2010 Apple patent: Final Cut Pro X concepts

Saturday, 30 August 2014

A patent filed by Apple in 2010 shows a possible future direction for iMovie that includes ideas that have appeared in Final Cut Pro X. More evidence of the large amount of research and development Apple put into editing user interfaces.

I've written before about Apple's patent concerning wider story structure as well as timeline structure. This week saw Apple being awarded a patent that seems to have arisen out of making editing easier for a wider range of people. A step on the way to general video literacy.

US Patent 8,819,557 is for "Media-editing application with a free-form space for organizing or compositing media clips." It follows on from the way older editing applications gave space in icon-based bins for editors to play with clip order. In Final Cut Pro 7, Adobe Premiere and Media Composer bins can show clips as icons that can be arranged in any way prior to being added to a timeline. 

This Apple patent turns icon-view bins into spaces where editors can combine clips together into timelines, as well as perform many other operations - including assigning keywords, defining selected ranges, skimming, trimming sequences and trimming edits and more.

8819557-editing-pasteboard-a-editing

 

8819557-editing-pasteboard-c-dynamic-trimming

The patent includes a storyboard that shows an element of dyamic trimming. Here is an excerpt from the text:

During playback, a playhead moves along the media clips in the sequence. Before the playhead reaches the end of the media clip, the user can invoke a command that will cause the media clip to continue playing content from its source file after the current out-point is reached. When the playhead reaches a location in the media clip source at which the user wants to set a new out-point for the media clip, the user can invoke a command that will cause the frame at that location to be set as the new out-point for the media clip.

As well as the full text of the patent, you can view the whole 119 page patent - including many UI storyboards in this 13MB PDF. The easiset way of reading the patent is to have the text in one window with the PDF in an another.

 

 

Why Avid is No. 1 in Hollywood

Thursday, 28 August 2014

When Premiere and Final Cut users try to convince Avid editors that they are living in the past, they often don't understand the day-to-day experience of high-end TV and feature film post production.

To provide an insight into why Avid is still number 1 in Hollywood, Chris Fenwick invited TV editor Austin Flack to talk on his Final Cut Pro X podcast: the FCPX Grill.

fcpxGrill logo

If you don't have the time to listen to the whole 74 minute episode, here are my notes on what was said:

[6:05] AF: I’m a reality TV editor, I’ve been doing it for 6 or 7 years…

[6:47] AF:…I’ve done a lot of Top Chef, I did a season of Masterchef

[7:25] AF:…and I’ve done a few seasons of Catfish, that’s the latest thing I’ve been doing

[10:48] AF: USC, big film school, they had a big partnership with Avid…

[11:17] AF: I was using Premiere on my computer at home… I would try and click on the clips to drag them around and it wouldn’t work and I was “this is lame - screw this” and so I gave up on Avid

[11:55] AF: When I got my first TV assistant job, it was Avid, and I bluffed and said I used it in college

[12:23] AF: Since I got into TV it has been primarily Avid…

[13:08] AF: I did prefer Final Cut 7 - strongly - for several years. It was way more modern… a year into being on Avid shows, I realised I was faster on Avid. It was a more fluid process.

Collaboration

[15:26] AF: The primary reason that most editors and post people in L.A. working on big TV shows don’t think that Final Cut X or Premiere are ready are because of shared storage and multi-seat edits… Avid is fantastic at huge post-production projects.

[16:02] CF: So by shared storage you mean… all the media for all the episodes is going to go on one shared server …and everyone has access to the same media.

[17:14] AF: …we’re not just talking about editors, we’re talking about story producers, story assistants, assistant editors, even our supervising producers - they all have Avid …everything is happening at once. I’ve been on shows with 10–15 editors, another 10 story assists and story producers, other producers, five assistant editors … we can work at the same time in the same projects. That’s the big thing.

 

[18:20] AF: Final Cut X is not terrible, I’ve cut with it and there are things I like about it …Final Cut 7 was not a big threat to Avid in Hollywood …Final Cut 7 was never the incumbent. Avid has never let go of the throne

[20:04] AF: (On MTV’s Catfish) We are constantly jumping all over the place …I’m am touching virtually every episode and the other editors are touching my episodes

[20:40] AF: Right now I’m cutting the 5th episode of this show. I didn’t start it, other people are working on different things in it. We can break it up by act, we can break it up by scene and we’ll have the same project open - we are sharing the project. I can be editing Act 1, the editor down the hall can be editing Act 2, the assistant can be adding footage, graphics and music, and story producers can be making string outs for Act 3 and that is all happing in the exact same project.

[22:00] AF: We cannot work on the same timelines…

[22:26] CF: (In Final Cut Pro X terms…) So I open a library, you open the very same library, I open a project named scene 2, you’ve already opened up a project named scene 1

[23:14] AF: If I’m the first person to open a bin (an event in Final Cut Pro X terms), it locks to me - it’s my bin. No-one can change it while I have it open. When I close it someone else can open it and change it. They can still open it… if I had a bin open… they can just open it as read only

[25:13] AF: In Avid an assistant editor can email me or ping me and say the graphics are in, all I do is save mu project, which is a refresh all of a sudden these bins pop up in my project (events appear in a library) and everyone else’s project…

[25:51] AF:…As soon as I do something someone else has access to it, as soon as they do something I have access to it.

 

[26:02] AF: Although Avid isn’t easy to use, it’s a lot easier to use especially for story producers and story editors, who are not technically savvy, it is a lot easier than anything in the Finder (connecting to servers, uploading, version control)

[26:32] AF: It takes about two buttons to log into the servers… to log into the project and you are up an running… people can watch my cuts as I’m cutting… they can open them read only

[26:53] AF: You can load sequences into the source window (event viewer) from someone who is working on a project, but I want to steal some stuff from their timeline… (you can open their read-only compound clip in it’s own timeline) …you can pick out some stuff you want to take and overlay it onto your project… if I’m doing a flashback and I need a bit of that thing to flash back to, I can set an in and out, pick the tracks - maybe I don’t want their music, and I don’t want this graphic or something - and I can just lay that into my sequence

 

[27:58] AF: A lot of people in Hollywood love Adobe, they love Final Cut X, but if you add a bunch of editors to a project, that’s an Avid project.

 

Designed for editors to edit and assistants to assist

[28:37] CF: Austin, were you the person who Tweeted me once “I’ve been listening to the Final Cut Grill and everything you talk about helps the assistant editor” 

[29:14] AF: I will admit that I was an Avid assistant, once, but these days I could not do that job…

[29:27] AF: Avid is not easy… technically-speaking. …I could still be a Final Cut 7 assistant editor… Final Cut X, I really understand it, I’m a tech-savvy guy, DaVinci Resolve, After Effects. …in Avid’s world, the editor becomes an idiot. Why I need something, I call an assistant and say “Could you take care of this, I don’t really know how to do it” …there’s just some things that are kind of old and kind of weird to use.

[30:27] AF: I don’t do any tasks that would be an assistant editor’s task… I’m just editing… it’s a failure of the process if I have to string-out a scene. They’re paying me a fair amount more than the story producers to edit.

 

[31:00] AF: When I’m editing, I find Avid much easier, much faster. …the kind of work you describe in Final Cut Pro X, which is great - with metadata, keywords and all these wonderful things you can do… that’s not ever what I’m doing.

[31:26] AF: When I start editing in Final Cut X I get really frustrated …when I’m in a timeline doing a cut that’s when I think Avid is much more fluid…

 

CF talked about at his company different editors sharing media in different rooms using Final Cut Pro X, a million Final Cut Pro X sales vs. 25,000 professional editors.

[35:49] AF: (with Final Cut 7) the fact that we couldn’t have the same project open at the same time was a frustration.

 

[36:05] AF: Now Final Cut Pro X has reached parity with where Final Cut Pro 7 was, but Final Cut 7 wasn’t good enough. 

[36:53] AF: If you really wanted to, you could edit a very complicated show on Final Cut X, but it wouldn’t be as fast and fluid

CF talked about bullet-point marketing. From a marketing perspective MacOS and Windows were the same - until you tried them. The same with Tivos and Comcast DVRs

[38:45] AF: (With Avid) it’s all this version control, it’s this database …a robust database that can manage these enormous projects and keep these versions in control and make sure everything stays linked… 

 

Fluid timeline

[40:31] AF: As an editor… Avid is more fluid. Avid is, a lot of ways, antiquated… but when I’m editing - especially when I’m using dynamic trim, I’m so happy…

[41:48] AF: It’s a lot about not taking your hands off the keyboard… in Avid I can play the edit as I’m changing it …I change the edit with the J, K and L keys. If I select an edit, press L, the edit plays forward in real time, and if I press the space bar, the edit point has changed, and the great thing is that it loops forever until I unselect the edit…

[43:25] AF: (With dynamic trimming, you press the space bar when it feels right)

AF and CF discuss music editing.

[46:22] AF: I find it so terrible in Final Cut X that you are always mousing.

 

CF dismissed the need for dynamic trimming:

[47:59] FC: If it takes you five times to find the edit… you’ve got to get your chops up!

(Chris Fenwick does not speak for all Final Cut Pro X editors on this subject! AG)

[48:52] AF: (Dynamic trimming is) so wonderful… it gives you a second to think about it… there’s a fluidity, a simplicity and an elegance to just using your J, K and L keys… when you are rippling and rolling you get the four up, but you are still getting dynamic trimming…

 

[50:32] AF: I was a Final Cut 7 partisan… I preferred it in television… I preferred the mouse and clicking and dragging. In complicated television environments, the kind of cutting I’m doing am just way faster… when you are clicking and dragging, you are not seeing exactly what frame you dragged that out to. You are not seeing that frame play. You might look at the frame “that’s the frame where he closes his eyes” but then you play the edit and say “no that doesn’t work”

[51:35] AF: Dynamic trimming didn’t come to me quickly. The way it works in Resolve is powerful but sort of clunky… If you get into an Avid situation… you are not even clicking on stuff , it’s just a lovely world.

 

[53:22] AF: Probably 80% of what I’m doing… I am breaking audio sync on purpose in Avid… X makes it cumbersome to break audio sync and then… you can’t put them back together which is maddening to me… and it doesn’t show frame offsets, so you don’t see how much out of sync it is… I don’t like how its trying to keep audio in sync because usually not what I want…

[55:16] AF: I’m the editor. It feels like I’m in Microsoft Word and the paperclip is trying to tell me what to do… I’m in charge, I know what I’m doing.

 

AF then introduced “Franken-biting” making people say things they didn’t say.

[56:14] AF: (In Top Chef) We are trying to get them to explain the recipe in 10 seconds as opposed to a minute and a half…

[56:52] AF: The biggest reason why Avid is not going anywhere anytime soon is because of ScriptSync

CF agrees:

[57:10] CF: I’ll turn to the producer and say I need five different versions of where he says the word “and”

AF then went on to explain ScriptSync (for transcribed or planned scripts) and PhraseFind (detecting words in verité footage).

[1:01:41] AF: (There’s so much footage in reality TV that) we always work offline… almost never working full res… ScriptSync is virtually everything.

 

[1:04:36] CF explains how Final Cut Pro X’s product manager came from Avid, and that he understands how some editors see Avid’s advantages over Final Cut Pro X. He went on to say that one day Avid and maybe soon after that Final Cut Pro X will be the old way of doing things. CF also said that the vast majority of people who call themselves editors need to do the assistant editing stuff.

[1:07:09] AF: When I edit stuff at home, I often use Final Cut X if it is relatively simple… I did cut a TV pilot on it and I got very frustrated.

[1:07:24] AF: If you’re an owner-operator or a small production company, Final Cut X or Adobe are great choices, I don’t think I would invest in Avid…

[1:07:56] AF: For big-time TV work Avid is still virtually the only game in town… if you’re a younger editor who aspires to big-time TV work, you need to know Avid for at least the next 5 or 6 years. You are going to be cutting in Avid… that’s just what’s going to happen

[1:08:20] AF: In a lot of ways Avid is a dinosaur that is ready to be disrupted, and that there are a lot of things they’ve been slow to embrace. Frankly I think that Adobe is the real threat. They are better at software than Avid, they are a bigger company, their survival depends on it. Apple’s survival does not depend on capturing the very high-level professional TV market… what they need is a Final Cut Server, and if that’s going to cost $1500 and need dedicated hardware, I don’t know if they feel like its worth it… Did Final Cut Server even come out?

[1:09:43] AF: Everything’s going to change: Avid has a lot of ridiculous qualities that are from the 80s…

[1:10:13] AF: Hollywood wants to use the best tool and right now Avid is the best tool for these things.

 

To see Austin Flack's video of how well dynamic trimming works in Avid, and more useful links, visit the FCPX Grill podcast episode page.

Following on from this episode there was a discussion about dynamic trimming on the fcp.co forum - showing advanced trimming in Final Cut and where it falls short compared with the Avid version.

Follow Austin Flack on Twitter and visit his website.

 

If Apple wants Avid's market, could they change Final Cut Pro X faster than Avid could change Avid Everywhere to capture some of Apple's editing market? We'll see!

UHD/4K and HDMI 2.0

Wednesday, 27 August 2014

Many people are looking forward to devices that can send and receive HDMI 2.0 signals. Some manufacturers have said that their HDMI 1.4 hardware may be able to be upgraded to HDMI 2.0 using a software patch - the connectors and cables are the same.

When we do get computers, screens, cameras and recording devices that are compatible with HDMI 2.0, what are the limitations when it comes to the various flavours of UHD and 4K?

The HDMI.org FAQ has the answers:

Does HDMI 2.0 support BT.2020 (rec.2020) colorimetry?
Yes. HDMI 2.0 includes support for BT.2020 Colorimetry with 10 or more bits of color depth.
Video Formats defined in BT.2020 and supported by HDMI 2.0 specification:
– 2160p, 10/12 bits, 24/25/30Hz, RGB/4:2:2/4:4:4
– 2160p, 10/12 bits, 50/60Hz, 4:2:0/4:2:2

What are the 4K formats supported by HDMI 2.0?

4k-over-hdmi2

So if you need the best quality 4K high frame rate monitoring, HDMI 2.0 won't be enough. It also means that higher frequency 4K monitors will need to drop some colour fidelity in UI mode (when using the monitor as an additional screen with NLE UIs) in contrast with playback mode.

Find out more in the HDMI FAQ

 

Tour de Final Cut Pro X for Collaboration

Tuesday, 26 August 2014

It has been three years since Apple launched Final Cut Pro X. Although they marketed it as a new version of their venerable Final Cut Pro application, it was a completely new video editing software.

As the months and years go by, Final Cut is being used on more and more high profile projects.

Here's the next milestone in the history of Final Cut: how a team for UK production company VSquared used four edit suites and a 70TB SAN to produce 21 days of TV highlights shows for the 2014 Tour de France using Final Cut Pro X.

Producer James Venner:

There were some big hurdles to cross, the learning curve would be steep for the editors, EVS would have to be removed from the record path because they showed no inclination to make their files compatible. On the plus side we'd be doing something new, I wanted an edit system that made us re-examine our workflow; rethink why and how we did things and hopefully inject some new creativity. I wanted something that would grow with us over several years.

I didn't want a system that just let us keep doing the same old thing. Time to roll the dice.

Read the full report on how it was done over at FCP.co

More than a "What we did this Summer" report

Some Avid editors will take refuge in the fact that the kind of collaboration available in Final Cut isn't up to their standards of shared content available to multiple editors. Apple's development of Final Cut Pro X isn't about directly competing feature for feature with Premiere Pro and Media Composer as soon as possible. It is about adding features and workflows to Final Cut as flexibly as possible - allowing for years of future improvements to a system that is just starting out.

Apple and third parties can learn much from case studies. Stories like these can be used to close deals when selling post solutions and as a guide for how to set up workflows. Another interesting use is to help Apple and third parties choose what to concentrate on developing next. Some third parties weren't ready to support a Final Cut Pro X workflow whereas new suppliers provided support and more:

We must thank Pierre Chevalier from Softron for not only providing excellent product support, but for also adding a few tweaks to the program which helped us a lot.

Depending on how well Final Cut Pro X does in TV post production, third parties will be wise to ignore it or to invest in supporting it.

As production companies get used to these kind of workflows - better in some ways than the Avid equivalents - Apple can then make the necessary improvements to their applications, operating systems and hardware that will satisfy more and more post professionals.

It is easier to understand how a new feature in Final Cut Pro X 10.1.6 fits into 2015 TV production if the workflows are already there.

Last night a very talented team edited the 66th Primetime Emmy Awards in Los Angeles. Their workflow no doubt included Avid Media Composer. This Tour de France case study puts Final Cut Pro X one step closer to being at the centre of high-end live event TV post production.

 

How many copies of Final Cut Pro? Apple’s numbers

Monday, 25 August 2014

Creative COW forum member Franz Bieberkopf has done some interesting research and rounded up the numbers when Apple have announced how many copies of Final Cut Pro have been sold over the years:

Though I think user numbers are of limited value, it has become a bit of an interest to me (particularly in light of how secretive and vague the various developers tend to be, and in light of the sometimes outrageous claims here). I dug into past announcements from Apple in order to sketch the shape of the numbers that we do know (even including a graph!), and thus the growth curves over the past 15 years.

Read more at the Apple FCPX or Not: The Debate forum at Creative COW.

 

Post problems? Don't blame technology - FCPWORKS on workflow

Thursday, 21 August 2014

An excerpt from on a Red Shark post written by a cinematographer: 

The shenanigans we are seeing now, the re-framing and re-cropping of our work by less talented others, will only become more upsetting and egregious as the pixel counts rise higher. Alas, giving producers, editors and indecisive directors so much resolution invites foul play.  And that is exactly what many of us are experiencing now.

My first reaction to this was "now DPs will truly understand how screenwriters feel," but Sam Mestman of FCPWORKS is more constructive:

On the one hand, I can totally understand where he’s coming from, and he’s totally right. I’ve seen quite a few projects butchered in color correction, and I imagine it must be very difficult to go out and put your heart and soul into shooting/lighting something only to have it completely reworked in a way that’s entirely not what was imagined… and then be credited as if that was how you wanted it. That sucks.

However, this is not the fault of the resolution, RAW, or improvements in technology. The fault lies with the way that departments work together, and it’s my biggest pet peeve in the entire industry.

No one talks to each other.

Sam then goes onto to explain how the many little descisions made by different departments go towards increasing the cost of post production. 

An article that's well worth reading, and saving for when you need to explain the advantage of hiring someone who will take responsibility for the whole workflow.

 

 

Televisual Production Technology Survey 2014: Editing Software

Thursday, 21 August 2014

As part of a survey of '100 senior production staff' Televisual asked about what post-production software they use.

Televisiual2014

 

Great news for Avid.

Who will step up?

Although this looks like bad news for Final Cut Pro X fans, I'm surprised it is used by ten of those surveyed. 

…the FCPX upgrade which alienated many users. “We always edited FCP until Apple produced a useless upgrade version,” says one indie head of production.  Respondents score FCPX poorly in terms of workflow, support and feature set – but highly in terms of price.

If post companies find X is too limited 'in terms of workflow, support and feature set', then fewer companies will being using it next year.

Would higher usage amongst this group of 100 companies result in bigger sales to the many professionals who would find Final Cut Pro X useful? If X gets more high-end features that would be a sign the business of these 100 execs matters to Apple.

It also falls to third parties to provide better workflow consultancy and support options - if they still think there's a large enough potential market for Final Cut.

If you think what they said is relevant to your buying choices, go to the Televisual site to see what the 100 said about compositing, grading, 4K and cameras

Thanks to the MotionVFX mBlog for pointing me in the direction of this survey.

 

Apple bugfix updates for Final Cut Pro X, Motion & Compressor

Tuesday, 19 August 2014

Apple have updated their video Pro Apps to fix bugs found in previous versions. Apple list the following changes: 

Motion 5.1.2, Compressor 4.1.3 and Final Cut Pro X 10.1.3

Fixes reliability issues when burning a Blu-ray Disc or creating a Blu-ray disk image

Final Cut Pro X 10.1.3

  • Colour corrections pasted between clips are retained during Share
  • Effects applied to clips in the Browser in prior versions of the app are retained when adding those clips to the timeline
  • XML round-trip imports correctly when using gap clips
  • Improves reliability of automatic library backups
  • Imrpves stability when skimming growing clips in the Browser

The small (1-pixel) fault in the Divide, Arrows and Color Panels transitions hasn't been fixed in 10.1.3.

Before updating installed applications, I suggest you archive the current versions in case you need to go back. Control-click each application icon in the Finder and choose the Compress command from the context menu. Rename the .zip file with the name of the application and the version number.

You should also back up your libraries, because the file format has changed with version 10.1.3, which means that if 10.1.3 turns out to have problems, you won't be able to open libraries edited with 10.1.3 in 10.1.2:

file-format-change

No hidden feature updates found yet

In previous bugfix updates, Apple has sneaked in some new features and made small improvements. This time Apple haven't added any commands to the list of commands that can be added to custom keyboard shortcuts. There are no changes to the text that is shown in dialog boxes. UI code for the English version hasn't changed, but some bugs have been fixed in the UI code for the other languages that Final Cut supports: German, Spanish, French, Japanese and Chinese.

To get the free update, go to Software Update in the Apple menu. More on using the App Store to update applications.

For the full rundown on the new features in June's big Final Cut Pro X update read my post on 10.1.2.

 

 

Apple patent: Media compilation generation

Tuesday, 19 August 2014

Apple have been assigned a patent concerning the creation of video compilations based on individual preferences. 

The present disclosure is directed to a online video parsing application for parsing one or more videos and for performing one or more actions on particular portions of the videos. For example, the online video parsing application may identify portions of interest within particular videos. A "portion" of a video refers to at least a subset of content included within the video, and may be designated by a time interval. The video parsing application may process any type of video, and any type of video portion. The online video parsing application as discussed below may be implemented using any suitable combination of software, hardware, or both.

In some embodiments, the online video parsing application may create a compilation of video content. Compiling will be understood to mean concatenating, or arranging in series, videos or portions of videos thereby forming a new video. Compiling video, portions of video, or combinations thereof, may provide a technique for delivering desirable content to a user. In some approaches, compilations may be generated based on user input, may be manually assembled by a user, or both. For example, a user may specify content of interest by manually selecting portions of online videos. The user may also input keywords, preference information, any other suitable indicators, or any combination thereof to the online video parsing application for searching video content. In some approaches, the online video parsing application may generate compilation videos using, for example, information provided by the user, automated processes, or both.

8812498-compilations-content

The idea depends on tagging parts of online content. This could be done by their creators, third parties, or by software. Individuals could profit from being curators who discover and tag content well.

Users would be able to specify how long they want their compilation to be: from a few minutes to a continuous feed. 

I've written before about how iTunes Radio could more than a service that plays music content, but to make a custom radio station based on the full range of content a person might find interesting. Looks like Apple will be able to do this with other forms of media.

PS

The patent refers to 'online video' as 'podcast.' As podcasts can be audio or video podcasts, I wrote this post replacing the word 'podcast' with 'video' or 'online video.' One trick when applying for patents is to get protection for ideas in such a way that the competition don't think the idea applies to them.

Those who make the best compilations win!

 

 

Final Cut vs. Premiere: Speed/quality tradeoff?

Monday, 18 August 2014

Quality

A suprising article by Noam Kroll provides evidence that the quality of Adobe Premiere Pro CC's H.264 exports are noticeably worse than those from Final Cut Pro X:

After seeing this I can confidently say that I will not be compressing to H.264 using Premiere Pro or Adobe Media Encoder any more. The image from Premiere is so much blockier, less detailed, and muddy looking, not to mention that the colors aren’t at all accurate.

In fact I even did another output test later on with Premiere Pro set to 20,000 kbps and FCP X only set to 10,000 kbps and still the FCP X image was noticeably higher quality, so clearly something is up.

I took Noam's two stills and used the Difference transfer mode and a Levels adjustment layer in Adobe Photoshop to show how different Noah's two encodes:

264-ecoding-diffs-sm

Click for larger version.

Speed

Larry Jordan has written an article that compares export times between Apple Compressor and Adobe Media Encoder using higher bandwidth codecs:

Adobe Media Encoder more than holds its own with Apple Compressor in terms of speed, image quality, and flexibility. The results of this test are striking!

Interestingly, Larry found that that Adobe Media Enocder was much better at preserving quality at low data rates.

Recently Divergent Media posted a video to show how fast their EditReady encoding application is. It compares EditReady with Adobe Media Encoder, Apple Compressor and Telestream Episode. 

You might want to spool to the end. Interesting result - but after seeing Noam's post, perhaps the resulting encodes weren't all of the same quality.

I suppose different situations will need different workflows: sometimes speed will be more important than quality, somethimes it will be the other way around.

Up until now Adobe may have spent more time making encodes look good when using non-H.264 codecs. The good news is that they are very responsive with their Creative Cloud updates, so they are very likely to take a look at this.