This is the third look I’ve had at Final Cut Pro X and I’m even more impressed than I was in takes one and two – especially with the release of some third-party tools to analyse and fix nasty little problems.
I’ve virtually completed a feature-length documentary and three other shorter projects. I still haven’t had to use the Precision Editor, finding that if I enlarge the timeline sufficiently I can make fine edits quite easily.
As I’ve been working with a large number of stills I’m even happier with the trim/crop tools. Using portrait–oriented images in a wide 1080p set up I often need to scale up, crop and reposition images to fill the screen. The inbuilt tools make this very easy. Fixing color and exposure problems is really easy with another set of inbuilt tools.
I’ve found it useful to commit to learning at least one new function in FPX every week, even if by chance. Which is how I stumbled across a neat slider in the Event Browser which lets me view my clips in various sections from .5 seconds to 30 minutes. As I drag across the segments of a clip the elapsed time accumulates and the clip updates dynamically in the Viewer pane. This is really useful in quickly identifying key points in the clip for cutaways and sound FX.
I’ve also found the Insert Gap function very handy. While the magnetic timeline is very good for keeping everything in sync, you can sometimes accidentally delete clips which are appended to the primary storyline. By inserting a gap at the edit point I found I was able to make edits on one side of the gap and quarantine clips on the other from any inadvertent actions.
The Cross Dissolve transition which I use heavily works very smoothly, easing in and out automatically. FCPX also cross-dissolves the audio automatically, but still offers me options if I’m not satisfied.
I’m now at home with the Record Audio function. Previously I’d been using an external sound editor to make additions to the narration. After a few trials I soon found that recording directly into FCPX was quite easy and saved time. It’s been just as easy to extend or reduce the length of stills and transitions using the dynamic inspector in the Info pane.
One problem that puzzled me for a while was trying to import files that I had forgotten I already had on board. There was no notification to tell me that the file was already there. Once I’d worked that out, everything was fine. But it would be nice to be told.
Creating titles and text, a nightmare in the first release but subsequently fixed, can still be a bit buggy/unresponsive but it generally works okay.
As I created new projects a major problem emerged because FCPX dutifully displayed them all in my project library on start-up. These began to take far too long to load and performance took a real hit. There seemed no easy way to simply open the project I was working on and have the others somehow off-line. Trawling the net for help I came across Assisted Editing’s Event Manager X, a US$4.99 app, which displays a single pane to turn projects on or off before FCPX loads. Makes life a whole lot easier.
Another problem I’ve had a couple of times was the dreaded QuickTime error 50. This occurred when I was outputting the project to an mp4 file. After grinding away for over an hour my Mac gave up and blamed error 50. This, I subsequently found, was most likely caused by a corrupt clip which on both occasions I was able to find and fix. But it took me a long time.
Keen to avoid a repetition of this I came across two suites of tools from Digital Rebellion, Pro Maintenance Tools (US$139) and Pro Media Tools (US$99). These are essentially mini apps which you can invoke from a launcher. They work across a range of NLEs including increasing support for FCPX. Corrupt Clip Finder will save me hours next time error 50 rears its ugly head.
Other useful Pro Maintenance Tools include Crash Analyser, which inspects your crash log, tries to work out the reason and suggests ways to avoid future crashes. Housekeeper keeps FCPX running in optimum condition by cleaning out caches and temporary files. Media Salvage extracts video and audio from corrupt clips and creates a new file.
If you’ve ever tried to change preferences in Lion you’ll know it’s not as easy as it was in previous systems. Now it is, with Preference Manager. You can trash, lock, backup and restore FCPX’s preferences all from within a simple pane.
If you’re having trouble launching a project, Project Repair will try to fix the problem. QT Repair has a crack at repairing and rebuilding damaged QT movies. Quick Fix carries out a sequence of common troubleshooting routines with one click.
In the Pro Media Tools suite you will find another range of mini apps to help you organise your projects, improve DSLR workflows, manage metadata, repair gamma shifts between clips, edit QuickTime files and scan video files for flash frames and audio peaks.
I’ll outline my experiences working with these Digital Rebellion tools in greater detail in my next FCPX report. Until then I recommend you hop over to the website and download the free versions to see how they can help you.