OS X updates and Final Cut Pro X: A false sense of security?

Thursday, 03 September 2015

One of the interesting aspects of the Apple Worldwide Developer Conference each year are the new additions of Mac OS X (and iOS) that could benefit those who use Final Cut Pro. Here’s another way of looking at this OS X El Capitan: What if the new features mean problems for the tools we use every day?

In recent years OS X and Final Cut Pro updates have run smoothly. 10 years ago, the standard advice was to wait for three or bugfix updates of OS X or Final Cut to come out before upgrading.

Although Final Cut Pro X has been developed in parallel with improvements of the OS X video architecture, I’ve had no problems with accepting every new update of Final Cut in recent years. Often new versions of Final Cut often mean libraries needing to be updated to a new file format.

It is a good to archive copies of your libraries in the old format before allowing a newly updated Final Cut to change them into the new format.

As suggested by Apple I make an archive copy of the ‘old’ version of Final Cut in the Finder (Using the ‘Compress…’ command from the File menu). Once Final Cut has been updated, I can still run the older version on the same Mac to access the older libraries.

In practice, it is the OS updates that are likely to cause more problems than application updates.

Core Image is deeper than AV Foundation

This year it might be a good idea waiting a while before updating your Mac to OS X El Capitan. 

Metal will be a new underpinning to Core Image. Here’s Apple’s definition of Core Image:

Core Image is an image processing and analysis technology designed to provide near real-time processing for still and video images. It operates on image data types from the Core Graphics, Core Video, and Image I/O frameworks, using either a GPU or CPU rendering path. Core Image hides the details of low-level graphics processing by providing an easy-to-use application programming interface (API). You don’t need to know the details of OpenGL or OpenGL ES to leverage the power of the GPU, nor do you need to know anything about Grand Central Dispatch (GCD) to get the benefit of multicore processing. Core Image handles the details for you.

You can see from this definition that Core Image is the basis of more of OS X (and iOS) than AV Foundation. That means updating it for new technology (Metal) takes more resource from Apple, and a deep change might cause more temporary disruption.

Although we’d all like the benefits of Apple’s Metal technology to improve Final Cut’s speed, the price might be a little incompatibility for a version of OS X or two. There’ll be enough brave Mac fans who won’t be able to resist having the newest OS on their computer. Their feedback to Apple will hasten bug fix updates if they are needed.

Impatient users may complain about third party tools not working in El Capitan: ‘Why didn’t developers take part in the OS X beta and prepare their tools for the new version?’ In some cases it might be that Apple won’t have time to squash OS bugs before release - bugs that third parties have no way of working around.

The good news is as the underpinnings of OS X and iOS become more similar, investment in improving one OS will immediately benefit the other. In the case of Metal, making graphics and processing much more efficient in constrained hardware environment of iOS devices will make OS X Macs run even more quickly and use less power.

Read my summary of an episode of the Debug podcast featuring former Apple people talking about the annual OS development cycle.


Baselight and ColorFinale: Two approaches to colour for editors

Wednesday, 02 September 2015

Today FilmLight announced that they will soon offer free plugins for editors to see and render Baselight colour grades in their NLE made on other full-price Baselight systems:

The forthcoming version 4.4m1 release of Baselight Editions will make it free to view – or to render – grades passed between departments, or even to non-Baselight facilities. The new version will be released following IBC2015.

“Our aim is to make it even easier to pass around and refine the creative intent using BLGs,” said Steve Chapman, director at FilmLight. “If you want to see the latest colour grade in, say NUKE or Avid, you can do so by applying a BLG to a shot with the free version of Baselight Editions. It even allows you to render out the grade in your deliverables. If you want to modify the grade from these applications with the power of the Baselight core toolset, then you can buy – for $995 – the Baselight Editions packages.”

At the moment their software only Baselight Editions system works in Media Composer and NUKE. Their Final Cut Pro 7 version isn’t in active development.

Steve Chapman’s term of phrase in the press release is interesting: “If you want to see the latest colour grade in, say NUKE or Avid…” He didn’t say ‘If you want to see the latest colour grade in NUKE or Avid…’ the ‘say’ implies that the ‘view and render’ versions will be available for other applications.

For now it seems that FilmLight don’t think that Apple and Adobe’s markets don’t overlap with theirs. However, people and businesses with expensive Baselight installations would benefit if the grades they create could be viewed and rendered in Premiere and Final Cut. The separation that exists between editorial and high-quality colour is maintained: let people stick to what they are good at.

This would be FilmLight making the most of their ‘sunk cost’ - leveraging their investment in the UI and metaphors of their industry standard Baselight grading family. 

Color Finale: Minimal viable colour

ColorGrading Central has a different approach to colour in Final Cut Pro X: Color Finale. Despite having years of grading experience working on high-end productions using expensive systems, he went for the ‘minimal viable product’ route.

When creating a new product or service, there is the option to release a version as soon as possible instead of waiting until everything is perfect. This is the way Randy Ubillos approached Final Cut Pro 1.0 (eventually), iMovie ‘08 and Final Cut Pro X. 

  • Choose a minimal set of features that show who you are aiming the product at
  • Implement those features in such a way that communicates your philosophy: how you want to support your well-defined audience
  • Leave out all but the most vital features
  • Make sure your first version is good enough to capture enough interest and justify continual development
  • Update and improve quickly and often, and be clear about future developments

This method worked very well for Final Cut Pro X and is working very well for Color Finale. Color Finale version 1, like Final Cut Pro X, was good enough to use on high-end work, and it is quickly getting better.

How minimal is Color Finale? It doesn’t yet support Undo and Redo for actions in its palette - all you can do is reset the control to its default. This disadvantage is worth dealing with in return for getting to use Color Finale for the months that would have taken for Color Grading Central and Apple being able to deliver standard undo and redo commands.

From the FAQ:

What about masks and tracking?

They are a part of our development roadmap.  We plan to introduce features like these in a forthcoming 'Pro' version. The benefit of being an early adopter is you will get these new feature as a free update.

Already it is possible to make colour grades track features in shots in conjunction with SliceX from CoreMelt - as demonstrated by Sam Mestman in a recent episode of Ripple Training’s MacBreak Studio video training series.

Note that minimal doesn’t mean amateur: experienced colourists are already grading TV shows and feature films using Color Finale.

For more on Color Finale, read Oliver Peters’ detailed review.

Industry standard vs. new approach

Both approaches work well for Final Cut Pro X editors. Those that want to leave the grading work to experts will rely on round-tripping with other systems such as DaVinci Resolve and BaseLight. Others will benefit from tools that are better integrated into the application they use all the time. This is how sound is handled in post.

The question is whether FilmLight is interested in capturing the editing market - for both professionals and those who edit for other reasons. Can Color Finale become more advanced more quickly than Baselight becomes more suited to a wider audience?

In practice if the financial models of their audiences are different enough, Color Grading Central and FilmLight aren’t in competition. One doesn’t have to lose in order for the other to win. Which reminds me of the different approaches of Apple and Avid when it comes to developing their NLEs.

Apple and Cisco. Enterprise video next?

Monday, 31 August 2015

Following Apple’s and IBM’s partnership announced last year, Apple and Cisco have announced a rather vague partnership when it comes to iOS in the enterprise:

August 31, 2015 — Apple® and Cisco today announced a partnership to create a fast lane for iOS business users by optimizing Cisco networks for iOS devices and apps, integrating iPhone® with Cisco enterprise environments and providing unique collaboration on iPhone and iPad®.

Looks like Cisco will be doing most of the technical work and supplying their connections with big business and government ‘with Apple’s support’:

Apple and Cisco are also working together to make iPhone an even better business collaboration tool in Cisco voice and video environments, with the goal of providing employees with a seamless experience between iPhone and their desk phone.

With Apple's support, Cisco will deliver experiences specially optimized for iOS across mobile, cloud, and premises-based collaboration tools such as Cisco Spark, Cisco Telepresence and Cisco WebEx in order to deliver seamless team collaboration and reinvent the meeting experience.

Another way of looking at this is that Cisco’s sales team are probably being incentivised to sell iOS compatibility with Cisco’s telepresence products. That means iPhones being used in conjunction with wall-sized screens in meeting rooms and with people in other parts of the world who also use iPhones.

Mobile devices and enterprise video

At some point people will become accustomed to recording 4K video on their iOS devices for work reasons. How will they organise all that content?

Up until now Adobe’s strategy is to replicate the Desktop Publishing wave that helped Apple Macs get into corporate marketing departments. Adobe are building up a name for internal and external marketing based on Creative Cloud. Although hard, it is easier selling 250,000 Creative Cloud seats to 5,000 purchasers in large organisations than it is selling 250,000 memberships to the public - and even harder getting them to keep paying.

Eventually video will be a peer to text documents, PDFs and presentations: organisational currency. 

Desktop publishing in the late 80s and early 90s was Apple’s corporate lifeline. 80% of DTP’s graphic design features were absorbed into word processing applications by the late 90s. Apple couldn’t survive on what was left - Final Cut Pro 1.0 was designed to sell Macs to people who would realise that they needed to work with video. It has just taken much longer than many expected for video to become mainstream.

Which video editing metaphor will be absorbed into applications dedicated to day-to-day organisation of communication in large organisations? That’ll depend on which one people are more comfortable with, and which one IBM’s and Cisco’s sales teams push the most.

A ‘Movies for iWork’ application anyone?

Logic Pro X 10.2: Update for video editors?

Monday, 31 August 2015

Over at Logic Pro Expert, Edgar Rothermich has written up the many undocumented features in the Logic Pro X 10.2 update:

The release notes that come with the Logic Pro X 10.2 update indicate how big of an update this is. The list has over 250 items of new features, changes and bug fixes: https://support.apple.com/en-us/HT203718.

However, this is not all. There are additional changes in Logic Pro X 10.2 that are not mentioned in the release notes. In this article, I will not only list those changes, but provide in-depth explanations for each of those topics.

Here are aspects of this update of interest to Final Cut Pro X users.

Force-click support

A small thing is how the Logic team have chosen to implement force click for Macs that have input devices that can detect how hard you press. In Logic 10.2 force click acts as ‘click with pencil tool’ without switching from the current tool - which is usually the pointer tool in Logic.

In the case of Final Cut, we usually spend most of our time with the pointer tool - there is a less obvious ‘second most popular tool’ to assign to the force-click action. If you are in a metadata-oriented mode it would be the range tool, if you are fine cutting it would be the trim tool. As most editors have a hand on the keyboard able to switch tools instantly or even temporarily, I’m not sure what I’d want force-click to mean in Final Cut.

No closer to Soundtrack Pro X

Logic isn’t getting many new features that make it more useful for those working on video and feature projects. The Logic team are concentrating on supporting those who work with music and audio-originated productions. If you do use Logic for video post production, the new features that aid recording will be useful though.

Logic certainly doesn't look like it is getting closer to being able to work in a trackless/role-based way. It is becoming a much better track-based audio application.

Hopefully this means there’s space for a new audio post production application better suited for sound editors, mixers and designers.


As well as being able to upload music directly to established Apple Music Connect accounts, an interesting precedent is Logic 10.2’s integration with a third-party collaboration service called Gobbler.

Once signed into Gobbler, Logic users can

  • Send their whole project to another Gobbler user
  • Send a song to another Gobbler users
  • Automatically back up their projects to their cloud-based Gobbler accounts

Equivalent features for Final Cut Pro X/iMovie users could be very useful! 

Some may say that Final Cut’s integration with some video collaboration systems is close to providing these services. In the case of Logic, the integration is deeper: If you’ve signed into Gobbler, Apple modifies the Logic UI. Edgar lists the UI changes in his article:

Once you have Gobbler installed on your machine, Logic Pro will notice that and adds additional Gobbler-related menu items and settings in Logic Pro.

The Procedure for backing up your Project to Gobble

  • You can enable the Gobbler backup mechanism with a checkbox directly in the Project Save Dialog when you first save your Project.
  • That checkbox is also available in the Project Settings ➤ Assets window where you can disable/enable it at any time.
  • In addition, the File ➤ Gobbler ➤ submenu contains commands to start, pause, and remove the Backup procedure, plus access (load) any previous backups that are listed in that submenu

Read about Logic Pro X 10.2 and more at Logic Pro Expert.

Will 4K iPhones and iPads come with iMovie Pro?

Thursday, 27 August 2015

I’m holding out for foldable phone screens, until they can delver what I want, Apple need to come up with a main marketing point for the new generations iPhone every September.

According to Apple tipster Mark Gurman this year’s seems to be a big leap in camera abilities:

In addition to a much-upgraded rear still camera, Apple has decided to make a significant addition to the iPhone’s video recording capabilities: 4K video recording support. The iPhone 6S and iPhone 6S Plus will be the first iPhones capable of recording video in full 4K resolution and among the first phones on the market with such capabilities, though Samsung’s Galaxy S5 launched with 4K video recording support in early 2014.

This kind of hardware update is good news for those interested in iMovie for iOS and OS X developments. 

As iMovie is the default video editor for iOS, it will need to be able to handle 4K video - likely to be 3840x2160. A doubling of linear dimensions means each frame shot will have four times as many pixels. 

Final Cut Pro and Adobe Premiere have been able to handle resolutions larger than this over 10 years. In 2013 Apple stopped development of the old iMovie for OS X application and based iMovie (2013) on Final Cut Pro X 10.1. That meant that iMovie for OS X could then on handle 4K video internally (and transfer 4K to Final Cut for export). The catch was that iMovie for iOS and iMovie for OS X were no longer so well integrated.

Serenity Caldwell writing in Macworld in October 2013:

While you can still send your projects to iTunes, you can’t open a mobile iMovie project in the new iMovie for Mac—nor will it open in iMovie ’11. Try to do so, and you’ll get the following error message: “iMovie can’t import projects created with iMovie for iOS version 1.4.1 or earlier.”

Serenity did report some good news:

After reaching out about the missing option, Apple has confirmed that the feature will be reintroduced in a future update.

As such, it looks like its removal is merely temporary—a small setback, caused by the large revamping of all iLife and iWork apps—but it’s still odd to me that the feature didn’t make the final cut. Apple has made a strong effort to unify the look and feel of its iOS and Mac apps in both the iLife and iWork suites; to prevent iMovie projects from transferring seems completely antithetical to the company’s mission. Fingers crossed, we'll see an update soon that will rectify this situation

If the iMovies were more tightly integrated, iMovie(2015) for iOS could act as a useful post production collaboration tool that would easily fit into Final Cut workflows.

It would certainly be a great demo for an Apple keynote presentation launching an iPad Pro.

iMovie for iCloud?

It’s been almost two years since the ‘Final Cut’ version of iMovie for OS X was launched. What could Apple do to make the two iMovies get on better? 

Despite many setbacks Apple’s cloud services have been improving in recent years.

How about iMovie/Final Cut Pro X for iCloud?

At the moment Final Cut Pro X has an editing mode that allows less powerful computers to playback media and for media to be stored on smaller storage devices. ‘Proxy Mode’ converts footage to a much smaller size and less power- and storage-hungry format.

Proxy mode is very useful for collaboration. Final Cut can convert large video files stored on workgroup servers and store proxy versions of media on a MacBook internal storage.

What if Proxy Mode had an iCloud option? Recent versions of iMovie for iOS offer iMovie Theater, a way of sharing finished films via iCloud. Modifying this feature a little would allow proxy versions of footage shot an iOS device to be made available for iMovie users running on OS X or even in the browser.

The databases that iMovie and Final Cut use to manage footage compress very well, so sharing them via iCloud shouldn’t be a problem. For example a recent project of a Final Cut library that was used to edit multiple versions of multiple short films had hours of AVC-HD footage that took up 50GB of storage space. The editing database required to store the edits and metadata compressed down to 4.2MB. 

The trick would be a way for iMovie for OS X and iMovie to be able to deal with Final Cut timelines.

Cloud-based collaboration needs new encoding formats. You cannot keep hours of high-quality 4K footage on current iPhones. Modern editing also likes to use animated motion graphics with transparency that can be overlaid on video in different ways. Although pros have been talking about H.265 for a while now, not all the video formats that are needed for efficient cloud-based editing have been agreed upon. For example, put me down for a proxy flavour of ProRes that includes an alpha channel: ProRes 4224 (Proxy).

Higher-end editors think the battle of video editing software is between Adobe, Apple, Avid and Blackmagic Design. In the long run it is likely to be between Apple on devices and Google in the cloud. iMovie/Final Cut Pro X for iCloud would be a step in that direction.

Back to 1.0: Interview with Adobe Premiere, Final Cut Pro and iMovie developer Randy Ubillos

Wednesday, 26 August 2015

If you spent time trying out interesting new Macintosh software in the early 90s, you might recognise the name Randy Ubillos. In those days software companies used to credit application developers in the splash screen they displayed while the software started up. Bill Atkinson was credited as MacPaint’s creator in 1984, Thomas and John Knoll were amongst those credited with Adobe Photoshop in 1990. I saw Randy’s memorable name for the first time in the splash screen for Premiere 1.0 when I opened it in 1992:


[image by Riccardo Mori from his System Folder blog]

In April 2015 Randy Ubillos retired from Apple after many years developing video and photo applications such as Final Cut Pro and Aperture. In the 90s he wrote Adobe Premiere 1.0. He started his Mac career working at SuperMac Technologies, a Mac peripheral maker.

Earlier this summer I interviewed Randy on stage at the Bay Area SuperMeetUp in San Jose, California. The evening was part of series of events organised by video user groups in the US and in Europe.

The next Supermeet event takes place in September in Amsterdam and features special guest Walter Murch, who’s worked as sound or picture editor on films with George Lucas, Francis Coppola, Sam Mendes and Brad Bird.

1991 – Adobe Premiere

Alex Gollner: Let’s start at the very beginning… The program that became Premiere…

Randy Ubillos: …originally known as ReelTime.

…was actually demo software. Tell us about that

I was working for SuperMac and they were working on something called DigitalFilm - one of the very first digital video recording cards. It did quarter frame standard definition - they were pushing the limits of the JPEG chips that were available at the time and we needed some software to try it out. In about 10 weeks I put together a demo and we’d bring in people and show them editing on a computer and it was going over pretty well. The marketing department had just gotten out of software at SuperMac and they weren't sure what to do with it and so as it got close to shipping the card in late 1991 my software was sold to Adobe and they released it as Premiere 1.0. 

So they sold the software and didn’t involve you?

Adobe were specifically prohibited from offering me a job, because SuperMac didn’t want to lose me, so I could ask Adobe but I had to specifically do that. I went to lunch with Tim Myers and Eric Zocher from Adobe and we sat down at lunch, there was small talk and eventually they said “So…” and I said “OK. I would like to inquire about a job at Adobe.” There were two of them so they could later corroborate the story and said “That works,” and we started talking about it. 

So Adobe Premiere version 1: Were you the only programmer on it? You developed it all yourself? 

Yes. It took about 10 months.

What did you base your plan for the software on?

I had got into video at high school. At my school in Miami, Florida they had a television in every room. Morning announcements were done over the TVs. I’d installed some of the TVs, we had a TV studio and after the last period, we’d record TV commercials for the Drama club or sports clubs and in the morning we’d put together the morning announcements and in the first period we’d play that back. I got to learn about editing on 3/4" tape decks. Editing was ‘Find your edit points, zero the counters, back ’em up by five counts, and hit ‘Play’ and roll forward’ a very manual process. I learned the concepts of editing there. Going through that on the app is where concepts of tracks came up.

So up until then you weren’t following what Avid and other digital film products were doing?

I’d never seen that stuff. In May of that year we were at Digital World down in Hollywood, and I got to have dinner with some of the people from Avid. They came into SuperMac’s room and seeing this software running on a Mac and playing back digital video. There were definitely some people at Avid who could see that this stuff was going to start migrating down.

So over the next two or three years you created another three versions of Premiere and got to version 4 in a very short period of time.

There were a couple of other guys that joined the team, so by the time we got to Premiere 4, there were three or four of us.

So at that point who was Premiere aimed at?

We weren’t really sure at the time. It was a new thing. Tim Myers [Premiere product manager] and I spent a bunch of time going down to Hollywood; talking to movie studios… we talked to the guys from The Simpsons, we were talking to James Cameron. We were looking at Premiere as a pre-visualisation tool. You could cut something together initially, but the quality level wasn’t nowhere near film. The Simpsons would do their animatics on it.

Because the Digital Film card was around $5,000 - a very expensive card – SuperMac came out with the VideoSpigot - a very inexpensive card. It sold for around $500. It pulled in 1/16th size Standard Definition video, but it was the first time you could plugin in video from a tape or a camcorder into your computer, record it and play it back. Although the marketing people weren’t sure what people were going to do with it, it was cheap ebough for people to buy it to play with it for a while.

Although it was being used by professionals, you weren’t expecting people to do professional things with it yet?

Around the time of version 2 or version 3, we hired Loran Kary to do all the EDL work. We realised that although we weren’t recording at the quality that could go back out to film, we could do an offline edit, create an edit list and do an online with it, or even go to a film cut list [that a negative cutter could use to go back to the source camera footage to make the film master].

We could control a tape deck with RS232, pull stuff in and keep track of all the timecode. We could pull in 3, 4, 5 hours of footage, make your edit - choosing just the pieces you needed, we could go back and redigitise those at a higher quality. We were getting closer and closer to doing actual online stuff. Radius, VideoVision and RasterOps had some cards. They competed with each other on who had the best features. Someone got to 60 frames per second, someone else got to full screen.

1995 – Final Cut Pro

We had been running very quickly, doing versions of Premiere in under a year. I took a month off to decompress and I got a phone call from one of the board members of Macromedia [Adobe’s main competitor in 1995]. They had a big diagram of what they wanted to do. They had a paint program, a vector program and they wanted a video program. They wanted me to come and start a video product. So I went there and we hired a bunch of people. It was going to take 18 months and we were going to have this great video product.

It was going to be in the same vein as Premiere, but restarted. Computers had gotten faster. We were going to do a cross-platform application: Windows and Mac. It didn’t take 18 months. Two years in… three years in… Version 1.0s are incredibly difficult to do because you have no metric on how fast you are moving on things. Once you get to 1.0 you know how long that took, so you can guage better how long things take. They are also difficult to do because you set your sights so high.

We had done a whole design of a 3D scene layout editor so you could visualise a scene and pick where you were going to put your cameras. We shouldn’t have spent time on that stuff while working on a 1.0. That was kind of crazy. There was a script editing feature, there was all this stuff. We were having fun speccing it up, but we didn't get coding faster.

It was hard to find the right set of stuff. Everything seemed super important enough to put into the version 1.0, but the reality is you’ve got to find that right set of stuff. You've got to get it all to work together and put more into 2.0 and more into 3.0.

But Macromedia was bought by Adobe, so what happened to this video software?

By 1998 it was becoming clear to us that Macromedia wan’t going to be releasing our video editor. We knew we were going to be ending up somewhere, but we didn’t know where. At NAB [National Association of Broadcasters show, the main US trade fair for TV technology], Steve Jobs did the keynote and his speech pissed everyone off: “All you guys in the broadcast industry, computers are gonna come along and do all this stuff better” - he ruffled a ton of feathers.

While talking with him back stage was the first point where I realised that Apple might buy our team. It was 1998 and I had friends saying ‘Don’t go to Apple, they’ll be out of business in a year.’ What Steve saw was taking the whole line of computers that Apple was producing and squishing it down to a very small number of machines that all the energy should be focussed into, but they needed applications to bring people to the platform.

He knew that the PowerMac G3 - the first one with a DV connector on it - meant that you didn’t have big expensive digitising hardware: you were going to be able to plug directly in and get really good quality for the time digital video. You were going to be able to manipulate it, store a reasonable amount of it and you were going to be able to edit it.

At what point did you realise that being bought by Apple might be good news?

I don’t know if I thought about it that much. We’d been going for about three years on the project, we went over to them and we had more work to do. Apple wanted to re-look at what it looked like. It turned out to be a good thing. We got to a point right before NAB in ’99 we just said “We are going to show this thing at NAB come hell or high water” and we got the nicest present from Avid because that was the NAB they announced they were leaving the Mac. So there were all these Mac people at NAB saying “I hear Apple have got this new thing” so we got all these customers on a silver platter.

So Final Cut Pro 1.0 comes out and knocks most people’s socks off, and brings in so many more people. Weirdly enough Steve asks a whole different technical team to make an editing tool for ‘real people’ - ‘the rest of us.’ Did you want to be involved?

That happened when we were very compartmentalised. I knew there was something going on, that was a very small team - three or four people - working on that. I thought they were doing cool stuff, but it was something I wasn’t focussed on.

What was the target for Final Cut Pro?

The centre of the target, which I still think is very similar today, is software for the aspirational part of the market. People who want to do something good, most of them not making their living doing video - they would like to some day. They are interested in video and they spend a lot of their spare time doing it. That’s the centre of the target.

It goes out into a broad spectrum. You always find at the higher end, including Hollywood, they are always looking for ways to cut costs. They’re always try to find new stuff that’s lower cost.

2006 - iMovie

At what point did you start paying attention to what iMovie was - in terms of what it meant to you?

I worked on Final Cut up to version 5 I think, when we got software-based real time video effects. At the time my husband and I were taking digital pictures and putting them up on our website and I wanted a better way to work with pictures. I wanted to do more than stick up a grid of pictures, I wanted to put a travel journal journal together - to be able to tell stories along with pictures, so the idea for Aperture came out of that. I started a team - there were six or seven of us who developed that and got that out through version 1.0.

So I’d been away from video for some time and it was nice to come back to it with fresh eyes. We were going on a dive trip and I’d just gotten an HD video camera that we used underwater, and we were in a cage with great white sharks. We had hours of footage that was going to be ‘blue, blue, shark! Blue, blue, blue, shark!’ which was going to be a nightmare to edit. I started to think of better ways to do that. So I had the idea that with filmstrips, you just wave your cursor over them, and that’s where iMovie clip skimming came from. Also being able to click and drag to select like you would text to pull something together.

iMovie’s codename was RoughCut, it was conceived originally as a front end to Final Cut - for creating a rough edit for Final Cut. I worked with a graphic designer to make it look good. When I did a demo of it to Steve [Jobs] in about three minutes he said “That’s the next iMovie.” So I asked when it was supposed to ship, and he said “Eight months.”

The iMovie team was six months into the next cycle. They had been looking for something different: a way to make things easier and simpler.

We knew from day one eight months is not enough time to do a whole new application. We knew we weren’t going to have all the features people wanted in iMovie ’08. We were not surprised at all when that went out. The set of features we said we were going to deliver we delivered. iMovie had been around for quite a while - it was living on some pretty old code. But moving that forward meant we could move very quickly [as iMovie ’08 was all new code].

Did you start thinking of your audience in a different way?

A lot of it was looking at it from my own perspective. I was doing more video myself. Camera and storage costs had come way down, getting to the point where you could do everything on a laptop. It was becoming very personal, so I spent working on versions of iMovie for the Mac and on the phone with some great teams.

2011 - Final Cut Pro X

As Apple seemed to ‘get away with’ that painful relaunch of iMovie, did that help them make the decision about doing the same for Final Cut Pro?

One of the things I like about working at Apple was that Apple didn’t have a problem with starting over again - if that was the right thing to do. You don’t want to talk about ‘sunk cost.’ The effort you’ve put in in the past has gone. From now on, what is the best way to go forward? It doesn’t matter if we spent six months working on some feature. That doesn’t matter. Is it the right feature? If so, great, continue forward with it. If you don’t do that with a product and somebody else who doesn’t have the history, the legacy you’re trying to hold on to will jump in and take things out from under you.

The Final Cut Pro team was trying to figure out what they wanted to do next. X was a big shift. I had a big part in convincing people it was the right thing to do. I will say that I had a different idea of the way the launch might have gone… [audience laughter]

My idea was that Final Cut 7 should stay exactly as it was for about a year, and every time you bought a copy of X you got a copy of 7. They didn’t want to hear it. I knew 16 months before the launch that I was going to have a bunch of arrows in my back. I was going to be blamed for this big transition. It’s the Apple way of doing things: ‘Feet first, jump in!’

The very last conversation I had with Steve Jobs was right after the launch of Final Cut Pro X. I was getting ready to get on a plane to go to London to record the second set of movie trailers - we’d hired the London Symphony Orchestra [to perform the music that was going to be bundled with the next version of iMovie] - and Steve caught me at home: “What the heck is going on with this Final Cut X thing?” I said “We knew this was coming, we knew that people were going to freak out when we changed everything out from under them. We could have done this better. We should have. Final Cut 7 should be back on the market. We should have an FAQ that lists what this is all about.” He said “Yeah, let’s get out and fund this thing, let’s make sure we get on top of this thing, move quickly with releases…” and he finished by asking: “Do you believe in this?” I said “Yes.” He said “then I do too.”

That was from the top - you had the authority to make the big changes. I wish it could have gone differently. I absolutely believed it and still do believe it was the right thing to do: that Final Cut X is a better editor than Final Cut 7 was. It’s more popular, it’s bringing more people into editing than ever were before. People who have never used an editor before find Final Cut X much easier to learn than Final Cut 7.

Talking of bringing new people to editing, what does iMovie for iOS mean to you?

It’s always been phenomenal, the fact that people can people can have an HD editing studio in their pocket - it’s ready to go for editing. People take pictures all the time and publishing them. They tend not to do it as much with video. One of the reasons for that is that historically people have felt that to make a video is this giant involved process. People have this idea that it has to be more complicated than it is, but I enjoy showing people how to make personal movies…


…Randy then went on to give a presentation on how to use Apple tools to make personal films.

Thanks to Randy for the interview. I’m looking forward to his next 1.0 - despite the disruption it is bound to cause.


Thanks to Benjamin Brodbeck for the audio recording and to the Supermeet team for the opportunity to interview Randy. See you in Amsterdam in September!

Logic Pro X 10.2 update includes direct share to Apple Music Connect

Tuesday, 25 August 2015

The headline feature of today’s 10.2 update for Logic Pro X is Alchemy - ‘the ultimate sample manipulation synthesizer.’

The more intresting one for other post professionals is the ability to export audio productions directly to an Apple Music Connect account.

Imagine if future versions of Final Cut Pro X or iMovie had an equivalent feature: ‘Share directly to Apple Video Connect.’

Alchemy updates to Apple’s audio applications comes in the wake of their acquistion of Camel Audio earlier this year. Ars Technica has more on what this adds:

For those not familiar, Alchemy is a sample-based synthesizer, similar to Logic's existing EXS24. This differs slightly from a traditional analogue synthesizer, in that instead of generating a raw square wave or a saw wave and using filters and other tools to manipulate it, a sample-based synth uses a recorded sound or instrument as the basis for manipulation. The new version of Alchemy comes bundled with around 14GB of audio samples, which are used in over 3000 presets, and 300 Logic patches. 

Post production application convergence: Want an ‘all-in-one’ app?

Tuesday, 25 August 2015

Bart Walczak thinks there’s a race towards a unified video editing and colour correction application:

With the introduction of Resolve 12, suddenly the race towards a unified NLE/Grading tool become very interesting. It’s hard to argue, that colour correction and grading became an integral part of post-production workflow.

He’s written a very detailed post about the state of colour in Adobe, Avid, Apple and Blackmagic Design software. His summary:

In the race for NLE/Grading application combo, the main competition at the moment seems to take part between Adobe Premiere Pro and Blackmagic Resolve with Avid Symphony lagging behind, and FCP X coming around but looking in a different direction. With the release of version 12, it seems that BMD really delivered. Even though Resolve has yet to prove itself as a successful NLE, it is quickly getting there, and if you consider the price tag, there is really not much to argue with.

I don’t think that it is inevitable that colour grading will be done in editing applications.

Colour grading could end up like audio, titling or encoding. Three parts of the the post production process that have been integrated to varying degrees into NLEs.

Grading could be like audio: the point of collaboration is that you leave some things to experts using tools that work for them. I don’t think a majority of editors working on high-end jobs want all the features of Logic or ProTools in their video application. If you are going to do it yourself - even when doing work as a placeholder for that you will transfer to brief the expert - you need tools that match the sensibilities of the application you use.

Grading could be like titling: not every editor wants to be a motion graphics designer. When it comes to titling even motion graphics designers are intimidated by many advanced aspects of typography. That’s why we don’t see all of After Effects in Premiere or Motion in Final Cut. Most editors would rather choose between a good selection of design templates, add their text and go back to editing.

Grading could end up like encoding: although we have separate applications to come up with custom encodes, most of the utility of those apps are now built into NLEs.

Bill Roberts, Sr. Director of Product Management for Video at Adobe doesn’t plan to add all the colour grading power of Speedgrade to Premiere. From an interview he gave to Julien Chichignoud at a SMPTE conference in July:

Our philosophy is not to input the full complexity of a ‘craft’ tool in the NLE user interface. We are looking at a full workflow, the connection between creative disciplines and then designing the optimized workflow from that perspective.


The Adobe team believes giving optimized controls in the editing experience and deep controls in a dedicated interface is the natural approach.


Optimal picture size for viewing HD and 4K at different distances at home

Tuesday, 25 August 2015

When you deciding which TV to buy, manufacturers talk about the right screen size for the distance at which you watch the picture. This is based on the image taking up at around 30º of your field of view - this allows for less distraction from outside the TV picture area and allows for people with 20/20 vision to get the benefit of HD resolution - to see pixel-level detail.

To get the benefit from the larger number of pixels in 4K TVs and displays, suggestion is the image should take up around 60º of the viewers’ field of view. This is based on 20/20 vision being defined as being able to distinguish detail at 1/60th of a degree of your field of vision. 

Here is a table showing the optimal diagonal screen size for HD and 4K images at different distances [Using this field of view equation]:


In the UK I don’t think that typical homes have got bigger in recent years. Most people set up their TV and seating to fit the room layout. A 2004 BBC survey reported that the average TV viewing distance in the UK was 2.7m (8.9ft).

Following the 30º recommendation, the best HDTV size for the average viewing distance would be 70" diagonally. For 4K, the image should measure around 136" diagonally.

For now if you want a 4K experience at home, I suggest you investigate projection systems.


Apple collaborating with YouTubers: To promote what?

Monday, 24 August 2015

MacRumors reports that Apple is in talks with popular YouTube channels to involve them in a big promotional campaign: 

Although their styles don't mesh together, Apple could be creating a new ad campaign, possibly for the upcoming "iPhone 6s" and "iPhone 6s Plus," that centers on creatives from YouTube using the company's new products as the main tools for shooting, editing, and publishing content for their channel.

I don’t think MacRumors understands what YouTubers could do for the Apple brand. 

YouTubers are much more likely to be talking about what Apple products and services do for their lives and for their friends and family. They have audiences that trust them, so it is a matter of whether they want to deliver those audiences to Apple.

If YouTubers do talk about how Apple products aid YouTube production, they’ll be promoting how good the iPhone and iPad cameras are, but it is unlikely they’ll revert to using iMovie on iOS. Most YouTubers are too invested in editing and publishing their content using iMovie and Final Cut Pro X running on the Mac. 

Apple is promoting the idea that a picture that any iPhone or iPad user might be used in an international advertising campaign. Doing the same for video is much harder because video is harder to make work in different contexts than single images. A step on the way to making it easier will be making iMovie used much more as a matter of course after shooting video on an iPhone. That means building up the iMovie/Final Cut Pro combined ecosystem, which could be good news for millions of potential film makers.

4DX Cinema: Turning movies into rides

Monday, 24 August 2015

Judith Allen runs down the pros and cons of adding ‘in-seat’ theme park effects to the cinemagoing experience:

I find myself now living near the UK's first 4DX cinema in Milton Keynes. I went to see Ant-Man to try it out.

The effects were actually turned on during the Mission:Impossible Rogue Nation trailer beforehand, which worked quite nicely to acclimatise everyone to it and get the 'surprised' shrieking over and done with before the feature. However, the intensity of a trailer became quite overwhelming, with the motion effects struggling to keep up as we went from one action shot to another... and the effect of the pads in the seat actually beating you up was quite unexpected

I wonder if the distancing effect of stereoscopic 3D will soon be be relegated/promoted to such ‘ride experiences’ only.

How well 4DX works is instructive for those working on 360º movies. I wonder if 360º will one day escape the ‘game’ or ‘ride’ classification.

Helping people consider alternatives

Sunday, 23 August 2015

FiveThirtyEightScience on why it is hard to convince people of things if they’ve already decided.

You have to be sure before you destroy what you already know and substitute it with something new


Simply exposing people to more information doesn’t help.


If you want someone to accept information that contradicts what they already know, you have to find a story they can buy into. That requires bridging the narrative they’ve already constructed to a new one that is both true and allows them to remain the kind of person they believe themselves to be.

A concept to bear in mind before you get into debates on NLEs and workflows!

Amsterdam Supermeet 2015

Friday, 21 August 2015

Time is running out to get your tickets for the Amsterdam Supermeet being held on Sunday 13th September to coincide with the 2015 IBC trade fair.

These days people expect to find out all they need to know through internet research. That way means they miss out on the personal touch. Trade fairs and public meetings like this mean you can ask tough questions of people who should know the answers. You also share the corridors, stands and social gatherings with people like you - who you can learn from immediately and keep in touch with for future opportunities.

You may be lucky enough to be close enough to a post production user group meeting where you can share and learn with others. The Supermeet is organised in conjunction with the Creative Pro User Group Network:

Creative Pro User Group (CPUG) Network SuperMeets are networking gatherings of Final Cut, Adobe, Avid and Autodesk editors, gurus and digital filmmakers from throughout the world who use or want to learn to use Macintosh-based collaborative workflows and solutions. SuperMeets started as a grassroots movement to connect Apple FCP editors at a local level. Now in its thirteenth year, the producers behind the SuperMeets have harnessed the energy of local chapters globally and turned SuperMeets into the industry's most influential user-organized series of global events.

Last year’s keynote speakers were Maryann Brandon and Mary Jo Markey, the editors of Star Wars Episode VII. This year previous speaker Walter Murch returns. 

As well as presentations and networking, in the tradition of old-school user group meetings there is also a large raffle which has so many prizes that attendees have a good chance of winning; each entry ticket includes two raffle tickets.

Disclosure: The organisers asked me to be a media sponsor, so in return for writing about the event, they link to me from their site and I get a free ticket.

To save €5 on tickets, click below, when you order via Eventbrite, click the ‘Enter promotional code’ text above the Order Now button and enter ‘SUPERMEET’

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Sony’s new Media Navigator: How deep is its Final Cut Pro X integration?

Thursday, 20 August 2015

fcp.co has linked to a Sony Professional UK product announcement:

Media Navigator is the powerful, affordable asset management solution that’s a perfect fit for today’s smaller and medium sized production environments.

Media Navigator orchestrates all phases of your content workflow – from ingest, catalogue and editing to review, approvals, distribution and archive.

As regards how it can support the editing phase of production, the NLE integration isn't clear in the accompanying video which uses Avid as the example.

The interesting bit is how they describe it working with Avid, Adobe and Apple products:

Media Navigator plays nicely with today’s favourite production tools. It integrates directly at an API level with industry leading NLEs like Adobe Premiere, AVID Media Composer and Final Cut Pro.

They mention Final Cut Pro X compatibility specifically, but X doesn’t have a third-party accessible API! This point may be marketing-speak hyperbole, but you never know. Third party media management tools that ‘integrate directly’ with Final Cut Pro X can't be created… yet!

Update from Sony Pro Europe

Following this post Sony Pro Europe tweeted a response:

All our NLE integrations are Edit in place. For FCPX we are able to create a storyboard in Media Navigator and send it to an FCPX project, that storyboard will appear in the FCPX timeline. Media Navigator Metadata is also visible from FCPX. You will be able to see the whole workflow during IBC, come and speak to us!

So initial edits - storyboards - can be done in Sony Media Navigator and sent to Final Cut Pro X as timelines in projects stored in a library whose related media has useful metadata assigned. Looking forward to seeing how producer notes entered via Media Navigator appear in Final Cut.

Extending professional applications: Different takes from Apple and Adobe

Wednesday, 19 August 2015

These days big developers are looking to create platforms: hardware and software environments where third-parties can add features through their own hardware, software and services.

One aspect of the choice between choosing Apple’s Final Cut Pro X and Adobe Premiere Pro is what you think of their take on how to build an ecosystem around their applications.

Adobe popularised the use of plugins for software when they opened up Photoshop for developers to make effects to apply to images. Apple included a scripting language with Final Cut Pro 1.0 that could be used to make plugins. They introduced XML export and import with Final Cut Pro 3.

With Final Cut Pro X, it is much easier to make plugins - by using Apple’s Motion 5 application - and it’s XML format can express almost everything about X databases in a text form. This has resulted in a huge range of plugins for Final Cut Pro X and large variety of of X XML processing applications and cloud services.

As Adobe’s pitch for Creative Cloud says that the application suite can take care of every aspect of creative design and post production, they haven’t promoted third-party tools quite so much. Their plugin development system hasn’t prompted a large number of commercial and free plugins, and they don’t have their own published interchange format that works well with other post production applications.

On the other hand, Adobe have opened up Premiere Pro CC with their ‘panels’ technology. Third party tools makers can create user interface elements using HTML5 that can be used in the application itself.

It looks like Apple are far away from enabling third parties to add user interface tabs to Final Cut Pro X. This might be a technical limitation (i.e. not high up on their long feature request list) or a philosophical restriction (they don’t think third parties have good enough ‘taste’ to be allowed near the Final Cut UI). Once third party developers start doing interesting things with Premiere Panels, Apple might want to take a look at this form of extending applications.

Last year I wrote about how Nativ’s third-party Adobe Premiere panel works for workgroup collaboration at ITV. Marquis Broadcast’s Edit Bridge gives access to Avid Interplay servers from within a Premiere Panel:

Marquis Edit Bridge enables the seamless integration of Adobe Premiere Pro and After Effects CC in an Avid Interplay environment. It includes two Custom Panels for Premiere Pro which allow you to control the workflow directly from the Premiere Pro user interface.

Today Scott Simmons has written about a forthcoming third-party product for Premiere that supports note taking:

A tool worth keeping an eye on is Post Notes. While in its infancy Post Notes is building a panel for Premiere Pro that lets you take notes right in the application. Here are a few screenshots with some notes from the developer about what they are planning. 

…a feature that would be impossible for a developer to add to the current version of Final Cut Pro X.

I hope that ‘Phase 2 of the Apple Video Applications Universe’ is about Apple developing a iMovie iOS/iMovie OS X/Final Cut Pro X ecosystem. A big part of that would be giving third-party developers the ability to add to the to user interfaces of those applications.

UK TV delivery standards: 2015 Title safe area specifications

Tuesday, 18 August 2015

Since October 2014, all delivery of TV programmes to UK TV stations must be by file: no video tapes are allowed any more. As part of standardisation, the Digital Production Partnership has been set up to keep the post production industry up to date with TV show technical specifications. As these specs apply to new UK production, they are likely to apply to any TV programmes made elsewhere bought by UK TV networks.

If you have been charged with preparing an output destined for UK TV, visit the DPP to download the official specifications.

Although there are documents for individual networks, only the first few pages of each PDF differ: nearly all the specifications are standard for programme submission.

One of the first things to know is what part of the image is ‘Title Safe’ or ‘Caption Safe’ - the area within which text and overlays must remain within. As the number of 4:3 ratio TVs in use in the UK is very low, the rules assume everyone is watching on a 16:9 display. That prompted an increase in the title safe area. The margins were 288 to the left and right of the 1920 HD frame, now they are 190 on the left and 194 on the right:

HD pixels (inclusive) - first pixel numbered 1: 191-1726

The page from the specification:


A PNG with the safe area transparent:


PDF version.

20 August update

Looks like the UK specification documents are going to change:

I'll update this post when I can confirm the new official margin values.

Looks like the size of the safe area is correct, but in future the guidelines will say that it should be centred so both left and right margins are 192:


Solution to vertical video ‘problem’ - but what about T videos?

Monday, 17 August 2015

Allen Murabayashi writing on PetaPixel:

It’s clear that vertical video isn’t going away. Mobile-native content rules the day on mobile devices. But for people who want to shoot horizontally while holding vertically, there is a simple fix that manufacturers could make: Allow the camera to shoot horizontally in the vertical orientation by taking advantage of the fact that the sensor is more than large enough to accommodate this.

The 8-megapixel iPhone6 camera has a pixel dimension of 3264 x 2448. Full HD video is 1920 x 1080, and 720P (which is more than adequate) is an even smaller size of 1280 x 720. A virtual switch on the camera app could switch orientations without having to hold the phone any differently.

Another solution would be to make phone sensors square. In the case of Apple, imagine if the next version of the iPhone camera didn’t have any more pixels (unlikely), the same number of pixels in the current 3264x2448 sensor would result in a 2826 square sensor - good enough for oversampled and software steadied footage for both vertical and horizontal video.


In the 2006 film Children of Men, their vision of the future London buses had video based advertising on their sides.

At the moment UK print designers have the opportunity to design bus adverts that have both horizontal and vertical aspect ratios at the same time. From bus ad booking agency TransportMedia:

Bus T-side advertising is the most premium standard of bus side advertising. The additional coverage on the bus space allows the advertiser more creative space and a more eye-catching ad to the consumer and provides instantly noticeable publicity on the high street.

Maybe one day filmmakers it will be have to make T-video versions of commercials and other videos.

Apple presenting at FCP EXPO in Amsterdam in September

Monday, 17 August 2015

fcp.co has linked to an announcement from Soho Editors that they are hosting an ‘FCP EXPO’ in Amsterdam during IBC on September 12th and 13th:

Each day will start with a presentation from Apple marketing on Final Cut Pro X, followed by expert presentations and exhibits from Soho Editors, FCPWORKS and our partners with a special emphasis on multi user installations and workflows.

We will be showcasing the latest software, products, workflows, case histories and third party partner solutions.

If you work in broadcast, feature film, corporate or educational media institutions, this is the place to learn more.

Interesting that Apple once again are appearing in public presenting Final Cut Pro X to professionals. It seems that after the March LA event, the FCPWORKS NAB 2015 suite and their presentation as part of the 2015 FCPX Creative Summit, nothing bad happened.

If Apple don’t instigate heavy security on those with cameraphones ane computers, that’ll be another sign that they are lightening up - although previous restrictions were probably due to footage rights issues.

Another sign that Apple’s Pro Apps marketing is able to engage more with the wider community than before. 

I wonder what they’ll do next?


How non-pros see Final Cut Pro X

Sunday, 16 August 2015

As most video editing applications are bought by non-professionals, developers need to consider their needs.

When I say ‘non-professionals’ I mean people that don’t say that a good proportion of their income comes from being a video editor - even if they use video editing to tell stories.

To get some perspective on how others see Final Cut Pro X, Adobe Premiere and iMovie, here are a couple of YouTube videos.

In the first GeekaWhat compares NLEs from the point of view of someone who makes gameplay videos. Although the visuals aren't relevent, what he says is interesting:

I get a lot of requests for videos like this: “What is the best video editing software if you are an aspiring gaming YouTuber” […]

Final Cut Pro X is probably the easiest to learn with an iMovie-type feel and with all the added functionality of the higher end - for $200 it should have all that you need.

That’s just his first point of measurement: the UI. Listen in for much more.

In the second, Gabrielle Marie shows YouTubers the difference between iMovie and Final Cut Pro X, and at what stage they should buy Final Cut. 

Remember that as well as Adobe, Avid and Apple paying attention to Twitter and Facebook editing communities, they should also be watching Instagram, Snapchat (Stories) and YouTube to see how the next generation see their software.


Many editors would be happy with a Mac version of new Lenovo notebook

Friday, 14 August 2015

At SIGGRAPH this week, Lenovo previewed an interesting notebook they describe as a ‘Mobile Workstation’ AnandTech reports:

Lenovo will offer the new P series with up to 64 GB of DDR4 memory […] Also part of the new Xeon will be Thunderbolt 3, and both models have this connectivity.


There is also up to 1 TB of PCIe SSD storage available, and up to a 2 TB hard drive. In addition to the Thunderbolt, there will also be HDMI 1.4, mini DisplayPort 1.2, ExpressCard, SDXC, and of course what workstation would not have Gigabit Ethernet, so the P Series has this as well.


Other than the larger display, the P70 can also be had with a DVD-RW drive, but hopefully but the time it launches they will at least offer Blu-ray as an option.

Speaking of the displays, Lenovo has packed some pretty impressive sounding displays into both models. The P series will offer a 1920x1080p as the base, with optional touch, and there is also a UHD 3840x2160 IPS offering as well.

Looks like a great specification for a new MacBook Pro for mobile editors.

The CPUs these computers will use are the newly announced mobile versions of the Xeon chips used to power late 2013 Mac Pros.

Thunderbolt 3 was announced in June. It offers 40 Gbps and more power for peripherals.

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