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Summary: Apple Final Cut Pro X (6/2011)

    by Douglas Dixon


Apple has released the new Final Cut Pro X, after a teaser preview at the NAB conference in April. And this is not just an update, or a re-engineering for 64-bit processing -- It's a complete rewrite and reinvention.

Apple Final Cut Pro X - released July 2011, $299.99
    Companion apps: Motion 5 for professional motion graphics
    Compressor 4 for advanced media encoding, $49.99 each

PR 6/11 -

The good news is that this new version includes some interesting new ideas in video editing (as well as some Apple-style rebranding of ideas previously seen in other applications).

But FCP X is also a big change for FCP fans, as Apple seemingly refocuses on a less high-end, professional customer base, perhaps best demonstrated by the lack of support for importing old FCP files (although you can import from iMove).

For example, check David Pogue's review and follow-up for a sense of the resulting uproar, as he puts Apple's behavior in perspective:

"Apple has followed the typical Apple sequence: (1) throw out something that’s popular and comfortable but increasingly ancient, (2) replace it with something that’s slick and modern and forward-looking and incomplete, (3) spend another year finishing it up, restoring missing pieces."

So you can think of FCP X as a somewhat beta release of a significant new pile of software, with sweet and shiny new stuff, major disruptions for current users, and promises and hopes for improvements to come.

For more, also visit Creative Cow for reviews, discussions, and details on missing features:

Video Editing

Apple's new, dynamic video editing interface include a new "Magnetic" Timeline which auto-adjusts as you arrange clips, Clip Connections to link related elements so they can move together, grouped Compound Clips, and Precision Editor to trim directly in the timeline. There's also an interesting Auditions feature to group alternative shots to compare different takes.

  • Skimming - View in Filmstrip view, press Space bar to play
  • Magnetic Timeline - Edit on flexible, trackless canvas
    • Add and arrange clips wherever, other clips slide out of the way
    • "Magnetically" close up to eliminate gaps, move out of the way to avoid collisions and sync problems
  • Clip Connections links clip elements like titles and sound effects
    • Clear visual connections, All move together in sync with changes
  • Compound Clip - Group elements to edit as single clip
  • Precision Editor - Double-click to trim directly in the timeline
  • Auditions - Group collection of multiple alternative shots
    • Quickly cycle through in context to compare alternate takes
    • Create multiple versions of project for different deliverables and venues
  • Audio Editing
    • Analyze and repair on inport
    • Subframe audio editing up to 192 kHz
    • Automatic audio sync for camera audio and second audio source
  • Color correction
    • Color balance, match
    • Keying and masks
    • Waveform, vectorscope, histograms
  • Import
    • Native AVCHD, H.264 from DSLRs, professional formats
    • Resolution independence mix to 4K
    • iMovie import
    • Built-in camera,
    • File import from memory cards, DV through FireWire, tape from third party
    • Create lightweight proxy media in background, work on laptop
  • Export
    • Share delivery presets
    • DVD & Blu-ray, HTTP live streaming
    • Export Movie - ProRes as self-contained QuickTime movie
    • Compressor - custom professional encoding

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Media Organization

FCP X also stresses media organization, with background Auto-Analysis on import to tag clip attributes for later searching and organization, Smart Collections based on search criteria, custom Range-Based Keywords that you can assign to a time range within a clip, and built-in Content Library Browsers.

  • Content Auto-Analysis categorizes and tags content in background on import
    • Analyze in background on import, or later
    • Scans footage and creates metadata
    • Range-based tags for media attributes, camera data, shot type (close up / medium / wide), number of people (one, two, group)
    • Use tags to sort, filter, search clips
    • Pre-analyze for processor-intensive analysis features including
      • Image stabilization, corrections for rolling shutter distortion, color balance, audio repairs
    • Dynamically organized into Smart Collections
  • Smart Collections - Organize clips without moving or copying files
    • Create a search using combination of metadata and keywords, save as Smart Collection
    • Dynamically updated with matches to selected fields
    • Designate shots as Favorites or Rejects
  • Range-Based Keywords - Create keywords, assign to clip time range
    • Sort, filter, search - List view with metadata, Filmstrip view
  • Content Libraries - Built-in content browsers
    • Preview, search, drag and drop - photos, music, sound effects
    • Photos Browser includes iPhoto and Aperture libraries
    • Use iTunes as music library for MP3 and AAC files
    • Includes more than 1300 royalty-free sound effects through free software update
      • Generators including graphic backgrounds and textures

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Then, not surprisingly, FCP takes advantage of the latest Mac hardware and software for real-time playback, starting with the completely rebuilt 64-bit architecture to work with larger projects, larger frame sizes, more frames in RAM, and deeper multilayered effects, plus Grand Central Dispatch for multi-threaded processing using all CPU cores, and GPU acceleration for real-time effects previews and rendering.

  • Completely rebuilt, 64-bit architecture
    • Work with larger projects, larger frame sizes, more frames in RAM, deeper multilayered effects.
  • Takes full advantage of latest Mac hardware and software for real-time playback
    • Cocoa foundation - Highly responsive interface
    • Grand Central Dispatch - Faster multi-threaded processing using all CPU cores
      • Uses AVX capabilities of Intel “Sandy Bridge” processors
    • GPU utilization - Complex, higher-resolution effects for real-time effects previews and rendering
  • Background processing - Edit while rendering, transcoding, moving media
    • Monitor background processes from dashboard
    • Background Tasks window for detailed display of active processes
    • Manually pause or cancel background processes
  • Consistent performance and quality across FCP, Motion, Compressor
    • Shared Render Engine - Realistic, high- precision effects using floating-point, linear-light color space
      • Blurs, scales, lighting effects like high-end compositing software
    • ColorSync-managed color pipeline, color consistency from import to output

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