This is part 2 of a 3-part series. Part 1 was whether or not FCPX could be the NLE of the future. Today I address a few things to be mindful of when looking into FCPX as your NLE. (Part 3 is about workflow).
It’s a Paradigm Shift. Use it as Such.
A paradigm shift is a completely new way of looking at something. FCPX is a paradigm shift in non-linear editing. You have to go into it with that in mind. If you try to force FCPX to edit like you did in FCP7, 1) you may get frustrated, and 2) you’ll miss out on some of the power of the new paradigm.
Perhaps the biggest shift in that fact that FCPX is not a track-based editor like FCP7 was. There are no video tracks and audio tracks. There’s a Primary Storyline that can contain audio or video. Then additional audio and video clips are connected to that storyline. This is one of the hardest things to get used to coming from the old FCP.
The other big change is the magnetic timeline. As you move or extend clips on the primary storyline, clips before and/or after it move accordingly. The purpose of this is to keep everything in alignment. Songs and voice overs you have synched with a part of the video will stay in synch so long as they are attached to the part of the primary storyline where the video occurs. I love the magnetic timeline about 90% of the time. Then there’s that 10% when I have to spend some extra time thinking about how to add a clip in such a way that won’t mess up the primary storyline. Or the times when I shorten a connected clip and everything behind that clip moves (I think that’s a bug. But I’m not sure. Anyway, when it happens, it’s annoying).
Bottomline: embrace change.
With Great Power Comes… The Need for Great Power
FCPX is an extremely powerful program. It takes full advantage of the new Mac’s 64-bit architecture (assuming you have such a machine). It also moves much of its processing power from the computer’s CPU to the graphics card. What all of this means is that, you need a fast machine and a fast drive to take full advantage.
The iMac I edit on is an older model that originally had only 4GB or RAM USB 2.0 slots and one Firewire 800 slot. Never had an issue with Final Cut 7. Not so with FCPX.
Yesterday I mentioned that I’ve edited about ten projects with it. Nine out of those ten I edited with this old system. Let me tell you, it was painful. I saw a lot of the infamous Mac spinning “beach ball”. I often had to use the low resolution proxy media to get through edits. On the latest project I started, enough was enough. I bumped up my RAM to 16GB and got a FW800 drive to edit. The difference is night and day!
Bottomline: you want a lot of RAM, the fastest drives you can get (Thunderbolt would be ideal), and a fast graphics card. The faster the better.
The “Keys” to Speed
There are two “keys” in FCPX you should take advantage of. The first is keyboard shortcuts. I believe that with any NLE, the more keyboard shortcuts you can use, the faster you’ll edit. It seems much more so with FCPX. Don’t be an M&M Editor (“mouse & menu). Learn those keyboards quickies and you’ll improve your editing time easily by 20 to 30%.
The other “key” to speed are keywords. Another of the paradigm shifts in FCPX is that there aren’t any “bins” to put clips in. The closest thing to what were bins in FCP7 are keyword collections. As you assign keywords to clips, they get put into collections. That’s how you’ll organize your clips. What’s nice is that the same clip could be in multiple collections. And the search tool is super fast. (Note: if you look up a keyword then neglect to delete it from the search box, the next time you click on a keyword collection, FCPX will be looking for clips in that collection that match the search criteria. So don’t freak out if you ever click on a collection and see no clips. You haven’t lost them. Chances are you just forgot to clear out the search box.)
Versioning is Not Great
One of the things I did in FCP7 was use sequences to create different versions of a project. I’d just duplicate a sequence, rename it, then make changes. If a sequence was rendered, duplicating it would not increase the number of render files. The duplicated sequence just accessed the same render files.
FCPX is different. There are no “sequences” per se. You edit in a “project.” If you want to create a new version, you create a new project. In and of itself that’s not too terrible, except that if you have a fully rendered project and you want to duplicate it to make a version 2, you have to decide whether or not you duplicate the rendered content as well. If you do, that increased the amount of disk space you take up. If you don’t, then depending on how long your project is, it could be a pain having to work with unrendered footage again. Depending on the speed and power of your machine, that might not be a big deal. It is for me.
Workflow is Different, But Doable
One of the incorrect complaints I hear about FCPX is that you can’t share projects with other editors. That’s all hogwash and gobbledygook. It’s absolutely possible to share projects and keep a professional, streamlined workflow. I’ll get into that in part 3. But for now I just wanted to state that you have to look into the best way of doing that. There is no project file like in FCP7. FCPX is a database driven program. So the way you share projects is just different. But it’s totally doable.
Bottomline: read part 3 of my series.🙂
Share some of your “do’s” and “don’ts” of FCPX.