Monday, December 31, 2012

Final Cut Pro X 2013, PART 1

FCPX in 2012 [10.0.3-10.0.7]

Over the next several weeks we’ll be taking a look at where Apple’s Final Cut Pro X might be headed over the 2013 calendar year.  But first I thought it might be worth taking a look back at the past year and see just how far we’ve come before getting to where we might be going...

This will not be a feature by feature review.  If you’re looking for detailed notes on each release, I encourage you to seek out Apple’s own release notes.  Here I’m more interested in what these updates mean generally for the software’s future development.

When 2012 started there was still tons of doubt about FCPXs focus.  We had seen one major [10.0.1] and one minor [10.0.2] update in 2011, and although some important stability and usability issues were addressed in those updates, it had done little to diminish the long list of professional features that were indeed still missing from the application.  So was FCPX really meant for “hobbyists” or “Prosumers”?  Or was Apple’s ultimate goal indeed to eventually fill the same market-space as FCP7?

A NEW, OPEN APPLE [by Apple standards anyway...]

Released on November 16th 2011, FCPX 10.0.2 was in itself a minor maintenance release.  The bigger story was a list of pre-announced features appearing on the “What’s New” page of Apple’s Final Cut Pro X website.  Beyond the importance of the features themselves [Multicam & Broadcast Monitoring], Apple preemptively discussing any unreleased future product was a break from their modus operandi.  Shortly after FPX’s original release in June, in the firestorm of disappointment and burning hatred, Apple had done a Q&A in the addressing specific questions about whether Apple intended certain Pro features to return.

The 10.0.2 pre-announcements definitely seemed to indicate an intention to continue a more open dialogue with users- attempting to telegraph [as clearly as Apple ever would] that Pro features would would indeed return to FCPX, and in the near term.  Then on April 10th, just before NAB2012, Apple released FCPX 10.0.4 and this time invited members of the press to discuss upcoming features bound for the software “In 2012”.  The highlighted features again focused entirely on Pro-oriented requests, including RED and MXF support, Multichannel Audio Editing, and Dual Viewers.

This peak into FCPXs future development was a great start, I can’t help but think Apple needs do more to sooth the choppy waters FCPXs introduction caused.  Even if the platform matures as those of us who use it think that it will, the wariness about Apple’s commitment to the Pro user will likely continue to dog the software long after it has technically left those barriers behind.  

But Apple’s new PR push wasn’t without it’s stumbles...  In July, the LACPUG announced that Apple would be doing a presentation around the 1 year anniversary of the software’s release.  The wording of Apple’s PR blurb was vague, and the rumor mill went into overdrive- from attendees thinking they would see a preview of new features, to some even speculating that 10.1 might be released shortly thereafter.  As it turns out, it was a dog and pony show of all the features that had been re-implemented into the software since 10.0.  Reports on twitter were that the presentation did not go over well with many in attendance.  It was a miscommunication of messaging, but it’s exactly the type of confusion Apple needs to avoid.  

Going forward into 2013, I doubt we’ll see these feature pre-announcements continue for much longer.  As long as FCPX is re-integrating legacy functionality- they’re certainly not letting the cat out of the bag on anything by teasing us with the immediate roadmap, but once those holes have been filled, I’d bet very heavily against seeing Apple giving us lists of “next generation” features that could technically give it a competitive advantage.  That’s just good sense.


The features pre-announced with 10.0.2 were earmarked for “Early 2012”.  The general consensus was that this would mean 1st quarter of 2012... or more likely around NAB in April.  But to the surprise of just about everyone 10.0.3 was indeed released VERY early in 2012, on January 31st.  This in my mind is one of the big FCPX stories for 2012; the rapid and regular update cycle that Apple has been able to maintain throughout the year.  FCPX is still lagging behind from a feature perspective, but if they keep this pace up, it won’t be for long.

FCPX received 2 major feature updates and 3 maintenance updates in 2012.  If anything, it’s likely the FCPX development team is BEHIND on it’s own goals for the year.  On June 11th at Apple’s Worldwide Developers Conference, the company released it’s first Retina Mac, the 15” MacBookPro with Retina Display.  Along with it came Retina updates to several applications, including Aperture and Final Cut ProX [10.0.5].  It’s generally understood that Apple’s development teams work in tight silos, with one group knowing little to nothing about what another is doing until absolutely necessary.  So it’s quite probable that the FCPX team received little notice about the impending hardware update, and when they were informed that they’d need to have a Retina update ready for WWDC, had to push back the schedule for it’s next major release until they could get 10.0.5 out the door.  If they hadn’t had Retina support sprung on them, it seems possible we could have seen the 10.0.6 features in 10.0.5, around the 1 year anniversary of FCPX.

If you look at the release schedule thus far [see chart below], 10.0.6‘s 134 days is certainly the anomaly, with the average update cycle to that point being about 10 weeks [70 days].

FCPX RELEASE SCHEDULE [days between updates]

Keeping that in mind, the FCPX development team was STILL able to get 10.0.6 out on October 23rd, well clear of the “2012” deadline they announced at NAB.  AND they were also able to release an end-of-year maintenance update on December 6th [10.0.7].

In our next article we’ll examine more closely whether this release pattern will continue into 2013, or if we’re nearing a pivot point in the development of the software.


It used to be that Apple kept a very tight reign on product focus.  If Apple had a product to launch, they would put all their marketing effort behind that one product. Longtime Apple users will remember that even Final Cut Pro releases would get feature placement on Apple’s website not so long ago.  Of course, this was when Apple’s stable of products was much smaller.  2 laptops and 2 desktops, iPods, iLife and iWork suites, and their Pro software: FCP and Logic.

All thru this fall, as speculators attempted to estimate the release date for 10.0.6 [myself included], people would always black out ranges around Apple events, especially consumer focused ones.  The thinking being that Apple would want to keep it’s marketing message focused on whatever devices it was announcing that day.  But the day 10.0.6 was released in October, was the day of an event that introduced the iPad mini, and 4th generation iPad, the newly designed iMac, and a 13” variant of the Retina MacBook Pro.  Clearly, Apple isn’t worried about FCPX being released and muddying the PR waters for their other products.  

This is a positive in that it means that FCPX is free to follow along on it’s own development path unaffected by how Apple schedules it’s Mac and iOS products.  That’s not to say that they can’t pursue synergy where it makes sense.  This is why we saw the Retina MacBookPro and a Retina update to FCPX on the same day.  But FCPX  development won’t be slave to unrelated products.  That’s good news.


One thing that has been obvious from the start of FCPX is that Apple’s intention wasn’t just to update, but to rethink every aspect of the software- even if some might not want them to.  Every feature that has been brought back to FCPX in 2012 has been fundamentally rethought to make it more intuitive, more useful, and more powerful.  Multicam in 10.0.3 combined with the new Multichannel Audio Editing tools in 10.0.6 deliver an amazing step up from it’s legacy counterpart.  RED support has improved drastically, bringing it in-line with the best offerings from competitors.  Paste Attributes does the same job with more granularity and control.

And while it remains at present an incomplete solution, I think Roles holds great promise for the future; as a foundation for project organization, audio mixing, and project versioning [more to come on that later in this series].


While the application has come a long way since 2012 began, as we close out the year, there remains a lot of skepticism about FCPX.  While it seems to be finding a lot of friends in one-man and small shops, it’s penetration into more established markets remains a novelty at best.  Let’s make no mistake- FCPX’s deficiencies are very real for many workflows.  But each update comes with new stories of those decided to take the plunge and find advantages in FCPX’s new philosophies and concepts.

Full Disclosure: though I was playing with the software almost every day since it was released, I didn’t move the majority of my work to FCPX until the 10.0.4 release in April, when Broadcast Monitoring came out of Beta.  At this point I probably only open FCP7 once a week, to do a quick tweak to a legacy project, or for a client that needs FCP7 backup files.  But happily those are the exception these days.


In Part 2 of this series will look ahead to 2013 and discuss what form this years updates might take; and if, how, and when a 10.1 update is in the cards.

Sunday, March 11, 2012


The iPad is naturally generating a lot of buzz around the internet in the last week.  Most of it's been pretty positive, with the standard regiment of malcontents deciding it was "disappointing" or "underwhelming" for whatever reason.  And that's the point... I don't think I've heard anyone adequately explain what it was they were expecting that they didn't get.  There was just no outlandish surprises.  Oh, well...

Announced alongside the iPad was a refreshed TV, bringing 1080p support and a new UI-  it was nothing groundbreaking, but anyone that was expecting something more during an iPad event was deluding themselves.  Many argued that Apple wouldn't announce another product during the event, but the more I thought about the way Apple has been positioning AirPlay connectivity since iOS5 came out, it really made sense with the iPad's 2x resolution to both start delivering iTunes movies and TV shows at 1080p resolution, as well as release an TV which could push AirPlay from your iPad at the best possible resolution.

Here again we had lots of complaints, on one hand you have people surprised/disappointed that Apple's 1080p isn't BluRay quality.

Well... DUH!

But the other complaint is one we've hit twice in a row now- TV appStore.  I have to admit that when this rumour cropped up before the announcement of the TV2, I was onboard.  Heck, I was even planning with a friend of mine to start a weekly TV podcast.  But it was not to be then, and there was absolutely no mention of it last week.

I've thought about it a bit this week and I've come to a conclusion- it ain't gonna happen.  Sorry.  Nope.

Thinking about it in retrospect, it was clear when Apple launched the TV2 at Macworld in 2008, and the refresh at last week's iPad event sealed the deal.

Why am I so sure?

It comes down to two things-  First, storage.

When Apple launched the TV2, they removed the bulk of the internal storage from the original version.  Gone were the 40 or 160GB internal drives that had to be synched with a computer on your local home network.  In their place in the tiny shell of the TV2 was 8GB of flash memory.  Enough storage to buffer streaming of a movie or two, and that's it.  We haven't heard how much internal flash memory lives in the new TV, but I guarantee you it's not much more than 8GB.

If Apple were to launch an appStore for the TV, where does the user store all these apps?  A couple of good sized games or applications, and your going to be running out of space.  Especially if you consider the TV MUST keep a certain amount of that flash memory available for media streaming.  There's just no room to be downloading any reasonable amount of apps in the TVs current form factor.

And the second nail in the coffin?  The processor.

Apple updated the TV with an A5 processor.   But it wasn't the dual-core A5X with quad-core GPU that Apple put into the new iPad.  Heck, it wasn't even the dual-core A5 they put into last fall's iPhone4S.  It was an all new single-core A5, beefed up specifically to give the TV enough horsepower to decode h.264 using the High or Main profile [thanks, ars technica] at up to 25Mbps.  So what does this tell us?  If Apple had any intention to giving the TV access to an appStore, saddling it with this single-core A5 chip makes no sense at all.  It would make it already less powerful than the iPhone4, perhaps even less powerful than the 2009 iPhone3GS at some tasks.  No, this device has been specially tuned to do one thing and one thing well- media streaming.

And really, what's Apple's motivation for putting an appStore on a device that costs $99, and potentially poaching sales of vastly more profitable iPhones, iPodTouches, and iPads.  There is none.

So what's the deal?  Well, it all comes back to AirPlay.  Apple sees the TV as the widget to get your stuff from all your Apple gear onto your big screen.  That's it.  It's that simple.  If you want apps on your TV, then you can do that... by pushing them from your iOS device, and later this year with your Mac running Mountain Lion.  By doing this, Apple eliminates all the interface problems that would have come from a straight up appStore for TV.  No new multi-touch remote, no alternate versions of apps for TVs interface.  Just all the apps on your Mac or iOS device... on your TV.

So where does this leave us?  Well, I do think we'll see customized functionality for TV.  Apple is already showing us what this will look like with the new interface.  But it won't be apps we're downloading, but CHANNELS, much like the VIMEO or MLB or NETFLIX apps that come preinstalled on the new TV now.  Apps like this are very small, basically shells for displaying content streamed from the net.  So the storage constraints won't be an issue.  And it leaves the TV processor to do what it does best, stream media.

So if you have no interest in sports, you can delete all those apps from the interface, and hopefully [should networks finally come to their senses] be able to download HBOGO, or HULU, or CBS, or NICKELODEON or whatever.  Essentially creating your own cable box with only the channels you're interested in subscribing to.

So, sorry, no TV appStore.

Saturday, March 10, 2012


It seems like FCPX 10.0.3 just came out, bringing with it a host of new or renewed features including multicam, media relinking, layered photoshop file support, batch file renaming, and broadcast monitoring [Beta].  As well, it brought improvements to XML, colour correction, choma keying, and overall performance and stability.

But the biggest change, I think, might be the attitude towards the software.  I’ve seen lots of articles from people openly hostile towards the original release who’ve been converted, or at the very least their stance has softened.  Scott Simmons, who I’ve had several back and forths with on Twitter, wrote a great piece for Studio Daily about the current state of FCPX

The key point here in Scott’s article,

"...part of the argument against FCPX was its lack of certain core functions that editors have always relied on. Now that many of them are back the questions to ask about moving to FCPX is less about editing features and more about editing philosophy."

Quoth the internet, "THIS".  The reason I've been so frustrated to understand much of the reaction to FCPX, is that it seems most people's attitude was that ANY change to the way things are currently done means that it was no longer "Pro".

Well, to quote the ever-readable Philip Hodgetts of Intelligent Assistance,
"The first problem with making major improvements is that it will involve change and we know that no one likes change: they want things to get better but never change!"

I'm not going to go down this path too far, but to conclude this point, I've hear many people complain since the launch of FCPX that Apple is trying to "tell them now to edit".  Well, sure... they're proposing ideas that differ from the way things are currently done.  But as someone who's been editing since the first NLEs surfaced, I have to say, I don't remember being asked how I wanted to edit back then either!

In the end, there are two ways to look at Apple as a company investing into FCPX:

The first is that Apple is a company where editing software contributes basically nothing to their bottom line; their livelihood doesn’t depend on it’s success, so why should we expect them to take it seriously.
The second, is that Apple is a company where editing software contributes basically nothing to their bottom line; their livelihood doesn’t depend on it’s success, so they have the freedom to take chances that other companies that live or die on their software’s success cannot.
AVID isn’t going to do anything to rock the boat with their core user base.  Those users have their rut and dammit don’t screw with my interface or command keys!  This gives AVID very little room to maneuver in terms of innovating.  All they can do is make “the faster horse”.
Apple is willing to throw away core ideas and start over- and that’s where real innovation begins.

Wait... wasn’t this article about 10.0.4?
Ok.  Thanks for letting me vent...
Let’s take a look at Apple’s FCPX release schedule since the product first launched, with days between each update listed after-
10.0.0 - Jun 21, 2011
10.0.1 - Sep 20, 2011  [91 DAYS]
10.0.2 - Nov 16, 2011  [57 DAYS]
10.0.3 - Jan 31, 2012  [76 DAYS]
The smartest way to predict what Apple is going to do is look for patterns in their process.  We don’t have a lot of data to work with yet, but so far the update release cycle has been 10.0.1 [Feature Update], 10.0.2 [Bug Fix], 10.0.3 [Feature Update].  If we take that as gospel, we should expect to see FCPX 10.0.4 approximately 2 months after the release of 10.0.3.  The other thing to keep in mind is that with all but 1 of these updates, Apple releases on a Tuesday.
With that in mind, the earliest prospective date for 10.0.4 will be Tuesday, March 27th.
Now, this takes for granted that 10.0.4 will follow pattern and be all about bug fixes.  Should that be the case, expect to see no new “feature” functionality.  That said, I think we could still see further enhancements to FCPX’s XML [further expanding the hooks 3rd parties can use for cross-software compatibility] and added work on the CoreMediaIO Broadcast monitoring support.

However, we’re still in early days here, and it’s clear the FCPX development team has set itself aggressive goals for the software’s development.  So we might see another large scale release with 10.0.4.  Should that be the case, we could expect it no later than 3 months after the release of 10.0.3, or by Tuesday, May 1st.
Should 10.0.4 be a bigger update, I think the areas we might see some big changes are :
  • Audio mixing and improvement of the implementation of Roles
  • Improved multi-user and SAN support
Richard Taylor has posted an extensive list of improvements he’d like to see on his site FCPX.TV.  He’s already had to ace 9 items with the release of 10.0.3.  I imagine a lot more will be gone before the end of the year.
As with anything theorizing about Apple's plans, it's always a crap shoot.  They act like this, until they do that!  Though I didn't publish my predictions anywhere, I was within 2 week of my outside prediction of the 10.0.3 release date.  Let's see how I fare this time...
NEXT: my own take on ROLES.  The core idea is great, but I think they need to work on presentation.