The present and future of post production business and technology

A new 64 bit Final Cut Pro?

By now you will have heard of, or read, either the Final Cut Pro rumor at Techcrunch, or over at Larry Jordan’s Blog. Techcruch generally has good information, and I seriously doubt that Larry’s post would have been done without a specific OK from Apple – that’s just his style. Both say in one way or another:

“The biggest overhaul to Final Cut Pro since the original version was created over 10 years ago”

“Dramatic and Ambitious”

“a jaw dropper”

Techcrunch (and less formal rumors) do say 64 bit, which would be great. It would also mean my predictions about the timing of replacing QuickTime with AV Foundation in OS X 10.7 are way off.

Since I’ve done a lot of thinking and writing about FCP’s path forward, I can’t help but comment.

Standard disclaimer: While anyone at the meeting cannot reveal who else was at the meeting, I can reveal that I was not at the meeting and have NOT seen the new Final Cut Pro.

One source described the new release as encompassing everything from low level architectural changes to a complete redesign of the user interface. In other words, pretty much a new application designed for the modern world. (I can have my dreams can’t I?)

I’ve already had to reinterpret some earlier rumors of a “dumbing down” of Final Cut Pro to make it more like iMovie. My interpretation (from last May’s article):

Let me go out on a limb and say that it much more likely means that Final Cut Pro is getting a very thorough rewrite. Not just a 64 bit/Cocoa rewrite (and hopefully take advantage of modern OS X features) but a complete rethink.

While the interface may well look like iMovie 09/11, that application is built on QTKit, which has enough features for iMovie, but not enough for Final Cut Pro, as I’ve written. So Final Cut Pro 8 (if that’s what they’ll call it) can’t be built on QTKit, and by extension is not built on the same foundation as iMovie.

My biggest doubt was the timing. I believed a rewritten 64 bit Final Cut Pro would require a rewritten 64 bit QuickTime before it can be developed and clearly that wasn’t a valid assumption. Speculating wildly – to pull off a fully rewritten, 64 bit pure Cocoa Final Cut Pro – would require building on AV Foundation (the basis of iMovie for iPhone), which is coming to OS X in 10.7 Lion.

One of my Twitter friends asked if it were possible that the Pro Apps team had advanced access to AV Foundation and could bundle it with the app. That has always been theoretically possible, but I thought a) it would require too much openness within the company, not something they’ve done before, and b) that’s a lot of engineering work for the Final Cut Pro team that would come to them “for free” in Lion.

My assumption that AV Foundation – on the iOS – was coming back to OS X with the 10.7 release relied on an assumption that Apple did not communicate advance technologies to other departments in the company. I didn’t believe that the Final Cut Pro team would have sufficiently advanced versions – on a different platform – of AV Foundation early enough to get 64 bit native Cocoa into this version.

I would be overjoyed to be wrong. If Apple have really pulled off a true 64 bit rewrite then they have to be using AV Foundation (or there has to be a completely independent rewrite of QTKit that has seen no published precedents, so that’s less likely). It means the barriers in the company are broken down. Perhaps this has been the most valuable role of the Chief Video Architect – Randy Ubilos.

I’ve covered what “everyone” thinks “must” be in the next version of Final Cut Pro and the things I think Apple should probably think about doing. I wonder what the scorecard will be like when we see the app?

I even controversially suggested that, as part of a rewrite/rethink, Log and Capture could be dropped from Final Cut Pro although I was persuaded by the feedback that it would be premature.

We’ll have to wait and see.






28 responses to “A new 64 bit Final Cut Pro?”

  1. “Two versions are already running at beta level, one for Snow Leopard, and one for Lion,” said one report. “Some new features will only be available on Lion’s version, due to the changes made on QuickTime layer.” –according to AppleInsider report today.

    1. Any new features only available on Lion would be a Sarbanes-Oxley problem for Apple. And AppleInsider’s track record is appalling.

  2. JMF

    All sounds very cool, but all I want is FCP to be bale to handle gamma in a professional way so that we can actually transfer files between different apps and OS platforms without FCP screwing it all up.

    1. Gamma problems were QT problems. I doubt there’s much QT in there, except for legacy support

  3. Phillip,

    Very insightful, as always.

    LJ, ACE

  4. Carey Dissmore

    Hey Philip,

    Thanks for posting. This will be interesting.

  5. I love FCP and the whole suite needs a refresher. Here is my wish list.

    First off, the secondary programs should match FCP in style and as many short cuts as possible. Like “B” should Blade in all programs.

    No Apple BS, where they some how don’t work well with Adobe products now. I swear, Apple is like a 6 year old brat now days.

    Please oh God keep it a Pro user program, not some iMovie Pro junk.

    Play MP3s without popping. Its 2011!

    Some quicktime updates in the past (geared towards iTunes) have ruined my edit stations playback. Stop doing that.

    The new quicktime interface is not geared towards pro users, like the rounded corners. (I know that is not apart of the FCP suite, but it is the backbone)

    I’m sure I could come up with many more suggestions if I gave myself more time. Honestly, if Adobe could make Premiere and Sound Booth a tad better I would jump ship on Apple.

    Motion sucks. Just put it down.

  6. It’s not unlike Apple to backport(or just include) certain frameworks from new (even unreleased) versions of Mac OS X back for certain applications. The prime example I can think of is iLife ’06 just before Leopard came out, if my vague memory recalls it was largely some APIs used by iPhoto.

  7. AdamV – the rounded corners are completely optional. Just find and download the OS X Control pane.

  8. I meant QT X, not OS X

  9. I do sincerely hope that despite Randy Ubilos at the helm they don’t remove too many of the quirkier functions or abilities of FCP.

    For instance having anything Avid like for media management would be a big no-no for me.

    Despite the harping on and on from “Avidvocates” for single location directories of a few thousand MXF files… I for one always said that smacked of people who didn’t understand file systems, transparency and usability.

    I presume if they utilise GCD then multiprocessing will be much more efficient/faster and open up transputer-like possibilities.

    Fingers-crossed they also take into account the multi-GPU generation for accelerated FX processing too!

  10. Great wishlist lads, I’m hoping FCP8 will be a big release. It’s time for a re-imagining, and I think Ubillos could be the man to do it.

    I really just want my editor to “get out of the way” and let me edit. I’d love to forget I’m using software at all. Perhaps its rendering or optimizing things all the time while I work. It would be responsive and play smoothly, with no lag, ever. And then, when I need to output or media manage, it does it consistently and reliably, with good render quality.

    We’ll see at NAB!

  11. Matt

    HDSLR Native Support!! If they only get one thing right on this release it better be this, it is the new ballgame I hope they don’t miss it.

    1. While Media Composer and Premiere Pro both support DSLR native H.264, no editor with a sane mind edits more than very short projects without transcoding to an editing codec. Editing H.264 on big projects is only going to cause heartache.

      That said, iMovie on an iPhone edits long GOP H.264 native on a 1GHz processor thanks to AVFoundation.

  12. DSLR support?
    Does that make it pro? Really?

    Thanks Philip, well be happy to hear more when possible.

  13. Tonk

    Most of your points are utterly nonsensical and polemic imo. Ending with “Motion sucks” only underlines the fact and merely shows that you really have no clue as to what Motion is for or how it is positioned. Grow up.

    Thanks for saving me having to write “no editor with a sane mind edits more than very short projects without transcoding [H.264]”. Especially when somewhen seems to want to imply that that is somehow a PRO feature?? Ouch.

    Great write up, as always. But as crappy as AI’s track-record might be, the two-version scenario seems plausible to me. Ironically because of many things that you have written… 😉

  14. A new FCP sooner rather than later is welcome news. Many have loudly and raucously jumped to Premiere Pro (and on my old podcast at that), and though I gave PPro a go, in the end I’ve stayed with FCP as it does the job and I just haven’t had the time to become proficient in PPro. Not knocking Adobe products mind you… but there is a real cost in transitioning from one platform to the other and it’s just not compelling enough for me for the kind of work I do.

    I think the whole “just drop your H.264 HDSLR footage into the PPro timeline and go” feature is overblown and the so-called “problem” of transcoding in FCP to ProRes a bit overstated. I suppose if you are ingesting & editing H.264 footage every single day, then perhaps it’s compelling. But for most shooters like myself, it’s really never been an issue. But I digress.

    Your insights and commentary on FCP are appreciated. And I love the Terrance & Philip Show! 🙂

  15. @Tonk – Sarbane Oxley would prevent offering Lion features that were not on Snow Leopard for the same application, without charging again for the lion version.

    @Carl. I don’t think there’s been as many “defections” to PPro as the noise of that crowd would suggest.

  16. I agree. I don’t doubt that there has been some migration. If you’re workflow doesn’t involve much post processing of h264, or if your entire timelines are getting run through After Effects, I can see the case for certain users making the switch. And I won’t begrudge them a bit. But holy crap can some of these people just shut up about it? I’m not after world dominance of FCP, and if I saw a compelling reason to I’d switch. But it’s maddening how stringently some people feel they have to make their case against Apple products. You don’t like Apple, fine, piss off!

    I work with a lot of post companies as a freelancer in Toronto and haven’t heard noise from a single one of them about moving off FCP. There’s my market analysis.

    And NOW! With the writing on the wall that FCS4 is close at hand, and the first words that are coming out or “jaw-dropping” and “dramatic and ambitious”, the soothsaying that’s going on about those phrases is silly. People complaining that the UI will change too much, and it will be iMovie’08 all over again. Change is either too slow or two much.


  17. You know how it is. Everyone wants things to get better, but never change!

  18. I think it’s very telling how aggressive Adobe have been in pitching CS5 to FCP users because it demonstrates how important their pre-FCP8 2010-2011 “window of opportunity” has been.

    Premiere Pro has virtually no history at the higher end of the market and I don’t see that changing any time soon. Mainly because the product doesn’t have anywhere near the wide range of 3rd party support that FCP has built up over the years.

  19. Michael

    My wishlist is short, but would actually be revolutionary:
    Background importing, exporting, digitizing, and organizing. My timeline should never have to stop just because I need to take in more material, or make notes and move clips and folders, or send some edits out.
    That would be compelling.

    1. That would be compelling.

  20. It was nice of Jobs to mention during yesterday’s keynote Apple’s long history of video editing, and that they may be the largest player in the world. If they aren’t, I’m not sure who would be.

    Hard to divine any hints of things to come in iMovie for iPad. It’s a fairly basic but very intuitive interface. What did strike me is [strangely] how image oriented it is. Large thumbnails so you immediately know what’s in the clip you’re looking at. There may be a way to bring this forward into the pro environment, where there’s a lot more media typically in play.

    Other than that, it only solidifies in my mind that I can’t wait to move away from the command key, keyboard tied editing we currently exist in- to a touch surface that narrows functionality to what’s important as you work.

  21. I think it’s time to come up with an editing interface that makes sense to those who didn’t grow up with tape-to-tape editing with Source and Record monitors! Made sense 20+ years ago. Doesn’t make sense now in a post-tape (for most) era.

  22. kim krause

    just go back and look at the previous versions of logic for a big clue. the ugly user interface was replaced by something way more modern and logical and there was hardly any learning curve involved…i really believe the biggest improvements will be in interfacing with the programme. larger fonts for our tired old eyes would be great, especially wehn you are running fcp on one of those huge new apple monitors….alot more drag and drop and gesture (trackpad) support would also give the app a more organic and hands on feel…..sure imovie stinks, but there are some ideas in there that are revolutionary if we will only be open to the changes.
    for me, my personal wishlist is even tighter integration with color and motion. and maybe a bit of a clean up on the color interface….just a bit more logical and a few more enhancements such as soft highlight clipping without resorting to the color fx room…that thing is a real brain teaser some times….

  23. CMoore

    Let me me non-technial for a moment……there is something that occurred to me. In general I don’t remember a time in the last many years when Apple let anyone get out in front of them in the market place. Generally they are the leaders. But it seems to me that since file based systems and work flows have been driving hard into the video eco-system that folks that Adobe, AVID, SONY and even Grass Valley have been making inroads in to Apple potential customer base. Sure the new version is supposed to be amazing, but the fact is this update is “overdue” and its not typical for apple to have to play catch up to anyone.

    You could say Apple had just to big of a job in the 64 bit re-write, or they they elected to wait for the Lion platform and new QuickTime. Sits all the many technical reasons already in discussion here. Fact is that their competition has not waited for anything right. Its not a matter of money, Apple has more money then God right now. I wonder sometimes if its not been a matter of priorities. Have the ProApple evangelists inside Apple had to keep talking Steve Jobs into staying engaged, or if Apple started to walk away from this, a few years ago, then changed their mind at some point…. after all they have all been about consumer space for sometime now.

    Just wondering

  24. First, Media Composer won’t be 64 bit until the next release, so it’s only Adobe who are there now. But Adobe write their own code – 90% of Premiere Pro is cross platform code written by Adobe, with a Cocoa skin on OS X and a Windows skin on Windows.

    Apple builds its applications on its OS technologies. They’re stabler that way and easier to move from processor to processor; OS to OS, because the OS team handles that in the frameworks. Applications built on top of it all get the benefit without (any/much) effort.

    Different design approaches that necessitate different timelines. What I think is unusual – or not like the past – is that the FCP/Pro Apps team seems to have access to AV Foundation as it was being developed. And that’s a good thing.