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BlogFinal Cut Pro X update: Third-party integration and moreThursday, November 15 2018

The headline feature of today’s free 10.4.4 update to Final Cut Pro X includes deep access for third party developers to extend Apple’s video editing application. That’s just the beginning. The update also includes

  • Flexible timecode palettes
  • Comparison viewer – to make it easier to compare the current frame with a choice of saved frames
  • Batch Share – if you select multiple timelines or clips, a single command can export them or send them as a batch to Compressor
  • Video Noise Reduction – a new effect in the ‘Basics’ category that is also relevant to ProRes RAW workflows
  • 360° Noise Reduction – an effect that reduces noise in 360° spherical media
  • Tiny Planet effect – a new effect that helps you use 360° spherical media in a normal ‘flat’ timeline
  • 360° transitions – to apply between 360° spherical media clips in a 360° project: Bloom, Circle Wipe, Divide, Guassian Blur, Push, Reveal Wipe, Slide, Wipe.
  • Six effects in a new Comic Looks category
  • Captions in SRT format

Motion and Compressor have also been updated.

Motion 5.4.2 also has the new Tiny Planet effect as a filter. It also gets

  • The new colour correction tools that were introduced in Final Cut Pro 10.4: colour wheels, colour curves, hue/saturation curves, and custom LUTs.
  • A ‘Comic’ filter to stylise footage

Compressor 4.4.2 is now a 64-bit application, so it can make use of more your Mac’s memory. It gets SRT caption format support too. Plus it also is now smarter at interpreting QuickTime and MXF media to configure outputs.

Like the previous 27 updates over the last seven years, this one is free for current users. Final Cut Pro X costs $300 for new users. Motion 5 and Compressor 4 are $50 each. All three applications are available on the Mac App Store.

The applications still run on macOS High Sierra – needing 10.13.6 or later. If your version of macOS is older, the Mac App Store won’t show you the update.

The format of Final Cut Pro X libraries has changed, so any opened with version 10.4.4 will not be accessible by earlier versions of Final Cut. Before you update, Apple advise that you backup Final Cut Pro X and your existing libraries – they have a support page with more information.

Final Cut Pro X, Motion and Compressor release notes.

Not 10.5?

Apple communicates through software releases

The Video Applications team at Apple aren’t allowed to reveal their future plans for their tools. When new updates happen, we get an impression of ‘the direction of travel.’ Many Final Cut updates can be summarised in a sentence: ‘For YouTubers’ or ‘For high-end post production’ or ‘For corporate video.’

This 10.4.4 update in a sentence is ‘for third-party developers’ – Apple want even more third-party tools for Final Cut, and they want the existing tools to be more deeply integrated with the NLE. Until now the answer to many developers who wanted to create workflow tools for Final Cut was ‘use our very flexible XML format.’

Many in the X ecosystem thought that Apple would stop there. They thought it unlikely that they would be allowed to add their own floating windows to the finely-tuned Final Cut UI. Since the 10.3 update, video plugins have been able to show their own windows over the Final Cut UI. Now workflow extensions can do much more.

It turns out that the extra things that can be done with workflow extensions are worth the danger of third parties making Final Cut Pro harder to use.

The initial plan is that Apple will collaborate with developers who apply to them to make workflow extensions for Final Cut. They are not yet making all the tools and information available to all macOS (and iOS) developers).

Updates aren’t all about features

Some people may be disappointed that this update doesn’t include features they have been asking for for years. I think the Apple policy is to not ‘half-implement’ many features  twice a year and never go back to make them work well. They wait until they think the feature is ready. This update also shows that they keep on adding to areas they recently updated: a new 360° video tool to follow on from least year’s 10.4 update. A new caption format to follow on from this April’s 10.4.1 update.

Updates are also about fixing long-term bugs that prevent Final Cut spreading into new parts of the world and new markets. Unlike with Logic Pro, the video applications team at Apple don’t list every bug they squash, all the work in that direction is usually summarised as ‘improved stability.’

If you are waiting for a huge update like ‘collaboration re-done for the 21st century’ – updates like this are needed so that other pieces can fall into place. Parts of the application not visible to users need to evolve and be tested ‘in the field.’ For example, if the way that Final Cut Libraries store information is hard to share amongst multiple editors at a time, an update might see a storage system change that paves the way for collaboration in future.

It might be also that some features are associated with Apple’s hardware plans. New iMacs, Mac Pros and iPad Pros need applications to run. Uses that mainstream journalists can understand and pass on in coverage. Editing is a simple demo that most people can understand. A proposition such as ‘The new Mac Pro can be the centre of a creative collaboration workgroup who are working on a feature film or TV series” is clear and can be passed on easily.

10.4.4

Extending Final Cut via ‘Workflow Extensions’

Workflow Extensions are plugins that show floating windows over the Final Cut interface. They can detect where the playhead is in the current timeline and also control the playhead. They are launched by clicking a button that is added to the main Final Cut window:

Today sees the launch of the first three Final Cut Pro X workflow extensions from Frame.io, Shutterstock and CatDV.

Frame.io is an online post-production feedback system. Up until now, it has been a browser-based service for Final Cut users.  The Final Cut Pro X workflow extension brings the full power of Frame.io to a window that runs in the the application.

From within Final Cut you can use the Frame.io workflow extension to upload clips and timelines. Once in the cloud, collaborators can review, comment on and annotate projects – in browsers and on custom iPhone and iPad apps. Each comment and annotation is associated with specific clip and timeline timecode.

The Frame.io Final Cut workflow extension can let editors know when collaborators are commenting – in a similar way to the way Apple Messages tells you when someone else is typing.

When editors are ready, they can use the Final Cut workflow extension to download the feedback. They will receive this feedback as project-length compound clips that can be dragged to the timeline. The clip shows text and graphic comments from collaborators at the timecodes they gave their feedback:

If multiple people are commenting, their comments are assigned their name as a commenter role – which helps editors prioritise who the respond to first.

The extension also has control over the Final Cut playhead so that as you go from comment to comment in the Frame.io window, the playhead jumps to the relevant part of the timeline.

The Frame.io Final Cut Pro X workflow extension is installed if you have Final Cut and download Frame.io from the Mac App store.

The Frame.io promotional video:

Frame.io Final Cut Pro X workflow extension tutorial:

Shutterstock’s Final Cut workflow extension gives you access to the whole Shutterstock media library in a window. You can added watermarked media from collections made in the window or from collections made by collaborators online. The media is given a ‘watermarked’ role, so can be found quickly in a project using the timeline index. Once the rights have been purchased, the media changes to the full-resolution non-watermarked version and the role is changed to say the rights have been cleared.

CatDV’s workflow extension gives you access to media in CatDV media asset management systems.

Timecode palettes

The new timecode palettes in Final Cut Pro X 10.4.4 can show both timeline timecode and source timecode. You can control-click the palettes to copy the current timecode. The source timecode palette can display clip names and roles – which are colour coded. As you move along your timeline the number of clips at the playhead determine how many timecodes you see:

Here you can see the source timecode palette displaying clip names, roles and times. Also the project timecode. If you control-click the window, you can copy the source timecode for any clip at the playhead. In this case the source timecode for the ‘Early days’ clip. You can also copy all the timecode information at the playhead by choosing ‘Copy All.’ In this case the result is plain text delimited by tabs:

Matt Andrews	 	00:01:24:20.55
Best teacher	B-Roll, Dialogue	10:44:01:21.55
Early days	Video, Effects	10:19:41:10.55
Comparison Viewer

The comparison viewer can show frames from elsewhere to the left of the main viewer. You can choose to continuously show the frame at the next or previous edit from the playhead:

This is useful if you are colour grading consecutive shots to match.

As well as showing frames from the timeline, you can show one of 30 frames you have saved to a new window called the Frame Browser:

As well as clicking in the frame browser and the comparison viewer to save frames, there is command to save the frame that you can assign to a key of your choice:

You can also switch the focus from the viewer to the comparison viewer. The focus determines which is sent to external devices such as preview monitors. There is an unassigned command in the Command Editor that does this, so you can give it a keyboard shortcut if you like.

The frames stored in the Frame Browser are library-based. You can’t open library A, save some frames from it and then open library B and see the saved frames from library A.

Bits and pieces

There is a new command you can assign a keyboard shortcut that turns the external AV output on or off.

The new noise reduction effect is needed for ProRes RAW workflows – primarily designed for the kind of noise you get when debayering camera sensor data. Noisy low-light footage is less of a priority in the algorithm.

There is a way to decide when dragging in secondary storylines whether you select the whole storyline or a clip in the storyline. From the help system:

Drag to select one or more storylines: Drag a selection rectangle over the storylines you want to select, making sure to drag over the gray border at the top of a storyline first (if you don’t drag over the top gray border first, you will select individual clips in the storyline instead). When a storyline is selected, the entire storyline is outlined with a yellow border.

Tip: To select entire storylines, drag in a downward motion. To select clips within the storylines, drag in an upward motion.

Overall

Many expected that Apple would never allow third-parties to add to the Final Cut Pro X user interface. Adobe Premiere’s ecosystem has been improved in recent years by allowing developers to create panels that appear in the application. The user interfaces in these panels are created using HTML and the specification is available to anyone who wants to make Premiere tools. The Workflow Extensions system isn’t as open. I expect that Apple want to approve any third party candidates before release on the Mac App Store.

When Final Cut was first released in 2011, the policy seemed to be ‘no windows, no palettes – configure panels within the main window.’ In the last seven years, more windows have been added. I expect this was done slowly and carefully – following research that NLEs with too many panels and windows made were unwelcoming to new users and unwieldy for the majority of users. The new workflow extension, frame browser and timecode windows can make the Final Cut UI more confusing.

Since version 10.3, Final Cut has had a subtle way to make floating windows work well together. This is much more useful now that there are more windows to work with than the background tasks window and the preferences window. There is a slight magnetism when you move floating windows near each other. You have to drag a little further than normal to make them overlap. There is also a little magnetism to the edges of displays and the top edges of Final Cut panels – making it easer to align the top edge of windows to the bottom edge of a panel title bar (if you drag the window upwards) or bottom edge of windows to the bottom edge of a panel title bar (if you drag the window downwards. This ‘magnetism’ applies if a panel has a blue ‘selected’ line below the title bar:

This works especially well when dragging windows to align with with the timeline panel. Note that this action doesn’t dock the windows to the panels – if you change their proportions, the overlay windows don’t move.

Links

Ripple Training have a YouTube playlist of seven videos explaining the new features in Final Cut 10.4.4:

The Final Cut Pro X help system has been updated with information on the new features.

Final Cut Pro X might start warning you that the codecs you have used in media might not play on future versions of macOS. Apple have a new support page about this: “About legacy media in Final Cut Pro X”

 

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BlogFinal Cut Pro X update coming soon?Thursday, November 8 2018

Today Apple released iMovie 10.1.10 for macOS and iMovie 2.2.6 for iOS. This gives us a clue that there will be a Final Cut Pro X update soon.

As I discovered in 2013, iMovie for macOS and Final Cut Pro X are the same core application with variations for a starter editor user interface and an experienced editor user interface. This means that iMovie and Final Cut Pro X updates usually happen within days of each other. Bugs fixed in the the core that they share mean that if they are fixed in iMovie, they are fixed in Final Cut Pro X.

Here is what Apple says about iMovie 10.1.10 for macOS:

  • Removes the option to share video files directly to Facebook
  • Adds a new Prepare for Facebook option which exports a Facebook-compatible video file to your system, which you can manually upload to the Facebook website
  • Improves overall stability

Final Cut Pro X is often updated on the same day as iMovie. If an update is coming it is likely that Apple are delaying the release until Friday of next week. That is the day the Video Applications team is hosting a presentation at the Town Hall room in the 1 Infinite Loop building in Cupertino. The presentation is part of the 2018 FCPX Creative Summit.

I wish I could be there.

10.5?

The question is whether the update will be a point release to version 10.4.4 or a big release to version 10.5. 10.3 was released at the 2016 FCPX Creative Summit and 10.4 was released at the 2017 FCPX Creative Summit. Also remember that just because the version number might not increase, the features introduced in point release could be very useful. Even if the feature list is short in a point release, you never know if changes to the application that aren’t reflected in new user features could be paving the way for third-party tools to make the Final Cut ecosystem even better.

It’s just a version number. Earlier this year saw a big point release when 10.4.1 introduced some big features: Closed captions, enhanced export and ProRes RAW.

We will find out in 10 days!

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BlogIs the Final Cut Pro X magnetic timeline an Apple jet pack?Monday, October 15 2018

A common observation of how a new technology is received by the establishment over time:

  1. It is just a toy
  2. Ignore it
  3. Ignore it
  4. No
  5. I said ‘No’
  6. Oh no
  7. Oh f%ck

Adobe have introduced a rudimentary element of the Final Cut Pro X magnetic timeline to their NLEs in the form of Adobe Premiere Rush CC – their new cross-platform online video editing application. Maybe the Adobe position on trackless video editing goes like this:

  1. You can use it for online video
  2. Only online video – not video to be shown elsewhere
  3. Track-based editing will now be only available in a special compatibility mode in our newly updated version of ‘Adobe Premiere Rush CC 2022’

On the other hand, what if trackless video editing might be more of a ‘Jet Pack’ than a ‘Powered Human Fight’?

In a post on how to assess the potential of a proposed technology, Benedict Evans compared powered human flight in 1903 with jet packs in 1960.

Both technologies were pretty limited. The Wright brothers managed to fly one person for a few hundred metres. Jet packs could fly a single person for 21 seconds. Today air travel and transport has transformed the world. Jet packs can now fly for 30 seconds.

How could you tell which product had a future?

The question, then, is not whether something works now but whether it could work – whether you know how to change it. Saying ‘it doesn’t work, today’ has no value, but saying ‘yes, but everything didn’t work once’ also has no value. Rather, do you have a roadmap? Do you know what to do next?

  • The Wright Flyer looked like a toy but was in fact a breakthrough in flight with a clear roadmap that was easy to follow for it to become something huge almost immediately. Then we needed another breakthrough, around jets, to get to cheap mass air travel in the second half of the century.
  • Mobile phones in 1947 had no roadmap to become a mass-market product, but mobile phones in 1975 or 1980 absolutely had such a roadmap, with a path to make them cheap and universal.
  • Rocket packs have remained a toy and we have never had any roadmap for making them anything more.

In his post Benedict comes up with some ways to judge whether new technologies have a future. Ways that you can apply to the question ‘Does trackless Final Cut Pro X has more of a future than track-based Adobe Premiere Pro CC?’

At least Apple’s iMovie and Final Cut Pro X finally have some real competition in Adobe Premiere Rush CC. The closest thing to an application that will put some fire under the Apple Video Applications team.

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BlogmacOS High Sierra 10.13.6 installer for troubleshooting or recoveryTuesday, September 25 2018

If you are tempted to apply very new macOS updates, it is a good idea to have ‘last known good’ macOS installers to hand. They also help when you need to recover from serious Mac problems.

Even though there is a new version of macOS available, the High Sierra installer is still available from the Mac App Store.

  1. Download the macOS High Sierra 10.13.6 Installer from the Mac App Store
  2. Once it opens, quit without installing.
  3. You will find the installer in the Applications folder.
  4. Drag the installer to another location on your computer for safekeeping – also to a USB stick that you can use for recovery purposes.

 

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BlogBlackmagic Design’s new RAW codec family – Reading between the linesFriday, September 14 2018

Blackmagic Design have announced their new RAW codec family at IBC today. Possible interpretations of the press release:

Blackmagic RAW has been in development for years

means

We started on this long before we heard Apple was developing a post-focused RAW codec.

Blackmagic RAW…moves part of the de-mosaic process into the camera where it can be hardware accelerated by the camera itself

means

There is no margin in giving away free post software. We are a post production hardware company that makes cameras, not a computer maker.

Because the processor intensive partial de-mosaic is done by the camera hardware, software such as DaVinci Resolve doesn’t have to do as much work decoding the files

means

We want our software to be cross-platform. We need to make sure Resolve works on operating systems and hardware that might not be as good at working with media. Popular hardware and OS combinations aren’t powerful enough to work with ProRes RAW

Blackmagic RAW is much more than a simple RAW container format. Its intelligent design actually understands the camera and the sensor. This means the image data, along with the unique characteristics of the image sensor

means

Despite cameras not having huge differences in sensor and glass, we think Apple ProRes RAW doesn’t include enough metadata to capture their individual characteristics.

“Send me a Blackmagic”

Blackmagic Design is up against one of the biggest brands in post production. As much as people say “Can I look at it on the Avid,” they also say “Can you send me a ProRes.” It makes post-production adjacent people in TV and film feel like they are ‘in with’ the post process – even if those brands are all they know. They would be happy if you showed them you work on a Adobe Premiere Pro CC timeline, or if you send them an H.265 MP4.

I’ll be interested to see if Blackmagic gets people switching from Apple and Avid codecs for post. I’m looking forward to seeing how well ProRes RAW converts to Blackmagic RAW.

According to fcp.co, the Blackmagic’s beta codec and sample media don’t work in Final Cut Pro X, but there’s no business reason why they shouldn’t. If Final Cut users liked it, Blackmagic could sell more cameras.

As regards Apple’s ProRes RAW working in Resolve, I’m sure they would like that, but they also like other applications being used as off-line editors while the online -the last 5% – is done in Resolve (if needed).

Overall: A reaction, not an instigation.

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BlogAdobe Premiere can now edit IMF, wither Final Cut?Thursday, September 13 2018
Third-parties who develop Interoperable Master Format workflow tools don’t seem to believe that Final Cut Pro X is relevant.
 
At the end of many high-end productions comes expressing your feature film or TV show as IMF – a SMPTE standard for providing a single, interchangeable master file format and structure for the distribution of content. Each IMF database can be used to generate deliverables for multiple playback systems such as different projectors, sound systems, TV standards, Blu-Rays, spoken languages, subtitles and more.
 
Marquise Technologies is a Swiss company that have been involved in developing IMF. They have many high-end tools. Yesterday they launched an IMF import system for Adobe Premiere CC:
 
With the growing adoption of the Interoperable Master Format for content exchange it has become increasingly important for professional editing solutions to support this standard. Marquise Technologies and Adobe have collaborated to enable Adobe Premiere Pro CC to import IMF packages, including multiple CPLs packages. Editors are now able to review and process IMF Application #2 and #2e (Studio Profile) content.
 
The irony is that Final Cut Pro X is much more suited to thinking about media as a database that can be expressed multiple ways. Better than any track-based NLE.
 
What client need would convince IMF ecosystem developers to make tools that work with Final Cut?
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