Red Giant Universe: A new VFX plugins subscription community for Final Cut Pro X and Adobe Premiere Pro

Wednesday, 12 March 2014

Red Giant have announced that they are changing the way editors, motion graphics designers and visual effects artists access their visual effects plugins.

Red Giant Universe is a new free online community for Adobe Premiere Pro, Adobe After Effects, Apple Final Cut Pro X and Apple Motion users. Today it hosts 31 free plugins in categories including Blur, Distort, Glow and Generators. 


If you sign up for a Monthly or yearly subscription, you also get access to 19 premium plugins

The initial premium plugins are Universe versions of current Red Giant stand alone products. Launch tools include Knoll Light Factory EZ, Holomatrix, Retrograde, and ToonIt:


Here are samples of Universe Chromatic Glow, Universe Glo Fi and Universe Prism Displacement:


Red Giant say that they'll be regularly adding new free and premium plugins to Red Giant Universe.

What makes Universe a community? Red Giant will use user feedback to determine their development priorities - which of their non-Universe plugins to convert and make available to premium subscribers, and what new features to add to current Universe plugins.

Unlike Adobe's Creative Cloud, as well as monthly premium ($10) and annual premium ($99) membership options, you can buy Red Giant out with a one-time lifetime subscription fee ($399).

Not an Adobe-style migration

Red Giant say that most of the plugins they've sold up until now aren't part of Universe. Their colour, keying and Trapcode plugin suites are still available in the normal way. 

GPU Power

Final Cut Pro X and Apple Motion users are used to the near real-time rendering speed of GPU-based plugins. Red Giant Universe brings that same power to Adobe Premiere Pro and Adobe After Effects users on OS X and Windows.

The secret to Red Giant Universe is the 'Supernova' tool. This development system uses a javascript-like scripting language to access the Red Giant Universe Library; a collection of image processing libraries whose code is combined together to make cross-platform Universe plugins. As well as using the RG Universe Library to build new free and premium plugins as months go by, Red Giant say they'll also be adding new modules to the code library - so new plugins will have access to more advanced GPU code.


No third-party plugins yet…

Sadly Supernova is only available to internal Red Giant developers for now. Supernova looks like an interesting alternative to the model used by the FxFactory system. FxFactory uses Apple's Quartz Composer tool as the basis of its multi-host app plugin development and distribution system. Many developers would probably be more comfortable using Red Giant's scripting language. An extra advantage is that Red Giant Universe plugins work with the Windows versions of Adobe Premiere Pro and Adobe After Effects.

Although Red Giant Supernova would be a powerful tool for third-party plugin development, FxFactory has many more years experience in dealing with promoting, selling and supporting third-party plugins. Although if I did sell plugins I would turn to FxFactory, the potential success of Red Giant Universe is good news for plugin developers.

Adobe and Apple

Red Giant Universe is also good news for Adobe as it might expand the availability of cross-OS plugins for their applications - at the moment there are more Premiere plugins for OS X then there are for Windows. Universe is also an endorsement of the Creative Cloud software subscription model.

In the case of Apple, Universe means more plugins for Final Cut Pro X and Motion 5. It might provide a little incentive for Apple concentrate a little more on making post production plugins better on OS X than on Windows. If such a comparison is important to Apple, they could produce a Motion 5-based plugin playback system that they could make available to OS X-based post production applications. Imagine implementing a plugin using Motion that could then be used in any AV Foundation-based application. This would help with transferring projects between QuickTime Player, iMovie, Final Cut Pro X, Adobe Premiere, Lightworks, Avid, DaVinci Resolve and Autodesk Smoke. Combining this with an Apple Post Production Tools Store would be a powerful proposition.

Universe is now open for free membership, why not sign up and investigate the quality of the plugins? First the first 30 days you get free access to the premium plugins. this could be the beginning of something big.




How to introduce Final Cut Pro X to children in less than an hour

Tuesday, 11 March 2014

On Sunday I was lucky enough to catch the live stream of episode 47 of the Tech Educator podcast.

The Tech Educator Podcast supports teachers who want to use and teach technology in schools.

Sunday's show was their first on Final Cut Pro X. The main guest was Jon Corippo - an Apple Distinguished Educator who has devised a lesson plan that he uses to introduce Final Cut Pro X to a classroom of children in less than an hour.

Use TrackX to make graphics and text follow moving objects in clips within Final Cut Pro X

Monday, 10 March 2014

In earlier decades many feature films relied on matte paintings to extend sets. They locked off a film camera and filmed scenes though a pane of glass with a painting that was created to make smaller sets look like they were in much larger environments.

In the second half of the 20th Century, optical printers were used to combine filmed footage of a painting with live action film.


In recent years matte paintings are digital images that are stored and composited with live action footage using computers. Compositing software can detect camera moves in the live action footage and move the graphic file so that the graphics 'track' with elements in the footage.

Up until recently tracking software to cost thousands of pounds and require expensive hardware to perform the necessary complex calculations. Most recently it was only found in high-end compositing applications. Now Final Cut Pro X editors can use a new set of plugins to track objects and camera moves in their video clips to make overlaid graphics and text line up with video that has already been shot.

Here is my sample video of what TrackX for Final Cut Pro X from Coremelt can do:

TrackX greatly reduces the number of workflow stages and opens up motion tracking to editors. It combines great value with ease of use and convenience.

For more information, more sample videos and a download of a 15 day free trial version, visit the CoreMelt website.

For a 84 minute webinar on many TrackX techniques, go to the Imagineer Systems video on Vimeo.

Disclosure: CoreMelt sent me a review unlock code for TrackX. Lucky for me as I was planning to buy it myself. I'd already bought their SliceX masking plugin last year.



Mac Pro (Late 2013): Resources

Friday, 20 December 2013

Final Cut Pro X 10.1 update: New features, commentary and resources

Thursday, 19 December 2013

Apple updated Final Cut Pro to version 10.1 today.

What's new

The list from Apple's Final Cut Pro X 10.1 online help (my commentary in italics)

Performance and Mac Pro optimizations

Optimization to take advantage of multiple GPUs in the new Mac Pro

- Hidden inside Final Cut: code that distinguishes between CPUs and different GPUs:

* HOpticalFlowAnalyzer2, oflow v1, use display GPU only
* HOpticalFlowAnalyzer2, oflow v1, use aux GPU only
* HOpticalFlowAnalyzer2, oflow v1, use CPU only

HDMI and Thunderbolt output at frame sizes up to 4K (UltraHD and DCI 4K)

Final Cut Pro X 10.1: Mac computers capable of viewing 4K resolution via HDMI

Better playback and rendering performance, plus faster opening of the application and projects

- 10.1 seems to open much faster than before

Improved performance when modifying or keywording large numbers of clips at the same time

Selected titles, effects, and other media content scaled for 4K projects

- You can choose to only show elements scaled for 4K when you are editing 4K timelines:


Project and media management

Improved media management with the introduction of libraries, a new way to organize multiple events and multiple projects in a single container

- Apple's white paper on using libraries includes this image:



- For a very interesting PDF on 10.1 workflows for multi-user projects, visit 10 dot 1. Here's a sample illustration:

FCPXInASharedEnvironment FINAL

Project snapshots: on-demand backups that allow you to quickly return to an earlier version of a particular project

Media file storage on disk locations external to the Final Cut Pro X library, making your media accessible in specific folders on a wide range of SANs

- The Consolidate command moves all the files associated with an event (or a library) to an external folder which can be stored anywhere

consolidate files

Direct importation of MTS/M2TS files into Final Cut Pro

- At the request of Seth Hardwick I attempted to import a folder from a Sony MRC1 into 10.1. It didn't work.

Used clip range indicators that show you at a glance which clips are already in a project

Direct import of photos from iOS devices using the Media Import window

Support for portrait/landscape metadata in still images

Playback and effects

Significant improvements in the Final Cut Pro playback interface and powerful new effects features will empower your workflow.

Improved retiming lets you set custom speeds easier than ever—by typing frame rates directly in the interface. You can also create jump cuts at specific frames, replace and retime in one step, and retime clips without rippling the Timeline. For more information, see Retiming clips overview.

A new stabilization method called Inertiacam has been optimized to smooth video footage containing camera moves such as pans and zooms. Tripod Mode creates the effect of a static camera, as if it were mounted on a tripod.

An improved optical flow algorithm makes retiming and frame rate conform speedier than ever. In addition, for Macs with two GPUs, the optical flow algorithm now makes use of both GPUs, providing a more than 2x speed increase over a single GPU.

You can now create custom project resolutions for web video, digital signage, and other nonstandard frame sizes.

- I successfully created a 10,557 by 1080 29.97fps project. The frame rates are currently limited to standard ones, and if you have any clips on a timeline, you cannot change the project frame rate

- Here you can see a timeline that renders ProRes 422 LT and is 102,032 by 1080 pixels:



Doesn't look like there's a limit!

New controls in the Viewer menu let you switch between better playback quality and better playback performance. There’s also a control to switch between proxy media and original or optimized media.

- Very useful for editing 4-5K content in proxy format on less powerful MacBook Pros

And you can now view all pixels of a 2K frame on a MacBook Pro with Retina display.


Through edits are now supported in all types of clips. The new Join Clips command removes cuts from bladed Timeline clips.

- Some commands have been moved to a new Trim menu - maybe to make space for more trim-related comands in future versions:


The Trim to Playhead command does different things depending on where the playhead is. If it is in the first half of a clip, it trims the start to the playhead, if in the second half, it trims the end to the playhead.

If you use the Range tool to select a range in a timeline clip, the command returns to 10.0's Trim Selection, trimming the clip to match the selection:


You can detach the audio portion of multicam clips in the Timeline to manipulate audio and video separately. You can also make video-only or audio-only edits into the Timeline with multicam clips as sources.

You can blade audio cuts in J and L cuts separately from the video. And you can now roll the audio in open split edits.

If no clips are selected in the Timeline, a white dot now appears on the playhead to indicate the clip whose attributes are shown in the Inspector.

Moving clips with transitions is now easier.


You can share 4K finished videos directly to YouTube.

You can share videos directly to the Chinese video sharing websites Youku and Tudou.

And you can receive notifications on the status of items you shared.

- You can also use Compressor 4.1 to set up a Share Destination that runs an Applescript-based Automator workflow once your movie is transcoded


Audio fade handles have been added to individual audio channels in the Timeline. For more information, see Fade audio in or out.

Third-party support

Developers can utilize a new API for customizing Share operations.

- Other apps can send an 'Open Document' event to Final Cut Pro to make it import using XML and custom metadata fields to metadata views

- Final Cut Pro can send Apple Events to Asset Management applications during export

If you have an Apple Mac developer account (free from Apple):

- More on third-party application developent for Final Cut Pro workflows

FXPlug 3 has been updated to include the ability to design custom effects interfaces.

- What's new in FxPlug 3.0

- Plugins Human Interface Guidelines

Effect parameters, fonts, and text size information are now preserved in XML files.

About Final Cut Pro X XML Version 1.3

Apple have also defined what metadata stored in MP4 files it recognises.

For Apple developers: Final Cut Pro X - Metadata in MP4

Last but not least

You can now hide the Browser to free up more screen area for color grading and other operations that are improved by larger video images. 


There's at least one new title: Date/Time, which appears to support iMovie 10 projects. It shows the time and date the clip it is attached to was created:


It is odd - no controls apart from fade in and fade out. You can't change the typeface, size, colour or position in Final Cut Pro. It is designed to give that 90s 'X-Files' look (as inspired by 'Silence of the Lambs') to a clip.

When opening this title in Motion, there doesn't seem to be a way of getting any clip information from the clip a title is attached to - Final Cut Pro X must modify the title content to show the clip date and time.

To change the time displayed by the Date/Time title, select the clip it is attached to, use the 'Reveal in Browser' command (from the File menu or press Shift-F) to select it in the browser, and use the 'Modify:Adjust Content Created Date and Time…' command to pick a new date and time to show in the connected title.

No special treatment for SAN locations

There is no longer is an "Add SAN location" command in Final Cut Pro X 10.1.

Libraries can be anywhere, including on Storage Area Networks.

Apple on updating from 10.0.X to 10.1.X:

If you’ve been using SAN locations on an Xsan volume, you can click Locate to navigate to and then update SAN location folders. You can select a volume, a SAN location, or any folder containing a Final Cut Projects or Final Cut Events folder, and update it. This creates a new library next to the folder where the original projects and events were located. This manual update can be done at any time; for example, a SAN location may not be connected when you first open Final Cut Pro 10.1

Read only locations

Final Cut Pro X 10.1 will not open libraries that are stored on locked storage locations:

read-only file system

iMovie to Final Cut Pro X 10.1

Final Cut Pro X cannot open iMovie files directly any more. If you run iMovie and Final Cut Pro X 10.1 on the same computer, a new command appears in iMovie 10's File Menu: "Send Movie to Final Cut Pro" - it sends an editable timeline and the required clips to Final Cut Pro. Final Cut creates a new library for the event and project:

New commands

Better Playback Performance
Better Playback Quality

Consolidate Library/Project/Event Files - ?

Cut / Copy / Paste / Delete Selected Keyframes - Shift-Option-X / Shift-Option-C / Shift-Option-V / Shift-Option-Delete


Custom Speed - Control-Option-R

You can type in a speed or required duration, and choose whether to ripple the timeline or not. If you don't ripple, the sped up section is followed by a gap clip of the required length not to change the overall duration of the project:


Looks like 10.1.0 has a slight fault when it comes to displaying the custom duration control in the right place.

Duplicate Project as Snapshot - Shift-Command-D - ?

The Duplicate as Snapshot command creates a self-contained copy of a project containing compound clips or multicam clips. Specifically, duplicating a project as a snapshot makes copies of the compound or multicam “parent” clips and embeds them in the project so that any changes to other instances of the clips do not affect the snapshot.

Exit Full Screen - You can choose which key stops full screen playback. Perhaps useful for remote control applications that simulate key presses

New Folder - Shift-Command-N - ? - You can organise event keywords and smart collections into folders:

New Library - There is no menu command to create new libaries (to create a new library you go to File:Open Library:Other… and click the New button), but you can add a keyboard shortcut to do this using the command editor.

Open Library

Show Unused Media Only - Control-U - Shows which parts of clips in the event aren't used in the event's projects:



Useful Apple links

Final Cut Pro X 10.1

Final Cut Pro X: Version 10.1 release note

Final Cut Pro X 10.1: How to back up important Final Cut Pro X 10.0.x files before updating

Final Cut Pro X: Apple ProRes White Paper

- Very few mentions of QuickTime

Final Cut Pro X 10.1: How to remove and reinstall Final Cut Pro X

Final Cut Pro X 10.1, Compressor 4.1: Adding a "Apple Devices 60fps" destination

Final Cut Pro X 10.1: Adding a destination to Share 4K to YouTube

Final Cut Pro X, Motion 5, Compressor 4: Graphics card compatibility


Final Cut Pro X 10.1: Updating and working with libraries FAQ


Full online help system for Final Cut Pro X 10.1


Final Cut Pro X for Final Cut Pro 7 Editors white paper


Other Apple professional applications

Motion version 5.1 release notes

Not many new features in Motion - no new behaviours or filters to support new kinds of Final Cut plugins

Compressor 4.1: Release notes

Logic Pro X 10.0.5: Release notes


Full online help system for Compressor 4.1 

Transition to Compressor 4.1 White Paper from Apple

Compressor 4.1 can spawn multiple instances of itself on multi-core Macs


Full online help system for Motion 5.1



Apple ProRes White Paper

Apple ProRes Authorized Products



Other useful links

Pro Video Coalition: Final Cut Pro 10.1: A Detailed First Look by Steve Martin and Mark Spencer

10 free intro movies to Final Cut Pro X 10.1 from Mark Spencer and Steve Martin of Ripple Training

- In depth Final Cut Pro X 10.1 video training course from Ripple Training 

1 hour 45 minute MacBreak video podcast: Final Cut Pro X 10.1 Overview featuring Marck Spencer and Steve Martin of Ripple Training:

They kindly mentioned me a few times. One mention was about clip timecode.

Clip timecode in Final Cut Pro X 10.1 still doesn't work. We'd like to be able to add an effect to a clip, but timecode effects can only show the timecode of the current project. The previous workaround remains: you need to make each clip you want a timecode burn for into a compound clip. In the compound clip add a timecode generator for clip timecode.


Philip Hodgetts' review of Final Cut Pro X 10.1 - based on two months' use

Philip's 10.0 event organising application is now free - use it for the smoothest transition from 10.0 to 10.1

Kicking the Tires on Final Cut Pro X 10.1 by Scott Simmons

Scott praises the new version, points out some important gotchas and details what's still missing

The first 24 hours with Apple's new Mac Pro and Final Cut Pro 10.1 on using Final Cut Pro X on the new Mac Pro. How many real time effects can be applied to 4K RED footage?

The Final Cut Pro 10.1 cheat sheet at by Sam Mestman of FCPWorks









Review: Luca Visual FX Hi-Tech Final Cut Pro X plugins

Monday, 09 December 2013

If you want to add a large variety of technological style to your Final Cut Pro X projects, try Hi-Tech. The experienced motion graphics designers at Luca Visual FX have bundled together many plugins into a single pack that can make any short film, documentary, advert, TV drama or feature film look instantly more hi-tech.


Hi-Tech is downloaded, installed and activated using the free FxFactory plugin management system. Although FxFactory can download, install, activate and deactivate plugins for Final Cut Pro, Motion, Adobe Premiere and Adobe After Effects, this plugin pack only works with Final Cut Pro X. Once users of those other applications see Hi-Tech, many will feel they are missing out.

Once you download the FxFactory application, you'll see many free and commercial plugin packs. Amongst them is Hi-Tech. FxFactory can download a watermarked trial version:


Downsides of the FxFactory system used to be that ts was a large download and that it added very many watermarked plugins in your NLE. The FxFactory installer is now a 69MB download, and you can use the application to turn off every plugin you don't want to see in Final Cut Pro.

In recent years handy free plugins have been added to FxFactory - including some by Andy Mees that many editors would pay to use every day. You never know whose free plugins will appear in FxFactory next.

Hi-Tech variety

Hi-tech is divided up into groups of plugins in the effects browser: Displays, Fractals, Holograms, Lower Thirds, Sci-Fi Mographs and a bonus pair of Sports themed plugins. Luca Visual FX designed for multiple  effects from this pack to be used on the same clip. They can also be used to modify clips that can then be used to make source clips that appear as elements inside other effects.

Here's a video showing all 31 effects in action:

The Lower Thirds are the most straightforward way of adding a hi-tech look to a documentary. Although these would normally be implemented as title generators, Luca have made these effects like all the other plugins in this pack.


Each lower third can be radically customised in many ways. For example here are the controls for the Hi-tech Chemical Lower Third:


The Fractals group of effects can be applied to any clip, but they also work well as elements that can be used within the hi-tech displays generated by other hi-tech filters. For example, a clip that has had the Script Factal effect applied to it can be put into a composition and that composition can then be used in a lower third - dropped in as a clip into one of the media wells (MEDIA 1 or MEDIA 2 in the controls for the Chemical lower third above).


As well as being able to change colours and detail settings, the Fractal group effects have on-screen controls to help editors precisely position elements to line up with clip features - as do the majority of the Hi-Tech effects.


Most of the Holograms effects divide clips into multiple areas using glowing lines. Multiple instances of the Holographic Objects effect can be added to the same clip with different settings to show a variety of different animated holograms overlaid onto the same clip at the same time.


Most of the Sci-Fi Mographs effects are more complex patterns that add hi-tech content that fills clips. The Planet Earth and Planetarium filters can be used as single elements applied to more complex displays.


Whereas the Sci-Fri Mographs effects are designed to fill clips, the Displays effects seem to be designed to be overlaid on top of existing footage. 


Hi-Tech complexity

I divide editing software plugins into two groups. The first group are those that can be used in small ways on nearly every timeline.  The second group is made of of those that can save a great deal of time on specific projects. Hi-Tech fits into the second group. Unless you only work on modern thrillers sci-fi movies or adverts for technology, you won't be using Hi-Tech every day. However, if you use some of the Hi-Tech plugins on one timeline, the time you save will immediately justify the purchase price.

A big decision when designing plugins is how much control to give busy editors. Some want to be able to adjust every possible element of an effect - others want to apply an effect and not be daunted by a long list of controls that can't fit in the effect inspector without scrolling. The Hi-Tech plugins provide very many controls - but editors in a hurry shouldn't worry: the default settings work very well. Those sitting next to impatient directors can quickly apply an effect and move on to solving the next problem. If there's more time later, they can go back and tweak the effect settings.

An example of clever defaults is that Luca have already populated media wells with interesting content. This means that for each effect to look good, editors don't have to drop hi-tech clips into each well. For example, a specific animated logo can be added to the MEDIA 1 well in any of the lower third filters, but if no logo is available, there is relevant hi-tech content already in place.

Hi-Tech conclusion

Hi-Tech from Luca Visual FX is a plugin pack that makes complex well-designed motion graphics quick and straightforward to apply to Final Cut Pro X projects. For those who need flexibility, once applied each effect provides all the controls anyone could want. With this pack editors can concentrate on being editors, while editors with motion graphics inclinations will be very satisfied by the power available to them from within Final Cut Pro X.

For those wary of installing FxFactory, take another look - smaller installer sizes and better plugin activation control are welcome changes you might not know about.

FCPX Grill podcast - Episode 3 - featuring Alex Gollner

Monday, 02 December 2013

Episode 3 of the Final Cut Pro X Grill podcast featured an interview with me. It was a wide-ranging conversation on plugins, Final Cut Pro X, Avid, Adobe and what it means to be an editor.

(0:00) Introduction

(6:15) Alex and Macs 1984-

(8:30) First edits in After Effects

(9:15) 'What kinds of videos do you make'

(10:00) Motion graphics using Final Cut Pro and Motion

(13:00) 'How did you start making plugins'

(17:45) 'Your plugin ideas come from needing them in your editing work'

(19:00) My 'Grow-Shrink' plugin

(20:30) 'Do you make money from selling Final Cut Pro plugins

(22:00) 'What was your first impression of Final Cut Pro X'

(23:30) Why insecure editors were threatened by Final Cut Pro X

(24:30) Editors can no longer rely on high barriers to entry for their competition

(26:45) Editors aren't wrong for not using Final Cut Pro X

(27:15) 'What was your a-ha moment when using Final Cut Pro'

(28:30) Final Cut Pro X was great new for Adobe and Avid's marketing people…

(30:00) Adobe and Avid weren't putting enough pressure on Apple from 2007-2011 - Final Cut Pro X could afford to be behind for almost two years

(31:45) 'Do you prefer to cut in Final Cut Pro X'

(32:45) Final Cut Pro X is as different from previous NLEs as motion graphics apps are different from NLEs

(33:15) People like to pile on Apple whenever they seem to stumble

(34:45) Why Final Cut Pro X will succeed

(36:40) Apple would rather take longer to introduce features in order to get them right

(37:30) Possible multi-user editing timelines coming in Final Cut

(39:00) 'What have you found in iMovie 2013 that hints as to the future of Final Cut Pro X?'

(41:15) iMovie can run Final Cut Pro X plugins

(43:30) The relationship between versions of iMovie and Final Cut Pro X

(45:45) Apple have relented on hiding the file system from Final Cut Pro

(47:30) 'Is Mac OS X evolving into iOS?'

(48:30) OS X Mavericks 'Tags' are the OS equivalent of Final Cut Pro X keywords for clips and ranges within clips

(50:30) Editing is organising

(50:45) Versioning for Final Cut projects

(51:15) Tim Cook = Willy Wonka

(52:30) Final Cut Pro is right for me

(53:45) Wrap-up

Website link · iTunes link

Late 2013 MacBook Pros can run a 3840x2160 display at 60Hz - But there's a catch…

Monday, 02 December 2013

This month sees the launch of the new Mac Pro from Apple, which can support multiple 4K displays. Many Mac fans hope that Apple will also be launch 4K displays to go with the new computer.

Yesterday MacRumors reported that Dell are starting to promote a new 24" '4K' monitor. This is relevant news because Dell pricing is usually much keener than other suppliers, and Dell usually use the same display panel manufacturers as Apple.

Apple have already said that the new MacBook Pros with Retina can support a 3840 by 2160 display via their HDMI port at 30MHz. The question is whether their two Thunderbolt 2 ports can support large displays at higher refresh rates - which means smoother movement for animation and video with frame rates faster than 30 frames per second. Apple haven't publicised that the new MacBook Pro can run two 4K external monitors alongside it's 2880 by 1440 internal screen.

Dell's new display uses the DisplayPort 1.2 standard, which supports 60Hz refresh rates at 3840 by 2160 at a high bit depth. Thunderbolt connections have always been able to support monitors with an DisplayPort 1.0 interface. So far Apple haven't been clear about whether Thunderbolt 2 can handle the increased demands of DisplayPort 1.2. Will the MacBook Pro and new Mac Pro only work at high refresh rates with Apple Thunderbolt 2 displays?

A good sign can be found in a post by 'kogir' on the Apple's Support Discussions site:

Yes. The Macbook Pro Retina Display (Late 2013) works for me via the Thunderbolt 2 port @ 4K 60hz under Windows 8.1 with the ASUS PQ321Q.

The hardware support is there, and I fully expect OS X to get support in time for the Mac Pro launch.

My one worry is that it *is* a driver issue, and the Mac Pro has ATI graphics, so it's still not impossible that the Nvidia drivers for the MBPR never get support :/

So for now, the Thunderbolt 2 ports on the new MacBook Pro support a 3840 by 2160 display only if the MacBook is running Windows 8.1.

The good news is that higher refresh rate 4K displays from many suppliers are likely to work with the new Mac Pro and MacBook Pro with a driver update in OS X Mavericks - not limiting monitor options to new Apple Thunderbolt 2 displays.

  • Categories UHD

Maxed-out 2013 Mac Pro Price: ‘$9,200’

Friday, 29 November 2013



The Canadian price for the most expensive build to order Mac Pro will be CN$9,700. That's $9,160, £5,600, €6,700 at current exchange rates. This is according to a post by Marcus Moore, a reliable long-standing member of the forum:

I just chatted with an Apple business rep. Considering what the individual components cost, and what some of the estimates were, I'm SHOCKED at how good the pricing is.

A MAXED OUT MacPro- 1TB SSD, 64GB RAM, D700s, and 12-core CPU is... CN$9,700.

I also had him price out a 8-core with the 500GB SSD- and that was CN$7,700.

Although many Mac users would find these prices shocking, 'pro users' are likely to be pleasantly surprised. A few weeks ago Unbox Therapy calculated that an 'Ultimate Mac Pro' would price out to around $14,000.

Here's how these possible prices compare with the current Mac Pro configurations:

pricing r


Which digital cameras are cinema-ready? See for yourself at the Digital Cinema Festival

Thursday, 28 November 2013

Next Wednesday I'll be attending The Movie Machine Digital Cinema Festival in London.


Movie Machine's Rick Young set up this event to test whether camera manufacturers and post production workflow professionals are telling the truth when they say their favourite system is feature film ready.

'Cinema-quality' is more than the number of raw pixels in a camera sensor, there's nothing like seeing footage being projected in a real cinema.

The Digital Cinema Festival is made up of two parts. Presentations where experts will get everyone up to speed with the state of digital cinema art from a technical and practical point of view. These presentations are interspersed with screenings of best short films submitted to the Digital Cinema Festival competition. Although they will show the technical quality of digital cinema, the judges are defining 'the best' in terms of content: quality of the story and storytelling ability. I'm happy to say that I'm one of the competition judges.

The varied agenda covers cameras from RED, Blackmagic Design, Canon and Sony and a large varety of software tools. Another important element is a generous 30 minute interval which will give festival goers the chance to share stories, learn from each other and plan future projects.

Tickets are limited, so invite some friends and join us at the Festival on Wednesday in London.

The case for a new Apple professional application

Wednesday, 27 November 2013

If Apple were to launch a new professional application to showcase the power and flexibility of the new Mac Pro, what would it be like?

Professional sofware is part of Apple's corporate definition. This definition appears at the end of every Apple press release. At the moment the definition includes the following:

Apple designs Macs, the best personal computers in the world, along with OS X, iLife, iWork and professional software…

Apple say that they're making a new version of Final Cut tuned to the 4K possibilities afforded by the new MacPro. Some new MacPro features are already in October's MacBook Pros. They have fast 1TB SSDs (1.1GByte/second read and write) and Thunderbolt 2 (and probably HDMI 2 with a firmware upgrade).

Final Cut Pro is a valuable application that works very wall on all new Macs (especially if you have at least 16GB of RAM). The only feature Final Cut might have that would show off something that only the Mac Pro could do is the ability to have seven 4K displays attached at once. Final Cut Pro X 10.0 only uses up to two displays without much flexibility. A Mac Pro-supporting 10.1 update would therefore include for flexible window and display options.

So how can Apple demonstrate a post production workflow that specifically requires the extra power in the GPUs and CPUs of the new Mac Pro? 

How about a colour grading application?

When Apple acquired Silicon Color in 2006, their Final Touch HD grading application cost $5,000. A year later they released Apple Color (a only slightly modified version of Final Touch HD) as part of the Final Cut Studio bundle. This huge effective price cut immediately lowered a big barrier to entry for better quality colour in post production.

The catch was Apple Color never felt like an Apple application - its user interface remained obscure to new users, and Apple didn't invest any time or money into making an editor-friendly version of Color. One of the aims of the 2011 Final Cut Pro X reset was to open up the world of post production to more creative people. There was no place for Apple Color in 2011. It was all Apple could do to build a workable version of Final Cut from scratch on top of the new post-QuickTime OS X frameworks.

An upside of the fall of Color as a grading application is the rise of DaVinci Resolve from Blackmagic Design. They took Apple's 'very low pricing to sell Mac hardware' policy and applied it to their business model. Resolve sells their control surfaces, cameras, and video I/O devices - promoted by the very low or even free prices for Resolve. 

In practice, there's no need for Apple to revive Color, DaVinci Resolve fills that gap nicely.

A high-end compositing application would be a good candidate to promote the new Mac Pro. Nuke by The Foundry for example. Nuke eats up CPU and GPU cycles, loves multiple screens and benefits from fast IO and storage. That sounds like the new Mac Pro.

Nuke pricing starts at £2,500 ($4,100). The newest version of Nuke, version 8, is being launched next week.

Will Apple acquire The Foundry? Even if they wanted to, the combination might not be a good mix. It didn't seem to work out well when they acquired Nothing Real.

Apple bought Nothing Real in 2002 for their technology, applications and post industry links. In the following years Final Cut users benefitted from Nothing Real's image stabilisation and optical flow retiming technology. Shake, the Nothing Real high-end compositing app, was one of Weta's main tools for the post production of the Lord of the Rings trilogy.

In 2005 Apple charged $3,000 for Shake 4 (whereas Shake 2.1 cost $9,900 in 2000). They eventually cut the price of version 4.1 to $500. Sadly it seems that Apple didn't want to maintain the support structure required by effects houses who want quick developer responses in return for expensive annual maintenance licenses.

Apple Insider, June 2006:

The latest release of Apple Computer's Shake compositing software may be the last of its breed, as the company reportedly plans to shift gears and focus on developing the next-generation of the application around a different codebase.

Apple made the revelation alongside the release of Shake 4.1 this week, telling customers that it "will no longer be selling maintenance for Shake" as "no further updates" to the application are planned.

Instead, Apple said it has begun work on the next generation of the software, which reports target for a release in 2008.

In the event, Apple didn't release Smoke X in 2008, they didn't update it for years, discontinuing it in 2009. Commentators said 

Will Apple add Shake-like 3D and node-based editing to Final Cut Pro? Perhaps - Autodesk are going the other way: adding and editorial timeline to the Smoke 3D and node-based compositor.

Many editors have called for more advanced grading, effects and compositing tools in Final Cut Pro. Some would like all the features of Apple Color, Motion, Shake, Logic, Soundtrack Pro and a Blu-Ray version of DVD Studio Pro available in a single Final Cut timeline.

It is unlikely that Apple will go in this direction. Even though hidden in every copy of Final Cut is a full version of Motion, only a small part of the Motion UI is accessible in Final Cut Pro X.

Plugin makers use the retail version of Apple Motion to make effects, transitions, titles and generators for Final Cut editors. When Apple combined Motion filters and behaviours into the plugins bundled with Final Cut, they seemed to make a point of not making every filter and behaviour control available to editors. Apple followed Einstein's maxim when developing plugins: "Make things as simple as possible, but not simpler." Although node-based post production can work well in applications such as Smoke, DaVinci Resolve and After Effects, I think Apple consider the steepness of the learning curve for all editors not worth the benefits to compositors and motion graphics designers and editors who think like them.

Tomorrow's customer stories drive today's new features

If Apple want to use the Mac Pro and associated software as proof that iMacs and MacBook Pros are part of a range of computers than can support highly complex and demanding projects at the high end, they'll need some inspirational case studies. Even if your company memo doesn't need to be edited a computer with mulitple CPU cores and GPUs, some consumers like to buy from a company that makes the technology used to make the biggest movies in history.

That means that although Apple probably won't have a Mac Pro launch event, they'll want Mac Pro stories out that Apple supporters can quote in a single line. In 2002, fans were able to say "Apple's Shake app was used to make Lord of the Rings." Despite the fact that the hardware Weta probably used was PCs running Linux, the Shake aquisition made some Final Cut users happy. HP have probably benefitted from courting post production facilities.

The good news for Apple is that there are many blockbuster movies gearing up for release in 2015, so now is a good time for Mac Pros to get more involved in film post production. In practice that means that the radical nature of the Mac Pro must be seen to be an advantage when it comes to producing 4K, high frame rate, mostly computer animated tentpole feature films.

If Apple wants these kind of customer stories, they'll need to have the tools that fit. For Final Cut Pro that means improved versioning, media management and media sharing. When Apple do collaborative editing they will want to move far past what Avid do today - or at least create hooks so that third parties can deliver new kinds of solutions.

As regards Motion, although the 5.0.X series has slowly impoved as a plug-in development tool over the last 29 months, it hasn't had many motion graphics feature improvements. Does its very low price and its marketing as a Final Cut add-on denote that Apple has ceded the motion graphics app battle to After Effects?

This points to the possibility that a Apple will launch a new combination professional application with the new Mac Pro and Final Cut Pro X 10.1. To fit the bill, it would be used to

  • Create plugins for Final Cut Pro, iMovie and perhaps Adobe After Effects, Adobe Premiere Pro, Blackmagic DaVinci Resolve and Autodesk Smoke (running on OS X only)
  • Design motion graphics that can be generated in rendered in real time and controlled using external devices and applications (for use on-set and artistic performances for example)
  • Combine complex 3D content with footage and other media in a node-based procedural editing system - with live links to Resolve or Smoke node trees.

In practice this would be Motion X, Quartz Composer X and Shake X combined in a single application. 

I'm looking forward to seeing 'Apple ShakeComposerMotion X' in December - it'll change the world of post production forever!




I don't expect Apple to launch Apple ShakeComposerMotion X - it is a fantasy application idea that shows there is a lot of space for modern professional applications by Apple to fill.




FCPX Grill - the new Final Cut Pro X podcast

Tuesday, 26 November 2013

When I'm away from my desk I listen to a wide variety of podcasts - including a few post production podcasts such as Going Postal, Go Creative Show, That Post Show and digitalCINEMAcafe

Last week Chris Fenwick of digitalCINEMAcafe and formerly of The Digital Convergence Podcast invited me to take part in an episode of his new podcast: FCPX Grill.

Chris started this podcast because he wants to capture the kind of conversations he regularly has with editors about happy and comfortable they are with Final Cut Pro X. Instead of talking in the context of a general post show FCPX Grill is a place where Final Cut Pro X can be discussed, explained and complained without needing to provide the kind of balance that placates Autodesk, Avid, Adobe, Sony, Quantel and Foundry users.

Each episode is a conversation between host Fenwick and a guest who talks about what they use Final Cut for, when they first approached it, what they thought initially, what was the breakthough moment that made them fully sign up as a Final Cut Pro X fan and any handy tips and tools they want to share.

Why is it called the FCPX Grill? It's a spin-off of Chris' digitalCINEMAcafe podcast.

Listen in, there's no need to be shy about standing up and saying that Final Cut Pro X is a great editing application.

Episode 1: Welcome to the Grill - featuring Carl Olsen

Chris' first guest is Carl Olsen, his former co-host from the The Digital Convergence Podcast

(0:00) What is FCPX Grill?

(3:30) Carl Olsen introduction

(7:15) 'What kind of productions do you use Final Cut to edit?'

(13:30) 'Why didn't you use Final Cut Pro X when it was launched'

(16:00) 'When changing from Final Cut Pro 7, why didn't you choose Adobe or Avid?'

(19:30) 'What are the advantages of connecting clips?'

(21:00) Avoiding the 'background music going out of sync problem'

(22:00) Tip: Changing the connection point between clips

(23:15) 'What was your biggest Final Cut Pro X stumbling block?'

(24:45) Apple's no. 1 Final Cut Pro support issue

(26:15) 'Do you need to use media from older projects?'

(27:30) 'What kind of drive do you edit off of - which brand?'

(29:00) 'What was the moment when you realised that Final Cut Pro X was the right choice?'

(31:00) 'How did learn Final Cut Pro X - who did you turn to'

(32:45) Staying in sync with clients and colleagues when it comes to choosing editing software

(33:30) How Chris and Carl bashed Final Cut Pro X when it came out

(34:00) Final Cut Pro X supports fast editing

(35:30) 'What is your Final Cut setup?'

(36:45) The advantages of X over 7

(38:00) Color Panel presets 

(40:00) Tip: Auto-assigning keywords to multiple clips

(41:15) Chris' Final Cut Pro X 'A-ha' moment

(47:00) Auto-enhancing clip audio

(49:00) Carl's next frontier

(50:00) Appreciating today's tools

(51:30) Wrap-up

iTunes link, website link 

Episode 2: 4K RED workflow - featuring Sam Mestman

Guest Sam Mestman is a LA-based post production supremo from the We Make Movies film collective.

(0:30) Sam Mestman introduction

(3:00) Los Angeles is behind the rest of the world when it comes to Final Cut Pro X

(4:00) 'What kind of work do you do with Final Cut Pro X?'

(4:45) Coming soon FCP Works: A professional solutions business for Final Cut Pro

(5:45) Being in a 'pro' post production minority

(7:00) Notes from a post-production workflow lab - LumaForge

(9:00) 'How do you work out which tools work well in pro workflows?'

(10:45) Final Cut Pro X's learning curve is different from other NLEs

(12:00) Comparing how easy it is to learn Avid and Final Cut Pro X for new editors

(13:45) Apple's reboot blues may affect Adobe and Avid next

(15:00) Sam on Premiere Pro

(16:30) 'When you first tried Final Cut Pro X, what was your impression?'

(18:15) 'What made you take X more seriously?'

(19:30-38:00) Final Cut Pro X's RED and 4K workflow - featuring metadata and proxies

(30:30) Sam on what editing's all about

(31:45) RED ROCKET on a Thunderbolt expansion chassis

(32:15) 'Is using a RED ROCKET card mandatory?' 

(34:00) Sam on on-set rushes tools

(36:30) 'Where do I modify color? In RED or Final Cut'

(37:15) Editing clips while someone else grades them

(39:15) Sam going all in on Final Cut Pro X

(40:00) 'What needs to be improved in Final Cut?'

(44:00) Make sure you run Final Cut Pro X on the right hardware

(45:00) 'Tell us more about your film collective We Make Movies'

(48:00) Wrap-up

iTunes link, website link


Subscribe now!

If only to make sure your podcast software downloads my FCPX Grill episode, which became available less than an hour after I posted this note!

iMovie and Final Cut Pro X 10.1 part 4

Monday, 25 November 2013

In this series I've written about features in the new version of iMovie that would be interesting to have in the the next version of Final Cut Pro X.

I then summarised evidence that iMovie is primarily a unreleased version of Final Cut Pro X with a user interface that implements the features of iMovie 9. Although the version of Final Cut that iMovie (2013) seems to be based on seems to be newer than the release version, the built-in copy of Motion hasn't been updated, but there's evidence that iMovie themes were created using an internal template development tool codenamed Mica.

The new workflows supported in future versions of iMovie and Final Cut Pro are hinted at in the new version of Final Cut Pro X XML which is defined within iMovie and is referred to inside the new version of Blackmagic Design's DaVinci Resolve application.

More elements hidden inside the new version of iMovie that hint about developments in Final Cut Pro X 10.1.X.





Despite having been recently written, Final Cut Pro X 10.0.X hasn't had much support for subtitle importing, desiplay, in-app editing and export. OS X subtitle expert Andreas Kiel told me that that he was asked to join Apple's Pro Apps development team in California. Although he decided not to accept, their offer is a good sign for the future of subtitles and time-based metadata.




This is probably related to supporting and displaying location information in the same way as in Aperture.


In a previous part of this series I listed features in the unreleased version of the Final Cut Pro X XML format. The file that describes what Final Cut elements can be encoded in XML exports and imports is stored in

A few days after Apple announced the new version of iMovie, RED updated REDCINE-X, their footage processing app, to version 20.2.0 for OS X and Windows. One of the changes listed in this new build is 

Updated: FCPX XML now compatible with version 1.3.

As well as what can be found in the XML DTD, there is more text within

...that reveals more about what can be exported and imported as Final Cut Pro X XML.

[FFXMLExporter addOrientationElementForMediaComponent:element:]
[FFXMLImporter setOrientation:toObject:]

Looks like Final Cut Pro will be able to handle the orientation of a clip explicitly. There were 12 mentions of 'orientation' in 10.0.9 (mostly to do with handling standard metadata fields for common video and stills formats), 33 mentions in 10.?.?.


As OS X and iOS evolve, Apple add more and more features for users who use software and hardware tools to operate applications. As well as being good news for those who cannot use their fingers, keyboards, mice and trackpads to control their Apple devices, the same features can be used by those who can use traditional control methods, but would like to control apps using other devices or workflow tools.

[There's an introduction to Accessibility for OS X developers on the Apple site]

In Final Cut Pro X 10.0.9, NSAccessibility attributes include:


They show how accessibility switch or other assistive device can simulate button, checkbox, menu and window clicks. New accessibility attributes hidden in the Final Cut Pro part of iMovie include:


['Role' here are related to the OS X accessibility framework, not Final Cut Roles]

The nature of these object methods gives accessibility devices (and possibility workflow and scripting tools) more control over Final Cut plus the ability to get useful values from Final Cut which can be displayed in assistive devices and used by workflow software logic.


These new elements allow Final Cut to 'notify' accessibility apps that user interface objects have been created, that values associated with them have changed and that the UI element is no longer relevant. 'Notification' is used 176 times in 10.0.9, 331 times in 10.?.?

If these attributes do appear in Final Cut Pro X 10.1, external applications such as a remote control app running on an iPad might be able to update their displays to reflect changes in Events, Projects and Libraries.

Word counts

Some words appear  more often in Final Cut Pro 10.X.X than 10.0.9:

  10.0.9 10.X.X
Proxy 276 357
OSC (On-screen controls) 1364 1959
Node 2132 3336
Gamma 65 194
Music 20 567
AudioDuck 2 118

The differences in counts may be to do with the Final Cut Pro X base implementing iMovie(2013)-only features such as automatic ducking (reducing in volume) of some tracks based on the volume of others.

In 10.0.X but not visible

Remember that although I've found all this Final Cut Pro-related content in iMovie, these elements might not appear in Final Cut Pro X 10.1.X.

For example, the code and text associated with flexible window layouts has been in Final Cut since 2011, hasn't appeared in the user interface and remains in 10.?.?:

"Different window layouts can be saved to suit different working environments or styles."
"Name your current layout:"
"Layout already exists. Do you want to replace it?"

"The name '' is an invalid name. Please use a different name"
"Revert to Original Layout" "Cancel" "Tear Off Tab"

"No Layouts Available"

"Save Window Layout"

"Couldn't Save Layout"
"Edit Window Layout"
"Untitled Layout"


Import Final Cut Pro X projects into iMovie using hidden workaround

Wednesday, 20 November 2013

Editor and plugin maker Andy Mees has discovered that you can import Final Cut Pro X exported XML into the new version of iMovie. Here you can see the source timeline in Final Cut. It was exported as an .fcpxml file and imported into iMovie. 


The reason why the timelines don't match up is because iMovie timelines have variable scale. Although the faint grey vertical lines are equally spaced, the times they mark aren't equally spaced (in this case some are marked as denoting 9.4, 10.9, 15.8, 20.3, 24.4, 27.2 and 32.1 seconds).

iMovie doesn't implement all Final Cut Pro X features such as multiple connected video clips at the same time or auditions. Despite this, you can see iMovie displays an audition icon on one of the audio clips in Andy's timeline. If you attempt to edit the audition in iMovie, you'll see an imcomplete UI:


iMovie doesn't have an 'Import Final Cut Pro X XML…' command. Andy discovered a simple workaround.

1. Control- or Right-click the iMovie icon and choose 'Show Package Contents' from the shortcut menu

2. Open another window that shows the iMovie icon and drop your .fcpxml file onto the icon.

3. In iMovie you'll see a dialogue box that asks which iMovie library you would like to import your XML file into:


As well as reading his blog, keep up with Andy by following him on Twitter.


DaVinci Resolve 10 is Final Cut Pro X 10.1 compatible

Tuesday, 19 November 2013

Using the same techniques that I used to have a look inside iMovie and Final Cut Pro, I've found that the recently released version of Blackmagic Design's colour grading application DaVinci Resolve 10 already handles the next version of Final Cut Pro X XML.

Seeing as Final Cut Pro X will be able to export colour grading information in projects as XML, it makes sense that Resolve can read and write these settings.

For example, here's a new Final Cut Pro X XML element:

<!-- The 'adjust-color' element modifies the color adjustments for a clip. -->
<!-- This element contains adjustments for color balance, color match, and color corrections. -->
<!ELEMENT adjust-color (colorBalance?, colorMatch?, (cb-correction | filter-color)*)>

Inside Resolve 10:


[The view if you drop 'DaVinci' onto TextEdit and search for 'adjust-color']

As well as references to Final Cut Pro X' new colour correction XML elements, Resolve also refers to 'adjust-stabilization,' 'adjust-rollingShutter' values for video clips, 'adjust-noiseReduction,' 'adjust-humReduction' and 'adjust-matchEQ' for clips with audio and 'text-style-,' 'ShadowBlurRadius' and 'baseline' (but not 'tab-stops') for text.

More about Final Cut Pro X 10.1

New iMovie features that might appear in Final Cut Pro X

Unreleased version of Final Cut Pro X built into iMovie (2013) - including news on the next version of Final Cut Pro XML

The future of scripting and plugins in Final Cut Pro X 10.1

iCloud collaboration for more Apple applications?

Thursday, 14 November 2013

Today Apple released an update to their iWork for iCloud beta service. 

iWork for iCloud enables OS X and iOS users share design documets, presentations and spreadsheets on the internet so that collaborators can make changes using web browsers running on OS X, iOS X, and Windows devices.

Here are the new collaboration features:

Collaborator list: View the list of collaborators currently in a document.
Collaborator cursor: See cursors and selections for everyone in a document.
Jump to collaborator: Instantly jump to a collaborator’s cursor by clicking their name in the collaborator list.
Collaboration animation: Watch images and shapes animate as your collaborators move them around.

[for a list of further new features visit Apple's support site]

iWork apps aren't productivity apps any more

Although Apple calls this service iWork for iCloud Beta, they no now longer refer to iWork as a product on their website. now redirects to a page named 'Apple - Creativity and Productivity Apps' that page includes information on the three apps that used to be part of the iWork suite: Keynote, Numbers and Pages. It also lists the three apps that used to be part of the iLife suite ( The address of the combined page: (which defaults to the iOS versions).

Perhaps the iWork brand survives in the service name because it was named earlier this year. When the service goes out of beta it might get a name change. The only other place Apple mentions the iWork and iLife is in the corporate definition that appears at the footer of every Apple press release:

Apple designs Macs, the best personal computers in the world, along with OS X, iLife, iWork and professional software. Apple leads the digital music revolution with its iPods and iTunes online store. Apple has reinvented the mobile phone with its revolutionary iPhone and App Store, and is defining the future of mobile media and computing devices with iPad.

[More on Apple's evolving corporate definition since 1995]

Grouping iLife and professional software with iWork in this definition prompts the thought that Apple's online collaboration service might expland to include more Apple applications.

iCloud collaboration services

The new features show that iCloud can share collaborator events with very fine granularity. Instead of seeing the results of a colleague's edit once they've finished, you can see animation showing them making the change. You can also jump to the part of the publication, spreadsheet or presentation a collaborator is working on - so you don't miss their work if it is distant from where you're editing.

iWork for iCloud collaboration was big news in the Summer - it was seen as a catchup to Google Docs and a threat to Microsoft Office. It got the biggest demo at Apple's October announcements.

Apple doesn't act as if it is interested in people's work life - they don't court corporate purchasing. They want individuals to drive the adoption of their hardware, software and services. They leave corporate integration to others. 

Instead of treating iCloud as a big Google-like computer and filing system, Apple may see it as a conduit for making individual apps and tools work better.

I'm looking forward to iCloud for iPhoto, Garageband, iMovie, Aperture, Logic Pro X and Final Cut Pro X...

Final Cut Server: December resurrection?

Saturday, 09 November 2013

Although the most release note for Final Cut Server was archived in July, Apple are still making changes to FCS support documents. Hopefully to prepare for a December resurrection.


Up until Friday the introdcution of Apple's 'Final Cut Server Resources' support document said:

In the United States and Canada, all new registered users of Final Cut Server receive complimentary software support via telephone for 90 days from the date of purchase. In addition, Apple offers a range of professional support options:

Final Cut Server Discussions
Final Cut Server Support Page
Final Cut Server Help
Pro Application Online Help Library
AppleCare Help Desk support
AppleCare OS Support
Apple Pro Training
Apple Consultants Network
Independent Apple Value Added Resellers

At the time of writing the introduction reads:

Final Cut Server has the following resources for learning.

Final Cut Server Discussions
Final Cut Server Support Page
Final Cut Server Help


iMovie and Final Cut Pro X 10.1 part 3: Scripting and plugins

Thursday, 07 November 2013

Here's more of what I've found inside iMovie (2013).

As I wrote in part 2, the new OS X version of iMovie is based on an unreleased version of Final Cut Pro X. Previous versions of Final Cut Pro X have UI-less versions of Motion and Compressor. In that case have the Motion framework and the (313 MB) Compressor plugin also been updated as much as Final Cut Pro X?


Oddly enough, alothough there are new elements in the 'Final Cut Pro X' part of iMovie, the version of Compressor that is included is older than the version available on the Mac App Store or via software update, and there doesn't seem to be anything new in the Motion framework.

The Compressor code supports the background encoding features and sharing to online services features of iMovie.

As well as US-based services, iMovie 2013 has presets that encode and upload files to Youku and Tudou. There also presets for DVD, BluRay, Compressor, Image Sequence and HTTP Streaming - but these are probably left over from Final Cut Pro X version 10.0.X.

It is odd that Motion doesn't seem to have been updated. For seven out of the nine Final Cut Pro X updates from version 10.0.0, Motion was updated in lock step. Over the last two years I'd guess that bugs that seemed to be in Final Cut were in the built-in Motion framework, so the standalone Mac App Store version was updated at the same time. Although Motion's file format didn't change with each update, each edition of the Motion app stored its version number in the documents it saved.

In previous versions of iMovie, most of the effects, transitions, generators and titles were implemented using Quartz compositions (small files used to create UI animations in OS X and iOS apps). iMovie (2013) replaced these with Motion templates - the files used to implement plugins in Final Cut Pro X. That's why it is possible to place Final Cut plugins inside iMovie (as I showed in Final Cut Pro X plugins work in iMovie 2013).

Some of the Motion plugin templates in iMovie seem to have been created using Motion version Here are the first few lines in the template that implements one of iMovie's Titles that isn't yet available in Final Cut Pro X:


Motion's version number hasn't incremented in this way before - adding '.1' as a fourth number. Even when an update was a maintenance release with no new features, the third number increased from 5.0.0 up to 5.0.7 (released in March 2013).

If not Motion...

If the future of Motion as a tool for creating Final Cut plugins is in doubt, what could be the alternatives?

Although some people are worried at the lack of AppleScript support in recent Apple applications, there's a possibility that future versions of Final Cut will be more controllable using a scripting language.

There are already some references to scripting in Final Cut Pro X 10.0.9. The appear in iMovie with these additions:


Quartz Compositions were used to implement effects, titles, transitions and generators in previous versions of iMovie. Quartz Composer is an Apple developer tool that can create these node-based animation files. FxFactory from Noise Industries was introduced as a system that allowed Quartz Compositions to implement advanced plugins in Final Cut Pro Classic (It now also acts as a plugin management system).

iMovie (2013) includes Quartz Composition handling libraries. The Sports theme uses Quartz Compositions to animate team names and member names:


There's also the chance that Final Cut Pro X 10.1.X will be able to use plugins created in the free Quartz Composer developer application.

Here are some of the Quartz Composer references in iMovie:


...implies a difference between Quartz Composer effects and Quartz Composer iMovie effects.

[FFQCEffect compositionName]
[FFQCEffect backgroundCompositionName]
[FFQCEffect compositionDirectoryName]
[FFQCEffect setCompositionParameterValuesAtTime:]
[FFQCEffect setBackgroundCompositionParameterValuesAtTime:]
[FFQCEffect compositionInputKeys]
[FFQCEffect inputParameters]
[FFQCEffect valueForInputKey:]
[FFQCEffect setBackgroundRenderValue:forInputKey:required:]
[FFQCEffect setValue:forInputKey:required:]
[FFQCEffect setString:forInputKey:required:avoidEmptyString:]
[FFQCEffect percentDoneForTime:]

[FFQCScheduleToken setInputValues:]
[FFQCScheduleToken time]
[FFQCScheduleToken setTime:]
[FFQCScheduleToken frameCompleteSemaphore]

A new Pro App?

As well as Quartz Composer, there are references to another graphics development system in iMovie. 'Mica' is mentioned very few times in Final Cut Pro X 10.0.9, around 100 times in iMovie 9 but over 600 times in iMovie (2013):







ANIMATION IS NOT COMPATIBLE WITH AVFOUNDATION. Open the file with Mica, and manually set the beginTime to zero.
KEYFRAME ANIMATION HAS BAD KEYTIMES. The first keyTime must be 0.0
EXPENSIVE LAYER. It has filters, or a non-rasterized shadow, or a non-rasterized complex font such as SketchBlock or Shababa.
The Mica document '%@'; has an unknown published layer '%@'. Please check your spelling.

[MicaAnimator bestURLForUserInterfaceFileName:]
[MicaAnimator bestURLForProjectContentFileName:]


It seems that Mica documents also work in iOS. It is possible that Mica is used by Apple to create plugins that work in iMovie on iOS as well as on the Mac. Mica might not be made available to users and third-party plugin developers.

I couldn't find any internet references to 'Apple Mica' as an OS X animation tool. However, here's a recent Twitter conversation:

@Alex4D: Has anyone heard of an animation/compositing tool from Apple called 'Mica'?
@BroadreachMedia: that was the code name of Shake/Motion combo.
@Alex4D: 'was' not 'is'?
@BroadreachMedia: well there were rumours of another app joining fcpx et al. Would make perfect sense with new Mac Pro OpenCL power to have RT Shake. 

On the other hand, this is not to say that Motion won't be updated when Final Cut Pro X 10.1.0 is launched - it might be that the Motion code they plan to release wasn't ready to be included in iMovie.

Whatever happens, at least we don't have long to find out...

New MacBook Pros and MacPro: 4K at high refresh rates via DisplayPort?

Thursday, 07 November 2013

Many Mac users are hoping Apple release a 4K monitor. They want a Thunderbolt-equipped display that can handle resolutions at at least 3840 by 2160 at high refresh rates.

The graphics system on the new MacBook Pros seems like a good intermediate step: They can support 3840 by 2160 at 30Hz and 4096 by 2160 at 24Hz via the built-in HDMI connector.

Today saw the an announcement from Canon of their first 30" 4K display. The DP-3010 is a 16:10 reference display for use in high-end post production. It can display 4096 by 2560 10-bit pixels at up to 60 frames per second.

Although it has two 3G/HD-SDI connections and a DisplayPort connection, it doesn't have an HDMI connector. 

The HDMI standard was updated to version 2.0 in September, allowing for higher frame rates at higher resolutions, yet Canon didn't include HDMI. Sony's new Z100 4K camera has an HDMI connector that they plan to upgrade to version 2.0 using a firmware upgrade:

A future firmware upgrade is planned to provide compatibility with the new HDMI 2.0 standard and enable 4K 50fps/60fps output to a wider range of devices.

Up until now I've assumed that 4K at higher refresh rates on MacBook Pros and the new Mac Pro was a matter of waiting for an HDMI software upgrade. But, perhaps we don't have to wait.

There's a good chance that the display limitation MacBook Pros have is that of the connection used. HDMI 1.4 is limited to 24Hz at 4096 by 2160. What if a 4K was connected using the DisplayPort aspect of the Thunderbolt 2 connector?

The DisplayPort standard was last updated in 2009. The big change was to double the effective data rate to 17 Gb/s. It also added Apple's Mini DisplayPort connector design.

Thunderbolt connectors are based on the older Mini DisplayPort connector design. I'd like to see how well a new MacBook Pro connects to a 4K monitor with a DisplayPort connector. As Thunderbolt 2 cables can handle 20 Gb/s in two directions, there's a chance that they can handle the 21.6 Gb/s bandwidth required by by DisplayPort v1.2 (there is a 25% overhead for error correction).

There's a good chance the Mac will be able to drive the display at higher refresh rates: at 50 and 60 frames per second. The refresh rate limit isn't down to the graphics processing power of the Mac, but because of the connection used.

When you set the internal Retina display to be 'Scaled' to show 'More Space' the OS draws to an imaginary 3840 by 2400 pixel screen (double the perceived resolution of 1920 by 1200) and the GPU scales it down to the native 2880 by 1800 screen. The Iris Pro Graphics GPU can handle the high refresh rates expected on computer displays, so 50 or 60Hz might not be a problem

Has anyone tested a DisplayPort-equipped 4K monitor with a new MacBook Pro yet?

The combination of a fast DisplayPort connector plus an SSD that can read and write data at 1.1 GB/s makes me think these new MacBook Pros are a great testbed for making sure 4K works well on the new MacPro.

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