Final Cut Pro X, a photographers first look

Well ok, as mentioned yesterday I “was” pretty excited about the new Final Cut Pro X.
And rest assure I’m still very excited about it.
This is in no way a review of any kind, but merely a first look for me as a photographer with some experience with both Final cut Pro and iMovie.
Do please read this as a FIRST LOOK, simply put some things I might write down are simply things I maybe do wrong or don’t understand yet, so feel absolutely free to add to this blog post.

The work area
At first glance it looks like a mix between iMovie and Final cut Pro.
Everything is easy to find and most of the actions don’t need any rocket science to figure out what they do, and if you’re in doubt there’s always the popups (yellow boxes) that will explain the function in short. Working with events was something I really had to get used to in iMovie and it took me some time before I was starting to like this approach. In Final cut Pro X you have a similar approach.

The main work area is also a mix between Final cut Pro and iMovie although I feel it looks more like iMovie.
One thing I don’t like that much is that you can’t get 2 viewers, I always loved to have the small viewer on my main monitor and a bigger viewer on the large LCD that is placed higher, now it’s best I think to edit with the small viewer and when previewing placing the big viewer on the second monitor, and let’s be honest it’s just one click, but it would be a cool addition to have two viewers.

Working in Final cut Pro X is more like working in a totally new program, I recognize some things from iMovie but also from Final cut Pro, so here it truly is a real mix of the best of both. Yeah you read that correctly best of both. I just love the drag and play option (scrubbing) with audio, the magnetic time line is awesome, and what is even better is that you can see the clips were you cut them, meaning you don’t loose it after or before the cut but you can see what has been cut. This makes it really easy to make some adjustments really fast.

The magnetic storyline is something I’m still not 100% sure off, but I think I love it and would not disable it (which is possible).

Importing files and getting tips for audio, color, stabilizing plus making “folders” with different keywords is of course a big time saver. Combine this with auditions and you can have a very powerful combi.

Real time
Actually I was not planning on writing a review or even this blog post. I strongly believe that this should be done by the pro’s, but when I started to play with the effects and color adjustments I just knew I had to write something. As a photographer I just never had the feel for working on “non graded” material (I hope I don’t miss use this term), or in other words, I work much easier when I have the “look” of the material in front of me, and when working in Final cut Pro or iMovie that was never the way I worked best, when I wanted a look it took some time to render and when I looked the clips back it was often great on the frames I edited but awful on others, so undo and back to the rendering time…… in other words loosing a lot of time.

Not anymore with Final cut Pro X, the effects are done “REAL TIME” and this is for me a game-changer. I know some video editors will read this and think “he’s crazy” but do remember that I often have a certain look and feel in mind and when working on stills I can get this very quickly and finish the image, with video I always found it tricky to add “the look” in the end of the process and predict if it would look good on all frames. With Final cut Pro X it’s no problem if something goes wrong, just change the effect on the fly.

Same goes for color matching, a split screen is possible to match colors.
Ok, it’s not a spectrum analyzer, or a professional solution but for me as a photographer this makes it much easier to mix and match several videos with each other, I know it’s much less accurate than doing it the “professional” way, but hey as a photographer I want to spend more time shooting and less time behind the computer and I can always let someone else correct the “raw” edit to perfection. When I do a videoclip or video I will always do a RAW edit myself that has to look ok and as good as possible, after this I will hand the project to someone else and he/she will do the real edit…. well at least this is how it went for the projects I did so far, and as mentioned before I’m just starting with videoclips.

Loads of effects, backgrounds, transitions etc.
For me iMovie was great because it was so easy to quickly add some text in overlay, add a nice transition, add a background and quickly arrange some images in a slideshow (although I hate the KB effect, sorry), with Final cut Pro this was always, although possible, much more work for me and more “voodoo” in some cases. Final cut Pro X hits the mark for me, much more settings than iMovie which, let’s be honest is a bit simple, but still very understandable and quick to master. You can also add effects over the several tracks (which cannot be called tracks anymore but story lines). The thing that first bothered me was that I could not add a cross dissolve from my “track 1” to “track 2” it took me some time to figure out I had to make story lines of both “tracks” and now you can add the transitions from one track to another making the editing a lot easier for me. I think however that my workflow maybe is different from what they had in mind, so any tips on this would be welcome, I think I’m missing something because why wouldn’t they make everything story lines so you can use effects and transitions over all “tracks”.

One of the things I also like, but have to look for the quality with some good material, is the speed control, you would be able to make some great slow motions or speed ups with a very easy click and done system. What I’ve seen so far with some test clips it worked very easy (even creating a ramp) and the quality was better that what I got from Final cut Pro. But I have to say I never really used 3rd party plugins for this.

Compressor and motion
I didn’t have time yet to play with motion but it looks like a modern version (look) of the old motion with a lot of the old backgrounds, generators etc. Will have to start working with that to be sure.

Compressor looks odd, Motion and Final cut Pro X got a shiny new interface (which I love), compressor had me wondering if I indeed was running the new version, it looks like the old compressor. What I did find out is that the send to compressor somehow is not working as it supposed to work, or I’m doing something wrong. I rendered a videoclip of less than 10 minutes yesterday and it took compressor about 3 hours to complete it for youtube. I did the same this morning and it finished in about 20 minutes. The difference was that this morning I first exported it from Final cut Pro X to Quicktime proress 422 HQ and dragged that file into compressor, that did the trick and rendering was speeded up incredibly. Someone who can shed a light on that ?

More to come
Video is more and more important for me so I will start using Final cut Pro X more and more.
In a few weeks we will be filming a new videoclip which will be the first time I really start using it on a bigger project, in between I will try to experiment a bit with some backstage videos and let you know how my experience is with it in action.

Remember that this is not meant as a review, I’m no pro video guy.
I just want to share my first opinion on the new Final cut Pro and I think if you want to show 10% of the options I would need more pages than I’m wiling to write in a month 😀 If you’re a photographer and struggling with Final cut Pro but do love it, but also love iMovie but don’t like it because it’s too simple…. make sure to check out Final cut Pro X it could be 100% what you need.

a quote from a forum reaction I did
after some testing and watching and reading tutorials and of course reading the fora I do understand some of the pro guys being worried and disappointed, however I also think the reactions are way too strong, and I think that within a few weeks some may be different, what some do forget however is that there is a load of video guys out there that really don’t need to export to tape, XML etc. But that do love the speed increase and the instant features of FCPx. On LL I responded to a thread and wanted to share that one here because it does say what I think about FCPx compared to iMovie and I did not want to type it all over 😉

I’m no pro video guy but I will give my opinion 😉

I’ve used FCP and iMovie for the last 2 years.
We shoot mainly backstage videos and instructional videos.
Working with FCP is most of the time just a huge overkill and slows me down, while working with iMovie was much faster but frustrating because I missed many editing options I did have with FCP.

Recently we picked up video more and are moving into the realm of videoclips, this is for me best done in FCP and with the multicam option that rocks and works very fast, but than we have the problem of the continues need to render, assign a look and wait, nah not ok, wait again, give it a new look, wait again. It sucks the time out of a day.

Enter FCPx, looks on the fly, color matching between clips is a simple and fast, magnetic timeline is a cool feature, keeping audio in sync. Compound clips is a nice feature to keep me from getting overwhelmed with my timeline (again I don’t work on video every day).

Actually if they add multicam for me FCPx is done and I welcome every addition after that.

When I read the comments I do understand them, but most are done by the guys that need stuff like exporting to tape or XML etc. What some don’t realize is that there is a HUGE market of DSLR and video shooters out there that don’t need it and will stay within FCPx and will even than probably never need anything else.

My prediction is indeed that this is a version 1.
Apple will probably release a paid upgrade for multi cam, making it only “costly” for people needing it.
Apple will release an export option, add support for external monitors etc.

When I look at the massive rewrite I really don’t understand the opinions that it’s iMovie 2.
I wonder if those people ever really worked with iMovie.
The difference between iMovie on my iPad and my Mac is smaller than the difference between FCPx and iMovie 😉 it does look like iMovie in some cases, it has the good features from iMovie but it goes so much further that it’s indeed a new app for me with a lot from FCP and some from iMovie.

The fact it it imports iMovie timelines is I think because the structure from IMovie is much simpler than from FCP and I’m sure apple will also come with an option for FCP import, because I also have some projects in FCP of course.

I’m now using FCPX and still have FCP on my Mac for everything that X does not do, but after two days of testing and playing with it I think I will only use FCP for some quick multicam stuff. I will work the videos in x and export them as QuickTime to import as multiclips in FCP and do the mutlicam, and later insert them in x again. Yes it would be great to do it straight from x but the speed increase x gives me is just too good to pass, and seeing what I do with color/looks and matching clips is just great.

4 replies
  1. Damir Tursic
    Damir Tursic says:

    The App-store has allot of bad reviews, mostly because it’s something like ‘imovie pro’ instead of final cut pro. What is your thought about this? It is more user friendly, which is a big + for people that don’t do movie editing for a living, but i’m not sure if a real pro would trade his fcp7 in for this..

    • Frank Doorhof
      Frank Doorhof says:

      As I mentioned in the review I really don’t think iMovie pro is correct, and Final cut Pro is also not correct. On the other hand you could also say the Final cut Pro is iMovie pro or iMovie is Final cut Pro light.nnFor me Final cut Pro was awesome for videoclips, love using it but I work much faster in iMovie for most of my other work. And my interns don’t have a clue about Final cut Pro. For what we do it would be great to have something in between and Final cut ProX delivers that with a new friendly interface, good import options (keywording and selecting), real time effects (BIG DEAL) etc.nnHowever the missing Multicam is a deal breaker for me, but still I bought it. At the moment I’m convinced they will add a multicam option, if they don’t I will change to Adobe in a heartbeat, but I hope not because everything elso I love in Final cut Prox.nnI also think loads of people are way too fast with their negative reviews, how can you determine in 1 day (some in a few hours) that it sucks and is a joke….. of course loads of options are missing like exporting to XML or tape, but this is a small market and Final cut Pro still runs the last time I checked.nnI think Apple would have been wise if they would have called it something like Visual producer pro and market it between the legacy FCP and iMovie, I think the whole “feel/vibe” would have been totally different than and maybe some pros would have even switched to FCPx. Now they are calling their V1.0 software the same as their older and much loved software package. And I think that’s why you read so much negative things.nnI’ve played with it for some hours now and I’m in NO WAY a Hollywood producer or a pro filmer, but I think I am one of the millions people that love iMovie but find it lacking and is willing to learn Final cut Pro and invest in it but feels I’m paying a lot of money for things I never use.nnMy idea is that Apple will start releasing addons which you can buy or leave out.nFor example a multicam addon, an export to XML addon.nMaybe if you buy the all you are paying 1500.00 for the package, but if you don’t want to buy it you can still use it.nnAnd let’s be honest, the standard version as it is now is awesome for people who shoot their home videos, interviews, documentaries etc.

  2. moshe
    moshe says:

    I saw you never checked out Motion, and I must say be glad you didn’t. I purchased it via the (cr)appstore, just to find out that besides the numorous crashes I got. It beats me why choose for a new interface, so it’s almost required to take new courses just to get to work with the fundamental components within the app. Just cause of that I’d pass on FCP x as long as possible.

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