The problem of “new wine”

Greg and I will head out for a long walk when we want to consider some big picture concept. Our most recent walk challenge: how do we fit the concept of Keyword Ranges in Final Cut Pro X, into the more traditional NLE model. As well as reminding me of the Biblical warning about new concepts into old models (at least metaphorically) there were interesting lessons along the way.

The specific challenge was to prompted by an increasing number of people who want to be able to translate Final Cut Pro X Event information into Final Cut Pro 7 Bins. Our Xto7 product only translates Final Cut Pro X Projects (edits) into Final Cut Pro 7 (and Premiere Pro) Sequences. We do not currently translate Events.

We’ve had a lot of requests for the ability to translate Events back to the traditional world: starting with Scott Simmons’ request (because FCP X is a great logging tool); through a number of producers who’ve started logging in FCP X but find that more experienced editors in their area are still on FCP 7 or earlier; to someone who wanted to deliberately work between the two Final Cuts! We resisted because, well we don’t want to encourage bad habits, and no matter how good we make the translation, it won’t be the same.

We also needed to consider how we would best represent time ranges from Lumberjack into Final Cut Pro 7 (and possibly Premiere Pro via FCP 7 XML, but we have other options for Premiere Pro).

Little did we realize how hard it would be. Going from 7toX we’ve always translated Bins and Sequences both. Going from 7 to X it’s easy to apply Keyword Ranges corresponding to Bin names to create a very familiar result. Not so going the other way. How do you represent overlapping time ranges in Final Cut Pro 7 so they can be findable in some sort of collection – i.e. a bin.

Markers with duration was the first and obvious choice. In many ways a good one, but… When you open a clip with marker ranges you clearly see the relationship between where ranges have been applied, somewhat like the List View in FCP X. But it’s hard to find Markers. You can only search Markers in FCP 7 if the Markers are displayed (expanded in List View).

Also there’s no way of collecting Markers together automatically in a bin. This makes finding specific markers corresponding to the Keyword Ranges more difficult and not a good experience for the editor.

We considered multiple Master Clips, each trimmed to an In/Out range corresponding with the Keyword range, in Bins named after the Keyword, but it can be hard to work within a short In/Out selection in the FCP 7 Viewer.

Subclips are not perfect because they don’t show how that range relates to the whole media file, but they are most analogous to the experience inside a Keyword Collection in FCP X, interpreted as best we can for FCP 7 (and Premiere Pro of course).

For Event translation via Xto7, that is the path we’ll take. This isn’t a formal announcement of a new feature, but it is something we’re actively considering after rejecting it for so long.

What we learnt along the way is (again) how different are the mindsets behind the two worlds of Final Cut Pro. NLEs in general are more optimized for narrative/scripted material where Scene, Shot and Take are the only metadata you need to log. Media Composer takes this further with ScriptSync, but that’s more editorial than logging.

Look at Log and Capture in Final Cut Pro 1-7: totally focused on reel, scene, shot, take and some notes. (You could add Markers here too, but I think few did.)  Even Log and Transfer kept the metaphors, probably out of necessity.

Keyword Ranges serve both the purpose of organization – in a bin-like manner – but also serve as soft subclips, so it turns out they’re equally flexible for narrative’s scene, shot, take metadata as Sam Mestman clearly shows in this LACPUG demonstration. Keyword Ranges are equally suited, and it seems to me more focused on, flexibility. Log what it is that you need to log, and I find that much more valuable for non-scripted: reality or documentary.

Now, Keyword Ranges are what inspired Lumberjack, which in essence records ranges of time during the shoot with keywords attached to the time ranges. Just what’s needed for non-scripted documentary and reality footage and a perfect match for Final Cut Pro X’s metaphors.

What has become obvious is that we’re finding very hard to find a way to create as good an experience for Final Cut Pro 7 users as we have now (in beta) for Final Cut Pro X.

It’s very hard to put a super-flexible approach like Keyword Ranges, into the fairly rigid structures of the past. Perhaps the solution is to just drink the new wine, and not try and put it in any wineskins!

4 replies on “The problem of “new wine””

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  1. That would be my only concern with investing too much effort in this problem- reasonably how much longer would you expect users to continue to work in 7? If it’s “X” percent this year, is it a quarter less next year? Half…? Regardless of what platform Legacy users decide to move to, it’s going to be an ever-shrinking number from this point forward. It could be a slow slide, with 2-3 more years of useful return on your investment. Or FPC7 usage could drop off a cliff.

    Not to cut you out of a potential source of revenue; but if anything, let’s hope that upcoming FCPX updates minimize the reasons people are still back peddling to 7.

  2. Actually Xto7 sales are growing, although to be honest we do not know why. It’s definitely not a “running away from FCP X” issue (which is what we expected and expected a one year life for the product). We think it’s because it’s one great way to integrate FCP X with the rest of the Adobe Suite, but we really don’t know.

    Like I said, it’s not back peddlers who are buying Xto7, but people who want to integrate more than one NLE in their workflow, or who want to integrate with After Effects, Encore or Audition but are much happier with FCP X than Premiere Pro.

    1. Philip,
      I have both, 7toX and Xto7. I bought Xto7 for the following reasons:

      – As a workaround just in case I needed to go back to 7 in my earlier FCPX projects.
      – As an adfortable all in one way to export EDL and OMF via FCP7.

      So, as long as people are going to FCPX, I guess Xto7 sales will continue to grow.

  3. Honestly, I still need to take X sequences into 7 because there are finishing houses that require us to deliver auto duck avid compatible (picture) aaf’s. (audio OMF ‘s too sometimes, but not often anymore as X2Pro works great). If someone came up with something that could get X sequence info into an Avid timeline there’d be no need for 7 at all.

    That said, being able to move back and forth between X and Pr/7/MC (more) easily would be a very good thing.

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