The present and future of post production business and technology

What would a new editing interface be like?

At the most recent meeting of the Editor’s Lounge (held at Keycode Media) Steve Cohen – blogger and author of Avid Agility – expanded on some of his blogged thinking on the possibilities of a new, more fluid editing interface. An interface that didn’t stop every time you did something!

And that got me thinking about how Apple might change up the interface, riffing on some of what has been rumored.

One rumor is that the new interface design does away with a dedicated “Viewer” (Source) window. This has caused not a little “freak out” from some people. Now I’m not a big user of the Viewer, but even I realize that there is functionality there that can’t go away.

That’s a dilemma: how would the functionality be implemented? What functionality? Clearly trimming clips would be number one functionality. Now iMovie (in all its forms) has various mechanisms to trim clips, but they seem somewhat more suited to a consumer interface. What about manipulating the settings that are grouped in the current Motion Tab, or the Filters tab?

One way would be to “redo” the Media 100 (and iMovie ’11) approach of simply using one window that swaps function between trimming clips and viewing a timeline. While I never found that a limitation in my Media 100 days, I do note that the modern version has an option for the more traditional two-up display! So much for the success of that experiment. (Or it could simply be that Boris gave in to Media 100 users’ demands to be like other NLE’s?)

I’ve already asked for Quickview functionality in a Bin/Browser and while that would be nice, it’s not a replacement for a Viewer’s functionality. I fully expect that any clip will play from its icon – that’s in the Finder even – but (perhaps) tap it and it enlarges to a preset size with JKL shuttle, i/o to set In and Out, the ability to expand the pseudo timeline view or enlarge the “player” with a pinch multi-touch. Click again to reduce in size back to default bin size; or use keystroke – or click and drag – to add to a timeline.

As for the functionality needed for Motion Tab, Filters and Audio? Well, the last major interface rethink that happened within the Pro Apps group was Motion, so I’d say that suggests some form of Heads Up Display (HUD) will cross over.

Or they’ll think of some other way. Perhaps using only one Timeline instead of a Sequence Timeline and Clip Timeline (effectively) in the Viewer. Or they could borrow the timeline concept from Shake, where a timeline was only accessed for a clip when it was needed.

The fact that a dedicated Viewer window may not be there doesn’t mean that the functionality can be lost, so I’ll be most interested to learn how exactly they’ve implemented the functionality. I suspect it will be something that seems odd at times, but when you start using it, becomes very obvious and very fluid. (By fluid, I mean that the interface gets out of the way when you’re working.)

I think we’ll be blown away by the interface. Remember this is the first time Apple have designed a professional NLE, and they’re likely – as someone else said at the Editor’s Lounge event – to “Skate where the puck will be” not where it is now.

That same panelist referred back to my quoting of Henry Ford, which suggests that what Apple are doing may not resemble what’s gone before.

Personally I can’t wait.

While I generally welcome comments, if all you’ve got to say is how a professional NLE can’t exist without a “Viewer”, don’t bother. On the other hand, if you have ideas of how the NLE interface might evolve (Minority Report style? Brain waves?) let’s hear them. Or you might be like Zak Ray and have some seriously new thoughts on interfaces.






27 responses to “What would a new editing interface be like?”

  1. Alan Spaulding

    I’m really excited as well!

  2. Chris WIlby

    Perhaps the Apple Trackpad will come more into play with the new version…
    My thoughts wondered back in time to Claris Works; you pick the tool to do the part of the work you need to work on… or was I thinking of Smoke? Now that would be fun!

    PS. Keep up the good work Phil

  3. Cutman

    I too think that multi-touch will be present in the new interface. Looking at the iPad2 iMovie demo it makes perfect sense.

    I suspect the “Timeline” will be the consistent window between editing modes and applications like Motion and Color (if they aren’t combined into one über app).

    The iMove interface seems perfectly appropriate for a quick and dirty assembly edit where rapid timeline filling is the key. I’m sure the next FCP will build on this foundation with an interface that “evolves” to best suit the task in hand.

    I’m sure the Trailer Maker in iMovie is a subset of a whole new pre-vis/scripting tool in FCP that tracks people and scenes with faces, timecode and metadata. FCP will handle clips like a video version of Aperture. You’ll be able to throw an edit together from this scripting tool by filling in scenes just like they did with the trailer maker.

    Basically I’m ready to be amazed, no pressure!

    I think Smoke will be smoked. I’m betting on an integrated application like Smoke but with the benefit of a clean sheet of paper when it comes to UI design. Maybe the Magic Trackpads will be the must have Mac accessory of 2011.

    Happy days…

  4. Ron Cozadd

    Should be interesting to see what they do. Back in the analog days, we used one monitor for both preview and edit using multiple playback machines. Maybe this is what they are planning… kind of a one monitor multi machine set up with your bins becoming virtual machines.

    As always very intriguing Phil!

  5. I put together a wish list for FCP about a year ago. Let me know what you think:

    1. I’d be surprised if we got any of those, but they’re inventive.

  6. Chris WIlby

    Just ask Larry Jordan?

  7. Larry, and about 99 other people know what the interface looks like. One of the others used the “skate to where the puck will be” story as a metaphor for the new interface. Same person referenced my quoting of Henry Ford. However, like all those that saw it at the Feb event, Larry Jordan is under NDA and cannot speak beyond “Awesome” and “Jaw dropping” – comments I assume Apple approved.

  8. Paul


    I’m wondering why so many people are assuming an imminent FCP announcement. Sure, Larry and others saw it. We all know it’s coming. Everyone seems to think apple is preparing to announce something right before or during NAB. Believe me – I’m patiently waiting and would love to see something within the next few weeks. However I think it’s entirely possible that apple allows NAB to pass without any news.

    Your thoughts?


    1. I think the chances of an FCP announcement near NAB is around zero. Officially the word is “Spring 2011” and so far we’re 9 days into Spring which ends June 20. I believe Apple will release this at an event or events where they can completely control the message and have all the focus on themselves.

  9. Christian Wilby

    If I was a betting man (and I’m not) I’de say in and around the Developers Conference would be a good time. Could anything show off OSX Lion better than a spanking brand new Mac Pro with the new all-singing all-dancing FCS? Tie that in with the new ATI cards and we’ll all be giggling and squealing like little girlies!

    Bring it on Apple… bring it on!

    1. It’s a plausible as any idea, but Apple tends to compartmentalize announcements, so I’d expect FCP-A (for Awesome) to be released at a specific Apple event. But who knows, it’s Apple!

  10. Christian Wilby

    It would seem that even the British Government wants to help Apple!

    1. At least one minister does!

  11. You’re right, Philip, that Apple likes to compartmentalize releases, giving each announcement some time on the homepage and in the press to shine. So I actually think that the announcement that Apple will NOT be having an iOS5 preview event in April, but at WWDC along with Lion in June, bodes well for FCP.

    I think it opens them a good window in April to take the veil of FCP. Terrence is correct that a pre-NAB announcement would definitely dominate that show, and one could only guess as to why Apple wouldn’t choose do to that. What IS clear, though, is that every week after NAB that Apple doesn’t at least publicly preview and set the launch date for FCPx is another week that some circles will get itchier feet.

    I think the other thing to consider is that Apple’s [and really we only have an email from Jobs to confirm this] stated launch window of “Spring” is from October of last year. Any number of factors were probably still undecided as to how to launch it. So I’d be hesitant to take “Spring” to mean anything in particular. Unless of course you have some other source of clarification…

  12. Spring is also the officially announced time frame for FCP-A (for Awesome) from the Feb 17 event.

  13. Ah, I was unawares that the Spring timeframe had been mentioned at the event. Still, Apple is the master of vaguaries. So if they’re planning on having it on shelves in Spring, we could be seeing a public demo anytime.

    Regardless, we’re not far off in the grand scheme of things. And being in the middle of a big feature job, I wouldn’t want to make the switch midstream. So outside of my interest in a public demo, I’m happy to wait.

  14. I’ll be over it day 1 it’s publicly announced to determine if it works with our software tools! Would be nice to be invited to a beta at an appropriate time (not too early, I’d hate to have to stop speculating!)

  15. What’s really starting to dawn on me is how powerful the Quartz Composer tools can be. I’m sure it’s only scratching the surface, but Noise Industries photomontage plugin is just one example of how to largely automate tasks that are a horrible pain in the butt to keyframe.

    Clients are always looking for this kind of stuff, and what really amazes me is the amount of flexibility and customization that it seems to allow. Easy where it needs to be, and deep where you’d want it.

    As much as some people will complain that you have to buy extras like this, Apple can’t and shouldn’t be expected to deliver the best of any kind of effect or tool. The most important thing is that they provide a powerful base, which allows third parties to expand on easily. The lowest end of the prosumer market will complain that these things should be built into the Studio by Apple. But for pros, dropping $200 on a plug-in that saves them days of time on jobs is a no-brainer!

    1. Quartz Composer is amazing. I can’t wait to work out what could be done between QC, a scriptable FCP and XML exchange.

  16. Steve

    Grass Valleys News Edit (Aurora) has only one monitor that swaps roles, i.e. source/record, and it is awful to use!!!

  17. Christian Wilby

    Stop using it then! Have you heard of FCP?

    1. Yes, it looks like someone at Apple made a very last minute decision and threw money at it. 🙂 First heard last night, was waiting for an official announcement before commenting.

  18. It makes no end of sense. Apple has no iOS5 preview to push in April, and [perhaps] iMac, MacPro, and CinemaDisplay refreshes to fill the gap; none of which merit an event for their inclusion of updated processors or Thunderbolt ports.

    That means it’s an open field until WWDC in June. So they have whatever time they feel they need to devote to this rollout and it’s intended audience.

    Terrence was right. Even with this happening on the 12th, it will dominate discussion for the entire week- and the other players who were pushed out of the way, though annoyed, will be just as anxious to see what Apple as in store, as it’s the platform that’s the basis for their hardware/software releases.

    And a “Spring” launch means I say it has a street date of before WWDC.

  19. Chris WIlby

    Even Larry Jordan was taken aback by this!

    Bring it on!!!