Final Cut Pro X Take Two

Keith White
13 October, 2011
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Some weeks ago (July 17) I did my first take on Final Cut Pro X and my initial reactions were mostly positive. I’d been able to quickly piece together some family video clips ready for output to DVD.

This time I’m working on a major project so I need to know if Final Cut Pro X is up to the task.

Firstly the bad news. Version 10.0 on my Mac just could not do Titles. I couldn’t change any of the text attributes – font, size, colour, etc. which meant that any form of text generation inside the program wouldn’t work. I tried a few workarounds and dropped in on relevant forums where others had similar issues but with no success. Luckily version 10.1 arrived before I gave up, and the problem disappeared.

Over a few days of heavy use I have had to restart the program twice when it was starting to run a bit too slowly. Otherwise, no other major problems.

Things I’m not yet convinced about are the themes, most of the transitions and some of the video effects. They’re all still a bit too iMovie for my liking. But there are enough alternatives for me to do what I need. And, in the life of a major piece of software, it is still very early days.

One difference between X and previous versions is the use of Events and Projects instead of Bins and Sequences, but this soon becomes second nature. I have my media files sorted by the date they were imported into the program, which I’m finding useful in this project as it logs my progress into one-day units.

Once I got used to the Magnetic Timeline concept I found it really useful for keeping things in sync. Not having tracks as such was a bit weird at first but I soon adapted. Ancillary files – sound FX, narration, cutaways still sit above or below the main storyline and can be repositioned, edited or muted very easily.

The speed at which FCPX fires up (30 seconds for a 30-minute project) and renders in the background is pretty impressive, although at times I found it better to wait until the progress meter told me background rendering was finished. But there were nothing like the wait times in previous versions.

Although I miss not being able to connect directly to Photoshop or an external sound editor the program now has a definite one-stop shop feel. All the music and sounds on my Mac are accessible as are all my photos.

In addition to the FCP audio FX I also have access to every audio effect from Logic, the Mac system and third-party ring-ins. I needed to simulate the baritone sound of a large seabird but I only had a soprano seagull. With two effects – pitch shift and EQ I had a reasonable sounding facsimile in seconds.

When I needed to quickly lay down a rough narration to enable me to place stills and clips in the right place, I USB-connected my trusty old Røde Podcaster and recorded directly into the timeline via a neat little window which immediately recognised the mic and showed input/output gain sliders. Simple.

For this project I don’t need to connect a camera as I am using files from disk. But just to be sure I tried out my little Kodak Zx1 which I had used for stills and HD video on a recent trip to Thailand. While Final Cut did not recognise the camera (I didn’t really expect it to) I could still import footage from the disk icon which the connected Zx1 placed on my desktop. Or I could have slotted the camera’s SD card into my Mac and loaded the files directly from that.

There’s even another way. While I was away I had been transferring my video and stills to my iPad. I connected this to the Mac and Final Cut treated it like a camera, showing files in the camera browser ready for import. Nice.

The resize, reposition, trim, crop and distort functions work really well either manually or numerically for that fine tweak.

A quick and dirty Ken Burns effect offers a start and an end frame which I can adjust to suit. There’s even a reverse button so I can start with the end and end with the start. If I wish.

The video editors are really impressive. One of the video clips had a little too much camera movement which I was able to quickly suppress. Another clip had an exposure problem which was also quickly fixed with level sliders monitored on a histogram. Another clip needed stretching a a few seconds to fill a gap. Easy, with a little help from my friends . . .

As I mentioned in my first piece the video tutorials by Final Cut Pro X expert (if anyone can be an FCPX expert yet!) Michael Wohl in the series have been my lifeline. And this has continued. I find myself returning to these snappy, sharply-focused mini lessons time and time again. I reckon I’ve saved myself hours of anguish and lost production time this way. Highly recommended.

So there you have it. I’m even more impressed than I was after my first go at FCPX. Each day I become a little more comfortable with the vast array of tools available and certain basic routines and shortcuts are quickly becoming instinctive.

It’s really well designed software with a beautiful interface – very Apple. I’m also enjoying a bit of poking around at the end of the day to uncover new features.

But there’s still so much to learn. I have the feeling I’m not even halfway into what FCP X can do. I haven’t yet tried the Precision Editor, the Auditions feature, Color Balance or Audio Match to name but a few. But that’s all to come. I’ll report on my progress when this current project is finished.

I think Steve would be pleased with his last major software production. I certainly am.

One Comment

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  1. Rounik says:

    Hi Keith,

    Nice review. FCP X 10.0.1 certainly adds some stability and some much needed features. It takes a little time to understand the different editing paradigm – but once done… well, editing video, for me, became really fun!

    I must agree that Michael Wohl’s tutorials are an essential way to learn how to make the most of everything in FCP X!
    In fact I interviewed Michael for The MPV Hub soon after FCP X was released and discovered he is indeed an expert. (He had been working inside Apple for about 8 months prior to FCP X’s release!) Here’s the interview if anyone is interested:


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