FCP: The once and future king of editing software

icon1 flick harrison | icon4 Mar 6, 2014| icon3

fcpx iron throneFinal Cut Pro is back from the brink.  I've finally decided to get back to it, and I'm teaching a workshop in FCPX at VIVO media arts centre on April 6.  After 12 years of FCP I went over to Adobe Premiere for lots of good reasons, mostly to do with the missing features and my hard-earned distrust of the iLife suite, i.e. the kiddie-oriented iMovie on which FCPX was based.

The reasons behind Apple's move were not too mysterious: woo the big market of amateurs and hope to drag the prosumers behind.  Professionals could go buy something else.  But the outcry against all that (and, no doubt, some kind of money-metric) convinced Apple to go back and fix what was wrong, and, well, now it's time to re-think.

I found myself downloading demos of FCPX every couple of updates, partly to stay abreast of the changes being made, but also because for some quick projects it was easier to download and install a demo version of FCPX than to do simple tasks in Adobe Premiere.  Crazy but true.

So, two and a half years after its release, I'm going back to FCP for good.  Why?

First of all, I can't recommend Adobe's subscription model.  It is nasty, nasty, nasty.  And Premiere has revealed bug after bug as I've gotten to know it.

Meanwhile, FCPX by version 10.1 has solved (almost) everything I wanted solved.  These are simple things but it was insane to leave them out of Final Cut X:

- Remembering your selections in clips in the Event.

- Dual-channel mono editing in the timeline.

- Multi-camera

- The position tool. How can I thank Apple enough?  You let me put stuff where I want it!

- Versioning of projects, via Libraries of bins and edits, uh, I mean "events" and "projects."

Okay, it's still BS to do an audio-only cross-fade, and I'm afraid to get going on a giant project because tracks were my visual way of organizing.  I hope I don't regret this posting some day.

(Edited in FCPX)

But if I have to do a little FX trickery to get audio-only crossfades, it's well worth avoiding the nasty audio traps in Premiere - for instance, audio tracks must be set to stereo or dual mono before you use them anywhere in the project, or else they are stuck that way forever.  Also crazy, but also true.  Let me repeat that:  if I use a clip in one sequence, then later I want to put it in another sequence, it's too late to tell Premiere to treat the audio as dual mono.  It's stuck at the source-clip level.  If you cut an hour of multi-cam, and then realize you forgot to tell Premiere that all your clips were dual mono (which it ALWAYS got wrong with my Panasonic HMC-150 shooting AVCHD)... then you are hooped.  Start over?  Replace all the audio?  Awesome choices.

It was while explaining that trap to a class of Premiere Pro switchers that I realized in my heart of hearts that Premiere wasn't right for them, or for me.

An example of FCPX vs Premiere?

Shooting a live show, one hour in length, on AVCHD and outputting to DVD?

In Adobe Premiere:

1. Convert clips from camera card in ClipWrap to ProRes

(You may think Premiere works natively with AVCHD files, and it is supposed to.  But they never seemed to solve the out-of-sync bug with spanned clips, and I'm tired of waiting for it.  And PP has to create gigabyte-sized audio reference files for my hour-long AVCHD clips, with possible grave consequences if I don't wait for it to finish before I start cutting - that's why I use Clipwrap to transcode instead of just re-wrap)

2. Import to Premiere

3. Edit into timeline - fade in, fade out.

4. Send soundtrack to Audition

(after waiting for Premiere to render all the audio into giant .cfa files in the scratch folder, then wait for Premiere to render it out as aiff for Audition)

5. Add multiband compressor to even out the sound and apply

6. Save & quit Audition

(I call it a step because it's so slooooow rendering it back to the aiff)

7. Go back to Premiere - Export master file

8. Drag the file into Toast and burn DVD

Meanwhile, in FCPX:

1. Import Files

(straight from the camera card, tell it to copy and optimize the media - now you've got a full backup! For a one-off shoot, there's very little mess to clear off your HD, and you get mov-wrapped master files in the B/G)

2. Drag into timeline, add fade-in fade-out

(while the background process renders optimized media or not, your choice)

3. Add audio effect - loudness, voice enhance

(Without waiting for anything)

4. file-> share -> DVD or Youtube.

(Go do something else, could take a while for long clips)

I can do all this in five minutes, if I didn't need to watch the footage (and hey, sometimes there's no need until final output) because all the time-consuming tasks happen without me, and start whenever I let go of the mouse to go have coffee.  Meanwhile, in Premiere, I have to babysit each step.

I'm glad Apple got off their butts and made Final Cut Pro good again.  It was refreshing to try new software, and give my thinking a shake.  Going over to FCPX is making me do that all over again, and I think I'm working better now.

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