FCP-X: Stop whining and get back to work!

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"Well I lay my head on the railroad tracks

waiting for the double E

but the railroad don't run no more

poor, poor pitiful me!" Warren Zevon

First, let me say that I'm not going to apologize for Apple's release of FCP-X.  Apple can do that themselves, if they're interested.  I think they're not.

Second, let me say that I'm not going to condemn Apple for the release of FCP-X.  There's plenty of people doing that, already.

The truth is, I think it's irrelevant.  Would an apology from Apple really make a difference in your work?  I know that it won't make any difference in mine.

Apple has a history of turning the world upside down every so often.  The Apple II changed the very nature of how computers are used, and then the Macintosh changed it again, helping to kill off the market for the Apple II.  The iPod changed the music business (although the major record labels are still trying to deny this), and the iPhone is probably killing off the market for the iPod.

The original release of FCP helped to usher in the "digital revolution" along with cheap DV cameras like the Sony VX1000 and the Panasonic DVX100.  Over the last decade, FCP clawed its way into the establishment of production and post production, including TV networks and reality TV producers, largely because it was cheaper than Avid and there was a growing pool of talented FCP savvy editors.

Apple took a radical approach in re-imagining FCP, throwing out a lot of what made it acceptable to "high-end professionals" and tape oriented operations in the process.  Some people were bound to be happy, others unhappy.

When Apple first announced the imminent release of FCP-X this past April a rather loud and nervous segment of the FCP user community, derided by me as "Chicken Littles" (in hindsight, it should have been "Chickens Little") has been using up an unimaginable amount of bandwidth in complaining about a program that none of them had even had a chance to use.

They started with a shit storm of wild speculation about what features the new FCP-X might (or might not) be missing.  They derided it as "iMovie Pro".  They said that the sky would fall, and that no independent film maker or editor could ever hope to survive the introduction of the new software.

On June 21st, Apple finally released FCP-X.  And the shit storm has gotten thicker and more intense.

Many of the same people have decided that not only is the sky falling, but the universe is ending, as well.  Why?

I think the simple answer is that some people can't separate the work they do as editors and film makers from the software that they do the work with.  That's bad, but it's not Apple's fault.  Apple doesn't (and shouldn't) decide when and where to make a cut anymore than Avid does (or should).

That's the job of THE EDITOR.  A person.  Not the software.  Not the hardware.  The human.

If your skill as an editor, or your business model, or your lifestyle are so tied to the platform you use that a simple change completely upsets everything, then I think that you were in trouble from the start.

In theory, if the client decides on a moment's notice that they want to change editing platforms, the editor should be able to change with them, even if they need training on the new platform.  After all, the decision to make an edit should be based on how it tells the story, not what editing platform you use.

To be fair, every edit platform has its advantages and disadvantages.  Media Composer's great strengths have always been in media management, shared storage, collaborative workflow and managing the offline to online process.  FCP's great strengths have always been in the speed and natural flow of the story telling process and in the infinite flexibility of how it gets configured, trying to both conform to and eliminate the entire offline to online paradigm.  Avid has tried to improve workflow, adding more FCP like features to Media Composer, and Apple has tried to improve media management, adding more Avid like features to FCP.

But now, Apple has made a break.  When they took on the task of re-writing FCP from the ground up, they decided to cast themselves (and we that used FCP) loose from the entire legacy of FCP "Classic", adopting the features that they envision as the future, casting off the features they envision as the past.  In some ways, it's a liberating, enabling moment.  In others, it's a disaster.

Especially if you need to use any form of video tape that benefits from an SDI capture card.  Or any plugin from any third party.  To be fair, Apple has never made SDI or component capture cards, and it's always been left to the makers of those cards to provide the drivers for them.  But Apple has to provide a timely SDK to those developers.