The present and future of post production business and technology

It’s hard to say goodbye

Josh Mellicker of posted on Facebook today that it was the 12th anniversary of the release of their first Final Cut Pro training product. Congratulations are in order. It also set me off thinking back.

The first inkling I had was at NAB – my first – in 1998. I had been aware of the Media 100/Apple QuickTime/KeyGrip announcement of a year earlier, of which only the QuickTime team had delivered their part: a cross platform fully featured QuickTime authoring environment. KeyGrip was to be the software that powered Media 100’s Windows efforts, as well as having a Mac version.

As soon as I saw Final Cut Pro, I knew my days as a Media 100 enthusiast would soon be over! It was the tool to grow into and I knew from that first view that it would be a hit.

That first view of (by then) Final Cut looked much more like Premier 4.2 than what we know as Final Cut Pro now. It was Apple that gave us the – for the day – nice design (for OS 9) that we still have in Final Cut Pro 7, 12 year later.

In turn we built our first training for Final Cut Pro – The DV Companion for Final Cut Pro – and released it some months later than DV Creators, but I might be arrogant enough to think we built a different, and in our opinion, better tool.

Final Cut Pro kept ourselves and five employees going for some years. It was a fresh market and people were hungry for training support that didn’t get in their way.

I’ve built uncountable Final Cut Pro systems for clients; worked on the 40th Anniversary DVD documentary for Mary Poppins; got me some IMDB (Internet Movie DataBase) entries; set up a few movie workflows; and done some fun things, all thanks to Final Cut Pro, and the team at Apple.

But it was obvious a couple of years ago that Final Cut Pro was past its peak. By the time Final Cut Pro 7 was released I was convinced that Apple were working on a complete rewrite since March 2010.

Clearly that’s exactly what they’ve delivered. A new foundation for a new generation, and I’m as excited about Final Cut Pro X as I was about the potential of Final Cut 0.9 at NAB 1998.

For most of the Final Cut Pro user base, it’s just a change of software. For some of us it’s 12 years of hard earned knowledge that is going to rapidly turn to nothing. (To be replaced, no doubt with a whole new generation of knowledge.) For trainers and writers: their turorials and books are depreciating in value as every minute ticks down to June.

It’s also goodbye to about six of our software products. That’s a little tough because we put a lot of work into them, but when you’re in the ecosystem you always have to expect the “big guy” to occasionally inflict “collateral damage”. To be honest, if they hadn’t made Matchback Magic obsolete, I’d have been depressed.

So, a new version of Final Cut Pro affects different people differently. Thanks to Final Cut Pro – at least in part – I live in a different country than I did when version 1.0 was released and now have a completely different business than back then.

Like every other Final Cut Pro developer, I’ve got a lot of questions, but I really do like what I see as I go over and over the sneak peek ahead of my Preparing for Final Cut Pro X webinar coming up. There will be a lot of observations – little things I’ve discovered – while studying the new version.  (The Seminar is free until it fills up.)






22 responses to “It’s hard to say goodbye”

  1. I had very much the same feeling, about the end of this version of FCP. It got me thinking back to all the now useless skills I have, over 20 years of editing. The job stays the same, but the tools get obsolete very quickly.

    As a result, I decided to take a trip back down memory lane and re-visit all of the end of life’d NLE’s (and LE’s too I guess) I’ve used over the years in a segment called Editor’s Wake. The first one is on discreet edit*, but there’s plenty more down the pipe.

    Let me add my boxes of FCP 2-7 next to that dusty Sony RM-450.

    1. Ah yes, RM 440, then 450. Good times. Not.

  2. I can remember the first time sitting down to edit on FCP. I was actually cutting “Inside Editing with Final Cut Pro version 1.25” (the third-ever training product) literally figuring the program out by literally watching instructor Evan Schechtman’s dailies on the monitor, while also reading the user manual perched on the lap. That first day I was so annoyed that I wasn’t allowed to cut it on our Avid. But after that first day I was smitten, eventually our 6-hour VHS training product was released and my career as a FCP editor officially began.

    It’s easy to get caught up on the single dimension of FCP being just a tool. But as you remind us, for so many of us FCP is our lives. We see it every day, pay our rent with it, talk to it (sometimes curse at it), and inspire us to be better creative people. Thanks for the great post Philip!

  3. Thanks for the mention Phillip!

    There is a minor typo at the end of your 5th paragraph though, I think it’s supposed to say “we built a different tool”.


  4. Standing back to look at it, I see so much of my personal FCP knowledgebase as a collection of workarounds. Like working around the perpetually broken keyframing in the Viewer or the inexplicable render errors or the cryptic General Error popup. “Did you trash your preferences?” is to FCP as “did you reboot?” is to Windows. Here’s to hoping FCPX makes it quick and easy to forget most of my FCP “tricks” and lets me dedicate any new learning to honing workflows instead of workarounds. Cheers!

  5. Eugene Lehnert

    I hope Apple pulls through with a new FCP. If not I guess it’s time to get an Avid and sell my iPhone and get a Droid.

    1. Because if you do one, you have to do both…?

      1. Eugene Lehnert

        No, I just don’t want to support the iPhone if I have to give up FCP. I used to be a die hard supporter of Apple. But if the success of the iPhone causes Apple to stray from the professional market I’d rather spend my money elsewhere. But we have yet to see what happens. I started on Avid but grew up on FCP from version 1.0. I remember it barely working when it first came out but I thought it was the greatest thing ever. Then it just kept on getting better.

        1. And it might still be getting better. That Apple has taken the time to rewrite and rethink FCP from the ground up is, to me, an indication of their commitment to the product. Much more so than simply slapping 64bit and native DSLR support onto the existing architecture would have been… But that’s what some people want- innovation without change- and as someone who starting cutting on film, I can tell you that doesn’t happen.

          There’s a lot of what I can only describe as fear mongering going on in the information vacuum right now. And quite honestly it’s depressing me. I expect that from teenagers on Gizmodo talking about iPhone rumours, not pro editors who gone through at least 3 sea changes in the last 20 years.

          Walter Biscardi’s inflammatory article was linked over to an AVID Community forum. Out of morbid curiosity I popped over to see what people were saying. And what I found was more intelligent analysis of Apple’s announcement than anywhere else. Go figure.

          Here’s one particularly apt gem,

          “What I find most dangerous is for Avid to embrace the idea that offline editors are the only post users that MC is aimed at… Offline editors are of course very important and a key Avid constituency. But wanting to work seamlessly with resolutions higher than HD, new file formats, faster render times, advanced color grading, effects and audio tools are by and large what’s making people buy new versions of their NLE’s.

          By the description of the article, users who want these feature sets are not real editors. Fine, call them whatever you like, just as long as you also call them “customers.”

          And if Philips assertions are true, the iPhone is DIRECTLY responsible for innovation that being put back into FCP. As Lion is demonstrating, OSX feeds iOS feeds OSX etc., etc… You may not like all the features that result from this virtuous cycle, but they are optional, allowing the platform to service the needs of users at many levels. Which looks eerily similar to they philosophy of FCPx.

          The ludicrousness of comments made in something like the Gizmodo article, which asserts that there’s only one kind of “Pro”, are self deluded and reek of either elitism or insecurity.

          If AVID continues to put 100% of their effort into satisfying an ever smaller segment of the overall market, they’re going to find themselves with an unsustainable business.

  6. At least there are lots of good choices if FCP X doesn’t suit your needs.

  7. Cris Aracena

    I must totally disagree with all of you, I’m FCP user since it’s “pro” (4.5) but my begin was with autodesk smoke 1 (formally Fire) in 1996 , and I Have to say until now, these days that version 1 of smoke, it’s completly better than actually FCP 7 , this new version X from apple is not more than a response or give up to going prosumer market rather than improve and go to a real pro version. I guess you are thinking about $$$ but it’s real you get what you paid . So this rewrite smells more like a lost more than a win .

    1. I’m really not sure what your argument is Cris. Smoke is not used as a creative editor, but as a finishing tool, so it’s needs are very different. I don’t know of a single person who uses Smoke as their creative editing tool.

      This rewrite will be a win for Apple, a win for the vast majority of professional editors who will get a much more fluid editing experience (and just wait until you see the gesture support) and a win for anyone not locked into old paradigms.

      1. Without giving anything away from your webinar next week [which I’m very much looking forward to], is a magic trackpad looking helpful in my future?

        1. I did find a reason to be looking for a Magic Trackpad image today. 🙂 Not too much intel there other than I expect it to be very big on gestures.

      2. Cris Aracena

        Exactly that it’s my point, actually NLE are a mix for editorial as well as finishing tool, they are not only edls makers, you stabilize shots, do some color correction, multitrack layers of video, even mask , chroma key, from that point of view Apple tried to go pro , but I think that there’s a doubt with the finishing professionals who rely on tools like Shake for example, remember that Apple acquire that technology and then killed it, where all of that resources are going to on the near future? , I hope to see a new finishing suite and not a IMovie prosumer product.

  8. Terry Solenberger

    Very interesting comments from all of you. Even Cris, though I wonder if Cris is referring to Discreet Edit which has been integrated into Autodesk Flame and Smoke. Smoke mainly uses it as a timeline editor for taking the media into the finishing stage.

    Anyway, I do see Apple trying to integrate aspects of most of its competitors’ products into theirs, not copying but just taking the functions that make practical sense and utilizing them with many new functions of their own making.

    My guess is that Final Cut Pro X may become an NLE, a Compositing program, a Sound Editing program, an efficient Color correcting program, possibly a Motion Graphics design program, and a finishing program – all rolled into one! Or, at least elements from all of these types of programs would be integrated into it, so that it can help the majority of editors create better content.

    I’ve been studying the images of the interface released by Apple, and with the power of the HUD menu system, most of Final Cut Pro’s extensive menu options may have been moved into there. Randy Ubillos, who gave the demo, constantly pulled up on the HUD menu function for many adjustments. He never clicked on any of the media/content buttons located between the canvas window (if it will be still called that) and the timeline. Many would assume that they are just media/content buttons to pull up iTunes, iPhoto Library, etc., but those other options lead me to believe that they may be toggle buttons for switching between edit environments. Those would be the evolved or integrated interfaces of the remaining suite of programs – Motion, Soundtrack Pro, Color, DVD Studio Pro (if it’s still alive), maybe even Shake, and the one button on the end may be for Plug-Ins. I am probably way off on all of this, but it would not surprise me if Apple did this, or at least integrated more aspects of these programs into Final Cut Pro. Then they would have more advanced versions of the other applications to be additional tools for further finessing.

    If Apple has done the impossible, as it has done with many other products, they may have created the most integrated visual media editor, content creator, and finishing product for a price no other competitor can possibly match. If it’s so, it will definitely turn the industry on it’s ear.

    Philip, you are probably thinking this guy has gone completely crackers – LOL! Well one can only hope and dream about such things. Based on Apple’s pricing, I expect to see additional products or expansions on FCP X for additional cash.

    1. Cris Aracena

      I was referring Fire 2,0 (discreet logic at that time), that sotware was a response to all the people who asked for editors tools who Flame didn’t have at the 90’s.
      There’s a thin line between editorial and finishing, you can do it both on the same platform , or viceversa.
      Sorry for my English regards from Southamerica .

  9. It’s a wonderful tale you tell Terry. Personally I doubt it, due to the similarity of those icons to other places in the Apple ecosystem. But to do all that for $299? That would be magic.

    Having spent too much time pouring over the hi rest images (which surprisingly are higher resolution than any current Mac screen, let alone a laptop screen, ie probably mockups) and pretty much every frame of the video and the demo multiple times, it looks like a very fluid interface that I can’t wait to get my hands on, for editing and enough finishing for most people’s needs.

    1. Terry Solenberger

      Yes magic indeed. More likely I can see them just adding more ways to finesse the content by integrating aspects of each of their post-production programs, into the FCP X app, just to give it more functionality in the real world. It tends to be their pattern with previous releases. Hopefully the other applications have not gone by the wayside.

      Thanks for the quick reply. I look forward to your webinar next week. Take care.

  10. Phillip, talk about skill sets vanished! How about properly loading 16mm film into an Aaton, Arri, CP16 so you wouldn’t get any jams? Or panning, focusing, zooming at the same time with an Angenieux zoom? Or loading film mags in a changing bag or effectively cleaning the film gate so your original would become fatally scratched while shooting? How about editing sound track and workprint on an eight plate Steinbeck, or conforming a workprint to original by reading and matching edge numbers, and syncing the final optical track to picture original for printing? When you cut and spliced original footage, you had one shot at making the acetone splice solid. It took nerve and confidence. These were specialized skills honed and lost by the documentary filmmakers of my generation. We honestly don’t miss them, except for the pride of our craft, but I definitely appreciate your heart felt sentiments. 🙂

    How many mechanics today know how to work on a carburetor? Ha, ha.


    1. I do not miss color framing on edits! Four fields in NTSC, eight in PAL!

  11. I already sold my iphone 4 and got a droid. And I’ve always cut on the Avid.