Full Details: Apple Updates Final Cut Pro X

[Updated Sept. 21 with a few extra details and the link to the free trial.]
[Updated with a link for the QuickTime update.]
[Updated with more information on Roles, and clarification on Davinci and AutoDesk.]
[Updated with clarification on XSAN.]

About two hours after Apple updated Final Cut Pro X to version 10.0.1, earlier today, I was in a meeting with key Apple product marketing folks to discuss the new features. Let me share with you what I learned.

UPDATE ACCESS
Unlike past versions of Final Cut, upgrades are only available through the App Store. In fact, if you look closely at the App Store icon in the Dock, you’ll see a small badge appear, indicating that an upgrade is available for FCP; or any other application that you purchased through the App Store.

(By the way, a benefit to upgrading to Lion is that upgrades only download the differences between the old and new software versions, which significantly reduce the download time. I’m still on Snow Leopard, so my download is, um, continuing. Some people are reporting problems with the update. I downloaded mine with no difficulty, however, if you have troubles wait a day and try again. Otherwise, the workaround is to remove FCP X from the Applications folder, then redownload from the App Store. Or contact Apple Support.)

FREE TRIAL
Also, for the first time that I can recall, Apple is offering a free 30-day trial for Final Cut. The 30-day period starts when you launch the program, so you can download today, yet not work with it till the weekend without costing yourself time on the demo.

Here’s the link: http://www.apple.com/finalcutpro/trial/

Apple also updated QuickTime with new codecs. Get more information here:
http://support.apple.com/kb/DL1396

APPLE’S KEY POINTS
As our meeting began, I asked what were the key points Apple wanted to convey with this upgrade. The answers were instantaneous:

1. Apple is committed to the professional user.
2. Apple is listening to user feedback and adding major new features far faster than they could do in the past.

I remarked that a release labeled: “10.0.1” was hardly a new feature release. At which point, our discussion began.

VERSION NUMBERING
The new version is numbered 10.0.1 – which, given the past numbering system Final Cut used, implies this is only a minor bug-fix.

However, Apple has moved FCP X to the same numbering system that OS X uses. Using that example, the current version of OS X is 10.7.1, which we commonly call “7.1”. Using the same convention, the upgrade moved FCP X to version 0.1. In other words, Apple views this as a significant product enhancement.

HIGHLIGHTS

You've probably read the highlights on Apple's webpage (by the way, Apple also refreshed the FCP webpage with this update): http://www.apple.com/finalcutpro/software-update.html

* Media Stems Export
* XML Import and Export
* XSAN network support
* Customized timecode by project

…and others. Let me go into detail.

XSAN (NETWORK) SUPPORT

XSAN is bundled with Lion (a small fact that I forgot). However, these network features should work with any network file server provided the data transfer rate is fast enough from the server to the local computer to support media file transfers, and the server supports user permissions and record-locking, which OS X Server does.

Shared media on a server has always been supported by FCP X. However, Project and Event folders needed to be stored locally.

Now, media, Projects, and Events can all be stored on a server. Media can be accessed by multiple users at the same time, however Project and Event folders can only be accessed by one person at a time. In other words, multiple editors can now access the same project, however only one editor can be in the Project at the same time. FCP X provides a simple menu choice allowing editors to move Events and Projects into, or out of, the app as necessary.

(As a network bandwidth thought, render files are stored in the Project folder. You might want to consider putting Events on the Server and storing Projects locally to minimize network traffic. Just a thought…)

XML IMPORT AND EXPORT

The core of Final Cut Pro is metadata and XML is the language of interchange of this metadata from one application to another. From XML we can get EDLs, OMFs, and all the other acronyms that we need. However, the first step is XML. The new version supports both XML import and export. While this feature will be used primarily by developers, the benefits of this feature will be used by all of us.

At our meeting, I was shown an XML export of an FCP X project directly into a pre-release version of Blackmagic Design’s DaVinci Lite! This replicates the ability to send a project to Color, with fewer restrictions and faster export. The Apple representatives told me that all the DaVinci Resolve line would support XML transfers from FCP X. (This is a correction, as I earlier wrote that this would be supported by the entire Davinci family.)

This is great news for anyone looking to do serious color grading of their FCP projects.

Another use of XML involved CatDV. Again, Apple showed a collection of media stored and cataloged in CatDV, a great media asset manager for the Mac. We built a short rough-cut, using clips stored in CatDV then, with a single AppleEvent keyboard shortcut which activated an Apple Event — Shift+Command+X — the entire rough cut was sent to FCP X, along with all the media and project data. The whole XML transfer process took about two seconds from pressing the button to seeing the new Event with media and the Project opened in the Timeline. This was very impressive.

Two other programs that use XML transfer were mentioned:

AutoDesk Smoke. Apple demoed an FCP X export to Autodesk Smoke. UPDATE: However, Apple told me that they are working with Autodesk and collaborating to support XML based workflows for FCP X. It is not supported just yet.

Atomos, I was told, is also launching an export utility for their file-based digital recorders that transfers ProRes files and metadata directly into FCP X. In fact, more than 20 companies are in the process of announcing new utilities or programs to work with the new version. (As we realized at the launch, XML import and export is the critical first step to unlocking the flow of third-party applications.)

AUDIO ROLES AND MEDIA STEMS

We spent a long time talking about Roles and Media Stems. Roles are a new metadata category that allow you to assign “roles” to clips. The most obvious is tagging audio for export to mixing, but the benefits are deeper than that.

FCP X is trackless. This means that the “age-old” method of putting the same audio in the same track so that you can mix all your dialog separately from your effects won’t work.

Instead, we assign Roles, which is a special metadata tag similar to a keyword. Some Roles are assigned on import. FCP looks at the file and attempts to determine if it is dialog, effects, or music. (If it guesses right, you save time. If it guesses wrong, you can easily change it.) You can create an unlimited number of new Roles.

Roles can apply to video, titles, or audio. There are three default audio Roles: Dialog, Effects, and Music. All have keyboard shortcuts and you can add as many as you want. You can even add “subroles” — roles related to other roles.

You can also apply Roles to titles – say to flag all English titles or Spanish titles.

When you export, you can export all audio that is flagged with a specific Role. You can export just music clips, or dialog, or effects.

But, Roles can be a real benefit in the Project, separate from exporting. You can solo all clips that belong to a specific role. For example, you can just listen to all dialog clips.

You can highlight all clips that belong to a specific Role – for instance, display all sound effects clips.

You can make invisible all clips in any combination of Roles. This is the equivalent of turning off the green Visibility light at the left side of the FCP 7 Timeline. This is VERY cool, because now, you can hide or reveal any combination of clips that all have the same Role assigned to it.

When it comes to exporting audio, using Roles we can export all our different audio stems, for example dialog, in a single pass. Or, for multiple-language video, Roles makes exporting video in different languages simple. Turn on all the English titles and export. Then, turn on all the Spanish titles and export again. I can see all kinds of ways to use Roles in editing.

UPDATE: For moving projects to ProTools, use Automatic Duck. According to Apple, the stems are really for delivery of final mixes either as a digital delivery or output to tape using a third party app like the upcoming Media Express or VTRxchange. The Roles info is in the XML so a third party could use the metadata for a wide range of workflows.

Apple took Roles far further than simply flagging clips for export into something that can help make sense of a complex timeline.

EXPORTING
Apple added an entirely new export option to allow exporting Roles. In fact, the process of exporting a QuickTime movie is now faster – if you are working with optimized media FCP just does a simple file copy of the ProRes in the Project to the ProRes of the export. Also, you can export a master QuickTime file and have it automatically loaded into Compressor, while still retaining the master file.

Then, both Blackmagic Design and AJA have announced products that will take the exported file and output it to tape.

OTHER NEW FEATURES

We can now change the starting timecode in a Project. Timecode is set in Project Properties.

We can now add transitions to connected clips with a single keystroke. What this does is both add the transition and converts the connected clip into a connected storyline. (We still can’t add an audio transition to audio in the Primary Storyline without detaching clips, however.)

A new Theme — Tribute — was added.

If you have Lion, FCP X now supports editing in full-screen mode. However, there are no other Lion-specific features in FCP X, so if you are still running OS X 10.6, you aren’t missing anything else in Final Cut.

Exports are now GPU accelerated. In the initial version, exports ran in the background, and they took advantage of multiple CPUs, but they didn’t take advantage of the graphics card. Now, exports are significantly faster. However, in order to take advantage of GPU acceleration, you need to export in the foreground, because the GPU is shared for both exports and real-time playback of Timeline effects.

(An interesting sidenote: Given the technical specs of the H.264 codec, exporting directly to H.264 will be MUCH faster if you use single-pass than multiple-pass. Apple suggested using single-pass unless you can see a difference in image quality, at which point compress as multi-pass.)

Apple released a camera import SDK so that camera manufacturers can provide support for their latest cameras without waiting for Apple to update the software. What this means to us is that we should see cameras launch with support for FCP X built-in.

THINGS STILL MISSING

For the first time ever, outside a Steve Jobs speech, Apple announced products that are coming, but more than 30-days away. Apple publicly stated that both multicam editing and output to broadcast monitors will arrive “early in 2012.”

I tried to pin them down to a more specific date; no success.

Apple said they also fixed a number of bugs, but I didn’t have time to find out what some of them were.

There are still some significant missing features which are not addressed in this upgrade or their announcement: Retaining In and Out points for clips in the Event Browser is undergoing a debate in Apple. So is the ability to read source timecode for clips in the Timeline. Drop shadows for elements other than text and a few generators requires creating a custom Motion template. The ability to apply an effect to a group of clips, then modify that effect — think audio mixing — is still severely limited. There is no out-of-sync indicator for detached audio clips that have shifted in the Timeline. There is no way to set the default project audio to stereo.

Apple stresses that there is far more development planned for the program.

But this update is significant for several reasons:

1. The speed with which Apple was able to get it released.
2. The fact that most of these features are of interest to pro editors; an iMovie editor is not going to care about audio stems
3. The flexibility Roles provide as part of the editing process is really amazing.

If you currently own FCP X, I recommend you get the update as time permits.

Let me know what you think.

Larry

P.S. If you have purchased my Final Cut Pro X training, I will be providing a FREE upgrade later this month highlighting how to use the new features. (This update applies to all new purchases as well.) We’ll send you an email notice when our update is available. Learn more about my FCP X training here: www.larryjordan.biz/fcpx


91 Responses to Full Details: Apple Updates Final Cut Pro X

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  1. Srsjr says:

    What does Larry mean when he said “color is dead”?

    If FCP X is $300 add on color, motion and DaVinci youare talking Avid Media Composer pricing. Then if you have the adobe Production Premuim suite Apple has Created the conditions to jump ship.

    • Larry says:

      Sorry for the confusion. The phrase “Color is dead,” means that Apple is not continuing the development of the application “Color” which shipped with Final Cut Studio (3). Apparently, there is a lot of confusion about whether Apple will continuing developing Color. They won’t. However, as of today, they are still supporting it, so Apple tells me.

  2. Dick Applebaum says:

    Ya’ know, I went back today and re-watched the August 18th panel about FCPX at:

    http://www.fcp.co/final-cut-pro/news/540-the-final-cut-the-whole-presentation-online

    It means even more today, than it did a month ago.

    It would be useful to have an update to this panel, say, end of October (give a chance for the dust, and the XML to settle).

    But what I want to talk about, now, was in video 6 at about 7:17 in — the question is asked:

    ‘How does the panel see crowd sourcing or “distributed editing” being used for story telling?’

    Norman Hollyn’s answer is profound:

    “Oh, oh… I want to answer that! One of the non-Michaels on the panel! I think this is totally, absolutely, what is going on in the future — um, between crowd sourcing and distance collaborative techniques in editing… and these are the two most exciting parts! Uh. Uh it’s why I wish that I was one of my students instead of me — because that’s the world they’re moving out to.”

    What Norman seems to be saying, at least to me, is the story is what’s important (and often the timing of the story).

    Should you wait around for the perfect edit — or can you, and your audience, be better served by a “good” edit delivered in a timely fashion?

    After all… it is the story that’s important!

    Here’s an example of a collaborative-sourced video on YouTube:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9hhX0KkQBW4&feature=player_embedded

    Many of you, me included, would say: “I can do a better edit than that!”

    In this case, the timing may have been more important than the edit — if true, that is a damn fine edit!

    The only question I have is: How’d they do that?

    Dick

  3. Mark Morache says:

    Larry,

    Was there any talk about versions or backups? I can’t tell you how many times my butt has been saved by the autosave vault.

    In fact I just lost several hours of editing and I’m not sure why. My firewire wiggled out of the port on the computer, and when this has happened in the past, I plug it back in and restart FCX. This time the app wouldn’t open. It got stuck loading the one project I’m currently editing.

    I tried hiding the project and seeing if just the event would open, no dice. Tried just the project and hiding the project, hoping that the offline project would open. Failed.

    I’m resolved that I just need to start over again, but this would be so easy with the autosave vault.

    Is this something built into Lion? I’ve been waiting to leave Snow Leopard, but I can’t be losing work. If I lost more than a few hours I would have been in a bad way.

    Thanks for the work you do.

    –> Mark

  4. Mal says:

    Just to update my previous post: seems that Apple’s *official* advice to update the FCPX that wouldn’t update is to indeed “drag the previously installed app to the trash, empty the trash and download again.”

    I find this incredible, but what I find really believable was that when I did it, sure enough the new version came down the line fine, installed itself, but left me with a message next to the little “installed” icon in the App Store. This message was — “There was an error.” (In RED text, by the way, which I thought fitting, I only wish it had used the word “fatal”. It won’t let me re-download now, so whatever this “error” is, seems like I’ll find out, sometime, somewhere, down the track… )

  5. You will forgive my cynicism, but if Apple were committed to the professional editor, FCX would not have been released in the first place. In no way, was X ready for the pro editor. All anyone was asking for was true 64 bit, and access to all ram and cores. We got that plus a whole new GUI, new workflow, new key commands…a whole new application that no one asked for. So why was it released? Simple, Apple was playing catch up to Adobe who, with CS 5.0, came out with apps being 64bit. A far better approach by Apple was to wait. Wait until they could include the necessary pro features into their complete code rewrite for 64bit. Not being able to monitor externally upon initial release, no multi cam, and so much more was an egregious slap in the face to committed Apple users. Now the word is out, and I hope it is only gossip rather than truth, that external monitoring will eventually be part of an update but only for those using Thunderbolt equipped Macs. If that is the case, it would force all production houses and independent freelancers to go out and sell their current Macs and buy new ones. I can see the dollar signs in Apple’s eyes but don’t think that many will do this. My one year old 12 core, with 20 gigs of ram and FX4800 card are not ready for the garbage heap yet just because of the lack of Thunderbolt. Yet, external monitoring is mandatory and its lack within the initial release of X is proof that their ‘commitment’ is in words only. You are now walking a fine line between your dealings with Apple and the public and I understand that, but as a voice, to maintain your credibility, you have to call it as it is and not how Apple wants you to project it.

  6. Hey Steve,

    Can you say PCI expansion card?

    I do have my problems with FCPX but I really can’t stand the “worst-case-scenario” approach to debating this issue.

    Lou …

  7. Larry
    I pulled a Key in Motion 5 the other day. Took 2 seconds!! Didn’t even have to play with a slider. There isn’t even an eyedropper!!! I just applied the filter and the key was done. Then is played in close to real-time.

    For arguments sake I tried the same key in AE with Keylight and gave up after 2 minutes of tweaking.

    If you don’t buy Motion for any other reason it will be the best $50 chroma keyer you have ever owned!! It cheaper than a plug-in at this point.

    Lou …

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