Moving Forward

Posted on by Larry

Well, the last two weeks certainly have been tumultuous. But this weekend is a good time to take stock and figure out where we go from here.

Over the years I’ve learned that Apple does not follow the market, it tries to lead the market. And, with megahits like the iMac, iPod, iPhone, and iPad, it is impossible to ignore their success.

However, it isn’t always successful, which is why we find ourselves in the position we are in now. And, keep in mind that it is US, not Apple, that are in a difficult position. Apple’s DNA (and vast bank account) insulates them from clamor and controversy in the marketplace.

Yesterday, as I was thinking about this blog, I sent an email to my contacts at Apple asking if they would either announce a timetable of when we could see the next “major release” of Final Cut Pro X, or whether Apple was considering re-releasing Final Cut Studio (3) to the market.

Apple did not respond to my email; which I’ve also learned is an answer in itself.

So, the decision is not up to Apple, they have already told us what they are going to do. The decision is up to us – how will we respond?

THE MARKET

Apple has opened up a huge new market to video editing – I call it the “middle market” – people that need more than iMovie, but don’t need the vast capabilities of Final Cut Studio (3).

This is a good thing, I think, because ultimately it will give many of us work as these users push up against the barriers of FCP X and need to accomplish tasks that can’t currently be met with FCP X.

I remember the desktop publishing wars of the 1980’s. Graphics designers did not go away when our computers starting displaying fonts and images. What happened was that the graphics design tools got better and designers with creativity and skill got more work.

The situation is the same today. Creativity and story-telling are still in demand, but the audience and tools continue to evolve.

OUR CHOICE

As I see it, we all have three choices:

1. Convert to Final Cut Pro X
2. Do nothing, at least for a while
3. Switch to a different editing program

CONVERTING

For single editor shops that work exclusively with tapeless formats and principally output to files, Final Cut Pro X is very attractive.

I am getting many emails each day from people that are working with it and are pleased with their results.

For non-mission-critical projects, the current version of FCP X may meet your needs.

ABSTAINING

As I’ve written for years, however, even if Apple released an all-singing, all-dancing, rock-star of a program, I would still counsel waiting until a dot One release.

This is especially true for large shops, edit houses with massive amounts of existing material that they need to repurpose, or editors working on deadlines that cannot be missed.

Apple’s emphasis on secrecy during development in order to maximize surprise at launch means that the initial release of a product is almost never stable enough for serious use.

As examples, FCP 4.0 didn’t stabilize until version 4.0.2, FCP 5 took until version 5.0.4 and, some would argue, 5.1.4 to become solid. FCP 6 took until version 6.0.2 (with four more versions after that), and FCP 7 is currently sitting at version 7.0.3. (And the sordid history of QuickTime releases and bug fixes is best left for a mature audience…)

As I’ve written many times in the past, waiting before upgrading is never a mistake. I tend to wait a few months before upgrading my production gear. However, at the same time, I will upgrade my testing gear to the latest version – and start to learn it – as soon as it is released.

There is no harm in waiting until FCP X starts to stabilize.

SWITCHING

The wild card in this whole equation is the cancellation of Final Cut Studio (3). Our decisions would be a lot easier if Apple had not forced our hand.

First, I am deeply saddened that Apple’s vaunted engineering prowess is unable to code a conversion utility from FCP 7 to FCP X. However, they say they can’t, so I believe them. (And, even if they can, they won’t; which works out to the same thing.)

This means that if you have a large number of FCP 7 projects that you have even a remote possibility of needing in the future, you would be foolish NOT to purchase a product that can read them.

Whether you go with Avid Media Composer and Automatic Duck, or Adobe Production Premium, you, your company, your media and your projects have a far greater priority than the political and emotional issues of supporting, or not supporting, the latest release of Final Cut Pro.

Protect yourself first.

Pick the software you are most comfortable working with. Hire an assistant editor to have them do tests to see how well your projects transfer from FCP 7 into it.

Both Avid and Adobe are running “Switcher” campaigns — which doesn’t surprise me. If I were doing their marketing I would do exactly the same thing. Take advantage of this special pricing – protect your assets.

Apple says FCP 7 will run on Lion. However, it would be foolish to expect it to run on every operating system in the future. At some point, you will need to convert your assets. The best time to do so is now while all your projects, media, and the software you are using is current.

Whether you want to convert your whole operation to a new platform depends upon many different factors; cost not the least of them.

But the first rule of business is to stay in business. Protect yourself. Make sure you can get access to your assets in the future.

LARRY’S RECOMMENDATION

For new Final Cut users, purchase FCP X and enjoy it. It has many good things to recommend it.

For existing Final Cut 7 users, it is too early to know what FCP X is really going to be. But it is also way too risky to bet the ranch on it.

Download FCP X and learn it, but be very cautious putting it into serious production.

I recommend you create a system for converting your FCP 7 assets to either Avid or Adobe.

Then, wait and see what Apple does with the next release of FCP X. For me, the next release, not the current one, will set the direction for the future.

But protect yourself now.

CONCLUSION

This event gives all of us a chance to stop and reflect on who we are and what we do.

The core of what I do, personally, is to train, teach, and inform. I do this across a wide variety of products and using a wide variety of media. My core value does not change with this update.

What changes are the subjects that I teach. And, as we all know, technology is a constantly evolving mix of old and new products.

Think about what YOU do – are you a Final Cut editor, OR are you an editor that uses Final Cut? Are you defined by the technology you use or the stories that you tell?

As you are deciding whether to convert, abstain, or switch, spend a few minutes thinking about who you are, what you do, and how you want to earn a living.

In the past, religious wars were fought over Apple vs. Avid. The new war is FCP 7 vs. FCP X. Like all wars, these battles create a flurry of impressive fireworks, but leave a bloody trail of destruction in their wake. And very rarely do they settle anything. Old tensions still simmer.

So, let’s slow down and take stock. Apple has given us an opportunity to make a choice. They aren’t going to change their direction, so we need to decide if we are comfortable where they are taking us.

And that choice is different for each one of us.

Let me know what you think.

Larry


61 Responses to Moving Forward

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  1. Floris says:

    In a few years, I will be shooting on a camera and editing on my iPad few minutes after and the whole workflow will be automated to my Mac and people can collaborate with me on iCloud.

    That’s were Apple is going. If they listened to their customers, we would still be on Mac OS 9 and using Floppy drives.

    Avid can be gone tomorrow, that’s how small they are if something goes wrong. Another example, which I think is similar to Avid: Research in Motion. Two years ago they were everything… the #1 business phone… and look at them now. In a few years, I think they’re gone and the iPhone and Android phones have taken over. If you’re so focused on one segment… and don’t innovate, you will lose eventually and that’s the position Avid is in.

    At the end… these applications are just tools to get something done, so chose the one that suits you best. But don’t be blind.

  2. First off, Larry – always appreciate your insight and thoughts and of course wish you all success with your training and tutorials.

    I would contest that Apple has not opened a new market with FCP X. Between, iMovie and FCP7 you had Final Cut Express. In addition, since no one considered Premiere Pro a ‘Pro’ app, it also would be in this market. On the PC obviously, there are plenty of candidates for this non-new market. I think Apple sees more revenue on their platform and if true, that’s their guiding principle.

    @Stuart @Claes – Adobe left the Mac platform at the time of its total re-write that became Premiere Pro (not Premiere) This was closer to 7 years ago. FCP was just coming of age (FCP 3) and the decision to be Windows only initially was made due to market conditions at the time. Adobe has remained a committed cross-platform company and beginning with CS3, Adobe returned to the Mac platform with Premiere Pro. With CS5, Adobe re-wrote the application again for 64-bit, so the foundation and Adobe’s commitment to long-term development should be encouraging to all potential users.

    @Chri Hu – We allowed our hardware partners (AJA, Matrox, Blackmagic, etc.) to take over tape control and capture since a) you need a hardware i/o to capture anyway and b) most already had their own private capture programs anyway. Like Apple, we retain deck control over firewire capable devices such as DV and HDV and of course superior file based support for tapeless cameras.

    @Tom Ackroyd – You can export your FCP XML with ProRes transcoded DSLR footage and import it into Premiere Pro without difficulty. You can edit ProRes on Premiere Pro no problem.

    Dennis – Adobe

  3. Brian Berneker says:

    Really good article Larry! You managed to go straight down the middle, acknowledging the genuineness of both sides’ arguments. This article is about unbiased as it can get with no apologies to either side for its frankness.

    Regardless of the emotion and drama that FCP X has drawn from the pro community, they are not the entirety of the market for this product, and the other mid-level users deserve to be represented too, even if that means accepting concessions they never knew were taking place (or may not care about anyways).

  4. Matt says:

    With all the talk about audio roles, here’s what I still can’t figure out. Please help if you can.
    I work in the news biz. I edit on dual channel mono. I need the reporter’s audio to play out on one track, and all the other audio mixed to play out on the second track.
    Very easy in 7.
    Can I do this in X yet?
    Thanks!

    • Larry says:

      Yes – you’ve always been able to do this in FCP X, but it is not obvious.

      Duplicate the clip.
      Select each clip.
      Go to the Inspector and select the channel you want to hear and uncheck the one you don’t.
      Repeat.

      Larry

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