Posts Tagged ‘FCP X’

X

Wednesday, June 22nd, 2011

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.

Emphasis

Thursday, June 16th, 2011

Have you heard the latest? At a recent LAFCPUG meeting Larry Jordan actually “guaranteed” that Final Cut Pro X, “will not be ready for professional use.” If you’ve been avoiding the part of the Internet that gets excited about such things, you can watch for yourself:

Now I hate to be a spoilsport, but surely there’s a world of difference between suggesting the software will not work in a specific context and we will not know how to use it at first? To be fair to Larry, if you listen further I think he actually goes on to make this point himself when he says, we need to “make this work for us”. To miss the wider point you also have to ignore the moment at the beginning where Larry ponders, “maybe [FCP X] is the absolute pinnacle of professional applications”. The trouble is that if you take all of this on board, the headline isn’t quite as dramatic.

For the record, I meet editors everyday who are convinced Final Cut Pro 7 is completely broken until I help them understand how it actually works. I don’t see why FCP X should be judged to a different standard.

Whenever Final Cut Pro X becomes available, we’re going to have to learn how to use it. Those of us who want to edit with it most effectively will need to invest time and energy into that process of discovery. How steep and involved the learning curve will be remains to be seen. We just need to be clear about whether it’s the software or us that’s ready or not.

UPDATE: Just as I finished typing this entry Larry posted his own response to the furore, “Wiping Egg Off My Face” to say that since he gave the presentation he’s been persuaded otherwise.

Value

Tuesday, June 14th, 2011

At the risk of casting myself as a Crazed Cinephile Stalker, I should probably admit upfront that I’ve followed Mike Figgis for a number of years before he signed up to Twitter. Previously I’ve sought out his films, read his books and screenplays, as well as spent time viewing his photographs. I even managed to stumble across his accidental appearance on “The Fourth Plinth” somehow (it would be a better/more scary story if I’d managed to be in Trafalgar Square, but I confess, I only watched the live stream online). During this time I’ve been fortunate to see him speak on a few occasions, most memorably at the first School of Sound in 1998 when I was student and what he had to say about Titanic resonated so deeply that I think it will live with me forever. I think it’s safe to say that he has managed to forge a career that is unparalleled in contemporary cinema, for better or worse. It is clear that Mike is a man with a fierce creative drive and voracious interest in the shapes that define the medium. All of which appeals to me greatly.

Mike Figgis
© Mike Figgis

Needless to say I jumped at the opportunity to attend a Guardian Masterclass with Mike with both feet. So this past weekend I took myself on the EuroStar to Paris and had the pleasure of listening to him share some great stories about his experience and process.

In preparation for the class I spent some time revisiting Mike’s work and embarked on a bit of a Figgis marathon. While I’ve enjoyed watching the films again, it was reading his Digital Filmmaking book that stopped me in my tracks. There are lots of really great, challenging and provocative ideas expressed within the pages, but one observation seemed particularly apt:

“[T]he word ‘amateur’ isn’t used very much any more. Nowadays everyone is a filmmaker. There is an interesting reason for this. Back in the day, there were two very big factors that separated the amateur from the pro: money and technology. An amateur filmmaker shot Super-8, a pro shot on 16mm or 35mm. The difference in equipment and cost was huge. The price of a pro camera was prohibitive, and the cost of processing and post-production so high that only the very rich or professionals could afford it. But that world has now vanished, and along with it the label ‘amateur’.”
Mike Figgis, “Digital Filmmaking” Faber and Faber, 2007, p. 1.

Now this title was originally published in 2007. What is that in Final Cut years? For those of you keeping score, and to provide some context, it was the year FCP 6 was released and we first met Color, as well as the RED ONE and the iPhone. This was a time before DSLR video and the iPad. So much about the technology we use has changed in this time, yet, as I believe the discussion around FCP X has shown, a great many of us are labouring under the misapprehension that these labels still matter. And whilst we argue a generation of filmmakers have moved on.

As I find myself conducting a bit of a history lesson, we should acknowledge that for British filmmakers the seeds of this change were sown many years ago. If we look to the 1980s we see a similar discourse emerge around ACTT Workshop Declaration. Then as now, the mainstream, commercial industry was challenged by those with access to fledgling technologies and alternative ways of working.

Where does this leave us today? I don’t believe that there’s a definitive answer, but we must accept that digital technology has changed our world forever. It’s possible that we’re part of a cycle and that the bubble will burst, but short of one of those doomsday scenarios where all computers fail or the Internet gets unplugged, I’m not sure I would want to stake everything on that.

What I see is an expanding group of filmmakers, some of them well established figures like Mike Figgis or my friend, John Akomfrah, who are actively seeking alternative means to stay productive. The tools they embrace are changing the game. Rather than aspire for the big budget extravaganza, they’re choosing to tackle more personal projects that industry often considers too risky or lacking in commercial opportunity. Overall these filmmakers are happier to work with less money if it means they maintain creative control of the film.

In this space an efficient workflow becomes even more critical. FCP X may cost $299 when it arrives, this is great if you need to keep your costs down, but it’s only part of the story. How you make use of the software is going to matter too. When you attempt to work outside the mainstream you just don’t have the money to throw at difficult problems, especially those you haven’t anticipated. It becomes vital that you take time to properly understand the tools you’re using or find collaborators who do. In his book Mike suggests you treat all of the tools you use, even the inexpensive ones, with a “seriousness” that reflects the value you place on your work. I think it’s the relationship between cost and value that will define your experience FCP X.

The wait for news from Cupertino may continue, but it’s high time the debate moved on.