FCP X road blocks

Final Cut editors have lamented big time about the missing features in Final Cut Pro X. For instance – no VTR i/o except over FireWire – and no broadcast video monitoring output. I agree that those are important issues, but they don’t necessarily hold me back from using the application. It’s the less obvious things that are related to the inherent design, which I find hard to accept. There are thousands of little things I do in every session that are not in FCP X or simply require additional steps. Not to mention that the overall application feels slower when you are really rocking, due to the horsepower devoted to the virtual glitziness of the program itself instead of to performance.

Here’s a just a short list of what I feel needs addressing.

Rolling audio edits. The kind of split edits you do as second nature in both Final Cut Pro 7 and Avid Media Composer are simply not possible in as fluid of a manner in FCP X. For example, it’s next to impossible to do an audio-only, double-roller trim (“rolling edit”) in the FCP X timeline.

Multiple trim points. There is no way to simultaneously select and trim several clip edit points at one time. Apple would argue that the magnetic timeline eliminates the need to do this, but that’s not true.

Multiple mono audio channels. There is currently no good way to work with multiple mono audio tracks on a single file. For example, clips from a camera or a VTR source with four or more independent audio channels. You can enable or disable tracks in the Inspector, but you can’t independently mix them at different levels nor edit their start points to different locations. The workaround is to break the clip apart or open the clip in its own mini-timeline. That’s not in context with the other clips and the former solution runs the risk of throwing audio out of sync.

Sequence timecode start. You cannot alter the starting point of the timeline. I add bars-and-tone, slates and countdowns to most of my digitally-delivered master files. I want the start of the commercial or program to be 01:00:00:00. Not possible in FCP X.

Multicam. Doesn’t exist. Very infuriating, since the previous version was so good.

Track tool. This plays a huge part in how I edit and something I really loved in FCP over Media Composer. I use it to move clips downstream to open a space on the timeline to work. If I want to do the same in FCP X, I either have to insert a placeholder (essentially the OLD Avid way of working) or select a number of clips (also the OLD Avid way). Not very effective when you have an hour-long timeline. Another reason to use the track tool is to select all the clips to the right in order to apply common effects.

FCP sequence import. I recognize that translating a complete FCP 7 project into FCP X might pose problems for all the reasons Apple has given. However, importing a single sequence with all the media linked and accurate edit points is so essential to not even be questioned. It’s OK if this means no effects translation, but I simply don’t accept that Apple was unable to do this. When they eventually open up their SDK for the new-and-improved XML – and the first developer like Automatic Duck or Boris FX offers translation capabilities – then the ProApps team is going to have egg on its face for saying it couldn’t be done.

Copy/paste/remove attributes. One of the most essential functions in my FCP workflow and one of the reasons I use FCP over Media Composer. FCP X has Paste Effects, but it’s an all-or-nothing function. Plus you can’t highlight all the clips with the track tool and paste values to them. There’s also no Paste Attributes – Content in FCP X. Same goes for pasting audio-only attributes.

2.5/3D DVE. Not really a deal-breaker, but a pet peeve for me. It’s there in Media Composer and in Premiere Pro. It should have been in FCP 1-7. Not sure why Apple simply can’t make this happen, without using Motion as the workaround.

Manual organization of bins and projects. Smart Collections and Keyword Collections are nice, but these should have been in addition to, not instead of, manual organization methods. The current method lacks the ease of grouping data and moving between bins, multiple sequences and multiple projects as one is used to in FCP 7.

Mixer panel. There is currently no way to effectively mix a complex project with many different audio channels in FCP X. Even if you could, the only method is rubber-banding key frames in the timeline. Hardly an intuitive way to work, since mixing tends to be BY EAR and generally in real-time.

Timecode overlays. Sure would be nice to see all relevant positions of clips at one point on the timeline.

Dual source-record windows. The standard 2-up editing display is more than just a nicety. It’s vital for things like matching eye lines, actor positions, etc. It’s also good when you need to gang two timelines together (also not possible in FCP X) in order to compare differences.

Out-of-sync. It’s very easy to break clips apart (audio and video) and then inadvertently throw them out of sync. This is an essential function when you have multiple mono audio tracks on a clip. There are no out-of-sync indicators nor an easy way to move or slip elements back into sync.

Interface response. Right now the GUI is S-L-O-W compared with FCP 7. Click on a type-able field for a clip in the list view of the Event Browser and there is a slight lag before you can actually type. This is because there is always a minimum of one filmstrip shown, which has to be updated for the selected clip. There are a lot of these little issues throughout the entire application and they mount up during a day of working.

It’s an island. A lot of editors have complained about the lack of legacy FCP project migration, XML, etc. – but it goes deeper. At its core, FCP X doesn’t work with anything else outside of FCP X. There’s no “send to” for any of the old or new applications.

An early deal with Automatic Duck gave us at least OMF export and Apple has alluded to a new form of XML that’s coming. In the end, this isn’t enough. The previous versions of FCP read older project files, imported XML and Batch Lists and exported XML, EDLs, Batch Lists and more. Although some of these are simple and archaic formats, they are still in active use throughout the film and video world and will continue to be so for some time. Finally, when we talk about exporting, you can no longer export QuickTime reference file or Batch Export a group of files.


UPDATE: I recent presented a live webinar expanding upon many of these topics. The on-demand version and bonus materials are now available for purchase at the Filmmaking Webinars site.

©2011 Oliver Peters