FCP-X and the Pain of Democratization
Avid editors looking for a bit of shameless gloating will enjoy the latest installment in Kanen (John) Flowers’ podcast “That Post Show” (iTunes). Dormant for some two years, the show has reappeared with a new episode featuring four longtime Final Cut editors talking about FCP-X — and they are not happy. In their view, Apple has turned its back on professionals, creating a program they can’t use to make a living and leaving them with little alternative but to switch to Premiere or Media Composer. Some of the features they mourn: a source monitor, multi-cam editing, bins, windows that can be broken up onto multiple monitors, trim mode (they reserve special scorn for FCP-X’s “precision” trimmer, pointing out that FCP-X is inherently imprecise), the ability to cut from one sequence into another, OMF/AAF export, EDL support. The show was recorded soon after the release and is thus based on the earliest of first impressions, but it makes for some entertaining listening.
There are plenty of serious limitations in FCP-X — but there were huge limitations in FCP1, too. The pain of democratization is always wrenching, and this release of Final Cut will be no different. Every new release, it seems (including the appearance of the first Media Composer), has made editing more accessible and expanded the base of editorial talent. But by seeming to abandon its existing customers, Apple has confronted many editors with a choice they never wanted to make, and forsaking the company that once empowered them, or accepting a program that doesn’t serve their needs. Whatever you think of Avid’s performance over the last decade, new management has been doing its level best to listen to and work with editors.
None of this should cause us to overlook the fact that most of the innovation in FCP-X is focused not on workflow, but on editors and the editing process. Randy Ubillos is nothing if not creative when it comes to the experience of editing, and I, for one, want some of those features now: waveforms that don’t constantly redraw; background saving and rendering (rendering has gotten all the press, but saving will mean more to me); background proxy creation (and the ability to switch from proxy to full-res media with a click); “clip connections” that let you drag music or sound effects with the picture it’s synched to; compound clips that allow you to collapse and uncollapse portions of a sequence; “audition” groups that let you cut more than one option and quickly switch between them within the sequence, and of course, excellent timeline performance with long-GOP media. I understand the mixed reaction to the magnetic timeline, but I’d love to have it as an option.
Short term, FCP users are facing a difficult choice, which is good for Adobe and Avid. But long term, FCP-X represents a new challenge, appealing to a whole new audience of media creators and offering them features that nobody else has. Yet.
For those of you who are thinking about making a switch to Media Composer, I encourage you to take a look at my book Avid Agility (now available in print or for Kindle). If you want to get the most out of Media Composer and do it quickly, it’s your best resource.