My 2012 retrospective

2012 has been one of the most interesting years I’ve had in a long time. The year started with the release of 7toX for Final Cut Pro followed by Sync-N-Link X to mark our fourth piece of Final Cut Pro X software. Then came the intense planning for the Solar Odyssey journey and production, followed by the disappointing reality that it descended into. Fortunately a lot of good has come out of the experience. It’s also been a year where the maturing of Final Cut Pro X has won over more people, and the consensus is favoring big sensors. Terry Curren and I took a look back on the trends of 2012 and Larry Jordan also did a good take on the trends on his blog. This is much more my subjective take on my year.

When Apple released Final Cut Pro X, in June 2011, it was obvious that the business we’d been building in Final Cut Pro 7 (and Premiere Pro CS) workflow software was over. Reality bites sometimes, but ultimately the only thing you can do is move forward and find new opportunities. We released Event Manager X just two weeks after Final Cut Pro X, long before there was any FCP X XML to work with. That simple app has now grown into a powerful library manager for Final Cut Pro X, thanks largely to user suggestions.

Following that early move we were granted early access to Final Cut Pro X 1.0.1 (and ultimately 1.0.3) so we could start work on a translation tool. The earliest releases only supported XML export, so Greg got to work on translating from FCPX XML back to FCP 7 XML as an internal project. I convinced him that there was a market for integrating Final Cut Pro X into established workflows based on FCP 7 XML, so we released it co-inciding with the release of Final Cut Pro X 1.0.1 in September 2011.

At that time we’d only just started working on 7toX for Final Cut Pro, much to my own surprise. At the time of my initial Final Cut Pro X briefing a week before its release, I got the definite impression that someone (else) was working on the 7 to X translation. That was definitely part of my reason for pushing Xto7: so that we would have at least part of the action! As it turns out, no-one was working on it and the 7toX opportunity came to us.

Greg and I are very proud of the work we did on 7toX. The end result is very much better than we imagined it could be, given how different the two NLEs are at the core. Of course, it’s continued to improve throughout the year, with the 16th release coming out just two weeks ago. (That’s a release every three weeks for those who care.)

During 2012, Final Cut Pro X matured, with three major updates. I count Retina display support a major update based on the amount of work that was likely needed. (Check the interface between the two versions: there’s been more work done than simply swapping out graphics for higher resolution ones.) I’ve also noticed a distinct softening of the “hate” on Final Cut Pro X, with more people getting to understand it’s benefits. For us it was gratifying to find it used on some TV shows, that also featured our software in their workflows.

The early part of 2012 saw me planning on shooting – and editing – a reality TV show based on a solar powered boat journey around the Great Loop waterway. I expected to be away from May to October, but turns out was only out of LA for a total of seven weeks: none of them actually doing what I planned. I had three goals from the trip: I wanted to do the water journey around the Great Loop, it looked like fun; I wanted to produce (and help shoot and edit) a show working with modern production tools and Final Cut Pro X; and we were using the production as a proving ground for an idea I had for on-set logging that translates into the NLE directly.

When I planned the project, the only way I could see us achieving the ambitious goal I’d set, was to rethink the workflow. The software was the only logical solution (other than throw lots of people at it, something not practical on a boat built for six people).

While the journey didn’t happen as planned, largely because the boat was very late in completion, and somewhat less than what was needed to meet the goals, I do have an episodic show to cut, and the software is coming along nicely. The show is not about the journey, but the journey to the journey’s starting point! So far Final Cut Pro X has been working for me, with media on a G-Speed RAID. Two out of three goals isn’t too bad!

There’s more detail about the, boat, the journey and the production lessons I learnt in a recent Terence and Philip Show, while I wrote about my observations afterward, in What I learned about working with a small production footprint.

The software is coming along well and will be previewed (or perhaps released) at the Hollywood Post Alliance retreat in February 2013. I think it will meet a need in the non-scripted production market.

The Solar Odyssey experience allowed me to spend a lot more time with long standing friends who I knew online and from NAB. Jeff and Sharon Handy in St Petersburg, and particularly Dan and Barbara Spiess in Gainesville. Not only did they open their home to me, but Dan introduced me to the best beer I’ve ever had: Midnight Oil by brewmaster Craig Birkmaier. The brewery is Swamp Head. Craig’s name may be familiar to those who recall his involvement early on with Media 100, and the GV100 switcher before that. All the beers I tried there were outstanding, but Midnight Oil (an oatmeal coffee stout) really appealed to me. Sadly it’s hard to get outside Gainesville, even at bars that stock other Swamp Head beers (mostly the excellent IPA).

2012 was the year I reignited my love of photography. While I shot quite a lot with my iPhone camera (the best camera is the one you have with you) I was missing the flexibility of an SLR. Solar Odyssey “forced” me to buy three NEX 7s as B-cameras (one was supposed to be for a quad copter that never eventuated). I’ve kept two of the cameras and really like the images I shoot with them. Plus they just have to be the best quality video camera I’ve ever had! (With limitations for sure, but they’re still amazing for the price.) See my top 100 shots for the year on Facebook.

The Solar Odyssey experience has also led me to realize I do like production, so I’m encouraging myself to do one show a year to keep my skill level up, but also to find new ways of utilizing software to take out the more boring parts of the editing process.

Solar Odyssey was also the reason I suddenly acquired an interest in quad copters. I did some training with the excellent folk at and practiced extensively across the summer on a Blade MQX helicopter. I spent 45 minutes a day for two months practicing and got reasonably good, but it was hard work. After the journey, I spoilt myself with a Parrot AR Drone 2.0.

All that effort learning a complicated tool, went out the window thanks to the superior software that controls the AR Drone from an Android or Apple device. I’m sure there’s a metaphor in there about how software is taking over skilled trades, but in this context it makes perfect sense because it democratizes the flying of these quad copters so much that the AR Drone can be used in multi-player games in real 3D space! Yep, it’s a metaphor all right. Now I have to find a reason to fly it: it’s simple enough that I don’t need to fly every day for practice. (It comes with a built-in camera but I have a GoPro mount on order.)

After the insanity of our summer, the opportunity to take a break for a few days in a remote cabin in Big Elk Meadows, CO – courtesy of Jerry and Julie Hofman – was a perfect way to relax, regroup and think about the future. We ended up timing the Fall color change for the local Aspen perfectly, as you’ll see in the gallery of top photos for the year!

Finally, this was the year I really got control of my health. After the typical mid-50’s high blood pressure scare in early 2011, I started dropping weight and eating much more healthy food. The trap was that we though we did eat relatively healthy food. We mostly eat at home food prepared from mostly fresh ingredients, but when I started tracking what I did actually eat, it came as a bit of a shock. (I use fwiw.) We started walking too, around the streets of Burbank.

It took about a month to get my blood pressure under control (no thanks to my GP who mentioned nothing about diet or exercise), but we kept walking and I kept losing weight. Dropping from 176 down to around 147 (about 67KG) by early 2012. 147 lbs but still no visible muscle, just more flab to lose! The primary exercise was still walking, which we’d picked to around 3.5 miles a day (about an hour’s walking).

In August of 2011 I started into the pool that’s been taunting me in front of our apartment from the day we moved in. Avalon Burbank has a good lap pool at about 68×30′ that is heated and open all year round. It’s exactly 63 steps from our apartment door to the steps into the pool. I have no excuse for not using it earlier.

Over the 16 months since then – with time out in Florida – regular swimming has allowed me to build back up to around 160, with some visible muscle now! I’m sure the ready availability of the pool gives me an advantage in actually getting in and doing it, over having to dress and go to the YMCA or other fitness club with a pool. I am also fortunate too that I mostly have control over my schedule, so I can plan on swimming when no-one else wants the pool. (Not so much a problem at this time of the year!) The exercise also helps keep the head clear and the blood flowing. It fights the premature old age I was heading for two years ago.

So, all in all a good year. I hope 2013 brings you every good think you wish for and work toward. Happy New Year!

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