Final Cut Pro X update: Third-party integration and more
The headline feature of today’s free 10.4.4 update to Final Cut Pro X includes deep access for third party developers to extend Apple’s video editing application. That’s just the beginning. The update also includes
- Flexible timecode palettes
- Comparison viewer – to make it easier to compare the current frame with a choice of saved frames
- Batch Share – if you select multiple timelines or clips, a single command can export them or send them as a batch to Compressor
- Video Noise Reduction – a new effect in the ‘Basics’ category that is also relevant to ProRes RAW workflows
- 360° Noise Reduction – an effect that reduces noise in 360° spherical media
- Tiny Planet effect – a new effect that helps you use 360° spherical media in a normal ‘flat’ timeline
- 360° transitions – to apply between 360° spherical media clips in a 360° project: Bloom, Circle Wipe, Divide, Guassian Blur, Push, Reveal Wipe, Slide, Wipe.
- Six effects in a new Comic Looks category
- Captions in SRT format
Motion and Compressor have also been updated.
Motion 5.4.2 also has the new Tiny Planet effect as a filter. It also gets
- The new colour correction tools that were introduced in Final Cut Pro 10.4: colour wheels, colour curves, hue/saturation curves, and custom LUTs.
- A ‘Comic’ filter to stylise footage
Compressor 4.4.2 is now a 64-bit application, so it can make use of more your Mac’s memory. It gets SRT caption format support too. Plus it also is now smarter at interpreting QuickTime and MXF media to configure outputs.
Like the previous 27 updates over the last seven years, this one is free for current users. Final Cut Pro X costs $300 for new users. Motion 5 and Compressor 4 are $50 each. All three applications are available on the Mac App Store.
The applications still run on macOS High Sierra – needing 10.13.6 or later. If your version of macOS is older, the Mac App Store won’t show you the update.
The format of Final Cut Pro X libraries has changed, so any opened with version 10.4.4 will not be accessible by earlier versions of Final Cut. Before you update, Apple advise that you backup Final Cut Pro X and your existing libraries – they have a support page with more information.
Final Cut Pro X, Motion and Compressor release notes.
Apple communicates through software releases
The Video Applications team at Apple aren’t allowed to reveal their future plans for their tools. When new updates happen, we get an impression of ‘the direction of travel.’ Many Final Cut updates can be summarised in a sentence: ‘For YouTubers’ or ‘For high-end post production’ or ‘For corporate video.’
This 10.4.4 update in a sentence is ‘for third-party developers’ – Apple want even more third-party tools for Final Cut, and they want the existing tools to be more deeply integrated with the NLE. Until now the answer to many developers who wanted to create workflow tools for Final Cut was ‘use our very flexible XML format.’
Many in the X ecosystem thought that Apple would stop there. They thought it unlikely that they would be allowed to add their own floating windows to the finely-tuned Final Cut UI. Since the 10.3 update, video plugins have been able to show their own windows over the Final Cut UI. Now workflow extensions can do much more.
It turns out that the extra things that can be done with workflow extensions are worth the danger of third parties making Final Cut Pro harder to use.
The initial plan is that Apple will collaborate with developers who apply to them to make workflow extensions for Final Cut. They are not yet making all the tools and information available to all macOS (and iOS) developers).
Updates aren’t all about features
Some people may be disappointed that this update doesn’t include features they have been asking for for years. I think the Apple policy is to not ‘half-implement’ many features twice a year and never go back to make them work well. They wait until they think the feature is ready. This update also shows that they keep on adding to areas they recently updated: a new 360° video tool to follow on from least year’s 10.4 update. A new caption format to follow on from this April’s 10.4.1 update.
Updates are also about fixing long-term bugs that prevent Final Cut spreading into new parts of the world and new markets. Unlike with Logic Pro, the video applications team at Apple don’t list every bug they squash, all the work in that direction is usually summarised as ‘improved stability.’
If you are waiting for a huge update like ‘collaboration re-done for the 21st century’ – updates like this are needed so that other pieces can fall into place. Parts of the application not visible to users need to evolve and be tested ‘in the field.’ For example, if the way that Final Cut Libraries store information is hard to share amongst multiple editors at a time, an update might see a storage system change that paves the way for collaboration in future.
It might be also that some features are associated with Apple’s hardware plans. New iMacs, Mac Pros and iPad Pros need applications to run. Uses that mainstream journalists can understand and pass on in coverage. Editing is a simple demo that most people can understand. A proposition such as ‘The new Mac Pro can be the centre of a creative collaboration workgroup who are working on a feature film or TV series” is clear and can be passed on easily.
Extending Final Cut via ‘Workflow Extensions’
Workflow Extensions are plugins that show floating windows over the Final Cut interface. They can detect where the playhead is in the current timeline and also control the playhead. They are launched by clicking a button that is added to the main Final Cut window:
Today sees the launch of the first three Final Cut Pro X workflow extensions from Frame.io, Shutterstock and CatDV.
Frame.io is an online post-production feedback system. Up until now, it has been a browser-based service for Final Cut users. The Final Cut Pro X workflow extension brings the full power of Frame.io to a window that runs in the the application.
From within Final Cut you can use the Frame.io workflow extension to upload clips and timelines. Once in the cloud, collaborators can review, comment on and annotate projects – in browsers and on custom iPhone and iPad apps. Each comment and annotation is associated with specific clip and timeline timecode.
The Frame.io Final Cut workflow extension can let editors know when collaborators are commenting – in a similar way to the way Apple Messages tells you when someone else is typing.
When editors are ready, they can use the Final Cut workflow extension to download the feedback. They will receive this feedback as project-length compound clips that can be dragged to the timeline. The clip shows text and graphic comments from collaborators at the timecodes they gave their feedback:
If multiple people are commenting, their comments are assigned their name as a commenter role – which helps editors prioritise who the respond to first.
The extension also has control over the Final Cut playhead so that as you go from comment to comment in the Frame.io window, the playhead jumps to the relevant part of the timeline.
The Frame.io Final Cut Pro X workflow extension is installed if you have Final Cut and download Frame.io from the Mac App store.
The Frame.io promotional video:
Frame.io Final Cut Pro X workflow extension tutorial:
Shutterstock’s Final Cut workflow extension gives you access to the whole Shutterstock media library in a window. You can added watermarked media from collections made in the window or from collections made by collaborators online. The media is given a ‘watermarked’ role, so can be found quickly in a project using the timeline index. Once the rights have been purchased, the media changes to the full-resolution non-watermarked version and the role is changed to say the rights have been cleared.
CatDV’s workflow extension gives you access to media in CatDV media asset management systems.
The new timecode palettes in Final Cut Pro X 10.4.4 can show both timeline timecode and source timecode. You can control-click the palettes to copy the current timecode. The source timecode palette can display clip names and roles – which are colour coded. As you move along your timeline the number of clips at the playhead determine how many timecodes you see:
Here you can see the source timecode palette displaying clip names, roles and times. Also the project timecode. If you control-click the window, you can copy the source timecode for any clip at the playhead. In this case the source timecode for the ‘Early days’ clip. You can also copy all the timecode information at the playhead by choosing ‘Copy All.’ In this case the result is plain text delimited by tabs:
Matt Andrews 00:01:24:20.55 Best teacher B-Roll, Dialogue 10:44:01:21.55 Early days Video, Effects 10:19:41:10.55
The comparison viewer can show frames from elsewhere to the left of the main viewer. You can choose to continuously show the frame at the next or previous edit from the playhead:
This is useful if you are colour grading consecutive shots to match.
As well as showing frames from the timeline, you can show one of 30 frames you have saved to a new window called the Frame Browser:
As well as clicking in the frame browser and the comparison viewer to save frames, there is command to save the frame that you can assign to a key of your choice:
You can also switch the focus from the viewer to the comparison viewer. The focus determines which is sent to external devices such as preview monitors. There is an unassigned command in the Command Editor that does this, so you can give it a keyboard shortcut if you like.
The frames stored in the Frame Browser are library-based. You can’t open library A, save some frames from it and then open library B and see the saved frames from library A.
Bits and pieces
There is a new command you can assign a keyboard shortcut that turns the external AV output on or off.
The new noise reduction effect is needed for ProRes RAW workflows – primarily designed for the kind of noise you get when debayering camera sensor data. Noisy low-light footage is less of a priority in the algorithm.
There is a way to decide when dragging in secondary storylines whether you select the whole storyline or a clip in the storyline. From the help system:
Drag to select one or more storylines: Drag a selection rectangle over the storylines you want to select, making sure to drag over the gray border at the top of a storyline first (if you don’t drag over the top gray border first, you will select individual clips in the storyline instead). When a storyline is selected, the entire storyline is outlined with a yellow border.
Tip: To select entire storylines, drag in a downward motion. To select clips within the storylines, drag in an upward motion.
Many expected that Apple would never allow third-parties to add to the Final Cut Pro X user interface. Adobe Premiere’s ecosystem has been improved in recent years by allowing developers to create panels that appear in the application. The user interfaces in these panels are created using HTML and the specification is available to anyone who wants to make Premiere tools. The Workflow Extensions system isn’t as open. I expect that Apple want to approve any third party candidates before release on the Mac App Store.
When Final Cut was first released in 2011, the policy seemed to be ‘no windows, no palettes – configure panels within the main window.’ In the last seven years, more windows have been added. I expect this was done slowly and carefully – following research that NLEs with too many panels and windows made were unwelcoming to new users and unwieldy for the majority of users. The new workflow extension, frame browser and timecode windows can make the Final Cut UI more confusing.
Since version 10.3, Final Cut has had a subtle way to make floating windows work well together. This is much more useful now that there are more windows to work with than the background tasks window and the preferences window. There is a slight magnetism when you move floating windows near each other. You have to drag a little further than normal to make them overlap. There is also a little magnetism to the edges of displays and the top edges of Final Cut panels – making it easer to align the top edge of windows to the bottom edge of a panel title bar (if you drag the window upwards) or bottom edge of windows to the bottom edge of a panel title bar (if you drag the window downwards. This ‘magnetism’ applies if a panel has a blue ‘selected’ line below the title bar:
This works especially well when dragging windows to align with with the timeline panel. Note that this action doesn’t dock the windows to the panels – if you change their proportions, the overlay windows don’t move.
Ripple Training have a YouTube playlist of seven videos explaining the new features in Final Cut 10.4.4:
The Final Cut Pro X help system has been updated with information on the new features.
Final Cut Pro X might start warning you that the codecs you have used in media might not play on future versions of macOS. Apple have a new support page about this: “About legacy media in Final Cut Pro X”