio, make sure to designate whether the audio is NAT-SOT or Interview (Dialogue). If you get multi-channel audio, then I recommend each channel get its own Subrole.

The possibilities are immense and this now also requires determining in advance how you wish to tackle your role-tagging strategy. This is much the same way as how you would establish your system for keywording clips before you start to edit.

Here’s a good analogy to explain it. If keywords are to organized editing, then roles are to organized deliverables.

It’s very important that this be worked out in advance of editing since role-tagging is a one-way street. Make the changes in the event browser and they will not show up in your project timeline. Make the changes in the timeline and they will not show up in the event browser. This is probably a good thing as you might have a clip that can be delivered in a multitude of ways in different timelines.

The end-game here is that you put a little prep time in and then you won’t need to do as much work when exporting your project for delivery.

This is part that makes “The Good” quite a bit more difficult to achieve and adds “way more work for you”:

These are the bugs and lacking features that currently make working with subroles and multi-channel audio clips difficult.

  1. FCP X does not always properly express multi-channel audio as multi-mono channels. It assumes the files are interleaved stereo… even if you change it in the inspector to multi-mono.
  2. There is no way to tag subroles in the event browser, only in a project.
  3. Editing with lots of multi-channel clips in the timeline can cause excruciating slowdowns and stalls.

The ultimate goal…

Is to turn this disorganized AAF for your sound mixer: Unorganized Audio Into this (the most awesome AAF ever):Organized AudioUnfortunately, you are going to need to edit FCPXML to do it.

Preflight Checklist:

  • I recommend using TextMate or Coda for editing the FCPXML. You can also use TextEdit.

  • If your files are timecoded, I recommend Sync-N-Link X  to sync up timecoded WAV files and picture.

  • You will need X2Pro to export an AAF. I’ve had no luck importing FCPXML into Logic at this time. The good news is that X2Pro works very, very well.

Ready to get your hands dirty?

1. Create a new event and import your multitrack audio and the video that you will be using to sync together. Since this is a shared project, I have chosen to leave Copy Files to Final Cut Events folder unchecked.New EventNEW - VID AND AUDIO - DON'T COPY2. In this scenario, I have imported 8-channel audio. Notice that FCP sees it as 4 Stereo.

4 Stereo not 8 Mono

2b. Please note that the clip is actually 8 Mono Channels, as seen here in Wave Agent. Also note that the sound recordist diligently and correctly logged the channels in the bottom right.Wave Agent

3. Change the channel designation of all the clips to 8 Mono (or 2, 4, or 16, based on your WAV files).

NEW - VIDEO AND AUDIO FOR EXPORT TO XML

4. You don’t have to do this step. But just to show you that there is a bug here, right click on the audio clip and select “Open in Timeline.” Note that there are 4 stereo channels, not 8 Mono.
Open in TimelineNote Stereo Tracks

4. Export an FCPXML. Since I’ve been doing so much with XML lately, I set up CMD-OPT-E to export XML and CMD-OPT-I to import XML in the keyboard editor.Export XML

5. Open the file in your code/text editor of choice.

6. Find the lines of code that refer to your audio clips. They start with “</clip name=…”Original Code

Even though you set the file to 8 Mono channels in FCP X, the code here continues to show them as 4 Stereo, but with 8 channels in some sort of strange 5.1 + 2X audio configuration. We are going to fix that now.

8. You will need to edit the code manually. This can be dangerous, so proceed with caution. I must stress that I have not taken a job from import through final mix using this procedure. All my tests show that this works, but I cannot be held responsible for any unforeseen issues. Last, if you want to add subroles to the clip’s channels, read step 9 before proceeding with step 8.

Here’s my edited code for this particular clip. You will need to make yours reflect your clips. THIS DOES NOT INVOLVE JUST COPYING AND PASTING. Although that can be part of it. It takes about 15-20 seconds per clip once you get going. Just remember, any mistakes in formatting or, well, anythingwill cause the XML to not import into FCP X:

<clip name=”FR8802== 307 t 1==PN” duration=”10020830/48000s” start=”1887517632/48000s” format=”r1″ tcFormat=”NDF”>

<audio offset=”1887517632/48000s” ref=”r16″ duration=”10020830/48000s” start=”1887517632/48000s” role=”dialogue” srcCh=”1″>

<audio lane=”-2″ offset=”1887517632/48000s” ref=”r16″ duration=”10020830/48000s” start=”1887517632/48000s” role=”dialogue” srcCh=”2″/>

<audio lane=”-3″ offset=”1887517632/48000s” ref=”r16″ duration=”10020830/48000s” start=”1887517632/48000s” role=”dialogue” srcCh=”3″/>

<audio lane=”-4″ offset=”1887517632/48000s” ref=”r16″ duration=”10020830/48000s” start=”1887517632/48000s” role=”dialogue” srcCh=”4″/>

<audio lane=”-5″ offset=”1887517632/48000s” ref=”r16″ duration=”10020830/48000s” start=”1887517632/48000s” role=”dialogue” srcCh=”5″/>

<audio lane=”-6″ offset=”1887517632/48000s” ref=”r16″ duration=”10020830/48000s” start=”1887517632/48000s” role=”dialogue” srcCh=”6″/>

<audio lane=”-7″ offset=”1887517632/48000s” ref=”r16″ duration=”10020830/48000s” start=”1887517632/48000s” role=”dialogue” srcCh=”7″/>

<audio lane=”-8″ offset=”1887517632/48000s” ref=”r16″ duration=”10020830/48000s” start=”1887517632/48000s” role=”dialogue” srcCh=”8″/>

</audio>

Now rinse and repeat. You must do this for every clip. For the sake of this article, I’ll only be doing this for Scene 307, Takes 1-5.

10. If you want to add a subrole tag based on a type of mic (lav, boom) or a character name because your sound files don’t have the channel metadata embedded, you can change the role name in the XML at this stage. I recommend making the subroles based on the primary Dialogue role. To do this, add a period between the word “dialogue” and “your_subrole.” For example, you would change the role heading to “dialogue.lav” or “dialogue.john” etc…

I will not be doing this since my clips were logged by the sound recordist. Sync-N-Link can read this data.Explaining Subroles

11. Save the file. Go back to FCP X. For this step, you should definitely uncheck “Copy Files to Final Cut Events Folder.”

12. Import the FCPXML. This is ONLY to check the file. Do not re-export an FCPXML from this event. You are going to delete this. Import XML ONLY TO CHECK INTEGRITY

12a. Go through all your clips to make sure they are seen as 8 Mono and that they have the proper channel names. If you open the clips up in their own timeline, you should see 8 channels. If everything checks out, then DELETE the event. You don’t need it. RE-IMPORT ONLY TO CHECK - DO NOT RE-EXPORT XMLCorrectly displaying 8 channels

13. Open Sync-N-Link. Assuming your WAV file has the proper channel designation, I highly recommend turning on “Use Track Names from audio for Subrole Names” and “Use Subrole Names for audio component names” to set the track names and subrole names. Note that S&L sees the file with the proper 8 channels. If you had imported the original FCPXML, then it would only see 4 channels because that’s how the code designated the file. This is why we edited the FCPXML earlier.SYNC-N-LINK X with Audio Dailies 052113

14. Click “Sync Clips…” Let Sync-N-Link do it’s thang. It should now “automagically” import the new synced event back in to FCPX. Your clips are now properly synced.

15. Create a new project and open the timeline.

Create new project to test roles

16. Add one of the synced clips to the timeline. Now expand the clip components (cmd-opt-s). In the inspector, go to the info tab and make sure you are in the General View. For every clip component you select, the role will change to reflect the subrole. In this case, “Landon” is selected.Checking Landon Role17. Another way to double-check that this worked is to open the Timeline Index (cmd-f or cmd-shift-2). Click on the Roles tab. Expand the Dialogue role by double clicking on it or hovering until the word “show” appears. The channels that have the subrole tagged on them will highlight when you click on them in the Timeline Index.Another Way to check roles in Timeline Index18. You have the choice to add scene metadata and rename your synced clips. Since I’m creating multiclips, It’s imperative that I do this, now. For this job, I renamed them based on JobName_CameraAngle_Scene_Take.Adding scene and take metadataRenaming clipsRenamed Clips

19. Select the clips, right click and create a new multiclip. If the timecode all matches, you could probably turn off “Use audio for synchronization.” Again, it’s up to you. Trial and error.Create MulticlipFinished multiclip

20. While the clips inside the multiclip have the correct channel names and subrole tags, sometimes the multiclip, itself, loses that info. Thankfully, it’s easy to get back.Sometimes channels are not correct in multiclip

21. Select the multiclip. In the audio tab in the inspector, select the channel configuration info and then select “reset.” That should bring it back.Select Reset on Multiclip AudioCorrect Multiclip Audio Channels

Great! We’re done! Let’s start logging and editing!

Oh wait, there’s still the issue of that other bug — remember Issue C from the top of the post? 

Unfortunately, there’s no way to squash that one, but you can put on some bug spray to avoid it. It’s simple, but annoying.

1. DO NOT DO THE FOLLOWING.  Do not expand components and turn off unused channels with the V key. This could cause your timeline to come to a screeching halt. DO NOT EDIT AUDIO THIS WAY

2. Only use the inspector to turn off/on audio components. While editing in the timeline, make sure that every time you add a clip you turn off all irrelevant channels using the inspector. The more and more channels you place into a timeline, the slower it will get. Keeping 2 channels-per-clip active is a good start.Correct way to choose channelsCorrect timeline audio component editing

3. On my last job, I was editing with a ton of multiclips with a mix of 5D and Alexa footage. I also believe the 5D footage was also causing major slowdowns and stalls, so I had to remove them from the multiclips. Another unfortunate bug.

Ok! That’s all for this insanely long post. Have a happy edit. Hope this works for you (and me!)

It’s nice to be quoted!

Philip Hodgetts wrote a blog post condensing people’s comments about the speed of FCP X. My quote is toward the bottom. Nice to be amongst a group of editors that I highly respect. http://www.philiphodgetts.com/2013/08/final-cut-pro-x-is-faster/

I wanted to take the time to expand on my quote. I’ll concede that, yes, it’s faster* (*with caveats). Below you’ll see what some of those issues are.

I recently cut a series of commercials for Animal Planet on it. It was a great experience (and I hope to share those spots and workflow with you all one day if I can get permission), but I had major slowdowns in the timeline that almost caused me to have to move over to another NLE. Luckily, I figured those issues out and we were able to get the first cuts out in time.

The quick summary on the fix is that FCP X is still in early days and, while it supports many workflows, it seems that Apple has not tested every possible workflow combination. So, my best recommendation when using FCP X is to try not to push it too hard or work “smarter” than the App. I’ll repeat what I said before:  It is still early days for FCP X.

It took seven days to import, log, and edit the first versions of all six spots. I was editing from Alexa footage (about 1100 clips total) and had to do a lot of organization in FCP X. They also shot multicam on all the dialog takes. If I had not experienced those near-show-stopping timeline slowdowns, I believe I could have edited the spots in about 5 days.

I used Philip and Greg’s Sync-N-Link X to quickly and painlessly sync all the timecoded BWFs to the picture. They’ve written a great program, but I had a couple of issues. Batch renaming clips and revealing them in the finder once those clips had been reimported through Sync-N-Link was problematic. My understanding is that this is a current limitation of FCP X and not an issue with Sync-N-Link X. If Apple could fix those issues then I’d have no problem continuing to use Sync-N-Link X since it synced perfectly every time.

I find the event library/browser to be ok, but, again, early development days. I hope for lots more work there. Skimming and keywording are two of the the main reason why you want to use FCP X.

On the other hand, the project library absolutely needs to be rewritten. I can’t stress this enough – it is horrible. It’s beyond painful to organize projects. You can’t select multiple projects and move them into folders. Project names are truncated and you have to look at them in the inspector to see the full name (sometimes you have to hover over a name and wait a few seconds to see it pop up). There are issues dragging events up the chain so you can throw them in folders that are off-screen. There’s a ton of wasted space there. It’s probably the one feature in X that I have to say is really not well thought out. Apple, please completely revise the project library. Currently, it is terrible.

On a more positive note, once you get moving in X and get your cuts built, I find making revisions to be a breeze. Its strength shows when you are sitting with a client. It’s very hands on and tactile. I think that producer/directors really dig that.

I currently don’t recommend it for a truly shared environment. Yes, it can be done, but I wouldn’t cut an effects-heavy feature with tons of editors checking in and out footage or timelines (yet).

Visually organizing clips in the timeline is a pain. On that same note there needs to be a way to choose where, hierarchically, a connected clip is inserted into the timeline.  I hope for some sort of development in this arena in a future upgrade to X. There’s a long thread over at the Cow about the magnetic timeline where a few people (ok, me) are requesting some sort of clear hierarchical organization. You can find that here.

I hope for that to be sorted out this year, but who really knows what will happen. If truly shared events/projects is not implemented, I fear FCP X will continue to be used only in very few boutiques and amongst individuals/students. There will continue to be a fervent fan-base, but it won’t be looked at by the “big boys” until that time.

Please don’t take this article as my means for berating young FCP X. Rather, this is my clinical analysis based on now having logged thousands of hours (yes, thousands!) in the software. I do recommend it, you just have to remember…

It’s still early days.

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