Should Apple make an external display for Macs? One with a built-in GPU? How about the 2018 iPad Pros?
Apple’s September 2018 iPhone launch event didn’t mention the iPad Pro range. What might the future hold? The Apple rumour industry predicts a new look – inspired by the iPhone: smaller bezels, antenna lines around the edge. The iPad Smart connector may move to a different edge and the home button is removed to allow for Face ID to replace Touch ID.
If Apple start promoting another use for iPad Pros – as Pro accessories for Macs – then the iPad update may come in an event also promoting new Macs.
Many Mac users also have iPads. What if new iPads could improve Macs? My wish: that new iPads can act as external screens and eGPUs for Macs. This would be useful for MacBook Pro users who need more screen space and more power when on the move. The iPad Pro has a 2732 by 2048 pixel wide colour display. Its GPU can update the display 120 times a second. That graphics power could be useful for high-end applications.
Mac minis with a Thunderbolt 3-powered USB C connectors could get extra processing power and a display. For those who would like to manage multiple Mac minis, having a handy external screen to move from device to device would be very useful.
As many professional applications make extensive use of GPU processing, any help they can get from adjacent devices would be useful. I don’t know if the Lightning port on iOS devices can connect at Thunderbolt 3 bandwidth. Maybe the iPad Pro Smart Connector can.
Some professional applications could even add features that work on connected touchscreens like iPads and iPhones. For example a Lumberjack System-like keyword palette might be use for Final Cut Pro X.
If Apple did this, it would be very likely that I would seriously consider replacing my current iPad 2 with a new iPad Pro!
I think it would be a good move for the Motion playback system to be made available in macOS and iOS. At the moment, almost all the plugins in Final Cut Pro templates are made in Motion 5 – Apple’s motion graphics application. Motion can make effect, transition, title and generator plugins for Final Cut. If Motion’s features aren’t enough for plugin developers to make the plugins they want, they call FxPlug plugins in Motion to add features.
When Motion was first introduced, QuickTime could play back Motion files in any application. That meant you could use Motion documents as elements in After Effects projects. The current frame would be rendered very quickly in the GPU any time AE needed it. In many cases it was quicker to make complex animations in Motion and use them as layers in After Effects.
Imagine if that feature returned.
That would mean any macOS application would be able to use Motion templates. They are stored in the Motion Templates folder – not a ‘Final Cut Pro X plugins’ folder. If a plugin needs FxPlug extensions, those are stored in a standard OS folder. Timelines that use Motion templates would then be able to transfer from and to iMovie, Final Cut Pro X, Logic Pro X, Blackmagic DaVinci Resolve, Fusion, Adobe Premiere, After Effects, Nuke and more on the Mac.
Of course third-party developers would need to implement compatibility with Motion plugins. Compatibility that would not be cross-platform. Workflows that would not transfer to Windows and Linux: ‘Sorry, our render farm can’t work with your timelines – they use Motion templates. Our service isn’t Mac-based.’
For some developers, this would not be a problem – others might have a strategic direction that means that any feature that cannot be implemented on multiple OSes will not be implemented.
Motion templates available to all applications helps sell Macs.
Also if iOS supported Motion templates, timelines could be moved to and from iMovie, Clips and any NLE running on iPhones and iPads. Not to Windows- and Android-based mobile devices.
An observation: If you attach Motion templates to emails in Apple Mail, once the email is sent, the icons are replaced by placeholders to show that these are video files that can’t be played in the current application:
Could this be in preparation for when Motion templates can be played in applications other than Final Cut Pro X? I hope so.Read more
For a limited time my two commercial plugin packs are on sale. They are available at 20% off.
This pack of 120 transitions can be used to animate whole video clips, images, titles and logos on and off the screen. No need to use keyframes. Choose a few settings and your animation is done. Need to change the timing? Simply change the duration of the transition by dragging in the Final Cut Pro X timeline. No need to change the values and times for keyframes of multiple parameters.
Alex4D Animation Transitions also works in any aspect ratio. As well as traditional 16:9, they can be used to make super-wide animations in a 48:9 aspect ratio or wider. They can also add animation to square and vertical videos used in social media:
Find out more at alex4d.com/animationtransitions
This toolkit helps you tell stories with spherical video. Final Cut Pro X 10.4 introduced 360° features. Alex4D 360° Effects makes Final Cut even better.
This pack of effects includes three free plugins that speed up 360° video production.
See the wide range of effects over at alex4d.com/360effectsRead more
Going to IBC 2018 in Amsterdam next month? IBC is the main European event where the TV industry get together to learn about high-end broadcasting technology.
As usual Apple won’t have a stand. The good news is that Apple will be giving presentations about their professional video editing application. The Final Cut Pro X focus point on the show floor is the Atomos stand – D.25 in Hall 11.
Atomos will demonstrate the Final Cut Pro X ProRes RAW workflow from capture to HDR monitoring.
They will have a Final Cut Pro X advanced broadcast workflows theatre: a series of presentations by international professionals about how well the recent updates to Final Cut Pro X support high-end workflows. This is being delivered by London-based Soho Editors.
Apple Product Marketing are presenting every day from Friday September 14th to Tuesday September 18th.
Some presentation titles:
You might also bump into Ronny Courtens and Sam Mestman from LumaForge. LumaForge make advanced workgroup servers for post production that connect to Macs using 10 gigabit and 40 gigabit Ethernet cables. Ronny writes:
Sam and I will frequently be on the Atomos booth. Special LumaForge demos will be in our off-site demo room on an invitation-only basis. If you would like to see the JellyFish at work with our brand-new management software, drop me an e-mail.
Lumberjack System is a method for making the most of information known while shooting when in the Final Cut Pro X edit. If you would like to schedule a one-on-one with the experts at Lumberjack System, they have a booking page on their site.
I’ll update this post when I hear about more Final Cut related activities at IBC 2018.
If you haven’t registered for IBC 2018 yet, be quick – the free exhibition pass deadline is almost up.
Final Cut Pro X 10.0 was launched 7 years ago today. Why hasn’t it taken over the world of TV and film editing?
Final Cut is better than the rest. That isn’t enough.
Despite the efforts of the Apple’s Video Applications team, the ‘top’ 0.25% of editors don’t trust Apple as a whole: The wider Apple that makes Mac hardware that seems more and more out of date. The Apple that still can’t share its plans in a useful way.
The biggest problem: They don’t trust the Apple that doesn’t nurture a deep post ecosystem.
To switch from ‘the way we’ve always done it’ to a new way requires that the new way is over 50% better. ‘A little better’ or ‘cheaper’ isn’t worth the pain of switching. In practice ‘much cheaper’ is a bad sign in post. Charging too much less is a sign that you can’t be as professional as the status quo.
Apple would like high-end users to invest in their hardware and software, yet Apple doesn’t seem to care about others who have invested in businesses that support the high end. They still don’t trust Apple because of the way Final Cut Pro 7 was discontinued 7 years ago. Improving features in the application itself is not enough to win back trust.
To take Final Cut seriously, those making TV shows and feature films require ‘Final Cut Pro X versions’ of every stage of the traditional Avid workflow. The workflow is a throwback – a digital version of the 20th-century ways – but the fact that there are businesses at each stage making money providing these services makes feel safer than a modern alternative.
A few minutes search online will turn up perfectly good Final Cut ways of making TV shows and feature films. There are high-end solutions for every stage in the process. Sadly, the high end wants more than that. They also want competition between these solutions – competitors to the Lumaforge Jellyfish for example. Another example: they want multiple competing dailies companies who fight for their Final Cut Pro X workflow business.
It is also about people. Post-production supervisors want a variety of teams and individuals to choose from. Once a team has been put together, heads of department want the reassurance of being able to replace any member of the team with others who are almost as good. Knowing Avid means that you can be relied upon until you are easily replaced. Today there aren’t enough people in cities associated with TV and film production with Final Cut Pro X experience to hire and fire.
I am not convinced that the vocal tiny minority in feature films and TV are worth supporting. The previous generation of post suppliers sees a big benefit in marketing messages like ‘buy our product – it is used by award-winning editors.’ Apple seems to think that messages like this don’t convince those who are choosing their first paid editing application.
If it was your money, would you put millions of dollars into appealing to a few thousand people to use your application in order to appeal to the millions of other people?
I expect the wider Apple appreciates the Video Applications team’s contributions to mainstream success through Clips for iOS and iMovie for iOS and macOS. The continuing profitability of Final Cut Pro X insures its survival – alongside Apple’s commitment to not trusting third parties to make applications that make the most of high-end hardware.
What can the Video Applications team do? If they want to appeal to the vocal (but probably unimportant) high end, what is the investment case they need to put before the wider Apple?
The last gap in the Final Cut Pro X feature set is collaboration: where multiple people can work the same media and timelines at the same time. Post professionals don’t want a new take – they would be happy with a version of 90s-style Avid bin-locking. The Final Cut team don’t seem able to implement features this way. They are still building version 1 of a 21st century editing application: they are not in the business of adding shiny new code and hardware drivers to 20th century metaphors – like DaVinci Resolve and Adobe Premiere.
The answer is to implement collaboration into Final Cut Pro X that supports a much larger proportion of the market. If it can work for real people, it will also work for the vocal minority. Businesses supporting high-end post will then adapt these features to use for their market. Individuals in post will add Final Cut to the portfolio of applications they learn to use in their workflows.
It is likely that over 95% of videos made in the world are made by a single person. Apple should implement collaboration features that help those people do more. Instead of using XML and Finder-level integration with third-party tools, tools in the Final Cut interface should support individuals helping individuals.
Instead of saying ‘help me’ – I’m saying ‘help millions – including me at the high end.’
Apple should support a mid-market video consultancy ecosystem – following their FileMaker Pro model. The pitch would be: ‘If you are unhappy with what you do today, you could set yourself up as a freelance video consultant. You will be able to support yourself by proposing video production solutions to small businesses and organisations in your locality. You will be able to make money on Mac hardware, on software, developing workflows, providing support and evolving workflows over months and years. They will want to pay your monthly fee because of the services you will be able to supply.’
For consultants to be able to do this, they need to make tools to extend Final Cut. Tools that don’t require doctors, dentists, builders, teachers, lawyers, assistants or secretaries to have to understand terms like ‘XML’ and ‘transfer library.’ It is unlikely that Apple will want third-parties to touch the Final Cut UI. They are very far from Adobe-style third-party free access to windows in Final Cut itself.
Most small- and medium-sized businesses use databases to organise the relationship with their customers and suppliers. There is a huge market for freelancers and small companies to design, implement, support and improve these custom databases. A significant proportion of small businesses would benefit from being able to tell stories using video.
I would imagine that the wider Apple would be more interested in helping millions of people change their future using video than investing in the special needs of the high end.
Apple don’t like to be told what to do. They like stories. The story of the unsatisfactory present – followed by a story from a bright future. Apple want to then choose how to get to that future.
The present: there are millions of freelancers and small businesses all over the world who shy away from telling their stories using video. They associate video production with high-costs and lack of control – using professional video production companies of all sizes.
The bright future: tens of millions of small and medium-size businesses supported by a new class of freelancer – who can provide services that empower individuals and organisations to tell stories using video.
…or Final Cut Pro 8.Read more
In recent years Apple have used the keynote presentation of their annual Worldwide Developers Conference as a showcase for new hardware launches. This year Intel’s delays in producing significant CPU updates makes it less likely we will see new MacBooks, Macs or Mac Pros this time.
As this event is for those making software and hardware for iOS, tvOS, watchOS and macOS devices, I hope Apple launches a new hardware plan.
Yesterday Arm announced three new chip families for smaller devices: a new CPU, a new GPU and a new VPU (video processor).
AnandTech reports that Arm’s new VPU includes hardware support for VP9 10-bit, H.264 10-bit and HEVC 10-bit – with the ability to play 8K 60fps video.
In concert with their display processor, the new video processor is currently able to handle HDR10 and HLG formatted HDR video. Meanwhile support for HDR10+ – which is HDR10 with support for dynamic metadata – is set to arrive in the future.
This shows what Apple could be doing with the A-series chips they use in iOS devices (and future VR/AR devices).
The rate at which Apple have improved their A-series CPUs is the envy of phone makers. In September 2017, Wired reported that the new A11 processor in the iPhone 8 and X includes what Apple calls its ‘Neural Engine’:
The engine has circuits tuned to accelerate certain kinds of artificial-intelligence software, called artificial neural networks, that are good at processing images and speech.
Apple said the neural engine would power the algorithms that recognize your face to unlock the phone and transfer your facial expressions onto animated emoji. It also said the new silicon could enable unspecified “other features.”
What if Apple created a very small single-core ‘neural processing unit’ – the N1 NPU?
If N1s are included in all Apple product updates in coming months, it would make simpler for developers to add modern features to their products and services. Including developers within Apple.
Using the cell concept of multiple processing units, the number of N1s used in an Apple device would depend on its power budget, memory and profit margin:
Once we having devices with the processing power to deal with the increased demands of modern uses, Apple could facilitate connecting them together for combined power.
Although Apple would prefer for its devices to have no physical hardware connections, for those that would gain from sharing processing power with other devices, it might be worth it. For example, although the new Mac Pro might connect with some devices using multiple Thunderbolt 3 buses, it would be even better if it had a connector that would interface with other Mac Pros – or a stack of new Mac minis that combine together like Lego.
Tune into Apple’s livestream from WWDC18 on Monday to see what is coming.Read more