How will Apple solve FCP X monitoring? [Updated 7/7]
Over the last year I’ve managed to have some valuable insight on the direction Apple has been, and is, going with what became Final Cut Pro X, but of late the timing – June 21 – has got me thinking. One of the things that has bugged me is that Final Cut Pro X seems like it’s only most of a story. That there are still “other shoes to drop”. Since I don’t know how to quit when I’m “ahead” on the forward looking insight, here’s some more.
Since apparently the next update is coming “in a few weeks” according to the FAQ posted by Apple and will include the workflow/updated XML I wonder why it was released on June 21? What comes to mind is that Apple wanted to make it very clear that Final Cut Pro X will run on Snow Leopard (and uses Snow Leopard technologies like Grand Central Dispatch), even as the company prepares for the launch of the next OS – Lion – in the middle of July.
I don’t think it’s co-incidence that the first update release appears to be timed for Lion. Before I get to the topic of the title of this post, a little context. As I wrote a while back in Why we want Final Cut Pro rewritten to Cocoa, when you program to OS specific frameworks you get a lot of benefits “free”. In fact, what happens is that Operating System upgrades often bring new features to existing applications, just because the OS changed, and the application was written to take advantage of them.
Lion, I think, is a very important update for Apple. I harmonizes their two Operating Systems to a much greater degree than before. For a better understanding of the harmonization, you’ll need to sign up for a free developer account and watch some of the WWDC 11 videos. (But note, like me, signing up for that will put you under NDA so neither of us can discuss specifics.)
It seems to me that Final Cut Pro X, although written on Snow Leopard and released so that it’s obvious that it runs well on Snow Leopard, is clearly designed with a look toward a Lion future. Right from AV Foundation – the underpinnings of the media engine in Final Cut Pro X – to the single window(ish) interface, to the autosaving documents.
So, I fully expect that a small update (or not even an update) to Final Cut Pro X on Lion, will give use two Lion features immediately: versioning and a single window interface, Lion style. The latter is clear in the way the window operates. The former, not quite as obvious but the versioning features comes automatically with Cocoa’s NSDocument in Lion.
Versions would go a long way to alleviating the issues surrounding duplicating Projects to lock off certain states or to perform versioning. (The issue is that render files are duplicated.) To be able to go back to any earlier state of a Project will be helpful. And thanks to Lion it’s a feature provided by the OS rather than added to the application.
So, that brings me to the topic. Final Cut Pro X does not seem to have the same architecture as Final Cut Pro 7 and earlier, where external monitoring “hooks” were in the app for third parties to link to and send signals out to standard video signal formats – Component analog or SDI (or HDMI). AJA has announced a Final Cut Pro X solution that is effectively a mirrored desktop. Many find this unsuitable for color grading because of quality issues.
My first thoughts were that Thunderbolt equipped broadcast monitors might be a solution, but last night it struck me that the solution was really obvious and totally OS dependent but would give Final Cut Pro X a “real” video output: AirPlay.
AirPlay has been expanding under iOS to include video features, and it’s my expectation that it will also come “back to the Mac” with Lion although it’s not an announced feature that I can find.
So, Final Cut Pro X gets an AirPlay output option in Lion so that the video and audio can be streamed wirelessly to an AppleTV (hocky puck version) and now theres a real HDMI connector with the signal from Final Cut Pro X’s Viewer. For SDI there are HDMI to SDI converters available from AJA, Blackmagic Design and others. (Sorry if this blows a nice big surprise Apple has cooking for us, because this would be an amazing feature.)
And that’s how the Operating System solves a real problem for Final Cut Pro X. I wonder if there are solutions at the Operating System level for sharing projects?
[UPDATE] I clarified and expanded my thinking on monitoring.