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Legacy

In time
No one will remember our work
Our life will pass like the traces of a cloud
And be scattered like
Mist that is chased by the
Rays of the sun
For our time is the passing of a shadow
And our lives will run like
Sparks through the stubble.
Derek Jarman, Blue, 1993.

As Patrick Inhofer laments the passing of Color, my thoughts turn to the other applications we appear to have lost this week. Soundtrack Pro, DVD Studio Pro, Final Cut Server and Final Cut Pro 7. As a trainer and consultant my job involved helping people understand how these tools could enhance their workflow and create new possibilities for their projects. Latterly with Final Cut Server I had spent time helping these same people understand the importance of preserving their creative work. Not just keeping it, but making it accessible.

I do understand that software comes and goes. The best one can hope for is that the files are of a sufficiently open standard and that translation tools exist should an ignominious fate befall your tool of choice. Regarding this week’s news my friends at Meta Media Technologies have immediately declared a commitment to help creative companies transition with Final Cut Pro and Object Matrix have announced support for Final Cut Server migration. I’m sure others have similar intentions and I know I’m already embroiled in all sorts of discussions — it’s been rather a long week!

The thing is, you’ve probably guessed by now, I’m not really writing about software. I’m writing about our work. Our collective legacy. A few weeks ago I posted an entry about the importance of creating sustainable, well organised Libraries. At the time I was feeling encouraged by what we had seen of the Events Library in FCP X and had begun dreaming of what that might mean for Final Cut Server catalogues. It seems we’ll never know. In that piece I also wrote about the importance of preserving our media heritage. From home movies to mainstream, big budget media we should be concerned about preserving our stories. That’s what I really care about. It’s what I think we should all care about.

Metadata in FCP X is a great first step. I’d like a means of cataloguing and sharing that information amongst collaborators. It’s my hope that changes to the FCP project structure, while sealing the fate of Final Cut Server, will lead to a new, more robust media asset management system. One can dream.

This time next year (or perhaps sooner) we may all be merrily editing away with the Magnetic Timeline and watching the video playback on a calibrated reference monitor, quarrels about the feature set forgotten. I hope so. But we also need to make sure that we’re able to preserve our projects. Because they are our work. Our stories. The nomenclature of Final Cut Pro X actually recognise this. The developer team do understand. I know they do because open standards were the cornerstone of Final Cut Pro. I hope they understand that a project is never finished. That the work we create ought to live on. To achieve that sort of longevity, project files must to be both accessible and interpretable. We’re all depending on it.

UPDATE: Apple have published an FCP X FAQ, which explains that vast differences between FCP 7 and FCP X it may never be possible to update your legacy projects:

“Final Cut Pro X includes an all-new project architecture structured around a trackless timeline and connected clips. In addition, Final Cut Pro X features new and redesigned audio effects, video effects, and color grading tools. Because of these changes, there is no way to “translate” or bring in old projects without changing or losing data.”

UPDATE 2: In a post titled, Moving Forward, Larry Jordan recommends editors take action to ensure that they have a migration path for legacy FCP projects.

Missing

One of the things I love most about Final Cut Pro is the vibrancy and resourcefulness of the third-party ecosystem. It is comprised of clever folk who have dedicated themselves to providing the tools we use everyday to extend and enhance the core functionality of the Pro Apps. FCP was built this way by design and over the last 12 years third-party developers of all shapes and sizes have worked to create a range of products that has grown to be quite staggering — the comprehensive Product Directory at FinalCutters is testament to this. It’s not outlandish to argue that the breadth and diversity amongst the third-parties is what made FCP a force within the industry. In this respect it’s true to say that Final Cut Pro has no peer. And for this reason, if nothing else, the ecosystem should be championed.

Amongst all the commotion this week the dearth of third-party tools for Final Cut Pro X is perhaps what I find most jarring about the release. While I might be interested and excited about some of the new tools, I don’t quite recognise FCP without the community of ancillary developers. Philip Hodgetts, who has managed to become ubiquitous in this story, makes several comments in his comprehensive “What are the Answers to the Unanswered Questions about Final Cut Pro X?” article. Perhaps most encouraging of all, he writes:

“[D]uring my direct briefing, the Apple folk made it abundantly clear that the ecosystem was very important to them, and that there will be a new, and much improved, replacement for the current XML workflow. That’s entirely consistent with what I’d heard pre-release that there would be a new form of XML and that it would be accessed by some sort of SDK (Software Developer Kit). This seems like encouraging news, even if it will mean a lot of extra work on our own software to ‘get back to where we are’. Unfortunately, access to these features is not available at today’s release, so we have to wait until Apple deem it complete enough to open to third parties like us at Intelligent Assistance.”

It may be very difficult to see envisage a happy ending today, especially if the absence of a specifc feature means you’re struggling to understand how FCP X fits into your workflow puzzle. I can only say that we’ve been here before. The web may not have been around to amplify the concern in the same way, or the pedigree of the existing product lead to such particular expectations, but the we ought to remember that the original FCP faced criticism and derision on release. Up until recently we were fairly sure we knew how that turned out.

As Philip suggests, I can’t imagine that it will be this way forever, indeed alongside the new features (Rigging, Publishing and FxPlug 2) in Motion 5, some third-party tools are already available and there are signs that developers are eager to move forward. Just how far there is to go and how long it will take is impossible to judge, but once this happens Final Cut Pro X might just emerge as an exciting and vibrant solution.

UPDATE: Paul Griffiths has written a thoughtful and provocative article, “Thoughts on FCPX after the London Supermeet”, in which he also raises the subject of thrid-party support. The comments are interesting too!

UPDATE 2: Jon Chappell of Digital Rebellion has just posted a fascinating article, “Final Cut Pro X from a Developer Perspective” in which he summarises some of the new features and opportunities available to third-parties with FCP X. It has to be a good sign when someone who has as much insight and experience is seeing positives. Jon also makes reference to the results of some digging by Chris Kenny. He also seems pleased with what he’s discovered.

X

Oh my. What a day!

Let nobody be in any doubt that Final Cut Pro X has arrived. And I’m not sure that anything will ever be quite the same again.

Even at this early stage, I think that it’s safe to say that FCP X is a phenomenon (my apologies to those still grieving the loss of Shake, I didn’t mean to stir bad memories). I certainly haven’t experienced anything quite like it before — perhaps the opening weekend of a big event movie, or ticket sales for a large stadium tour, or dare I say it, those lines we join around Apple Stores whenever a new iOS device is released. It might be difficult to gain proper perspective from inside the bubble, because I don’t actually believe FCP has the same mass appeal as the iPhone, but I do think something pretty significant happened today.

Final Cut Pro X
Courtesy of Apple

Alongside the initial rush to the Mac App Store to get the software, there’s been a flurry of “first look” reviews and Tweets galore. The thirst for information seems unprecedented, the Ripple Training servers appear to be groaning heavily under the volume of downloads and poor Larry Jordan had his server fall over completely at one point. Apparently he received 1.2 million requests in the first 3 hours following the release. Given that Apple were talking about an install base of 2 million in April, that’s really something else!

Now I haven’t yet used Final Cut Pro X enough to pass judgement and I promised myself that I would take my time. However as I sit here musing about the events of the day and reading the ongoing discourse around what might be right or wrong with the software, I can’t help wondering if we might be missing something of the larger picture. For example, a lot of the commentary has referred to the paucity of tape options in FCP X and how this confirms every suspicion we ever had about the lack of “pro” features. Well we’ve all read Philip Hodgetts on the death of tape (if you haven’t, you should), but even as we discuss how Final Cut Pro X could be the NLE for the next 10 years, it strikes me that what we’re really witnessing could be the end of broadcast television

Earlier this week I had the good fortune of chatting with an editor who’s just wrapping up a video project to launch a new a high performance car. This advertisement had a budget of £1.5 million, but will never show on television, it’s been made specifically for the web. The thing is, this isn’t unusual, it’s rapidly becoming the norm. That conversation has helped put today’s events in some kind of perspective. Will we look back at this day as the moment a really big company made a clear signal of intent regarding the future of video content?

I may live to regret such grandiose thoughts, but as we move into the Morning After, I half expect to see a counter stamped at the bottom of the screen: Day Two.