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Thursday, July 21, 2011

Final Cut Pro X - The way to go for DSLR editing?

What to say about FCPX the revolutionary version of the Apple editing software? Is FCPX a revolution in editing for indie filmmakers, or did Apple fail to live up to their promises for the program? The internet has quickly been awash with first thoughts, opinions, angry rants and overexcited tweets. I took the time to use FCPX for a while before writing this message. There are so many different opinions on the internet that it's hard to know where the truth is. I'm amazed at how many people complain without knowing anything. I wanted to make my own opinion before to say something. 


FCPX has an exciting potential but it seems to be useless for many professional users. There’s a lot of passion on both sides. And both sides have some truth behind them. I do not want to get into the debate. I just want to share my experience, both the good and the bad. If you want to get into the debate or if you want more information about that, here are the best messages that I found on the internet :

I purchased FCPX the day of its release and I enjoy it. It has many good things to recommend it. The user experience is really simple and everything in FCPX is designed to get a result as quickly as possible. It was fun at first being able to immediately import my 5D footage and edit with no delay, without worrying about codecs.

I quickly had a problem with stability. So, I decided to disable the background rendering (which is enabled by default) and it has changed my life. This option should be disabled by default because the platform is not stable and the software is unusable for a project that contains at least 20 minutes in the timeline. When you disable this option, you have a fast editing software that works really nice. I will probably like the background rendering in the future, but I can wait for a more stable version... Without this option, the performance of FCPX is incredible.

There's native H.264 support, and the auto transcoding, image correction and stabilization tools are all designed to help you get your footage looking more professional more quickly. Even with your 5D H.264 footage, you can apply color grades, crop, scale, and rotate all in real time and it's really impressive. In FCPX, you can add and delete filters and immediately play the result with no rendering.

FCPX is not stable and there are a lot of bugs but it works and it works well once you get rolling on it. And it will only get better as Apple provides updates and plugins become available. Don't forget that FCPX is distributed via the App Store, they can update the program much more frequently than when it was sold as a package on DVD. I hope that they will release quickly the first updates. FCP7 plugins don't work in FCPX and it is really a problem for many of us, but new promising plugins are coming for FCPX : CrumplePop LumineuxPomfort DSLRLog2Video FxPlug.


To be honest, the major issue I encountered during my last short film editing was due to the Technicolor CineStyle picture style. First of all, I wanted to put the CineStyle LUT table in FCPX but someone answered me : "no LUT table in FCPX", "no calibrated monitoring in FCPX". Since the release of my short film, a new free FCPX plugin called Pomfort DSLRLog2Video FxPlug has come. It transforms the "flat" gamma curve of material to a Rec709 gamma curve and it is intended to be used for material recorded in Technicolor's CineStyle image style for Canon DLSRs.

The other issue with the Technicolor CineStyle profile was different. Most of you probably know that Technicolor CineStyle comes with more noise and it is recommended to use a denoiser after the color correction step. No matter, there is a denoiser in Compressor X... but... It doesn't work! I really like FCPX and I believe in its future, but there are many missing features, and the open source project Avidemux saved me one more time. The Avidemux filter called "MPlayer Denoise 3D" is still my favorite companion when I use the Technicolor CineStyle picture style. I like to use the CineStyle profile with my Canon 5D Mark II because for me this is the way to get the best quality in post. I like to shoot with only just available lighting and the CineStyle profile helps to get the best dynamic range, especially in low light conditions. I can't figure it out why the Compressor X denoiser doesn't work. I could tolerate a bug but it simply does not do anything if you enable it. It is irritating me!

This is the only unsurmountable problem I had in FCPX. I think that FCPX is designed to provide a feature set for professionals but it is not ready, not yet... In my opinion, FCPX is not professional actually, mainly because there are too many bugs. I lost my work 2 times because FCPX blocked my mac. How is it possible? I know how it is difficult to make a software but I don't know how it is possible to release a software with that kind of bugs. I think that there weren't any tests for everything. For instance, the text inspector is really unusable, the Compressor X denoiser isn't functional, and it is not really possible to use Compressor X in FCPX. They should have wait before releasing the first version...


The most frequently reported problem for FCPX is that it is not compatible with FCP7. On one hand I can understand why people want this compatibility, but on the other hand let's be honest :
  • Apple had warned in april 2011 : We would like to make the revolution possible and we will call it X for 10 because we move on... 10 after 7 means that we break the architecture.
  • In April 2011, many people said that iMovie'11 was the way to go to be able to finish a new project in FCPX. I talked about that a few months ago in this message.
  • If I start a project in FCP7, I can finish it in FCP7... I'm not sure to understand what is the real problem for that?
  • If my project made with FCP7 is released... Do I really want to migrate to FCPX for this project? Maybe, but just for fun...
  • If I start a new project, I can start directly in FCPX...

So, I entered into the debate which escalated into an angry exchange in many forums. I don't want to go further because I'm not an Apple addict or an Apple employee, but I just want to show that after spending a few hours learning how to deals with the bugs, FCPX has been a great experience for me, and finally a wonderful time-saver.

I really hope more people will give it a try. Trust me, it works. Many people said FCPX is not a professional editing solution, maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow, but I think that it will change in less than one year... I have read somewhere that FCPX is ten steps forward and three steps back. I agree with that. I made the choice to believe in FCPX and in its future, and I think that FCPX is the way to go for DSLR filmmakers...

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