Why Doesn’t the Final Cut Pro Timeline Scroll; and Other Imponderables?

Posted on by Larry

Every editor has their own list of features that they’d like Apple to implement. I’m no different. Over the years, I’ve been struck by five imponderable missing features in Final Cut that, try as I might, I can’t get Apple to explain why they don’t exist.

So, with extra time here in quarantine, I thought I’d share my questions.

1. Why doesn’t the Final Cut Pro timeline scroll?

The timeline scrolls in Avid Media Composer. It scrolls in Adobe Premiere Pro. It scrolls in Audition. It even scrolls in QuickTime Player. But it doesn’t scroll in Final Cut Pro.

This has been one of the most requested features from editors for the last seven years. I talk about it with Apple every year. They nod their heads. Then… nothing. Is a scrolling timeline REALLY that hard? CommandPost has implemented this, though it is somewhat unwieldy.

We shouldn’t need to take our hands off the mouse or keyboard simply to move the timeline to keep up with the playhead. There aren’t even any keyboard shortcuts that move the timeline left or right.

Not every editor is comfortable with the imprecision of a touch pad for editing.

2. Why can’t we roundtrip clips or projects between Final Cut and Logic for audio repair and mixing? Or, a corollary, why is there no high-end Apple-branded audio mixing software.

I’m reminded of Avid, where they wasted years unable to send projects between Pinnacle and Media Composer. Yes, we can move projects from Final Cut to ProTools or Adobe Audition, provided we use conversion utilities. But, really, is that the best that Apple can do? Why does any audio mixing need to go through a conversion utility?

SoundTrack Pro, though buggy, was a lovely first attempt at audio mixing software designed to support video editors. It died with Final Cut Pro 7. It reflected video timeline changes made in Final Cut, by changing the audio timeline in SoundTrack. Plus, there was an easy-to-use round-trip process.

When I mention this to Apple, they point out that we can do audio mixing directly in Final Cut. Which is true. But, when compared to the tools, flexibility and power in Audition or ProTools, mixing in Final Cut is like performing self-dentistry. It just isn’t worth the pain.

3. Why is there still no ability to transfer a Final Cut Pro 7 project into Final Cut Pro?

Currently, we CAN transfer a FCP 7 project to FCP provided we first export it to XML then convert it using Send2X, an outstanding utility from Intelligent Assistance. BUT…! That requires that you first export an XML file from FCP 7. There’s nothing that reads an FCP 7 project file directly.

If you, like most editors, had your head down in your project, rather than the trade press, you can be forgiven for not knowing that FCP 7 would stop working when upgrading the macOS. At which point, you were now locked out of all your past projects, with no way to go back.

I suspect that, when FCP X was released, Apple was thinking like an engineering company, not a media company. With developers, as soon as a new version of software is released, all work stops on earlier versions. The past is merely prologue to the new software to come.

Media creators, on the other hand, are ALWAYS repurposing past assets. Editing the same program for different distributors, markets, languages, audiences… Old films never die, they just keep getting re-cut. Media gets reused. It is SO hard to make money on films, producers will do everything they can to make the most of their existing assets for revenue.

Apple is the ONLY company that knows the structure of a Final Cut Pro 7 project file. These files are highly-proprietary which means that only Apple can read them. Even though it is long after FCP 7 was replaced, there are still a lot of important projects trapped in a file format that no one can access, because editors didn’t create an XML file back when they could still open Final Cut Pro 7.

4. Why is it so hard to successfully burn DVD and Blu-ray Discs?

DVD and Blu-ray Discs are major revenue centers for many smaller media creators. Yet, in addition to dropping support for DVD Studio Pro, Apple has been unable for almost two years to fix bugs that prevent Blu-ray Discs from burning successfully in FCP X or Compressor.

Apple is legendary for dropping older technology in support of “the latest thing.” While most of the time this means cables, connectors and protocols, when it comes to optical media, that directly affects how many media creators make money.

Apple has told me that the future of media is streaming and that makes sense because streaming has an essentially unlimited mass market. The reason apps in the Mac App Store cost only a few bucks is because the potential market is in the millions.

But if your business model is creating videos of weddings, dance recitals and graduations, where the total market is measured in a couple of dozen sales, streaming downloads don’t begin to recover production costs. As you know, people will pay far more for something they can hold in their hands, compared to something they download. In their search for the latest technology, Apple killed the business model for thousands of smaller media producers.

At the very least, Apple needs to fix the bugs that prevent Blu-ray Discs from burning in Final Cut.

5. Why does collaboration in Final Cut means schlepping library files around?

Avid Media Composer supports multiple editors working in the same project. Adobe Premiere supports teams, multiple editors working in the same project. DaVinci Resolve supports multiple editors working in the same project. Why can’t Final Cut Pro, which is essentially a media-oriented database, support multiple editors working in the same project?

Instead, we need to create media-free library files and send them between editors.

Developers regularly collaborate and share code bases using GitHub. Is it really that difficult to do the same thing with Final Cut projects?

For example, why can’t we duplicate a project and lock the original. Then, make changes to the new, duplicated project and run a “compare” function that compares the new project with the old, locked project. This comparison generates an XML file with the changes which we can then to another editor to automatically update their edit? Or, if the day ever comes when two editors can be in the office together, why can’t they both log into the same library or project and work together on the edit?

In today’s work-from-home, remote world, teamwork and collaboration are essential. Final Cut seems to consider collaboration an after-thought.

Oh! One More Thing…

Why are the video scopes in FCP still so useless? In what universe is the useful scale on a Waveform Monitor -20 to 120 IRE, when no signal ever exceeds -7 to 110 IRE? Why are the only graticule markers at 0, 25, 50, and 100? Why does the vectorscope only offer 100% and 133% gains, when every standard color chart needs a 266% gain for bars to hit targets?

The FCP Classic team had these things nailed from day one; did the FCP X team simply fire those folks?

None of these are technically “hard,” they just lack interest from Apple to get fixed.

= = =

Let me know what you think.


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35 Responses to Why Doesn’t the Final Cut Pro Timeline Scroll; and Other Imponderables?

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  1. Hugh Douglas-Pennant says:

    clearly the timeline scroll must be really hard to achieve or they would have made the change.

    I would also wonder why Mail & Contacts are separate applications and why Finder is so inflexible

    But the MacBook Air with M1 chip is ace

    • Clayton Moore says:

      For a company with a market cap of over 2 Trillion dollars the reason something like scrolling isn’t getting fixed is not because its hard trust me.

      grin and eye rolling ……….

  2. Peter Phillips says:

    You speak for me and (I’m sure) for thousands of editors. I still miss the effective functionality and user-friendliness of FCP7.

  3. Norman Pillsbury says:

    Why can’t we Option +Scrolll to Zoom in instead of Command +. Many programs do that.

  4. Max says:

    Couldn’t agree more with all your points as well as most of the responses here.

    I miss as well the Duplicate Media indicator that I could use in FCP7 and, for that matter, in all versions of Premiere Pro. Extremely helpful in documentary and interview projects.

    Thanks, Larry.

    • Larry says:

      Max:

      This exists, just using a different name. In the View menu, choose the Show Used Media option. This displays an orange bar in a clip thumbnail in the Browser for all clips used in the currently open timeline.

      Larry

  5. FastBill says:

    My two FCP “pet peeves”, one minor and one very annoying:

    (1) Minor: If I remember correctly, FC7 had shortcut keys to select everything on the timeline from the playhead to the end, or to the beginning, of the timeline. I miss those in FCP.

    (2) Annoying: I’m a touch typist, and my muscle memory is well-tuned to Apple’s standard shortcut keys for text entry and editing. In FCP, when I am editing text in a title or Search field some of these standard keys do what they do in every other Apple app. However, some do not; they perform an FCP action on my current project.

    For example: When editing a title in a multicam timeline, pressing Command+Shift+LeftArrow should select all text from the current cursor position to the beginning of the current line. Instead, it performs the action that FCP has assigned to that combination keystroke: Select Previous Video Angle. The same is true when I am entering text in a Search field in one of the browsers.

    Please, Apple: When a text field has input focus, interpret every keystroke as a text action, not an FCP action.

  6. All 5 points are spot on. Number 2 is my most wanted. “Self-dentistry” now that’s a great way to put it!

  7. John Taylor says:

    Considering the obvious utility of the missing features you mentioned, there are equivalent lapses of vision in other Apple apps like Photos and Music. It as though the software developers have tunnel vision or are too arrogant to think that the intended users might have specific needs that would enhance the apps. Adding advanced users on their software teams would likely catch obvious omissions early enough in development to include them.

  8. Phillip says:

    If they are not listening to you Larry, what makes us think they will listen to us? All your points are things that I’ve thought about and some that I have requested through FCP. They continue to call it Pro even though they still don’t have some of the Pro features of their past version (FCP7) that dominated the market.

  9. Steven says:

    “Developers regularly collaborate and share code bases using GitHub. Is it really that difficult to do the same thing with Final Cut projects?”

    Larry, Larry, Larry, I have to take you to task. How can you not know about or make reference to PostLab. Bought by Hedge video a year or so ago. I’ve been surprised about you missing out on that for over 2 years.

    PostLab does exactly what you describe, using the same technology as GitHub. It was their inspiration. Works with FCPX and Premiere Pro, others to be added.
    Keep the media files out of the library wherever you want. Relink them to start the project in FCP. Then an editor checks out a library from the Postlab servers. Other editors can open a read only copy.

    Just search on the name and you’ll find the link to the Hedge site.

  10. james Roberts says:

    I am a hobbyist and at the intermediate level, I think to make Apple address our concern, we should send a general warning to all not to buy any apple video editing suite until they address our concern, listing the queries above, it should be advertised in all video editing magazines.

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