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.

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.

8 Responses

  1. Thanks for the level-headed follow-up. I’ve been experimenting with FCPX for a bit now and have come to many of the same conclusions. I don’t really use the Project Library, only when I have to make XMLs. Sometimes you want to place something in an exact spot on the timeline. Etc. etc.

    I wonder, though, do you think that FCPX is faster than Premiere Pro CC? I would agree that it’s faster than FCP7, but I’m not convinced that it’s faster than PP. You can work with native files in PP and you don’t have to render, within reason. Plus, you have the ability to have multiple bins open so you have quicker access to your stuff right where you put it. I find in FCPX I’m always having to, well, browse through the browser to find what I’m looking for. And that costs me time. Also, the fair number of interface bugs cost me lots of time.

    I’ve done most everything this year in FCPX, but I’m going to switch over to the new PP for awhile and see how it goes. At least until we get a real update for FCPX.

    1. John – thanks for the response. I can’t really say if FCP X is faster or slower than Premiere at this point as I would need to cut the same project in both.

      I am very curious to cut a one-off project in it. I was very close to using Premiere CC on a recent project that was all XDCAM and I’d been told of some horror stories with that codec. It might work just fine, I just didn’t have time to chance it.

      Not having a “find in timeline” function in Premiere is a huge loss for me. As I’m sure you know, the timeline index in FCP X is nothing short of amazing. If you’ve properly tagged your footage, using the timeline index to color correct shots and do general maintenance is jaw dropping. Heck, I use it now to edit with, so I can see clip notes.

      Changing audio channel configurations in the inspector in FCP X is so easy. In Premiere, it can be destructive if you’re not careful.

      *If* Logic X is any key of where FCP X’s development is going, then I’m definitely on board. Again, time will tell as I have no crystal ball.

      It’s developments like that which keep me coming back to FCP X. I like editing smart. Sometimes I feel that Premiere is just trying too hard to be like FCP 8 (which to their credit, is what editors want!), but it’s not advancing – just playing catchup (which feels like it’s taking forever to get there). I find Premiere promises a lot, but it only delivers on 80% of the solution. It often feels like a 15 year old piece of software that, like Avid, has been upgraded and upgraded.

      That said, I’m always watching Premiere and doing little tests. I really want the CC to succeed and get better. Again, it’s 80% there for me – problem is, it’s been 80% there for me for about two years.

      1. Great to see a thoughtful post based on real-world experience. I read it from the perspective of a long-time FCP user who chose Premiere Pro over FCPX about a year and a half ago. One of my biggest gripes with FCPX was project management. I remember it being just as horrible as you said. I also really disliked the combination of the new save routine with a lack of support for multiple sequences. I like to version my sequences and project files in well organized ways with complete control over the iterations, especially if I’m working with other editors.

        I chose Premiere Pro (CS5.5 at the time) because it was the closest thing to FCP7. And with the release of CS6, I thought it was just a few steps away from being the FCP8 we had been hoping for. I still had a long list of gripes (catalogued here: Premiere Pro wish list) and waited patiently for the next upgrade, which turned out to be CC. I don’t mind the subscription and was very excited at first because they actually addressed a good number of my gripes, but I’m starting to get a little frustrated.

        I still think Premiere Pro is the best bet for professional editors who need to make a move from the sorely outdated FCP7, but you hit the nail on the head in your above comment. “80% there” sounds about right. I give them credit for trying to give us FCP8, but they now appear to be stuck slowly patching holes and tacking on half-baked, buggy new features. There’s a general lack of polish that seems to be the result of taking a program that had languished as a mediocre Windows-centric alternative for years and suddenly trying to ready it for prime time.

        Even though I continue to prefer a great many things about Premiere, FCPX is definitely heading in smarter direction with its modern keyword-based clip system.

        And that brings me to your post, because every time Premiere gets in the way of my organizing clips efficiently (or crashes, which is somewhat common), I find myself Googling FCPX reviews to see if any of my deal-breaker concerns have been addressed, and, frankly, to see what I’m missing out on in terms of innovation and speed. It would have been awesome if Apple had bridged the gap more with an FCP8, but the risk they took by completely starting over may end up being a significant advantage down the road.

  2. Hi Michael, you´re reight about the clunkiness of the project library and Apple needs to rework / rethink it. But in the meantime you could use a simple and yet effective workaround. I do all of my editing it Compound Clips created in the event. Easy to duplicate for versioning, easy to put in folders. ( If needed several at once! )

    You could even create an extra event just for your edits.

    Anything you can do in project can be done in a compound clip!

    And yes i also hope for user definable color schemes for roles and better visual organization of clips in the timeline.

    1. Thanks for your insights, Knut. Which do you prefer — editing in compounds in a separate event or inside the event that contains all your media? Any particular reason why you’d choose one over another?

      I’ve stayed away from editing inside compounds due to hearing negative stories on the Cow of events going corrupt. On a previous edit, I had issues moving compounds between events and the clips not moving along with them. That was when I decided to stick to the event library.

      1. Hi Michael, i prefer having one Event that contains all. Easier to back up and move around. I´ve edited five feature length Tv- movies and several episodes of a Tv-sereies with this concept. No problems so far.

        1. That would certainly make backing up and sharing events a lot easier. I’ll give it a try on my next project. I’m shooting a one-off mini documentary this weekend.

          How do you organize your events? Currently, I organize by adding 01_, 02_ before the name.

          Wish I could speak German so I could understand the shows you cut! 😉

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