The present and future of post production business and technology

Apple Keynote – Back to the Mac: Implications for Final Cut Pro

There were a lot of features I saw in OS X Lion and particularly in iMovie 11, that I would love to see inside Final Cut Pro. Things like QuickView I already mentioned in my “What should Apple do with Final Cut Pro” article from September.

But today I saw some things I really want in the next version of Final Cut Pro. Like scalable waveforms that change color according to their level! Scalable waveforms (as Media Composer already has and I think PPro CS5) has been a feature request for Final Cut Pro as far back as I can remember. And now the technology is there in the Apple technology basket. We’ll take that, thanks.

Trailers – semi-automatic completion of a trailer – and Themes, fit comfortably with my concept of Templatorization: the use of templates to speed up production. I first mentioned the concept in a blog post of April 2005 titled “Can a computer replace an editor?“. It’s still a good read and remember, that was long before we started actually building that future with our First Cuts/Finisher products. Templatorization is already in the Final Cut Studio with Master Templates from Motion used and adapted (with custom images and text) inside Final Cut Pro.

The concept here is similar. We’ll see more Templatorization over time, even if they are custom templates for a project, like custom Master Templates.

Plus, as my friend Rob Birnholz tweeted during the presentation when some were complaining that Templatorization would drive hourly rates down even further:

I can now sell CUSTOM Professional video design! (vs. template based ‘insta-video’)

But the one piece of technology I most want to see in the next version of Final Cut Pro is People Finder because it automates the generation of so much metadata, that combined with Source metadata is going to really open up Assisted Editing to take away a lot of the dull work of finding footage and a story. (And Shane you can hate me now, but more efficient production is always going to be the driver, but we can automate the drudgery, not the creativity.)

By analyzing your video for faces, People Finder identifies the parts with people in them and tells you how many are in each scene. It also finds the close-ups, medium shots, or wide angles so it’s easy to grab video clips as you need them.

We get shot type metadata – CU, M, Wide and we get identification of the number of people in the shot. That’s powerful metadata. I suspect we won’t get it in the next version of Final Cut Pro because they’ve got enough to do and can’t do everything at once, but I’d love to see this level of automated metadata generation. Remember too, that as well as the facial recognition technology already shipping in iPhoto and now iMovie, it was announced back in September that they had purchased another facial recognition company to improve the accuracy.

The holy grail, from my perspective, of facial recognition would be if the software (Final Cut Pro please) recognized all faces in the footage, and grouped the same face together (like Faces in iPhoto). You’d still have to identify the person once, but from there on basic Lower Thirds (person and location) could be automatically generated (location eventually coming from GPS in the camera – we’re not there yet).

It’s a pity Apple don’t have or license speech recognition technology. Licensing Nexidia’s speech search would be ok (it’s what powers Get and ScriptSync) but it doesn’t derive metadata like speech analysis does. Once you have speech as metadata is makes things like prEdit possible; and ultimately the automatic derivation of keywords.

And it seems like my five year old ruminations might have been on to something.




9 responses to “Apple Keynote – Back to the Mac: Implications for Final Cut Pro”

  1. Eric

    I think PPro CS5 has a Find Faces feature. I haven’t played with it much yet, but from what I understand it does something similar.

    1. I thought I’d mentioned that. Must have been in the Twitter stream instead. PPro CS5 will tell you if there is a face in the shot or not. That’s pretty much it right now. Apple with iMovie 11 have a more advanced feature, plus the shot recognition.

  2. Will there be a Final Cut pro 8? Or even a 7.5? I’m not sure given the underwhelming silence about Pro apps and especially the removal of high speed interfaces from the MacBook range (can’t really call the 15″ MacBooks “Pro” any more can you?) And the dumbing down of QT is a bad omen as far as I am concerned. More than ever before I’m thinking the future fro pros might be Adobe and certainly Avid, but not Apple.

    1. Come on, Apple NEVER talk about future releases, and the next one would not be scheduled until 2011 – around July – based on the very, very consistent (until FCP 7, which was delayed 4 months before release) 2 year cycles. The 15″ has FW 800 as does the 17″ MacBook Pros. If you’re working with video you’re on a MacBook Pro at least if you’re doing it professionally.

      You’ve obviously not been reading the blog before Justin – I’ve outlined the future of QT (and it was confirmed sort of in today’s keynote) – several times. Scroll back three weeks or so to What Should Apple do with Final Cut Pro for the most recent version.

      Apple will be back in 2012 (or later) with a really great, re-imagined Final Cut Pro. At least that’s what the DATA points to.

  3. Since Apple is saying “Summer 11”, doesn’t that put us ahead in terms of the release of 10.7? Normally you’d be expecting a final Beta for developers at WWDC in June, but if Apple is really looking at a Summer release, everything would likely have to be shifted ahead several months.

    I suppose I’m just chomping at the bit, not because I find the current FCP insufficient, but just so it can come out and people can finally shut up about Apple abandoning Pro Apps.

  4. When Apple says “Summer” remember they have up to Sept 20th to ship and most OS versions have had a second preview at WWDC and been released in Sep or Oct of the same year.

    Summer runs from June 20 to Sep 20. It could be final at WWDC. That’s happened. Or it could be nearly the end of September. But unlikely in the first half of the year.

    I understand the frustration about champing at the bit, but good software takes time, particularly when you have to wait on other parts of the company (something Adobe and Avid do not have to do).

  5. FCP. can I say who cares anymore ? I’ve moved on to PP CS5 as my full time editor and haven’t used FCP for any real work for quite some time. Y_A_W_N ! no different then when I was ahead of the pack in leaving my previous NLE for FCP… years before everyone else switched.

    bottom line is use the right tool for the job. if apple makes it, ok. if adobe makes it fine. if autodesk makes it, well just have a lot of $$$$$ and ok.

    once you go native, you won’t go back. once you have full res full frame rate fx, you won’t settle for less. what on earth is the big deal in switching ?

  6. If People Finder is as inaccurate as face recognition in iPhoto, you won’t want to ever count on it.

  7. Philip Hodgetts

    People Finder does not attempt to match a name to the face. It merely counts how many people are in the shot, and whether the shot is W M or CIU.

    that in itself is extremely valuable metadata.