Apple creative apps architect Randy Ubillos speaking in LA and San Jose

Wednesday, 13 May 2015

The Los Angeles Creative Pro User Group has announced that ex-Apple employee Randy Ubillos will be speaking at public events in May and June. 

Until April 23rd Randy Ubillos was a very important member of Apple's application software team:

His influence on Mac software started years before he joined Apple. He developed the first versions of the Adobe Premiere video editing software. Since joining Apple he's worked on Final Cut Pro, iMovie and iPhoto amongst others.

On May 27, 2015 he will be appearing at the May LACPUG meet in Los Angeles. On June 26, he will be appearing at the Bay Area SuperMeetUp - a similar event in San Jose.

It isn't common for ex-Apple employees to talk publically about areas of expertise they covered while working at Apple. Especially so soon after leaving the company. I guess this is either very bad news or very good news. The negative explanation is that Randy resigned because his vision for the future of Photos, iMovie, Final Cut Pro X and other applications he was involved with was too different from Apple's plans. His resignation was interpreted by some as a sign that Apple are about to give up on their professional applications - including Final Cut Pro X, Motion, Compressor and Logic Pro X. The bad news would be that Randy feels embittered enough to almost immediately go public with problems at Apple.

The 'good news' interpretation is that Randy appearing in public is part of Apple loosening up - that they understand that it is a good idea if users understand more about the people and motivations behind Apple software.

The good news is that the agenda at the LACPUG website says that Randy will be talking about his enthusiasm for the idea of telling stories with video: 

Randy will speak about his own moviemaking experiences and the power of video to inspire and document our lives. He will also provide tips and tricks for making your own movies.

That kind of talk could be designed to establish his bona fides for a new passion project supporting video literacy. A good sign is that he will also be joining post production experts to answer film making questions in a 'Stump the Gurus' session.

There's no sign that he'll be 'dishing the dirt on' or revealing Apple secrets about Final Cut Pro X, Photos and Aperture. Mike Horton of LACPUG specifically tweeted:

However, the fact that Randy is speaking in public so soon after leaving Apple is a good sign.

Will Virtual Reality change which stories we tell?

Wednesday, 13 May 2015

For a few years now I've enjoyed using panorama apps on my iPhone.

Occipital's 360Panorama iOS app can teleport you into a panorama by using the iPhone's accelerometers. Accelerometers detect where the phone is in 3D space and what angle it is being held at. 360Panorama uses this information to determine which part of a panorama to show on screen.

This means as you turn left and right (360°)…

p1 p2 p3

up and down (180°)…

p4 p5

in real life while holding the phone, the panorama display updates to show you what you would see if you looked in that direction at the place and time the panorama was captured.

In a new VR music video iOS app from 'Stor Eiglass' by Squarepusher the same technology gives you the opportunity to look in all directions during a 3D animation. If you have a Google Cardboard viewer you can also experience the VR in stereoscopic 3D, but the 2D version works just as well. The app is also available on Android.

While playing the video, I could look ahead as I flew forward...


and look down to see what I was flying over:


I wasn't able to choose the direction of my flight, the application flies through a virtual world, but was able to look around as things happened. As streams flew down from a tower...


...I could look up...


...or behind me:


VR: No director or cinemetographer scene framing, few editor edits

From a storytelling point of view, this kind of virtual reality means that the viewer/player/user chooses where to look: how to frame the scene. They choose what is important to look at. Part of non-VR stortyelling is the ability of cinematographer, director and editor to direct the audience's view: "This is important," "her reaction is important" and "don't forget this."

The point of VR is that a solo audience member takes control of where to look. They can even change aspect ratio if they turn their phone:

vr3a vr3b

In-scene editing isn't possible because the editor cannot juxtapose different camera angles with editing - the audience chooses the camera angle.

Another aspect of editing is possible. Structure-based edits can be done with staging. Structure provides the beginning, middle and end of stories. 

Staging means that virtual physical boundaries between scenes act as edits.

In a city I fly towards a advertising billboard:



Flying through the billboard is a way of travelling between scenes to a new environment:


I can look back to see there's no way back to the previous scene.


Why are these 'staging edits' important? They help change pace and mood, making storytelling possible, so that this scene takes place in the same story as the previous scenes:


New storytelling technology, new language, new stories?

The history of movies and TV is the history of technological developments informing the way we tell stories. Movies started off as single shots being shown to large numbers of people in public. As artificial lighting, editing, sound, colour, multitrack audio, model visual effects and computer generated visual effects appeared, the way we told stories changed - which informed the kind of stories we told.

Now's the time to consider whether VR will affect way we tell stories and what stories we tell.

Shared storage for Final Cut Pro X post teams from GB Labs and LumaForge

Wednesday, 06 May 2015

For many years post production teams have been able to access media on shared storage. GB Labs and LumaForge make products that can be tuned to work well with editors who use Final Cut Pro X.

GB Labs' Space

The GB Labs Space storage range is a NAS (Network Attached Storage) system. 10 Gigabit Ethernet connections mean that editors can work with footage and Final Cut Pro X libraries stored on shared storage.

With current connection speeds, the limiting factor for video data rates isn't the networking technology but the speed of the shared storage and storage controllers.

For two simultaneous users who need a fast direct connection to their storage, GB Labs sell a relatively portable product: the Midi Space SSD. It is designed to travel from place to place with a film crew. 

The Midi comes in the form of a Tower PC with two 10GbE connections with up to 13TB of storage with 2,000MB/s throughput.

GB Labs Midi Space SSD NAS device

The GB Labs Space SSD is less portable, but higher performance device with a througput from 3,000 to over 6,000MB/s. It is rack-mounted and serves multiple editors via an external switch: 

GB Labs Space device connected to editing workstations via a switch

GB Labs' workflow page for Final Cut Pro X.

In response to a Twitter question from Sam Johnson:

LumaForge's LumaShare

LumaForge recently introduced their LumaShare Mobile family. It is a portable (as in a luggable single tower PC-sized device) system that supports up to 12 4K users using direct 10GbE connections. Adding an external switch supports more users.

Their 4 minute demo on Vimeo shows how many streams of 4K can ber served from a single LumaShare box:

Because of the way Final Cut Pro X can work with files, the same 16 4K files can be simultaneously streamed to multiple editors on the same network via their own Final Cut libraries (which are also stored on the server).

Later that same day at the April 2015 meeting of the LACPUG:

For speed and storage specifications for the LumaShare family along with prices, visit LumaForge.

As well as GB Labs or LumaForges devices for each workgroup, each Mac needs a 10 Gigabit Ethernet connection. Modern Macs get this using Thunderbolt adapters - such as those from Promise, Atto and Sonnet

Almost plug and play

The new economic model for post production support means that the market will need medium to high-end solutions that are almost plug and play. There isn't much margin in selling Macs and video editing software. The new generation are becoming accustomed to doing without service contracts - supporting themselves instead. LumaForge say that they tune each LumaShare they sell to match the specific needs of the workgroup - including the way Final Cut Pro X libraries work on NFS shares. GB Labs have partners in Europe and the US.

Products like GB Labs Space and LumaForge LumaShare are designed to be set up by assistant editors and DITs. If both companies provide enough online training and support, collaborative workflows for many artists working with large amounts of high resolution footage will be accessible to many more people.

Up until now, obscure user interfaces have been a sign of 'high-end professional' products, but as products move 'down market,' UI quality will become more important than features. Once products provide good enough hardware and software to get the job done at similar proces, it will be the system that is easier to set up and maintain that will win.

Timecode window for Final Cut Pro X

Tuesday, 05 May 2015

Newly available for Final Cut Pro X users: a flexible timecode display window. It is a free download for users of the FxFactory post production plugin management system. FxFactory is a free download that manages custom plugins for Final Cut Pro X and other post production applications.

Because plugins cannot yet modify Final Cut's menu, you access the new Timecode window by right- or control-clicking the timecode display above the project timeline:

Screenshot of using shortcut to show timecode window in Final Cut Pro X

The window always shows exactly what Final Cut's timecode display shows:

Screenshot of Final Cut Pro X timecode window showing native timecode of clip that is being skimmed in the timeline

You can resize the window by dragging the corners or edges.

You can also choose what colours are used for the text and the window background:

Screenshot showing shortcut menu that accesses timecode colour settings

The colour controls include opacity:

tc 4 opacity

The examples shown in these screenshots include a background colour with an opacity of 33%.

Timecode over full-screen video

If you have two displays attached to your Mac, you can also overlay the timecode window on top of full-screen video:

Screenshot showing timecode with transparency appearing over full-screen video in Final Cut Pro X

To do this

  1. Drag the timecode window to your secondary display
  2. Go to full screen mode on your primrary display using the 'View:Playback:Play Full Screen' command or use the Shift-Command-F keyboard shortcut
  3. Drag the timecode window back over your primary display

At the moment the window shows the same information as Final Cut's normal timecode display panel. X displays time project timecode when skimming in the timeline, clip timecode when the cursor is over a specific clip.

If you set the timecode display to show subframes in order to do sub-frame audio editing, the window doesn't yet show the same precision:

Screenshot showing that when subframes are shown by Final Cut Pro X, the FxFactory window doesn't show them

In Final Cut Pro 7 and earlier, there was an option to overlay timecodes of all the clips in the timeline at the playhead. Since June 2011 Final Cut Pro X's information overlays have been simpler.

Maybe the ProApps team are hoping that the need for editors to know so much about timecode will go away. On the other hand, they might be working on a much more configurable overlay system for a future version of Final Cut. Time will tell!

Timecode and FxFactory are free downloads for Final Cut Pro X 10.2 and OS X Yosemite 10.10.2 and newer.

Primordial metadata

Timeline and clip timecode are an example of of a form of metadata that is over 100 years old. When films were shot with celluloid, editors had to manage film edge code - sometimes adding their own code to shot film to be able to manage every frame.

Hopefully Apple will add features that will allow Final Cut users to view and edit any metadata in a floating window - including timecode. The kinds of metadata that would be useful in this case would be

  • Timecode
  • Slate/Scene/Take
  • GPS-recorded location (co-ordinates / colloquial name of place)
  • Keywords
  • Colour grade name
  • Name of person who last made changes/changed metadata

Periscope broadcast 1: Final Cut Pro X - April 6 2015

Tuesday, 07 April 2015

As Periscope currently only allows replays for 24 hours, here is a copy of yesterday's 'scope' on YouTube.

I muse upon Final Cut Pro X and answer questions put to me by Periscope followers.

To make this video, I recorded my iPhone while it displayed the replay in the Periscope application. Do this by connecting your phone to your Mac running Yosemite QuickTime Player X and choosing File:New Movie Recording.

Pop-up menu in QuickTime Player X showing iPhone selected

Then go to the pop-up menu next to the record button and choose the iPhone's camera and then the iPhone's microphone.


Chatty apps in OS X: Quiet them down

Wednesday, 25 March 2015

When I upgraded OS X to Mavericks I found that Final Cut Pro X alerts got more annoying. Every time I exported a movie from my edit, I would get an alert when the background export finished. When I need to export many movies in a short period of time, I end up with a whole series of alerts:

Screenshot of many alerts produced during a Final Cut Pro X export session

To prevent Final Cut - or any OS X application - being so 'chatty,' go to System Preferences and choose the Notifications pane.

Screenshot of Mac OS X System Preferences with Notifications icon highlighted

Scroll down and click 'Final Cut Pro.'

Screenshot showing Final Cut Pro selected in the Notifications pane of System Preferences

Change the alert style from Alerts to Banners. Instead of having to dismiss each alert, banners go away automatically.

'Bumpy' pixels: iMovie Apple Force Touch trackpad haptic feedback

Monday, 16 March 2015

Apple has updated iMovie 10.0.7 to provide context-specific haptic feedback for those using a Force Touch trackpad.

As part of their March 9, 2015 event Apple announced a new kind of trackpad for their MacBook computers. Instead of registering clicks using a switch, the new trackpad is able to recognise a range of pressures. The Force Touch trackpad can detect a light touch for when the user wants to move the cursor without clicking and dragging, a heavier touch for when the user wants to click or drag, and a heavier touch - a 'force click' - which is used for shortcuts.

As this new trackpad has no click switch, it is hard for users to know how hard they are pressing without physical feedback. They need to be able to feel the difference between moving the cursor, clicking a UI object and force touching a part of an application. The Force Touch trackpad includes a 'Taptic Engine' - tiny magnets that move the trackpad in such a way that they feel as if the trackpad has flexed downwards.

An Apple support document lists some examples of shortcuts accessible by force clicking:

  • Link previews: Force click a link in Safari or Mail to see an inline preview of the webpage.
  • File icons: Force click a file icon to see a Quick Look preview of it.
  • File names: Force click a file name in the Finder or on your desktop to let you edit the file name.
  • iMovie: When your iMovie project has an animated Map or Globe, you can Force click the map in the Timeline to access a Style menu. This lets you choose from four different styles.

As well as being able to simulate old physical trackpad features, the Taptic Engine can also provide physical feedback based on context:

  • iMovie: When dragging a video clip to its maximum length, you’ll get feedback letting you know you’ve hit the end of the clip. Add a title and you’ll get feedback as the title snaps into position at the beginning or end of a clip. Subtle feedback is also provided with the alignment guides that appear in the Viewer when cropping clips.

Final Cut Pro X is my video editing application of choice. iMovie is a full version of Final Cut Pro X running an additional consumer UI. As Final Cut Pro X hasn't been updated since December, iMovie's use of the Force Touch trackpad is a preview of features I hope to see in the next version of Final Cut.

I visited an Apple Store in London to see how iMovie 'felt' on the new version of the 13" MacBook Pro with Retina. 

'Feeling' the user interface

I tried two out of the three features mentioned in the support document. I couldn't feel any 'snapping' as I moved a title to the start or finish of a clip.

When I dragged the clip to its maximum length I did feel a little bump. Without looking at the timeline and looking at the viewer, I could 'feel' the end of the clip.

This feature presages the ability for UI pixels to be 'bumpy' - for user to feel the texture of application UIs without having to look at where the cursor is. This means that seemingly textured software keyboards and control layouts will be able to be implemented on future trackpads, iPhones and iPads.

Perhaps we'll look back and realise that the iOS 7 update removed borders from button because one day Apple user interfaces will be able to be felt as much as seen, and button text labels will feel more distinctive than button borders under our fingertips.

Non-visual manipulation

Film and video editing is an interesting UI problem: You need to look at the footage you are editing while you manipulate the clips that represent the footage in a timeline. That is why keyboard shortcuts are especially popular amongst video editors. No need to look at your mouse pointer the timeline as you manipulate clips - just press the keys that change the edit. 

Once a complex timeline can be represented by a touch only UI, editing will go full-screen. The screen will show footage only while the editor will be able to feel the edits as the story plays out.


iMovie 10.0.7 update

Monday, 09 March 2015

At the same moment Apple were launching the Apple Watch and the 2015 MacBook, they quietly updated iMovie.iMovie10.0.9

As well as the features listed here, 10.0.7 also updates the format for iMovie libraries. Once you open an old library with 10.0.7, it will not open in earlier versions.

Here are the new buttons added below the viewer:

iMovie10 0 7new-buttons

New text

Within the application there are a few bits of text not found in 10.0.6:

A tooltip explaining the new Photos features:

Choose to view projects, albums, and more from your Photos Library

Instructions to deal with errors:

Select a local storage device or SAN.

Select a local storage device.

Copy the document to a local storage device or SAN, then try again.

Copy the document to a local storage device, then try again.


This document cannot be opened from iCloud Drive.

This document cannot be saved to iCloud Drive.



Final Cut Pro X tip: Create compound clips with handles

Wednesday, 04 March 2015

Compound clips are useful for when your Final Cut Pro X project timeline is getting complex, or if you want to use the same sequence of clips in multiple places.

There's a catch though - they aren't created with handles.

In this case some frames have been trimmed off the start of 'Clip 2' and off the end of 'Clip 4'


If I make a compound clip of the selected clips (Using the 'File:New:Compound Clip…' command or by control- or right-clicking then in the timeline)…


…I can't use the select tool (or the trim tool) to drag the start of the compound clip to the left in order to see the frames I know are in Clip 2.

This is because the timeline of the compound clip looks like this:


However, if I temporarily add a pair of long transitions to the first and last clip of the group… 


and then make a compound clip of the clips (don't select the temporary transitions when making the compound clip)…


and then delete the transitions...


the compound clip has the same duration as before, but now has handles equal to half the duration of the transitions.

The timeline of the compound clip looks like this:



That means I can now trim out the start of the compound clip. In this case I'm adding two seconds and three frames to the start of the compound clip.



Worldwide NLE Market until 2020: It's all about price

Thursday, 26 February 2015

A new report by market researchers Frost & Sullivan on the global non-linear editing market makes some interesting points and raises some interesting questions.

[The report] observes the NLE market through the lenses of the broadcast, post-production, and professionals segments during 2013–2020

The headline: Product Affordability Drives Sales of Pro-Video Non-Linear Editing Solutions Worldwide 

Here are some of their highlights:

  • With a steady pricing decrease since 2003, the professional editing solutions market opened up to a large number of users across all segments. Eventually, the availability of products at $1000 created a large user base of individual professionals who typically owned small boutique studios or small production houses.
  • The downward price spiral, the intensifying competition, and the slow growth in sales in the broadcast and post-production segments are challenges to the growth of high-margin, high-end NLE products.
  • The NLE market is preparing itself for innovation around cloud-based solutions, which are likely to challenge the adoption of off-the-shelf products.
  • The fast-growing and highly fragmented consumer devices market makes multi-platform content delivery a key requirement driving growth in the broadcast segment. In the post-production segment, adoption of solutions that help in increasing operational efficiency and reducing bottom- line while turning around content quickly is key.  
  • The main vendors in this space are Adobe, Apple, Quantel, Avid, and Grass Valley. Long-term growth in the pro-video segments (broadcast and post-production) is expected to be determined by a vendor’s ability to innovate, provide constant upgrades, and create an easy yet holistic ecosystem around the editing products. The ability to integrate into collaborative workflows and ensure interoperability will also be critical.

In return for your contact information, you can download a preview of the report from the Frost & Sullivan site.

According to the preview, a couple of questions the full report answers are:

  • Are the existing competitors correctly structured to meet customer needs? Will competing companies and products continue to exist or will they be acquired by other companies? Will these products become features in other markets? 
  • What technical trends, including cloud technologies, are shaping the marketplace? What trends are on the horizon, and what does this mean for future product strategy? 
  • How will the pro-video segments, such as broadcast and post-production, compare with the professionals segment that largely comprises individual video creators?

For those of us who can't justify buying these kinds of reports, perhaps discussing these questions might be useful. For example, how good are Apple, Adobe, Avid, Grass Valley and Quantel at

  • Innovation
  • Providing constant upgrades
  • Creating an easy yet holistic NLE ecosystem
  • Integration into collaborative workflows
  • Interoperability

'Focus' starring Will Smith: First major studio feature edited using Apple's Final Cut Pro X

Tuesday, 24 February 2015

The announcement of a feature film production seminar in Los Angeles reveals that Focus, starring Will Smith and Margot Robbie, was edited using Final Cut Pro X. Final Cut is currently available to download from the Mac App Store for £230.

The event is sponsored by Apple, camera makers ARRI and workflow specialists Light Iron (a subsidiary of Panavision). 

Focus is released on Friday in the US and UK. It is the first major studio film edited using Final Cut Pro since is was completely revised and renamed Final Cut Pro X in 2011. It follows on from 'Gone Girl,' the first studio feature film edited using Adobe Premiere Pro CC, which was released in October 2014.

Logo of LA event on the post workflow for Will Smith film Focus

Although the event description doesn't name Focus specifically, the illustration uses its logo and the crew named as attending are the co-director, cinematographer, editor, 1st assistant editor, post supervisor and DIT of the film: 

Light Iron, ARRI, and Apple invite you to explore one of the most advanced and modern workflows in today’s cinema.

The event will begin at ArcLight Cinemas Hollywood with a continental breakfast, followed by a special workflow presentation featuring:

• Glenn Ficarra, Co-Director
• Xavier Grobet, ASC, Cinematographer
• Stephan Ukas-Bradley, ARRI
• Brandon Lippard, DIT
• Jan Kovac, Editor
• Mike Matzdorff, Asst. Editor
• Jeffrey Harlacker, Post Supervisor

The event will also feature a hands-on workflow area showcasing Final Cut Pro X and the Mac hardware used in the making of the film.

The event is on Saturday March 7th. Register to attend.

I'm glad to say that 1st assistant editor Mike Matzdorff engaged me to make some plugins to aid in the post workflow, two of which are currently available for free on my website: Alex4D Timecode 35mm 4-perf and Alex4D Feature Overlays.

Available soon: case studies on the Apple Final Cut Pro website and on, the primary website for Final Cut news.

Also 1st Assistant Editor Mike Matzdorff will soon release an eBook covering the Focus workflow: Final Cut Pro X: Pro Workflow

Follow Mike on Twitter to find out more.

Follow me on Twitter for regular tweets on Final Cut Pro X and post production. 

Three kinds of ‘Delete Clip’ in the Final Cut Pro X timeline

Wednesday, 18 February 2015

Because Final Cut Pro X doesn't have tracks, Apple have made three kinds of delete for clips in the timeline.


This clip has two connected clips: a video cutaway and an audio clip.

If when removing the selected clip I want the connected clips to be removed, I'd press the Delete key:


If I want to delete the selected clip but keep the connected clips and not change the duration of the edit, pressing Shift-Delete replaces the selected clip with a gap clip:


If I want to keep the connected clips and close up the timeline when deleting the selected clip, I would press Option-Command-Delete (some people call these two modifier keys 'alt-cmd'):


A new definition for post production

Tuesday, 17 February 2015

In the past few years the post production has been coming under increasing pressure. Most people blame tougher negotiations by studios - that they want twice as much work for half the money.

Micahel Cioni of Panavision's Light Iron has an alternate theory. Here he is talking during last week's Opening Keynote Presentation at the annual Hollywood Post Alliance Tech Retreat suggests:

Father and Son: An HPA Story from Light Iron on Vimeo.

(4:53) I don't believe the squeeze is actually coming from studios, although a lot of people think the content creators are creating a squeeze at the top and that filters down. If we were to look at this market as a business transaction, it's like having a new owner - a new boss. The content creators have a new boss - that new owner is alternative distribution methods. It's not just creating a squeeze below the line… it's actually effecting people above the line. 

(5:31) What's really changed is this idea of what is actually ‘post.’ I think of it as like a waterfall. Services you provide in post production eventually go 'over the edge' - they become part of production. Once they do, you can't get them back … 

(6:35) …if you elminate film, you don't eliminate film making. If you eliminate post houses, you don't eliminate post…

(7:00) [new definition of post:] 'Any manipulation of an image that happens after it leaves the camera'...

(7:19) [on screen] Transcoding and online are 2 post services that are soon going “over the edge” and will fall into production. This doesn't mean post is dead, but many of its fundamental services are.


So-called 'heavy' work will be safe in post for quite some time. But the higher margin items that used to make up a larger volume of revenue are disappearing. Best future for post: Software as a Service, custom IT, mobile solutions, multi-platform deliverables and user automation. The largest 'heavy' projects will be the last to leave the post house.

Coming up with standard ways of doing things isn't good news for post production professionals. Post pros are more valuable in environments when there are many different ways of getting things done

Post: that which happens in parallel with, which is synchronized with and accompanies production


71 Apple Motion feature requests

Monday, 16 February 2015

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

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

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

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

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

1. Keyframable and publishable shape points

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


2. More Drop Zone clip information available in Motion

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


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


3. Parent timeline properties available to Motion

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


4. "Non-frames" time ruler mode

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


5. Multiple Inspectors

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

6. Inspector history

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

7. Parameter combinations stored as styles

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

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

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

8. Group published parameters within a disclosure triangle option

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


9. Timing markers

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


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


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

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

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

11. Multiple parameter animation curves in Final Cut Pro X

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

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

Useful when simulating scaling animation in 2D.

13. "Calculator" generator

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

14. "Text Factory" generator

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

15. More "Timecode" generator modes

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

16. Named keyframe curves

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


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


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

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

18. Publishable/Riggable 'Active Camera'

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

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


20. Individual layer 'Motion Blur' parameter

…which can be published and rigged.

21. Riggable font control

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

22. Riggable behaviour and filter switches

So rigs can turn filters and behaviours on and off

23. Editable Display Aspect Ratio rigs

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

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

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

25. Time offsets in Parameter Link behaviour

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

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

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

27. Change template kind

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

28. "Nearby clip" Final Cut Pro X placeholders

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

29. Transition background Final Cut Pro X placeholder

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

30. The ability to create password-protected plugins


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


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

So effects and behaviours can be driven by audio

33. Audio plugins


34. Rigging/Publishing audio parameters

Including those in audio filters

35. Audio only plugin creation

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

36. Depth maps

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

37. Variance in replicator sequence behaviour parameters

Like the Variance parameter in text sequence behaviours

38. Divider replicator

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

39. 3D models as cell sources for replicators


40. 3D models as source arrangements for replicators


41. Bezier warp of layers in 3D


42. 3D extrusion settings for any 2D layer

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

43. Broadcast monitor output


44. Video/Audio scopes


45. On-screen controls layer group

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

46. Multi-clip access

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

47. Multicam render

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

48. More commands that can have keyboard shortcuts applied

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

49. Stop keyboard shortcuts when editing text

A preference suggested by SquidFX on

50. Simulator

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

51. Quartz Composition creation and editing

A set of generators that act as subset of Quartz Composer patches which can be added and linked together using the Motion metaphor, and a view mode that shows the links between generators(patches) in the same way Quartz Composer shows connections between patches.

52. Plugin creation for iMovie on OS X and iOS


53. Plugin creation for video-capable OS X applications

Apple applications such as Photos, QuickTime Player, Keynote and Pages as well as Motion itself,. Third party applications too, such as Adobe Photoshop, Adobe After Effects, Adobe Premiere, Avid Media Composer and Da Vinci Resolve (Mac OS X versions only). Enabled by a free Motion plugin playback system from Apple (like the UI-less version of Motion that in built into Final Cut Pro X).

54. View of timeline at different time in Motion and host application

When a rig modifies a parameter whose change isn't visible at the current frame, it would be useful for a pop-up window to show the change happening. If the Motion (or Final Cut Pro X) playhead is in the middle of a title and a published slider widget is modifying the build in animation, the widget could have a 'Show a inset preview of timeline at Marker X' parameter so the user will get feedback on their change. Alternatively, changing a parameter value could temporarily move the Final Cut (or host application) skimmer to the marker specified. Suggested by SquidFX on

55. Camera controls of 2D clone view of 3D layer

The clone of the 3D layer would be 2D, whose view could be controlled by camera-like 3D position/rotation/view angle/depth blur parameters. Imagine a video wall of 2D clones of 3D layers (sometimes the same 3D layer) but with different views of the same 3D content depending in the 3D position and angle of the special camera associated with the 2D clone.

56. Line widths of less than 1 pixel

Suggested by "muddygun" on

57. Change inspector values by relative amounts

For example the ability to change the X co-ordinate of multiple selected objects by -15 pixels - not change them all so their X co-ordinate is -15. Suggested by Braden Storrs

58. Retime behaviours for drop zone clips

Behaviours could then slip, speed up, slow down or scrub clips in a drop zone (with the option to apply the effect to audio or not)

59. Import 3D keyframes

…from 3D applications. Suggested by Deyson Ortiz of Motion Master Templates

60. Layered PDF and PSD import


61. Convert PDF element to Motion element(s)

Shapes, gradients, patterns (which become replicators), clipping masks (masks)

62. Duplicate naming control

When duplicating layers, behaviours and filters, choose whether 'Copy' a number or nothing is added

63. Parameter behaviour name suggestions

Control clicking on a behaviour name should bring up the option to add useful information using a naming template: Instead of 'Link' or 'Link Copy' a context menu would suggest 'Source.Parameter -> Destination.Parameter' as a naming template which would name the Link behaviour as "Lower Third bg.Opacity -> Type Text Here.Scale.X" A 'Ramp' behaviour applied to a text layer could be named 'Ramp Styles.Style.Offset.X'

64. Background rendering


65. Editable default versions of each kind of Motion template

When choosing to start a transition template for example, the ability to base a template on a preset where the placeholder layers are named 'Outgoing Clip' and 'Incoming Clip' for example.

66. New Sequence Text behaviour 'Animate' by options

At the moment when animating by 'Word' punctuation characters are considered as individual 'words.' Two new options: animate by 'Word (including punctuation)' and 'Custom Delimeter' (such as comma or Tab)

67. Rename layer based on source

After switching a source picture of a layer, it would be useful to rename the layer to denote that the source has changed. After selecting multiple layers, the context menu would have a 'Rename Based on Source' command.

69. More timing parameters for groups

The same timing parameters that are available in movie layers: Time Remap, Speed, Reverse, Frame Blending, End Condition and End Duration. If not possible with groups, perhaps with clones of groups.

69. Publishable/riggable layer/behaviour timing parameters

In/Out/Duration for layers, behaviours and filters, also the additional timing parameters associated with movie layers

70. Copying layers between projects should copy connected rigs and layers

If a layer with rigged or linked parameters is copied from one project to another, the rigs and the objects the parameters are linked to should be copied to the new project.

71. Duplicating layers with rigged parameters

If a layer or group has one or more parameters that are rigged to a popup widget, provide one of four options: 1. Connect duplicate to currently rigged widget snapshot, 2. Do not connect duplicate to currently rigged snapshot, 3. Duplicate rig and connected widget and rig duplicate's parameter(s) to duplicate layer/group. 4. In the case of Pop-Up widgets, create a new duplicate snapshot connected to new duplicate.


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


Editors: Know your movie cameras

Friday, 13 February 2015

"Which camera do you think we should use?"

Up until RED disrupted traditional film cameras, editors didn't need to know too much about the devices that captured the footage they edited.

Now it is important to know about camera sensors, capture data rate, codec, bit depth and latitude.

Comparing camera sensor sizes: APS-C/Super 35/APC-H/35mm Full Frame

Camera field of view: The effect of sensor size on field of view

How much hard drive storage will you need for ARRI, RED, Sony or Phantom cameras? Also includes information on resolution, frame rates, bit depth, latitide and typical daily rental rate.

The Cinematography Mailing List evaluated the CION, ARRI AMIRA, ARRI ALEXA, Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera, Blackmagic URSA, Digital Bolex, Canon C500, Sony F65, Varicam, RED DRAGON in January 2015.

Apple's OS development cycle and Final Cut Pro X

Tuesday, 10 February 2015

Most people who use Apple's editing software applications have no inkling of how software is developed. For the many who have strong opinions about what features are missing from and doesn't work well in Final Cut Pro X, it is worth taking the time to consider Apple's software development cycle.

Apple is more tight-lipped than most when it comes to talking about how they build products and services, but a recent series of podcast episodes are a good place to go. The Debug podcast from iMore covers tech software and services for computers, tablets and phones. Episode 60 features a conversation with people who were involved in making multiple versions of OS X and iOS at Apple over the years.

It is worth understanding what they say about deadlines and development when it comes to OS X and iOS, because it is likely similar rules apply when it comes to Final Cut Pro X development. The main difference is that of timeframes. The podcast interviewees talk about how little time they have for actual development when their OSs are being updated every year. Due to fixing bugs found in the current version and the next version, most features have to be implemented in two and a half months out of every 12 (The longest time between major updates of Final Cut Pro X has been 14 months: between 10.0.6 and 10.1).

[43:42] It's not a yearly cycle. Part of the cycle of what you're going to do for one release happens during the previous release. Let's say you're going to do announcements in June [at the worldwide developer conference] and you're going to bring out a product (whether it's iOS or OS X) in September/October… You start figuring part of that out in the spring time of the previous cycle. Because you have a set of features where it's 'do or die time:' you've passed that two and a half months of typical development time in the previous December, January or February. Everyone's got to work out what features are going to make it …

[45:22] You have a big spreadsheet [at the start of March] which has everything and you decide what's going into that release. [Higher ups would look at each feature and say…] "Not this time, we're gonna bump that." Sometimes there were crushed [software] engineers, sometimes there were completely relieved engineers… that gets bumped to another list. Basically everyone starts at that point to start panicing about bugs and gets into a dead run for that release. Once the new one comes out, everyone says "What the hell have we got" - that's one bucket we draw from: what got deferred. Another bucket is 'what did we make up in the meantime?' [new ideas for features thought up between March and August] and there's the bucket of things we need to do because people are pestering us about them… 

[47:27] It's usually a month before it goes out the door that the product management team and the product marketing team start gathering the stuff up together for a big meeting, usually in October or November and then you decide what that release is going to be…  

[48:19] …they would decide what the 'theme' of the release would be… 

[48:40] …you really start some time in December getting on with it… 

[50:19] …there's the list of features that project management is tracking […which are part of…] 'tentpoles' - the small number of features that define the release … top down decisions informed by 'bottom-up' feedback: "have you seen what Android has introduced, the Palm Pre is going to have such and such"

[56:01] From the moment the feature list is defined, until that release hits, everybody and their brother and their mother is trying to come in with another feature… 

[The trick is to match the amount of new features you want to implement with the amount of resource you have to implement the features - you have to say "no"]

[1:01:33] …progress reports start trickling in at the end of January, sometimes February. There's a big feature review in March … [some features aren't going to be ready for August, so need to be dropped] "Oh my god, we've just kicked out one of the tentpoles, oops, we've just kicked out another tentpole. The tent's collapsed we've got to come up with something else" […] That's where things get really 'exciting' [unpleasant].


This conversation shows that even Apple, the richest company in world, has to limit what it does when devloping software - even when that software is for iPhones, the hardware that accounts for 67% of Apple's profits. 

PS: Brooks' Law: 'adding manpower to a late software project makes it later'

Editors: Listen to cinematographers

Tuesday, 16 December 2014

Before editors have to deal with codecs and files, TV and film camera teams have to capture scenes and footage. 

It is a good idea for editors to keep up with what they are thinking. Which cameras and codecs are preferred? For which jobs? What about on-set post services?

A good place to keep up to date is Geoff Boyle's Cinematography Mailing List site. Internet mailing lists have been around since before the web, but they still work well. You register your email address with the list, and if you or any member of the list send a message to the mailing list email address, everyone in the list gets a copy of the message.

Post is disarray right now

Recently, on-set equipment hire company Panavision bought workflow consultants Light Iron. Here's an example message from a CML mailing list discussion of the news:

Subject: Re: Panavision buys Light Iron
From: "Paul Sommers"
Date: Mon, 08 Dec 2014

I recently was made to do the full dog and pony and most of the major post houses to vet and build our pipeline from dailies to final. Right now it's a bit like the wild west. The on set to dailies solutions go from the full Ferrari solution, a DIT, loader and a Utility to maintain the gear and the pipeline. It involves an on set and cloud based dailies database and realtime color correction. This is Light Iron. Their system is really well thought out and has solutions to problems that I never knew I had. They want to offer solutions that run from set to final. My problem is that it requires too much care and feeding for the day to day hurly burly of multiple locations and no internet connection that I was afraid of the complexity. And who has the budget for a full time DIT in television?

Mike ran me through the multiple solutions at Technicolor, again well thought out and adaptable to different scales of production. One was very DIT-centric, one allowed all the LUT building to happen behind the curtain with the loader. I didn't go this way because I didn't feel like I had the time to learn the system. That's a shame, I do most of my final color sessions at Tech with Scott Klein. The appeal of one vendor handling the color science from shoot to post definitely has appeal.

Keep Me Posted has a good setup that is similar to Technicolor's

We ended up going with Bling. Mainly because I've been using them for the last three years and I didn't have to contend with a learning curve.

I was very involved every step of the way, but really it came down to price

Light Iron was by far the most expensive. I doubt they are going to compete on price. They are going to compete on service, just like Panavision. It's a good match.

Bling is owned by Sim Digital and you get a discount if you bundle camera and post, and it's substantial. They compete on price.

The trick as always is to find vendors who can provide good service at a reasonable cost so that we get what we need on set.

If Panavision and Light Iron offer this sort of bundling and both become cheaper and more fluid this helps everyone. If it pushes the market and we get better answers for better prices we look better to producers and maybe they will let us get on with the fun part, telling stories with images.

Post is disarray right now with the push to deliver in 4k (Amazon, Netflix, HBO). Even though we have been talking about 4k for years, and now it seems like it's really here for those of us who toil in TV. I hear a lot of different answers from a lot of different people about this. Technicolor and Light Iron seemed to have the best answers, and they were singing the same song. It's tough for post to suddenly make this 4k jump on the schedules we work with. A degree of integration might help soften the blow. It feels like when the HD storm hit, and everyone was scrambling.

I'm also wondering if Light Iron's experience with dealing with large amounts of data and pipeline management might help Panavision. The rumor mill is pretty thick with speculation about when/What/why it's taken so long to put this system out. Maybe Light Iron is helping with the new camera as well? Pure speculation, but the data rates and sheer size of the files the rumored camera puts out and release upon must be massive.
Paul M. Sommers

Many of the mailing lists at CML are high-traffic: many messages per day. To prevent email from these lists interrupting personal email you get, you could set up an email rule the sends all messages from a CML list to a specific folder. Many list members view messages in 'Digest' mode: A compilation of all messages is sent once a day (At CML, click a list you are subscribed to, then go to 'My Account' and choose 'Digest' from the 'Membership type' pop-up menu).

There are many lists at CML:

List of Cinematography mailing lists

The 'Post production issues affecting the cinematographer' list is relatively quiet. For editors interested in crew discussions on complex workflows should subscribe to the 'RAW-Log-HDR' list (where Paul's sample post came from).

As well as being able to sign up at CML to read new discussions, there are some useful summaries of previous discussions.

Video in text Final Cut Pro X tutorial

Monday, 08 December 2014

As well as their weekly free Final Cut Pro X and Apple Motion tuition under the MacBreak video series for Pixelcorps, Ripple Training also make free short videos that show how to achieve special effects.

This Video in Text Effect tutorial shows how to make a video clip appear within text while showing other content behind the text.