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.