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First-Person Final Cut Pro X, Day Five: Trimming and Closing Thoughts


First-Person Final Cut Pro X is the unvarnished story of one pro editor's week-long introduction to the new Final Cut. Part 5 is the final installment.

So today I had to go back to a multicamera FCP 7 project and, truthfully, it was quite a relief.

I realized that part of that relief was the familiarity of knowing how the program would react when I did certain things. Do you remember when you were learning the difference between rippling an edit and rolling it and you were never sure which was the right one? That's a little bit how I feel with Final Cut Pro X.

I'm getting a little more comfortable, though, comfortable enough to start talking about things that I kind of like. Let's talk about trimming, for instance.

In X, there is only one trim tool (shortcut: T). Hover to the left of an edit and it ripples left; hover to the right of an edit and it ripples right; hover in the middle and it rolls; hover over the center of a clip and it slips; hover over the center and hold option, and it slides.

And yes, you can click and type a number or use the keyboard to nudge. How much time do you spend going back and forth between trim tools in FCP 7?

Another nice touch is the Precision Trim Editor. I've always hated FCP's Trim window and never used it, and this is a big improvement. Double-click an edit and it jumps into a mode where you see two filmstrips, the A side above and the B side below. The parts of the filmstrip that are not in the sequence are dimmed. But the important thing is that you can see the frames in the clip beyond the edit point, and to extend an edit you can just "skim" to its location and click and it ripples the edit. So if your objective is to extend an edit right up to the point where Indiana Jones cocks his head, this makes it pretty easy.

It reminds me a little of Avid's Transition Corner Editor, which I love, only you don't have to apply an effect to use it.

Complaint: often, when I'm adjusting pacing, I like to ripple the last cutaway, which opens up a gap on V1 and that way I get a little "air" between clips. In FCP X that doesn't work, because you can't ripple a clip on a connected storyline past the end of its primary clip -- it just rolls over the next primary clip. To do what I want in FCP X, I need to add a "gap clip" of 10-15 frames on the primary storyline and then I can extend the last cutaway over it. Maybe I'll find a better way, but right now I don't like it.

Second complaint: split edits. A split edit is where the audio and video don't cut at the same time. In FCP 7, this was very easy to achieve: make your audio cut where you want it, and then use the rolling edit tool to move just the video edit forward or backward.

Because FCP X treats video and audio as a single clip, it takes more work to achieve a split edit. The FCP X manual's instructions for creating a split edit could only have been written by somebody who had never used one in a real project: they suggest using a ripple edit, it takes five steps, and the result will not be what you want.

Thankfully, it's not actually that hard to do it the right way in FCP X! After you make the audio cut, you just have to select the clips on either side, choose "Expand Audio/Video" to separate the audio and video, choose the trim tool and roll (not ripple!) just the video.

You might say "that doesn't sound so much more difficult than FCP 7," but I might split a hundred edits a day. It gets really grating when something you do very frequently is just a little more difficult.

Another positive change: exporting out of FCP X is a vast improvement over FCP 7. It has always driven me nuts that you cannot save a Custom Quicktime export setting in FCP. How many times did I have to set H.264, 2000kbps, custom size 640x360, AAC @ 320kbps, over and over and over. I know you could "Send to Compressor," but I don't like having to go to another program to do it. I will say that Compressor 4 looks very speedy and promising.

Now, in FCP X, there's a Share menu that allows you to "Export Using Compressor Setting." That's the ticket! You can also send directly to YouTube, Vimeo, and even CNN's iReport.

What's missing, though, is that FCP 7 ability to export multiple sequences at once. For instance, I might be working on a project that has 11 different scenarios. Before, I could select all 11 and batch export them. Now, those 11 sequences all need to be separate projects, so you'd have to open and export them one after the other. Or maybe you can just drag the project files from the Finder directly into Compressor? I guess now it's time to study up on Compressor as well.

The piece is almost finished, and I'm very relieved and anxious to go back to FCP 7. All in all, I would much rather have done this project there. I don't think that's just inexperience talking, or the discomfort of having to learn something from scratch. There were things that I didn't do on this program at all because I just couldn't figure out a way to do them.

I wanted to add some transitions, for example, but first you need to get the two clips on either side of the transition into the same storyline. I don't like that, because once again it's an example of how FCP X often adds another step to a process and makes it take longer. And often I would select the adjacent clips and press command-G to link them into a storyline so I could add a transition, and it simply wouldn't happen. I don't know if that was a program error or user error, but it was very frustrating. So I just gave up and didn't add the transitions.

Which brings me back to where I was on day two: the "magnetic timeline" is cute, but it keeps me from making the sequence I want and therefore it really has to go.

It reminds me a little bit of when Apple was introducing FCP 1.0 and Steve Jobs showed us how we could take a clip from the Viewer and drop it on this beautiful transparent overlay in the Canvas to choose insert/overwrite/replace/etc. and the crowd went, "oooooooh." But who edits that way?

Maybe you'll say I didn't give it enough of a chance. That might be fair. I just played around with it for a few days. But the truth is that we have an editing paradigm that works for us in FCP 7. It's not enough to show us that if we completely rethink our workflow then we can do the same things in FCP X as we can in FCP 7 with a couple of extra steps. What can we do that's more efficient, faster, better? Yes, the infrastructure is improved; yes, the 64-bit implementation and background rendering mean things will be much faster... if we can still figure out a way to tell the stories we want to tell.

In conclusion, I think if Apple's FCP X team really is serious about wanting professionals to use this program -- and maybe they're not, and that's okay -- we will need to see it go back to a track-based editing metaphor, at least as an option. If that happens, I can't see why I wouldn't use it eventually. I don't really care about the feature set: they can always add multicam and OMF export and whatever else, and I'm sure they will. But if they add those features while retaining the current editing paradigm, it will still be very difficult to use professionally.

Film & video editor Matthew Levie is based in San Francisco; he produced and edited the documentary Honest Man and writes Blog and Capture. First-Person Final Cut Pro X is the unvarnished story of his week-long introduction to the new Final Cut.

Note that all opinions and assessments of FCP X expressed here are Matt's own, not TUAW's, and the representations of FCP X features represent Matt's hands-on first reactions. –Ed.

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