Why are roles superior to tracks?
When I wrote on Saturday about how tracks have evolved from their compositing role, to one where they became defacto metadata I had no idea Apple were about to release the first Final Cut Pro X update (I only found out on Monday). I also wrote in Conquering the metadata foundations of Final Cut Pro X:
Apple teases us with Audio Role metadata that seems to have no current use within Final Cut Pro X.
If you open the Info Pane and select the Info tab, you will see the pop-up menu in Figure 20.1. showing the Roles
One magic way for this to be useful would be as a solution to the missing audio output options. In the near-magic, near-future I expect that a future version of Final Cut Pro X will use this Audio Role metadata to route audio outputs. At version 1 Final Cut Pro X’s audio output options are very basic, and there’s improvement coming, for sure.
So you can imagine how excited I was to open Final Cut Pro X 10.0.1 and see that those fairly limited audio roles (no doubt implemented specifically to enable export to OMF/AAF) had evolved into not only customizable Audio Roles, but to have the same option available for Video clips as well. And a Title Role comes rolled in!
Commenter Andrew Richards nailed it! Second commenter Marcus R. Moore also called out a real need. Well in the new release, not only can you use Roles in a Project to enable or disable clips assigned that Role, but selecting a Role highlights all Clips in the Project that have that Role assigned (either Audio or Video). Marcus kind of also gets his wish, because there’s a new option in the Project View settings to display the Role on clips, as an alternate to displaying the Clip name. It’s a non-destrcutive toggle.
There can be different Roles assigned for Audio and Video on the same clip and Roles can have sub-roles.
In fact, I think the implementation of Roles in Final Cut Pro X really completes the metadata story, and makes the Magnetic Timeline more valuable.
Here’s some of the ideas we’ve been thinking of:
- Multi-language Titles. Each language is a Role that is applied to the Title. With a single click on a checkbox, all titles from a language set can be enabled or disabled.
- Identifying A-roll and B-roll so one can turn off all B-roll to see the underlying A-roll story.
- Being able to selectively turn on or off the tracks that make up the audio mix, because now we can not just assign a Role of “SFX” or Dialog, but audio could be tagged with a Role that was, for example “Background Farm noise submix”. When (if) Apple implement a mixer in Final Cut Pro X then those clips could be assigned a single fader by Role name. Much smarter than track number mixing.
Roles now appear in the Event Browser’s list view as an optional column. This also means they are now available as a filterable field in the Filters window, or for Smart Collections.
I think (i.e. my opinion) that Roles provide all the advantages of using Tracks as de-facto metadata by making the job explicit and allowing us to use that metadata in a Smart Collection.
In other Final Cut Pro X update news
I truthfully have been focused on only part of the new version – the XML import and export specifically – so that we can have a new product to be announced at LAFCPUG @ DVExpo on Wednesday night, so I haven’t explored the other changes too much. I did go through every menu and dialog to find differences, but I’m sure this is not comprehensive.
Xsan is now officially supported for shared storage. At this point it’s shared storage of Events or Projects, not shared Events or Projects. Each Event or Project can only have one user active at a time.
Trial version. Check it out for yourself without commitment or cost. Apparently fully functional but time limited, so you can even finish something for yourself.
Improvements to Share with better movie export options (from memory)
API for camera manufacturers to add their own format support. So, if we expect or want Alexa RAW or R3D native, then those companies apparently will be stepping up to make it happen. Definitely an improvement though, because users should not have to wait for a Final Cut Pro X release in order to get support for a new format. The manufacturer can develop it themselves and have it available when their camera is launched.
This release was pretty much what I expected: XML and at least one other banner feature, a lot of tweaking and (presumably) bug fixes. They’ve knocked off a good number of features promised in the earlier FAQ, and Roles are an adequate (I say vastly better) way of achieving the same goal as track layouts did.
So, it seems they’re on the right path.
UPDATE: Turns out there’s more to Roles than meets the eye. Not only can you enable/disable particular roles in the Final Cut Pro X timeline, but there are new export options. The Export Media dialog now has options for exporting “Roles as Multitrack QuickTime Movie”, “Roles as Separate Files”, “Video Roles Only as Separate Files” and “Audio Roles Only as Separate Files”.
UPDATE 2: Here’s the knowledge base article listing the new features and bug fixes.