On Tuesday January 31st Apple released its third update for Final Cut Pro X, numbered 10.0.3. This update brings us several new features including Multicam editing, broadcast output, graphic file layer support, and more. In this article I’m going to take a closer first-hand look at these. I’m testing the new features on a 2008 8-core Mac Pro with 16GB RAM, ATI Radeon HD 4870, AJA Kona LHi, Flanders Scientific LM-2451W, with P2 DVCPRO-HD and DSLR H.264 video files. For more details about how to actually use the new features, stay tuned for soon-to-be-released updates to our range of FCP X tutorial-videos.
FCP 5 brought amazing multicam to the market with a big splash. This new iteration of multicam editing is nothing short of amazing: You can mix and match codecs, frame rates, frame sizes, and even use still images and audio-only clips. Multiclips can be synched by timecode, creation dates/times (think of assembled time lapse stills), markers, and of course automatically with audio track sync. Angles can be set in the Preferences to use proxy or create optimized media if necessary, but you’re not locked into it. Angles can be very easily readjusted automatically and manually after the fact, rearranged, filtered, trimmed, it’s simply mind-blowing. The FCP development team really hit this one out of the ball park.
I used a multicamera shoot of a patent demo, outdoors, with trucks and boat motors running, so sound was not an option. I simply created a marker on each clip to have them sync to. It was that easy. One clip was slightly off, but I could just grab it and drag it into place. By typing in a plus (+) sign, with the number of frames, I was able to adjust it very precisely. The secret is that we have three places to work with Multicam clips: There is an Angle Viewer were we can playback our clip to verify sync and preview it. We can open the clip into its own timeline for adjusting, filtering, keyframing animations, etc. Finally we can drop a Multicam Clip into a Project or Compound Clip timeline to do the actual cutting between angles. Adding, deleting, reaming, re-synching, keyframing, effects all applied to angles inside the Multiclips' own timeline is unbelievably easy and fast. Again, it’s just blown my mind how fast and easy it is. I can edit on-the-fly during playback, or while using the skimmer, for very fast, flexible cutting.
The one thing to remember is that you’re always working with the same Multicam Clip once it’s created. You always adjust and cut the parent, and all instances you’ve dropped into other timelines reflect that. Thus it is recommended to duplicate the Multicam clip in the Browser first. This type of versioning is really easy, very fast, and I found it to be really useful. I can do several versions for my client to review in very little time.
A related enhancement is in the Smart Search window: We now can perform searches by “Clip Type”, which makes creating a Smart Search that will contain all of our Compound clips, Multicam clips, Audition clips, and layered graphic clips simple. Since we can also sync clips into Multicam clips by creation date and time, the Modify menu now has an option that allows us to change the creation date and time manually, which is very nice to have. We can also assign a camera name to a clip in the Import From Camera window, or in the Inspector window’s Info pane, since this is another sync metadata option. These are the little things that makes a huge difference.
At time of this writing, AJA and Blackmagic both have drivers out. I’m sure Matrox and others will be releasing drivers for their I/O devices soon. I installed the beta version of the AJA Kona LHi PCIe card drivers and now have broadcast output to my broadcast monitor. What a welcome enhancement to finally have true broadcast HD-SDI output! This feature according to Apple is still in beta, and rightfully so.
This feature relies on the new foundation that FCP X and Lion run on, which is not QuickTime-based. Thus, 3rd party vendors are not just updating old QT drivers, but need to write brand new drivers from the ground up in a brand new technology, just as Apple had to do with FCP X. But now that it’s here, I’m finding it very stable. There is some latency in my Viewer, as it looks like FCP X is giving my external broadcast monitor priority. This is the way to go if you have to deal with latency at the moment. This latency is visual only, not affecting audio at all.
Simply put, layer graphic files such as PSDs are now fully supported. Just like in FCP 7 they import as a Compound Clip, with each layer in its own lane, the bottom layer being placed in the Primary Storyline, while the rest become connected clips stacked up on top of it. They can each be manipulated independently of each other, copied, pasted, etc.
Pulling chroma keys is more powerful now simply because all of the advanced controls that only were accessible in the Keyer effect inside of Motion 5 are now all accessible inside of FCP X. We now can work with more precision on the chroma precision, matte adjustments, spill suppression, and light wrap parameters. The keyer does a wonderful job when first applied and it analyzes the clip immediately, but for problem shoots we can get really deep into some advanced controls to clean it up. And all keyframable, too. A very welcome enhancement for sure.
We now have the ability to relink individual clips pretty much like we did in FCP 7, but much more easily. Highlight an Event, or only one or more clips inside of an Event in the Browser. File > Relink Event Files brings up an interesting window: I can choose to relink only the missing or all of the selected files. I can locate them manually on my drive, and also have the option to not only relink, but to have the new physical file copied into my Event folder. And once relinked, every instance of that original in all Events and Projects is updated. We can also select one or more clips inside of a Project timeline and relink them in pretty much the same way.
With the 1.1 update of FCPXML, the old Automatic Duck utilities won’t work any longer. But, we have a new $9.99 app called “7toX” that will translate an FCP 6/7 exported XML file into an FCPXML 1.1 file that can then be imported into FCP X. According to co-creator Philip Hodgetts, this was only achievable in any realistic sense when FCPXML 1.1 was developed. And it actually brings over a good deal of your v.6/7 project’s details. This is a very welcome and very low-priced solution for those who’ve hesitated moving to FCP X due to having to continue working with older version projects. Soon another product called “XtoPro” will create AAF files from FCPXML 1.1 exports for bringing your work to ProTools for audio engineering.
Other minor updates worth mentioning are that Match Frame now shows the section of the clip used in the timeline selected as a range in the browser. All Events and Projects are backed up every 15 minutes now, in addition to the built-in auto save. See the Backup folder in your Event and Project folders. Faster launch times, stopping playback jumps to the playhead, date imported vs. date created metadata that can be changed, and other minor little things that will make big differences in the long run.
Having tested this update for the past 24 hours now, I’ve found wonderful stability, power, speed, and the pro features we’ve been waiting patiently for and I am a very happy camper. In all FCP X has come a long way in six months with three updates.
The new multicam is something that must be seen to be believed, the keyer is now fully functional and high end, XML is allowing more third party interface to happen, broadcast monitoring was the biggest problem for me, and with general better overall stability, this third update for Final Cut Pro X is very welcome and much needed.
I think we can now see that Apple really is committed to creating a professional storytelling tool that makes the post production workflow much faster and easier. It will be interesting to see all the different and unusual ways folks incorporate these enhancements into their work. With this update FCP X is going to take its place in more and more studios, as it is already doing in schools.
Ben Balser studied educational psychology at Loyola University, and after retiring from a 20+ year IT career, now produces, consults, teaches, and rents equipment for media production as a full time job. As an Apple Certified Master Trainer, he runs the Louisiana Cajun Cutters FCP users group, teaches Final Cut and Motion courses regularly in Louisiana at Louisiana State University’s Performing Arts Academy and annual Teen Filmmaking Bootcamp, Delgado Community College, The Orchard, and for AATC facilities across the USA. He has consulted for higher education, government, and private production facilities, as well as for film, video and broadcast projects.