Alex4D on podcasts

Friday, 21 November 2014

A roundup of my appearances on post-production podcasts:

April 2012

Digital Production Buzz

I talked to Larry Jordan about how I came to create plugins for Final Cut Pro and how things changed when Final Cut Pro X came along. Thanks to Michael Horton of the LA Creative Pro User Group for getting me on the air!

iTunes · Website (my interview only)

January 2013

Moviola Digital Filmmakers Podcast: Creating Final Cut Pro X Effects Using Apple Motion 5

After presenting one of four webinars for Moviola, I answered a few questions on making Final Cut plugins.


June 2013

Going POSTal

While attending the London SuperMeet featuring Tom Rolf, I said a few words during Ben Barden's coverage of the event.


August 2013

Go Creative Show 004: Pure Logic

On the release of Logic Pro X, I talked to host Ben Consoli about what the update means for Final Cut Pro X users.

iTunes · Website

October 2013

Go Creative Show 014: Hi Larry

I covered the announcement of the radically different Mac Pro.

iTunes · Website

November 2013

FCPX Grill 004: Reading the FCPX Tea Leaves

I talked to host Chris Fenwick about the (then) future version of Final Cut Pro X hidden inside a new version of iMovie.

iTunes · Website

December 2013

FCPX Grill 008: FCPX 10.1 Mini Intro

Chris and I discuss our initial impressions of Final Cut's biggest update.

iTunes · Website

February 2014

FCPX Grill 022: Homegrown Plugins

We discuss unreported features of Final Cut Pro X 10.1 and go into detail on plugin development.

iTunes · Website

July 2014

FCPX Grill 061: How Pro is Pro?

As Apple hardly communicate with traditional post production market, I talk to Chris about how Apple concentrates on different aspects of Final Cut for each release - in order to guess what Apple might update next.

iTunes · Website

November 2014

FCPX Grill 095: Let's Talk Motion

Chris Fenwick, a long-time Adobe After Effects designer, interviewed me about Motion, Apple's motion graphics production application.

iTunes · Website

FCPX Grill 100: An Incredible Year

I was part of a round-table of past and future guests celebrating 100 episodes of the Grill.

iTunes · Website


New ClipExporter 2: Final Cut Pro X export to After Effects and Nuke

Monday, 10 November 2014


New on the Mac App store: ClipExporter 2 for Final Cut Pro X. It takes Final Cut Pro X timelines and makes them editable in Adobe After Effects and Nuke. Although Final Cut has the best NLE real-time compositor, there are times when more complex problems need to be solved. Many high-end TV and feature films use After Effects and Nuke to create more advanced effects and compositions.

ClipExporter2 also exports media managed clips from Final Cut - useful for other post production tools that need the footage used on the timeline only. A useful tool for getting media managed RED footage onto an After Effects timeline.

ClipExporter 2 has been rewritten to take advantage of all the features of Final Cut's XML format - recreating timelines in After Effects and Nuke. You can even choose which clips to export by only converting clips with specific roles.

As part of the export process ClipExporter 2 also produces a clip log listing all the clips being converted (in a timeline or the clips with specific roles which will be exported). The list includes timecode information and Final Cut metadata and can be exported as a CSV file, which is useful for workflow administration.

ClipExporter works in four modes.

Export to Adobe After Effects

Timeline elements including blend modes, position, scale, anchor point, rotation, distortion, notes and markers are recreated as AE projects. ClipExporter 2 also translates keyframes of most of these parameters.

It even converts retimed clips, metadata and notes.

Here's a timeline in Final Cut:


Including a note to the compositor on one of the clips:


Just the After Effects logo is selected - this is After Effects export mode - without media management.


On export a clip report is shown which can be exported as a text file:


ClipExporter generates .jsx files. In After Effects .jsx files are script files that are run using the File:Scripts:Run Script command.

The timeline in After Effects including a marker and the metadata note appearing as a layer comment:



Not Dynamic Link, but quick to update in Final Cut

As ClipExporter doesn't use Adobe Dynamic Link, you need to render your After Effects project as a QuickTime movie and import it as a clip in Final Cut Pro X (keeping it external to the library). However you can make changes ripple through to Final Cut easily. Once you have updated the After Effects project, re-export the QuickTime movie with the same name in a sub-folder of the location where you first exported. In the Finder then replace the first export with the second version. It will be updated automatically in Final Cut Pro - even if it is editing the timeline where the clip is used.

Media management

ClipExporter's Video Exporter exports only the video used in a timeline (with optional handles) as new clips - not re-encoding, creating new smaller ProRes, H.264, AVCHD and RED files. ClipExporter even adds Final Cut Pro X-specific metadata to the new smaller clips (on all formats apart from RED clips). Define which metadata is included by choosing the relevant metdata view when exporting the XML final from Final Cut. 

ClipExporter includes naming templates which name the new smaller clips to match the import specifications of other high end post-production tools.

Export media managed timeline to After Effects - including RED footage

After Effects 'linked mode' does the media management of the Video Exporter - creating copies of only the media used in a Final Cut Pro X timeline and makes a After Effects project that uses the new clips as a source.

In this mode not as many parameters of the Final Cut timeline can be recreated in After Effects due to limitations in the Final Cut XML format, but you can add notes to the clip metadata which will appear as layer comments in AE.

Export media managed timeline to Nuke

The used footage only (with optional handles) is copied into new clips using the source codec and each clip is converted into a Nuke file. All the clip metadata is included in a Backdrop node. If you need to export a After Effects project with the same timeline, that is also an option. Here are is the result of exporting the previous Final Cut Pro X timeline to After Effects and Nuke in the Finder:


For more information, including a 30-day demo version visit ClipExporter. Download it from the Mac App Store at an introductory price until November 23.

Retina Tax: Some Mac display modes slow down Final Cut Pro X exports

Sunday, 09 November 2014

When Macs first got retina displays with the MacBookPro with Retina display, I wasn't interested. I was used to my 17" MacBook Pro with the 1920x1200 screen option. What was the point of getting a 15" screen that would make 1440x900 look better. 1440x900 points is too small for comfortable editing in Final Cut or any modern UI. I also didn't want the GPU wasting resources supporting a retina display better used for faster rendering and exporting.

My 1920x1200 17" MacBook Pro was fine for HD editing. In Final Cut Pro 7 it was possible to have 2 up display of footage at 50% and 100% playout of HD when going full screen. When I added my 27" iMac, I could view 1920x1080 footage on its 2560x1440 at 100% with either the event viewer or inspector open. In practice when editing HD, I don't often need to see the whole frame at 100%.

Last year, when my 17" MacBook Pro was four years old, I couldn't resist the new 15" MacBook Pro with retina display. The downside of the GPU wasting time on retina calculations was outweighed by faster CPU and very fast 1TB SSD (800MB/s). Knowing that the display could also set to 1920 by 1200 made it good enough for editing in Final Cut Pro X.

Ever since the iPhone 4 introduced retina displays, people have been waiting for desktop retina displays from Apple. When the 27" iMac with retina was first rumoured, I wondered what the point would be for editors. Why have a better rendered UI when what we work with is moving video. Even at desktop viewing distances, it is hard to tell the difference between HD and 4K when video is being updated at 24 or more frames per second.

The cost of retina when exporting from Final Cut Pro X

Again I thought that the GPU would be wasting power on the UI instead of working on video. I visited an Apple Store and used my BruceX benchmark to compare movie export times with and without GPU supporting all the pixels on the retina display. BruceX is a small xml file that doesn't use any external media to test the GPU (and the CPU a little) to export a very complex 2 second 5K ProRes 422 QuickTime movie.

I ran the benchmark on a iMac (Retina 5K, 27-inch, Late 2014), 3.5 Ghz Intel Core i5, 8GB, 1TB Fusion drive, R9 M290X 2GB GPU. The average of four tests was 50.1 seconds. I then used SwitchResX to change the display from 2560x1440 HiDPI (Retina Best) to 2560x1440 (non retina). The export time of the 2 second 5K reduced to an average of 43.3 seconds. That's around 14% faster in non-retina mode. 

So my tip for those who have the iMac with Retina 5K display is to switch resolution to a non-retina mode when exporting more complex timelines when you are under a tight deadline.

For more BruceX results visit this thread where people have reported values for many Mac configurations - including Hacktoshes and using many different graphics cards. 

Retina tax also applies to MacBook Pros with Retina

I've also tested my MacBook Pro with Retina (15" late-2013, 2.6 Ghz Core i7, 16GB RAM, 1TB SSD, GeForce GT 750M 2GB GPU).

It turns out that retina More Space display mode is slower than others:

Retina More Space (3840x2400 scaled down to 2880x1800 native pixels): 87 seconds

(Best) Retina (2880x1800 native resolution): 80.6 seconds

1400x900 (doubled in scale to 2880x1800): 80.4 seconds

1920x1200 (scaled up to 2880x1800): 79.2 seconds

So, on Retina Macbook Pros with displays set to More Space, if you want to save a little rendering time in Final Cut Pro X, change the resolution to Best (Retina) before exporting.

Compared with other Macs


More to the iMac 5K than 27" retina

Only when trying out the iMac at the Apple Store did I remember that the display could be set to 'More Space' instead of 'Best (Retina).' That is an advantage over my current 27" iMac. Here's a 4K clip displaying at 50% on a 2560x1440 screen - showing the same amount of UI that a 4K clip displayed at 100% on a retina 5120x2880 display:


The 'More Space' setting simulates a 3200x1800 point display on an imaginary 6400x3600 display that's even larger than the native pixels. This is similar to the Retina MacBook Pro 15" GPU showing a 1920x1200 point display by drawing to an imaginary 3840x2400 screen and scaling the image down to the native 2880x1800 pixels.

Working with HD/4K on a 6K+ display allows for more Final Cut UI while editing:

5K more

In this case, I set the event filmstrip size to the maximum. Here is a closeup of those clips at native resolution:

5K more detail

A selection from the full 5120x2880 screenshot.

What would 6K non-retina be like?

A silly thing to do with SwitchResX (and other similar tools such as QuickRes - the tool I have on my Retina MacBook Pro), is to set the display to be 6400x3600 non-retina.


The 4K image appears the same, but the UI is half the size:


The linked image is a 50% version of the source image (the full 6400x3600 image).

The good news is that although the iMac is labelled as 5K, Final Cut Pro X UI works very well on its simulated 6K display.

50 Apple Motion feature requests

Monday, 03 November 2014

Inspired by Richard Taylor's Final Cut Pro X Top Requests Master List, here are some of my feature requests for Motion, Apple's Final Cut X plugin and motion graphics creation tool.

Since June 2011, Apple have released many updates to Motion 5, but not at the scale of the changes to Final Cut Pro X. Probably one reason for this disparity is that Motion's new role - as an application that makes plugins for Final Cut Pro X - has proved very successful. As well as the many commercial plugins, individuals have made hundreds of free plugins that add so much to what Final Cut can do.

The majority of Motion 5's updates relate to fixing bugs in Final Cut Pro X, however here are the highlights of what's changed since 2011:

  • 5.0.1: Dual display support
  • 5.0.2: Drop zone pan and scale parameters, option to show animated parameters only in keyframe editor
  • 5.0.5: Multi-document support
  • 5.1.1: Additional parameters for the Sequence Text behaviour and Contrast filter

Here is a list of improvements to Motion that I hope Apple introduce - in no particular order: 

1. Keyframable and publishable shape points

To make masks and other shapes used in Final Cut plugins editable, as well as being able to move points, editors will also want to be able to edit the curves and lines that conect the points. When a Motion shape is published, bezier point controls on screen and a variable amount of point parameters in the inspector - which can be keyframed - including point deletion and addition over time should appear in the inspector.


2. More Drop Zone clip information available in Motion

Including active frame rate, dimensions, metadata (including time-based metadata such as Final Cut Pro X keywords and subtitles) and timecode. These would appear as 'read only' parameters associated with the drop zone.


For testing purposes, if there is no clip in the drop zone, there could be the option to enter values into special fields that simulate attributes of a dropped clip. This would be quicker than changing the clip in the drop zone:


3. Parent timeline properties available to Motion

Having access to the Final Cut Pro project the plugin is being used in gives rigs and behaviours the option to do different things based on the pixel aspect ratio, frame rate, rendering codec, audio format, start timecode, current timecode etc. of the project within which the plugin is being used. In the Link paramater behaviour, you would be able to drag the project into the 'Source Object' well: 


4. "Non-frames" time ruler mode

Plugins can be placed in Final Cut timelines of any frame rate; in this ruler mode the ability to set in points, out points of layers, keyframes and parameter values would be defined in seconds and decimal fractions of a second. Dividing timelines into frames doesn't apply to 4 out of the 5 Motion document types - the ones used to create Final Cut Pro X plugins.


5. Multiple Inspectors

So Motion users can inspect the parameters of more than one layer at a time, or see the property, filter and behaviour settings of a layer at the same time.

6. Inspector history

In the same style as the arrows that move between timelines in Final Cut Pro X - perhaps with a pop-up menu that list the lists the most recent 20 things inspected.

7. Parameter combinations stored as styles

In Motion (or Final Cut) a style could be based on the current setting of published parameters. This could be automatically named "Pink, from Left, Fast" when first created and then renamed to decribe what this combination of settings means in the edit such as "Team B." These styles would be saved in a pop-up menu.

A master plugin could have a set of styles defined in a special rig. When saving the master plugin, there could be an option to generate a family of plugins based on each snapshot in the style rig.

In a future version of Final Cut/iMovie a setting on a clip could associate a Role with a style rig snapshot. The advantage would be when the role assigned to a clip is changed a different style would immediately apply to the clip.

8. Group published parameters within a disclosure triangle option

This is possible to do by editing the Motion XML, but this feature should get an official proper user interface:


9. Timing markers

Each marker defines a section of an animation. Two sections are already defined in Motion: Build In and Build Out Markers. Durations between markers can then can be changed in Final Cut Pro X (using timeline and inspector controls) using the Retime Editor UI:


Adding a special timing marker in Motion would add more retiming sections in Final Cut:


The pop-up for each section is associated with turning Build In and Build Out sections on and off. The  menu for Build In would be 'Build In' and 'Remove Build In.' The menu for the Main section would be "Main," "Add Build In" and "Add Build Out." When adding timing sections, the name for the section would be defined by the name of the marker. In the second example the Motion template has a timing marker named "1st Group" and the Build Out marker is named "2nd Group" - because it defines the second section as well as the start of the build out.

10. Behaviour access to the rectangle co-ordinates of a text element

The Link parameter behaviour can read the dimensions of a text field, paragraph, line, word or character and apply the link to any other parameter. A new Text Boundary behaviour in the Motion Tracking category could track the position and size of text, paragraph, line, word or character.

11. Multiple parameter animation curves in Final Cut Pro X

Currently only the first rigged slider widget's animation curve appears in Final Cut. Control over which slider widgets, parameter sliders and co-ordinates have optional animation curves in Final Cut

12. 'Divide by source' 'Raise to the power of source' Link parameter behaviour Apply Modes

Useful when simulating scaling animation in 2D.

13. "Calculator" generator

That acts like the 'Numbers' generator, but it calculates values: eg: valueA + valueB, valueB is greater than valueA [result being true (1) or false (0)], distance between points, angle of straight line between points, angles between planes. Points/planes could be from parameters in generator or from parameters from layers connected via drop zones.

14. "Text Factory" generator

A generator that combines text from different places (=Word X of the text from layer 'foo' && characters 7 to 25 of the text from layer 'bar') including font and size text formatting

15. More "Timecode" generator modes

Sometimes minutes and hours need to be combined into minutes e.g. "65:02" in a sports fixture. Suggested by Karsten Schlüter on the Motion forum.

16. Named keyframe curves

Where 'Ease in' 'Accelerate' 'Logarithmic' 'Exponential' parameter change settings are used in behaviours, more complex parameter changes can be designed (such as a curve named 'Ease out overshoot damped oscillate to final value'). These would options to choose in the "Mix Over Time" parameter in the Link paramater behaviour:


...and the Speed parameter in the Move basic motion behaviour:


17. Special 'overlay' group for generators and custom controls

A setting for groups that plugin designers can use to communicate with editors in Final Cut Pro X. Any text generators in the group are by default moveable and act like titles. The contents of the group displays in a special overlay layer than can be turned off and on in the Final Cut viewer in the same way as a timecode/guides/safe zones can be turnes off and on. If an clip with an effect (or title or generator) with an overlay group is obscured by another layer in Final Cut, its overlay group is still shown (with a clip by clip disable visibility option).

18. Publishable/Riggable 'Active Camera'

So Final Cut Pro X users can choose which Motion camera to view through

19. Publishable/Riggable overall project 'Motion Blur' and 'Quality' settings

20. Individual layer 'Motion Blur' parameter

…which can be published and rigged.

21. Riggable font control

With the option to be able to rig (change which font is used in a widget snapshot) standard OS X fonts or all fonts available)

22. Riggable behaviour and filter switches

So rigs can turn filters and behaviours on and off

23. Editable Display Aspect Ratio rigs

To make it clearer that a parameter is already linked to a display aspect ratio rig (so you can change the way the rig works while working on other rigs)

24. More complex Parameter Link behaviours source parameter/apply to combinations

For example so a single Link behaviour can use the X and Y of a 3D point as the source that gets applied to a 2D point and vice versa or linking pairs of width and height controls in a filter to the X and Y of a scale parameter.

25. Time offsets in Parameter Link behaviour

So the source values of a parameter can come from different times (X seconds from now, X seconds before now, Y seconds from start of behaviour or Y seconds before end).

26. Publishable ‘3D position' and '3D angle' on-screen controls

They already exist in Motion for postion and angle parameters. They should be available in plugins made with Motion.

27. Change template kind

Ways of converting Title motion templates to Generator motion templates or Transition or Effect motion templates or vice versa i.e. "Insert 'Title Background' placeholder" or "Convert Effect Source placeholder to Drop Zone"

28. "Nearby clip" Final Cut Pro X placeholders

Starting with "Clip Below current" and "Clip Above Current." These would act as implicit drop zones that don't have to be chosen directly in the inspector. They would give Motion templates access to nearby clips as the clip which has had the effect applied (or title or generators) are moved along the Final Cut Pro X timeline (optionally getting access disabled clips above and below at that point in the timeline - a 'visible layers only' checkbox)

29. Transition background Final Cut Pro X placeholder

For transitions applied to connected storyline clips with transparency (such as titles and generators), a transition background Final Cut Pro X placeholder would send the background over which the transition would be applied

30. The ability to create password-protected plugins

31. The ability to add notes to document how a template works

32. Access to the audio of clips in Final Cut Pro X placeholders

So effects and behaviours can be driven by audio

33. Audio plugins

34. Rigging/Publishing audio parameters

Including those in audio filters

35. Audio only plugin creation

For Final Cut Pro X and Logic Pro X (including the ability new audio effect bundles based on those built into Final Cut Pro X)

36. Depth maps

The ability to interpret depth maps created by 3D applications. Instead of baking in depth of field and volumetric lighting in the 3D render, Motion should be able to add depth of field and volumetric lighting. Depth maps could help Motion (and generated Final Cut plugins) to render intersections between pre-rendered 3D elements, and calculate occlusion for stereoscopic 3D.

37. Variance in replicator sequence behaviour parameters

Like the Variance parameter in text sequence behaviours

38. Divider replicator

When a divider replicator is applied to a layer, it makes as many copies as replicated cells - each copy being masked by the cell. Useful for breaking a layer into parts which can be animated individually.

39. 3D models as cell sources for replicators

40. 3D models as source arrangements for replicators

41. Bezier warp of layers in 3D

42. 3D extrusion settings for any 2D layer

A simple way of making 3D models - which should have self-reflection and be able to react to Motion lights.

43. Broadcast monitor output

44. Video/Audio scopes

45. On-screen controls layer group

For user-defined on-screen controls that appear in other applications using special library graphic elements that act as click/drag/gesture hotspots. OSCs that can be linked to rig widgets and behaviours. 

46. Multi-clip access

Complex clips are those with more than one video and audio clip. These include compound, multicam and clips that have been 'edited in their own timeline.' If a complex clip is used in a dropzone (or a plugin is applied to a complex clip), all the parts of the compound clip should be available to the Motion template - (although Auditions aren't complex clips, it would be useful if the audition candidates were also available).

47. Multicam render

If an effect has been applied to a multicam clip that can process multiple angles. Multiple cameras in the Motion templates should be able to send multiple simultaneous different angles back, which can then be selected using Final Cut Pro multicam editing tools.

48. More commands that can have keyboard shortcuts applied

For example "convert shape to mask" or "convert mask to shape." Suggested by "grailz" on

49. Stop keyboard shortcuts when editing text

A preference suggested by SquidFX on

50. Simulator

Instead of having moving to Final Cut/iMovie, a simulator to show how plugins will work in - showing application differences: alternate inspector Uis (i.e. Final Cut vs. iMovie) and showing different kinds of projects that the template might be used in: multiple timeline frame rates, display aspect ratios and pixel aspect ratios. The simulator could be loaded with a common group of clips that designers like to test with - and make demos and tutorials with.


I'll add more illustrations and explainations soon.

If you have any feedback - including what you'd like to see added to this list, please email me:  When you do, try and consider what the user interface might be - how to add your feature to the existing user interface and underlying application metaphor. Think of new specific tools, behaviours, filters, generators and controls that fit alongside what Motion already has. Creating images to go with your ideas helps make your proposal clearer for others - including Apple.


Apple's 'Magnetic Timeline' Final Cut Pro X patent

Wednesday, 29 October 2014

This week Apple was awarded a patent related to the Final Cut Pro X timeline. It is available as text and 95 page PDF. It was applied for on June 6, 2011. Most of the abstract covers only part of the patent:

A media-editing application of some embodiments allows a user of the application to group media clips displayed in the timeline into a single clip representation. A composite display area of the media-editing application often displays numerous clips at various instances in time and at various levels in the compositing hierarchy. To reduce the number of media clips in the timeline, the media-editing application of some embodiments allows the user to select several media clips and combine them into a one media clip representation. In this manner, the media-editing application reduces the congestion in the timeline. These single clip representations are referred to as "compound clips." Compound clips can be viewed as containers that can include several media clips of the same type in some embodiments, or that can include several media clips of several different types in other embodiments.

Although the abstract mainly covers compound clips, most of the ways a non-track-based magnetic timeline works is described in the patent itself. A little 'smuggling' by the patent lawyers?

Here's a list of contents to show what editing software features Apple now has a patent for. Instead of reading the text, use this list of figures with some interesting quotes from the relevant sections. Remember that the phrase "in some embodiments" doesn't mean that Apple planned to add that feature to Final Cut Pro, these clauses are included to make the patent cover a wider range of possible editing software features.

Fig 1: Main UI


Connected clips in secondary storylines are referred to as "anchored clips in anchored or secondary lanes."

Instead of, or in conjunction with, having several levels of media clips that anchor off the central compositing lane, some embodiments allow media clips to be placed in these anchor lanes and to be anchored off of other anchored media clips placed in these anchor lanes.

Skimming within clips with the option to see skimmed clips in the viewer:

In some embodiments, the playback (or skimming) is not shown in the timeline clips, but rather in the preview display area

Fig 2: Selecting ranges in clips before reducing audio volume of range

Fig 3-4: Expand Audio/Video clips and Detach Audio

Fig 5: Change appearance of clips in the timeline

Some embodiments may also allow the user to directly manipulate the media clips (e.g., by expanding or contracting the audio or video portions using a cursor) to change the appearance.

Fig 6: Zooming timeline horizontally

Fig 7-9: The playhead and the skimmer

Fig 10-11 Clip skimming

Fig 12 Insert edit

Fig 13 Adding a selected event clip to the end of the timeline

Fig 14 Connecting a clip

Fig 15-18 Replace edits

Gap clips to maintain duration:

When the second media clip is shorter in duration than the first media clip, some embodiments replace the first clip by placing the second clip at the point that the first clip starts. This will cause a gap to close or to be filled with a position clip after the second clip.

Fig 19-20 Gap clips

Known here as Position clips

Fig 21 Trimming connected clips

Including the fact that if connected clips are audio only, they can be trimmed down to the sample level instead of being limited to whole frames.

Fig 22 Slipping clips

Fig 23 Connection point

Including an option to use the point dragged from in the event clip as the connection point when dragging to the timeline i.e. if the mousedown is 1/3rd of the way along the clip or selection when you start dragging, then the connection point is set to 1/3rd along the clip.

Fig 24 Changing the connection point

Fig 25 Creating a secondary storyline

Some embodiments allow the user to create a container first in an anchor lane and add media clips into the container from the timeline or the clip browser.

Fig 26 Extend edits

Fig 27-31 Editing and moving the playhead using timecode entry

Fig 32 Editing with video only, audio only or both audio and video

Fig 33-35 Two Up view

The media-editing application in some embodiments displays two frames in the viewer  for other types of editing as well. Some of different types of editing include a ripple edit, a slide edit, a slip edit, etc.

Fig 36 Making compound clips

Fig 37 Navigating Timeline History

Fig 38 Bookmarking a timeline history view

Fig 39 Timeline history state diagram

Fig 40 Retiming a compound clip

Fig 41-46 Importing clips into a database

Including transcoding and proxy generation

Fig 47-50 How timelines are represented in the database

Fig 51 Application architecture


It might be possible to associate some of the internal frameworks in Final Cut Pro X and iMovie with elements of this diagram. For example, the Rendering Engine could be implemented by 'Ozone.framework' - the 'headless' copy of Apple Motion 5.X in Final Cut and iMovie. You might be able to guess what 'TLKit.framework' does.

There's an interesting hint about how the application defined in the patent might not only be a traditional application running on a computer: 

In some embodiments, the media editing application is a stand-alone application or is integrated into another application, while in other embodiments the application might be implemented within an operating system. Furthermore, in some embodiments, the application is provided as part of a server-based solution. In some such embodiments, the application is provided via a thin client. That is, the application runs on a server while a user interacts with the application via a separate machine remote from the server. In other such embodiments, the application is provided via a thick client. That is, the application is distributed from the server to the client machine and runs on the client machine.

Fig 52 Computing device

All software patents need to include a description of a computing device for the software to run on.

Review: MoviePro 3K video camera app for iPhone 6 Plus

Monday, 27 October 2014

MoviePro has been available on the iTunes App Store for a long time, but it has been updated to take advantage of the faster processors and better camera processing in the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus.

The headline news is that MoviePro can record at 3K at up to 30 frames per second on the iPhone 5S, iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus. 3K is 3072x1728 pixels per frame. 

This 4K video on YouTube shows how much bigger 3K is than HD and shows the quality of the recording. The quality isn't limited by the camera, but by YouTube:

When viewing this full-screen, make sure YouTube is playing the 4K version by choosing '2160p 4K' from the cog pop-up menu.

There is also the problem of not having a big enough screen to show the video on. Here is the same video with the centre HD area cut out. It shows the quality, and also shows how much you can zoom 3K video in an HD frame without losing any quality.

If you want to download the source 4,587,894,223 byte 3840x2160 ProResLT file, it will be available for a month here (or until HighTail turns off the unlimited downloads/bandwidth setting for the file).

Here is a partial list of resolutions MoviePro can record in: 320x240, 1024x768, 1600x900, 2560x1920 (4:3), 2560x1440, 1920x872 (2.20:1), 1920x698 (2.75:1)

As well as high spatial resolution, MoviePro can also record in a large range of framerates: 2, 3, 4, 5, 6.. in single frame increments to 23, 24, 25, 30, 48, 50, 60, 96, 100, 120, 192, 200 and 240 frames per second. 1080p can be recorded at up to 60 fps. 240fps at 1280x720.

Pro features

As this app has been around for a while, there have been many improvements over the months to support professional use:

High data rates

For 3072x1728 25fps footage, the H.264 file has a data rate of 120-130 megabits per second. That's up to 681K per frame. If you encoded a QuickTime movie using Photo Jpeg with a quality set to 'Low' (25), its data rate would be around 640K per frame. If you record at 30 frames per second, the data rate isn't higher, so you get lower quality frames.

If you record 3072x1728 at 2 frames per second, the data rate goes down to around 25 Mbps. That results in very high quality frames.

The data rates fall quickly for lower resolution videos: 3000x1688 movies are recorded at around 115 Mbps, 2560x1440 at 85 Mbps, 1920x1080 at 45 Mbps.

The data rate cannot be set directly - 'Video Quality' is defined as a percentage of the quality the iPhone would normally record:

mp3.5 presets


As well as having a on-screen sound meter, there is also an on-screen control for input record level. Using a splitter cable you can monitor with headphones while a separate microphone records the scene. You can also use a bluetooth connect microphone.

You can also control how audio is recorded: choosing between none, low, medium, normal (?) and uncompressed:

mp3.5 audio

It seems the data rate for Low, Medium and Normal have the same result: 64 Kbps 44.1 kHz AAC. Uncompressed is 710 Kbps 44.1 kHz uncompressed. There are no sample size or frequency controls.


You can group settings into five presets which you can swap between with a tap. Pressing the 'Star' control near the record button brings up the presets:

mp3.5 presetsoverlay

As you can see, some of the preset descriptions are shown in type that is too large to fully show in the overlay.

Other settings not built into presets include:

  • Orientation
  • Which built-in microphone to use (Bottom / Front Top / Back)
  • Zoom - choosing either a slider for direct zooming, or a +/- buttons and a zoom speed control
  • Whether the Volume + button can trigger recording or not (useful for external microphones and headsets)
  • Guides - One kind of guide: Dividing the screen into thirds
  • Recording time - As well as the usual unlimited recording, set recording time for values between 5 seconds and 2 hours
  • Spy Mode - The option to blank the screen when recording
  • On-screen Audio Metering
  • Video Stabilization

A nice touch for left-handed operators is that the UI reconfigures if you hold your device up the other way.

Right-handed UI:

mp3.5 UIRight

Left-handed UI:

mp3.5 UILeft

By default, MoviePro will auto focus, auto expose and auto white balance while recording. By tapping on the screen you can set the point that the software uses for focus and exposure. Dragging from the point you've tapped allows you to have separate focus and exposure points:

mp3.5 focus-exposure-point

You can also turn on the device flash and use it as a light, use a timer delay before recording and also pause recording while filming with creating a separate QuickTime file

Instead of sending footage to the camera roll, you can keep them in the app library, which has a browser that provides useful information - and gives access to a video editor:

mp3.5 library 

3K in Final Cut Pro X

When you create a new project in Final Cut and set it to set the resolution based on the first clip added to the timeline, you get the following message:


If you switch the Format pop-up to 'Custom' Final Cut will set the project to the correct dimensions:


Bear in mind

There are a few areas where MoviePro could do with some improvement.

The first is frame rate control: Even though you might choose a specific frame rate, the frame rate recorded often isn't exactly correct: If set to record at 25 frames per second, the resulting movie is usually 25.035 fps, but sometimes 25.034 fps or 25.025 fps. The metadata in the file means that editing software like Final Cut Pro X reads the frame rate as 25 fps, but QuickTime Player 7 and Mpeg Streamclip determine that the frame rates I've listed. Here are the frame rates of other movies I've recorded: 24.024 fps (not 24), 23.029 fps (not 23), 20.025 (not 20), 120.2 fps, 200.557 fps, 239.634 fps (but sometimes exactly 240 fps).

There is a note from the developer stating that if you can do without higher resolutions and data rates, the recorded frames per second are more likely to match the setting, but that setting didn't improve the accuracy for me.

This is probably a side effect of the software framework MoviePro uses - the iPhone prioritises quality over consistency. MoviePro needs a mode that records at exactly the frame rates required. This is needed if you want your iPhone or iPad to synchronize with other devices recording at the same time - be they cameras recording other angles of moments that might only happen once. If the high frame rate section is only going to be recorded using MoviePro is less of a problem - editing software will treat the 239.634 fps footage as if it is 240 fps and when you play it at the frame rate of your project, you'll get the slow motion you want.

Frame rate accuracy is also important when performers are working to music playback for sync slow motion for music videos. 

Talking of frame rates, professional movie makers need more specific frame rates: 23.976, 29.97 and their x2 and x3 multiples. To get better results, they also need shutter speed control. Footage shot at 25 fps is usually made from stills shot with a 1/50th second shutter speed (known as a shutter angle of 180° as it results in a shutter speed of twice the frame rate). That means footage shot at 2 fps should have a shutter speed of 1/4 of of a second.

As the data rate of 3072x1728 footage can be as high as 130 Mbps, it would be be great to have that same data rate available to lower resolutions (perhaps at higher frame rates). Recording as a Photo Jpeg medium (instead of H.264) 2560x1440 QuickTime movie would result in high quality footage with enough extra resolution for reframing and stabilzation.

Being extra picky, it would be good for the UI graphics to be scaled for the iPhone 6 Plus display, as some of the graphics is a little blocky if you take a closer look.


The fact that I'm asking for precise frame rate control, shutter angle control and audio encoding settings shows how professional this application already is. This application is great value. Buy it now and it will help your iPhone become a secret weapon on your next professional shoot.

MoviePro costs £2.99 and is available from the iTunes Store.

Creating Apple Store iOS App Previews using Final Cut Pro X

Thursday, 23 October 2014

For those iOS developers who want to provide more information to potential purchasers in the iOS app store, Apple suggest using video-based 'app previews.'

Apple have provided resources for developers who want to create app previews using iMovie 10.0.6 and Final Cut Pro X 10.1.3. 

New in OS X Yosemite is the ability to record what happens on an iOS 8 device attached to your Mac. Here's an excerpt from Apple's instructions:

Capture Screen Recordings with QuickTime Player

  1. Connect your iOS device to your Mac using a Lightning cable.
  2. Open QuickTime Player.
  3. Choose File > New Movie Recording.
  4. In the window that appears, select your iOS device as the Camera and Microphone
 input source.


Once you use the Record button, perform the actions on your iOS device that demonstrate the features of the app, you save the recording on your Mac.

Final Cut Pro X app preview settings

There's a PDF of instructions for those new to Final Cut Pro on how to create new projects and which custom size to use for each app preview: 

  • iPhone 5s, iPhone 5c,
 iPod touch 5th generation: 640 x 1136 for portrait, 1136 x 640 for landscape
  • iPhone 6: 750 x 1334 for portrait, 1334 x 750 for landscape
  • iPad Air, iPad 4th generation, iPad mini with Retina display: 900 x 1200 for portrait, 1200 x 900 for landscape
  • iPhone 6 Plus 1080 x 1920 for portrait, 1920 x 1080 for landscape

App previews must be set to a frame rate of 30p.

11 free titles

As well as the short PDF guide Apple also provide a set of free title plugins (12.2MB ZIP) to provide useful information in overlays on top of screen recordings:


The ZIP includes installation instructions.

A new market?

For writer/editors, creating iOS app previews might become a marketable skill: "Sales for this app were low, but after using the services of AppPreview4D, everything changed!"

iMovie for OS X Yosemite: Final Cut Pro X for Yosemite clues

Thursday, 16 October 2014

As iMovie for OS X Mavericks is a full version of Final Cut Pro X with a consumer UI, the new version of iMovie for OS X Yosemite is relevant to those waiting for the next version of Final Cut.

iMovie for for OS X Yosemite (version 10.0.6) has a new user interface.

The old UI:


The new 10.0.6 UI:


The old adjust controls:


The new adjust controls:



10.0.6 new features

  • Updated look for OS X Yosemite
  • New file export options including Custom H.264, ProRes and Audio Only
  • Share any video frame as an image
  • Email HD video with Mail Drop when signed into iCloud
  • Select a portion of a clip in the timeline by dragging across the bottom of a clip
  • Adjustments bar is always open for easy access to audio and video tools

For developers using iMovie to create app previews on the App Store:

  • Support for iPhone and iPad screen recording videos captured with QuickTime Player
  • 11 animated titles designed to showcase apps in action
  • Share option to easily export for the App Store

Version 10.0.6 will on run on any version of OS X before OS X Yosemite.

A short Apple developer document explaining how to use iMovie to create app previews. Ripple Training also have a video which shows the process, including iMovie's 'App Preview' mode.

As iMovie 10.0.6 requires OS X Yosemite, iMovie 10.0.5 is available for those who haven't upgraded. This means both online help systems are still available:

iMovie 10.0.5 help.

iMovie 10.0.6 help.


Although there are some new features to iMovie, the majority of the changes between 10.0.5 and 10.0.6 refresh the UI for OS X Yosemite. Not all the UI has been updated however. The Import Media dialogue box hasn't been updated (apart from its title bar):


An unmentioned 10.0.6 improvement was first seen in Final Cut Pro X: the option to hide clips you've already imported.

New "App Preview" project type

Here are the icons for the 11 new animated titles designed to work for App previews:


Three have a yellow on-screen control for repositioning the title:


These new titles are implemented as Motion 5.1.1 templates. The current version of Apple Motion is 5.1.2. The other Motion titles were created using an older version of Motion.

Export options

The new version of iMovie adds the ability to export the current project or clip as a ProRes (422) mov, H.264 .mp4 or audio only file (with a choice of AAC, MP3, AIFF or WAV formats).

As you drag on the custom H.264 quality slider, whose range is between 2 and 16 Mbps for 720p footage… 


the estimated file size is updated:


A feature that would be useful in Final Cut Pro X. You can also choose to export at lower resolutions using the pop-up: Options are 1920 x 1080, 1280 x 720, 960 x 540 and 854 x 480. The custom data rate range changes based on the resolution of the export.

If you are working in an App Preview project, a new App Preview share destination appears - H.264 mp4 with AAC Audio.

If you have imported 4K footage, you can export it (or a selected range of it) at full resolution in ProRes .mov or H.264 .mp4:


Remote control apps are dead, long live remote control

The iOS 8 - OS X Yosemite combination means that Apple will discontinue specialised remote control iOS applications. To replace them full iOS equivalent applications will be able to control their OS X counterparts.

Here's how this works with Keynote. Keynote on iOS can control Keynote presentations running on nearby OS X Yosemite Macs.

You first pair your iOS device with the Mac using a preference: 


Once linked you tap the 'iOS play' icon:


The presentation doesn't have to be in slideshow mode on the Mac:


Once the iOS device finds the Keynote app running on the Mac:


As each slide comes up in the presentation on the Mac, it appears on the iOS device. As well as going to previous and next slides, the iOS device can use a range of colours to mark up slides on the Mac screen. Sketching done on the iOS device:


…appears on the Mac:


This is the kind of two-way communication that would be very useful for iMovie and Final Cut Pro X users. Up until now, most remote control iOS apps have controlled Mac applications by simulating keypresses. Now useful information could be passed from the application running on the Mac to the iOS app. For example, the Mac could be displaying a project so that it fills the screen while the iOS app shows an inspector for the current clip.

Final Cut Pro X inside iMovie 10.0.6

It looks like the Final Cut parts of iMovie were created in August. There are no obvious hints about future X features hidden in iMovie. As before, a large proportion of iMovie's almost 3GB bulk are made of frameworks used in Final Cut Pro X. 

What does this mean? That the features for iMovie 10.0.6 were frozen by August; the weeks since then were used to fix bugs in iMovie for OS X Yosemite compatibility (and perhaps bugs in Yosemite for iMovie compatibility).

Skinning iMovie 10.0.7 (i.e. Final Cut Pro X 10.2)?

Classic Apple user interface design avoids Modes - states where only some tools, menu commands and user interface elements are available and when the effects of some tools change. It is interesting that with iMovie 10.0.6 Apple have added a third mode. As well as video editing and trailer making, the App Preview project type acts as a mode - changing which titles are available and making sure the resulting movie is the correct size.

It would be interesting if Apple added more project types. Two examples 'Media Logging' project and 'Producer Feedback' project. In fact, if Apple could add types of project, they could make the application skinning/project type mechanism available to third parties. Useful if you wanted to create a 'BBC News' project type, or a 'Real Estate' project type. As iMovie is the Final Cut Pro X underpinnings with a consumer friendly skin, perhaps these custom versions of iMovie could include a few features from Final Cut. Useful for large enterprise deployments of 'iMovie Pro X.'

New patent shows a little early Apple thinking on Final Cut Pro X

Monday, 13 October 2014

Last week Apple was awarded a patent concerning how to highlight discontiguous groups of clips on a timeline.

Even though it is a new patent, it shows Apple’s thinking back when it was applied for. This patent took years to be awarded, so any feature hints found in the application document have been superseded by what Apple chose to implement in the intervening years.

Patenting concepts that apply to editing software requires a description of a sample editing user interface. Here is an example from the patent:


The imaginary sample editing application shows a combination of Final Cut Pro 7, iMovie and Final Cut Pro X. Layers from Final Cut Pro 7, iMovie's way of having content in more than one place at a time (clips would appear in 'All Files,' 'Video' and in an interview folder). The viewer/inspector/timeline layout are from Final Cut Pro X.

The parts of this illustration that interest me are the labels above the viewer and the inspector. The viewer has three control areas: 'Display Types,' 'Viewer Tools' and 'Overlays.' The inspector seems to have two tabs at the top - 'Inspector' and 'Transcript' with clip 'Specific Controls' at the bottom of the inspector.

This patent was applied for in May 2009. Interesting that Apple considered including a clip transcript panel in a clip inspector. I also hope that Apple will expand the way overlays work in the Final Cut Pro X viewer.

The patent.



Apple drops ProApps from corporate definition

Monday, 15 September 2014

For over 10 years Apple have included a mention of their professional video and audio applications in their corporate definition. Like most companies they define who they are in every press release they put out.

This week they dropped the words 'professional applications' from their definition:

Apple reinvented the mobile phone with its revolutionary iPhone and App Store, defined the future of mobile media and computing devices with iPad and has announced Apple Watch, its most personal device ever. Apple leads the digital music revolution with its iPods and iTunes online store, continues the rapid pace of innovation of mobile software with iOS and integrated services including Apple Pay and iCloud. Apple designs Macs, the best personal computers in the world with OS X, and free iOS and OS X apps like iWork and iMovie.

The first mention was in July 2004:

Apple ignited the personal computer revolution in the 1970s with the Apple II and reinvented the personal computer in the 1980s with the Macintosh. Today, Apple continues to lead the industry in innovation with its award-winning desktop and notebook computers, OS X operating system, and iLife and professional applications. Apple is also spearheading the digital music revolution with its iPod portable music players and iTunes online music store.

Apple's previous nine definitions: 1995-2012