We Make Movies (Better): Giving FCPX Another Chance

It’s become one of the film world’s great pastimes to sit around and hate on what Apple did with Final Cut Pro X. Upon its launch, you would have thought Apple had come in and kidnapped every editor’s first born child. And, let’s be honest, the FCPX launch was not Apple’s finest moment. I still really believe that if Apple had introduced FCPX as Beta software and not immediately discontinued what was at the time (and in some ways still is) the best edit software on the market (Final Cut 7), people would have been really excited about X’s potential, and would have really enjoyed playing around with it instead of calling it an atrocity and affront to humanity. If it had been a soft launch and not labeled as the greatest thing to ever happen to post-production, people would have happily continued to use FCP7 while playing with X on personal projects (that’s what I did), waiting for the product to mature, and getting progressively more excited about the software’s rapid development. This is not what happened.

After the launch, both Avid and Premiere grabbed up a bunch of market share as people either dumped Apple or just stuck with FCP7 until they could figure out what to do next. The pro editing community pretty much wrote Apple off, and FCPX largely became an afterthought in the editing world. More dirt was thrown on the grave when the new Mac Pro everyone (myself included) had been waiting years for turned out to be basically the same one they’d been selling—with a slightly better processor, but still no Thunderbolt port. Let’s say I wasn’t alone in my feeling that Apple no longer cared about pro editors.

But as is almost always the case with Apple, we shouldn’t make hasty judgments. While everyone was sitting around their edit suites, telling each other how terribly Apple was treating them, Apple was busy making FCPX a hell of a lot better. In the months after the release, Apple began releasing regular updates of the software. When they released 10.0.3 with multicam editing, a few people woke up and took notice: Suddenly we had at our disposal the best implementation of multicam editing in any non-linear editing (NLE) software anywhere. But then for the next two updates, the program seemed to be slipping back into obscurity—that is until they released 10.0.6.

I’m an editor and colorist by trade, and I’ve been doing this a long time. I started on a flat bed in film school, moved over to Avid for awhile, and then spent years with the original Final Cut Pro editing just about every kind of thing there was to cut. I can honestly say that with the latest release of FCPX, Apple has finally delivered on its promise of revolutionizing the future of NLE. I literally can’t believe how fast I’m now able to work, and how quickly my projects are getting done. I have finally hit the point where I actually get annoyed when I have to go back to FCP7. And as a person who does a lot of indie film work, I can also honestly say that for the indie filmmaker, the wisest way to spend your money is on FCPX, hands down.

For less than $10,000, using FCPX, you can basically start your own post house—and that’s exactly what I did. I am currently able to edit a 4k RED feature film in FCPX using nothing more than a Retina Macbook Pro (or even a Mac Mini) and a Thunderbolt equipped G-Raid.  Performance is excellent, and I get multiple streams of RED footage playing in real time.  Not only that, but with a laptop and a Dreamcolor monitor, I can compete with Hollywood feature films and deliver a stunning, multiplex quality Digital Cinema Package (DCP) file from this very modest setup, using a combination of DaVinci Resolve (which is free if you’re only doing 1080p work), and another little free program called Open DCP. The best part? Not a single dime of it goes to some post house that wants to charge you $600/hour for color correction, plus another $2,000 to deliver that very same DCP file.

I’ve fully switched over to FCPX for all of my projects, and I now basically laugh at anyone who tells me what I can’t do with the program. And If you’re a young filmmaker out there, you might as well beat the curve, and start using FCPX now. While it’s still not perfect (I’ve got a list of things I’d love to see added, still), there are no lingering deal breakers, and there is nothing I can’t do with the program that affects my day to day workflow. The fact is, I’m delivering projects in less than half the time it used to take me with FCP7, and my clients are happier now than they’ve ever been. And that’s really all that matters.

In my next post, I’ll go through my setup in a bit more detail, and teach you how to assemble a modern FCPX edit suite. Speaking of which, I’ve released a series of free FCPX tutorials over on the We Make Movies (www.wemakemovies.org) website. If you want to know more about some of the more advanced features in the latest version of FCPX, check them all out here:

http://themovieswemake.com/tutorials/

(Batch Renaming and Advanced Multicam Sync is a great one to start with)

And if you’re just getting started with FCPX, and you want to get up to speed fast on how it all works, I can’t recommend the Ripple Training Tutorials highly enough (and if you want to really take it to another level, Mark Spencer’s series of Motion Tutorials are pretty much the greatest thing ever). For more info, go to their site here:

http://www.rippletraining.com

(P.S. They just released a new DaVinci Resolve Tutorial as well. It’s from Alexis Van Hurkman, the guy who literally wrote the manual for the program. Get it, and you’ll be up to speed finishing films almost immediately.)

And for all the info you need on Open DCP, check this out:

http://www.thefilmbakery.com/blog/creating-a-feature-film-dcp-using-opendcp

Lastly, if you need your film finished cheaper, better, and faster than anywhere else in LA, check us out at:

www.wemakemoviespost.com

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