Final Cut Pro X

Final Cut Pro X Is Here I have used Final Cut Pro since grad school, which is to say about 1999. A bit over a decade. The first version I had that was usable was version 1.2. At that time it was my very favorite piece of software, partly because I liked what I did on it — editing video — but also because it just worked great. Better than any of its competition. Maybe better than any piece of software at that time.

Gradually, that became less and less true. Over that decade I'd continued to use Final Cut extensively, and even taught a beginner's course in it for several years. But as the industry changed in monumental ways, particularly with the move to HD production, and Final Cut lagged behind trends and technological advances and stuck with the same tired paradigms, I grew increasingly frustrated with the application. Eventually I stopped using Final Cut and stopped making videos. I often wonder if part of the reason for quitting was that the tools had become such a burden to me.

I haven't made a video in a couple of years now, but when Final Cut Pro X was announced I was really excited to hear it. Excited in the way you are when you see an old friend from college and they've just gotten a makeover. Excited in that, "God, Final Cut, it's been ages! You look great!" kind of way. It's not that I have any genuine interest in rekindling the friendship, I've moved on with my life. But it's heartening to see an old friend with a new spring in his step.

Unfortunately, the makeover seems to have included a lobotomy.

Sources of Information

An insane amount has already been written about this release, and I don't want to rehash much. So I'll start by just listing what I've read so far, because it informs where I'm coming from. I also think these are really good sources for folks who want to learn more.

Macworld First Look

Macworld Opinion

Ken Stone First Look

Phillip Hodgetts Unanswered Questions

John Gruber's Take

David Pogue's Takes 1 Through 3

Take 1

Take 2

Take 3

Jeffrey Harrell's Takes

This one's really good, but you know what, just read the whole fucking blog, it's all FCPX stuff, and jeff Harrell is a terrifically entertaining writer.

Art Guglielmo's Take

Creative Cow's List of Missing Features

Ken Segall's Take

Richard Harrington's Response to David Pogue (Wow)


Right off the bat there is one very clear trend here: People who don't edit video professionally seem to like Final Cut Pro X; professional video editors, on the other hand, tend to find this release largely unusable.

Another pretty obvious trend is the sheer amount of passion people feel about Final Cut Pro. I'm not alone in having such strong feelings; Final Cut Pro is — or at least was — an application that inspired fierce loyalty and admiration from its users, many of whom have relied on it for their livelihoods for over ten years. So there's a crazy amount of writing being done about the new release.

The Good

Here's just a quick list of some of the stuff they got right with FCPX.

  • Performance is reportedly vastly improved with multi-core and GPU smarts.
  • FCPX is 64bit and can now address a full compliment of RAM.
  • Far less rendering is needed and most clips just play in realtime.
  • Background rendering allows you to keep working while you render. Huzzah!
  • Background import lets you edit while you ingest.
  • Revamped interface makes certain common operation quicker and easier.

The Bad

And here's some of the good stuff they omitted or just simply gutted.

  • No XML, OMF or EDL exports.
  • No way to open projects created in prior version.
  • No way to buy the previous version.
  • No way to organize media outside of keywords and Events.
  • No video reference monitor support.
  • No support for Photoshop layers.
  • No tracks.
  • Almost no tape support — only DV and HDV are supported.
  • No RED Camera support (which I thought was half the point of this release).
  • All available media (even that of competing clients, for instance) appears in the interface at all times.
  • No multi-camera editing.

So you can see there's a lot of good stuff there. Stuff that FCP users have wanted for a long, long time. Stuff to make you work faster, smarter, more efficiently. But it's all completely mitigated by the huge list of drawbacks, many of which are non-starters for Pro editors. In fact it seems like every feature Apple threw out of FCPX was something Pros — and perhaps only Pros — really needed. But the thing is, they really needed it.

Some Thoughts

After reading everything I can about how FCPX works, there are three major points that come to my mind. The first is about the software itself: It seems to me that what Final Cut used to be — what made it such a good tool — was that it was flexible. You could do things many different ways, and you could set it up in a way that suited you. One of the biggest problems with version X seems to be that it is inflexible, that you must bend to its will, to its way of thinking. That's a step backwards.

The second thought is about the development of the software: It almost seems as if Apple developed FCPX in a complete and utter vacuum. It's as if they never once consulted a single professional editor. The implications of this are truly frightening.

And this inevitably leads me to my third major thought, the thought I can no longer avoid, the one about the very core of Apple as a company: Is Apple abandoning the Pro market?


Apple may be a secretive company, but I believe they communicate in subtle ways the direction their products are headed by the focus they give those products. I continue to believe, for instance, that the design of the iPad communicates that it is a product more for the consuming of media than for the creation of media, and thus far the app ecosystem we've seen grow up around this platform has largely shown that to be the case. Sure, you can make stuff on an iPad, but that's not really its intended primary function. That's not its specialty, at least not in its current incarnation.

So let's look at Final Cut Pro X and see if we can't glean some similar conclusions from its interface. And to do that, let's look at the fundamental organizing principle around which FCPX is based: The Event.

The Meaning of The Event

The concept around which clip organization is meant to occur in FCPX is that of The Event. Each time you import footage it creates Events out of the import, placing each import into some kind of chronological order (just like in iPhoto, for instance). This is great, and really smart if you're shooting home videos; you tend to organize them chronologically in your mind anyway, so it's a logical way to order your videos in a project.

But if you come from professional video and film, you'll immediately see the flaw in the thinking here. The notion that a production is organized this way is completely and utterly wrong, and based entirely in the world of home movies, the world of the consumer. Feature films are shot in order of convenience — almost always out of sequence, not chronologically — so organizing by Events is anathema to the world of professional film and video.

If you view the things that Apple makes as a sort of body language of the company, it starts to look very much like Final Cut Pro X is telling us something very loudly and very clearly: This is not software for professionals.

Couple the release of FCPX with other recent recent Apple trends — the discontinuation of XSAN and Xserve, the price drop and likely lack of development of Mac OS X Server and the lackluster recent Mac Pro builds — and if you're any kind of Apple Professional, you'll start to get worried. Apple is beginning to look very much like a company that's moving away from what was once its base, creative professionals, and exclusively towards the consumer masses.


Final Cut Pro X seems like a step backwards for the venerable editing suite we've all come to love over the past decade, feature-wise to be sure, but also philosophically. Maybe it will quickly become more capable and flexible, maybe the real deal-breakers will get addressed, and maybe it will all turn out groovy in the end. Maybe Apple will ultimately listen to its professional customers, though they don't seem to have even consulted them in the first place. It's hard to tell sometimes with such a complete overhaul what the future holds.

But you may not want to hold your breath. Final Cut Pro X really seems to me like another, rather loud signal from Apple to the professional world that they're done providing us with the best software and hardware around, and that their only real focus going forward will be the average computer user, the consumer. iPhones and iPads for everyone!

Apple used to care deeply about the Pro market, because it was the Pros that gave them so much good press, so much visibility. It was the Pros that really supported Apple, particularly behind the scenes, via word of mouth. Apple made the cool Pro kit, and the Pros went around and told all their friends about Apple, showed it off. The Pros contributed a great deal towards Apple's mindshare. But now that Apple has managed to tap into the consumer psyche in a large and extremely profitable way, they seem to care less and less about their bread and butter for the last 20 years, creative professionals. Final Cut Pro X is the most definitive statement of that attitude I've seen to date. As someone who's based his career to a great degree on Apple hardware and software, it makes me sad.

Final Cut Pro X Sneak Peek

Apple recently gave a sneak peek to some very lucky folks at NAB of the upcoming release of Final Cut Pro, now dubbed Final Cut Pro X. The "X" seems appropriate as it looks like Final Cut has finally made it into the world of modern applications written for a mature, modern and cool-as-hell Operating System.

Which is to say that FCP will finally be able to do all those things like threading and taking advantage of multiple cores, using as much memory as you've got, background rendering and exporting, and simultaneous ingestion and editing.

Image Via The Loop

Essentially, Final Cut Pro X is a complete, ground-up rewrite of the app, as well as rethinking of what a non-linear digital video editing application can and should be. Much like they did with iMovie — and likely drawing from many of its lessons — Apple has sought once again to redefine how we approach video editing. In fact, FCPX even looks like a mashup of the elder FCP and iMovie. It also looks to me like they've got a winner.

In addition to finally leveraging core OS components, the new FCP both removes the annoyances of yesteryear — things like the inability to use the application when you're performing an export (God, that was frustrating!) — and adds forward-thinking improvements like the addition of metadata for faces, places and tags, as well as a far better ability to deal with today's complex CODECs and cameras. It's very cool and makes me wish I still did video. Frankly, despite the fact that these days I am not making nor teaching video, I may buy Final Cut Pro X anyway, just to play with it. Yeah, it looks that cool.

It's also fairly reasonably priced at $299 (no more Final Cut Express, apparently), and available from, of all places, the Mac App Store. While I'm not quite yet a fan of the MAS, I am kind of excited at the prospect of being able to get FCPX on a whim with nothing more than a credit card and an Internet connection.

At any rate, even though I'm no longer a video guy, I'm so very happy to see one of my all-time favorite applications, Final Cut Pro, finally, after years of neglect, get the upgrade it so richly deserves. The actual video guys must be so psyched! Lucky bastards!

Window for One

Like a lot of SysAdmins, I work in a cave. No windows except for the odd Dell system, of course. No natural light whatsoever. It can get depressing. So I was pretty intrigued when I saw this Winscape virtual window.

I've actually had this idea for some time. Get a large, bright screen and show video of the outdoors on it. Hang it on the wall and frame it with some trim so it looks like a window, and voila! Instant techno-window. But this rig adds one cool wrinkle: parallax. Parallax is the changing of said view out said window as your position relative to said window changes. Simply playing video of the beach on a screen will yield less realistic results as it will lack the parallax effect.

Parallax in the Winscape rig is achieved with a transmitter on the viewer that sends location to a sensor on or near the virtual window display. As the viewer moves relative to the screen, a computer tracks the movement and updates the display accordingly.

As someone who deals with a lot of art and museum installation, I can tell you that there is at least one big potential problem with this kind of setup. How do you deal with more than one viewer?

The Winscape system, while cool in concept, is clearly only suitable for the basement-living single crowd. Pity.

Create a Dual-Format Drive for Mac and Windows

It's just come to my attention that it's now fairly trivial to split a drive into two differently formatted partitions, one of which could be used for the Mac while the other could be used for Windows. This is not necessarily new, but there are a number of things that make it of particular interest to me. Before I detail the process of creating this dual-platform drive, I want to talk a bit about some of the reasons you might want to do this and some of the challenges I've faced over the years with regards to the issue of cross-platform drives.

Some History

In the very cross-platform lab where I used to work we were continually on the hunt for the best filesystem solution for users of multiple platforms when they were using external firewire or USB drives. That is, some folks wanted their drives to be accessible from both the Mac OS and Windows. On the surface this can seem like an easy problem to solve — Fat32 (or "MS-DOS" as it's called in Disk Utility) is readable and writable on both platforms. But it's not so cut and dry.

The biggest problem for me was video. See, I taught — and continue to teach — a video class in that very same department. We use Final Cut Pro as our editing software, for a variety of reasons, not the least of which is the fact that I prefer to work on the Mac. I require my students to have a firewire drive appropriate to showing in-progress video work in class. But Fat32 has a 4GB file size limit, and video captures can often exceed that limit. What happens when this limit is exceeded is interesting from a systems standpoint, but devastating from a user standpoint.

Video and Fat32

When capturing video in Final Cut Pro to a Fat32 volume, what happens is that the video file gets segmented. That is, the capture file gets written in 4GB chunks. Initially, Final Cut will see these chunks and understand what they are. But after saving the project and quitting the app Final Cut will no longer be able to locate the captured media because it's in multiple files with different names. The path to the media that FCP relies on is now, essentially, broken. This actually happened to a student of mine some time ago, and we were able to use the cat command to reconstruct the single movie file onto an HFS+ volume and then point FCP at the reconstructed file. Boy was that fun.


We've often looked to the ever-popular NTFS file system as a possible future solution. It does not have such small file size limits, and it's readable on Mac and Windows. But the Mac has never been able to write to NTFS. So, in the past, our solution in the lab — our recommendation for users who really needed a dual-format drive with read/write capabilities on Mac and Windows — was to use the HFS+ filesystem on the drive and use MacDrive on Windows to read and write to that drive. Inelegant? Yes. But it mostly worked.

Mac and Windows Partitions

Another potentially attractive alternative to a single, dual-platform volume was the idea of splitting the drive into two partitions and dedicating each partition to a platform/filesystem. This way, even if all your Mac and Windows data wasn't all mushed together in one volume, you could at least keep it all on one device. This solution would likely work for the vast majority of users. Unfortunately, there was never a particularly straightforward way of doing this. Sure, it was doable. But it wasn't easy, and it wasn't something you could tell new students to do. In fact, it was likely to require admin access and command-line heroics, and so just wasn't a viable solution to anyone but the most die-hard user. Until now.

Without too much mucking around, it's now possible to create a dual-format external drive that contains a mac-formatted partition and a Windows-formatted one.

MacFUSE and NTFS for Mac OS X

The first step is the only really tricky part, and it's not even that tricky. If you have need for a dual-format drive, this should be pretty easy for you. You're going to need to install the MacFUSE and NTFS packages. In a nutshell, MacFUSE is an experimental set of tools for doing unsupported things with filesystems like SSH, FTP and, of course, NTFS on your Mac. And, experimental though it may be, I've been using it for quite a while and have not had any problems to speak of. Installing MacFUSE and the NTFS drivers will allow you to mount NTFS volumes with read-write access.


So, if NTFS can be mounted read-write on the Mac with MacFUSE, and it's obviously read-write on Windows, and it doesn't suffer from the file size limitations of Fat32, why not just use NTFS as your über-filesystem and format the whole drive with it? That's a great question, and I'm glad I asked it!

The thing about getting NTFS read-write access on a Mac with MaFUSE is that it's very much a hack. Yes, it works, but it has its problems. First and foremost among them is the fact that Final Cut Pro is really not a fan. In fact, FCP might just be the best barometer of a good cross-platform solution as it seems to be so picky about filesystems. So far, the only filesystem I've seen work consistently well with Final Cut is HFS+. No surprise there. And on NTFS it gets downright crazy. Files sometimes won't open. Sometimes they won't save. It's a scary mess, and I wouldn't trust my FCP data on NTFS for any amount of money.

But, what the MacFUSE NTFS package does get you is a relatively easy way to format your drive with separate Mac and Windows partitions, and this, at least in my tests seems to work just fine.

NTFS-3G for Mac OS X

The easiest way to get everything you need is to go to the NTFS-3G for Mac OS X website and download the latest package. This package will install the most recent non-beta version of MacFUSE as well as the latest NTFS libraries, and contains everything you need. Once you've installed this bundle, you'll need to reboot your system.

Creating the Dual-Partition Drive

After the reboot you'll see a new filesystem option when you go to format drives in Disk Utility.

A New Option

Moreover, that option will be available to individual partitions of drives that are otherwise formatted. And that's what's new (to me) and what allows the magic to happen. Here's how you do it.

  1. First, if you have any data on the drive that you need to preserve, back it up. This process WILL ERASE YOUR HARD DRIVE.
  2. Next, select the drive you want to dual-format and choose the Partition tab.
  3. Select a Volume Scheme. I'm just doing the simplest, two-partition scheme, with one Mac and one Windows partition, but you can certainly get more Byzantine with it if you'd like.

    Volume Scheme

  4. Set the Format for the partition you want to use on the Mac to "Mac OS Extended (Journaled)," give it a name and a size.

    Mac Partition

  5. Set the Format for the partition you want to use on Windows to "Windows NT Filesystem (NTFS-3G)," give it a name and size.

    Windows Partition

  6. Under the Options... set the partition scheme to "Master Boot Record." This is needed for Windows to see your drive.

    Partition Scheme

  7. Finally, hit the Apply button. You'll be warned that everything is about to be deleted. Click through, and after a few seconds you will have completed the formatting process and your dual-format drive will be ready for use on Mac and Windows.


As I said, so far this has been working really well for my class. You may still want to file it under "experimental" for the time being, at least until you're sure it's working safely. But I'm confident enough in this method to recommend it to my video students who also need some external Windows drive love.

It's also important to keep in mind here that I am not endorsing using the NTFS partition for Mac data of any kind. Doing so is surely unsupported by Apple, and by all reports is fraught with problems.

The other thing to keep in mind is that, unlike with a GUID partition table, you will not be able to resize or split partitions without completely erasing the drive.

Erases Everything


Lastly, I realize that this process is hardly new, nor am I the first to discover it. It was pointed out to me by one of my video students, and I have a feeling the new admins at my old job have been using it for some time. But it's new to me. This is the first I've heard of this and it's exciting to me from an academic standpoint, in the context of my old job, in the context of my class, as a new option I can offer to whomever might need it, and as a symbol of progress — however small or kludgy — towards cross-platform filesystem solutions. This is just another of the very cool advances made possible by the existence of the MacFUSE (and the original Linux FUSE) effort. It's very cool to see this sort of thing coming to fruition at last!

Another intriguing extension of the MacFUSE project — and one that I've used a bit myself — is MacFusion, which allows for mounting of data over network protocols such as FTP and SSH. I'm sure there are tons of others. I highly recommend folks — particularly SysAdmins — check out and familiarize themselves with MacFUSE in general, as well. As much as has been done since the last time I looked at it, there is still a ton of future potential in the project, and I see it increasingly becoming a part of the admin's toolbox.

Final Cut Studio 3

Apple has just released the latest version of the Final Cut Studio, for which, technically, there is no version number. But it's the third one, so for clarity (remember clarity?) we're calling it "Final Cut Studio 3."

In this latest version, LiveType has disappeared and appears to now be completely integrated into Motion. Compressor now has image sequence support, blessedly, and Blu-Ray disc burning support, including basic menu creation. DVD Studio Pro sees no changes; it's version number remains the same, prompting me to wonder about its fate.


But I'm most curious to see what the new version of Final Cut Pro has to offer. They appear to really be focusing on leveraging the new family of ProRes CODECs, which is great. Also great, Final Cut 7 can export in the background (finally!), which means you won't have to offload your exports to Quicktime anymore if you want to continue editing. And if the app's gotten any faster or more stable, that would be fantastic.

But what else? The other features I've read about seem entirely ho-hum. I mean, colored tabs? Nice, I guess. But it hardly seems like the sort of radical rethinking a la iMovie I was really hoping for after a two year wait.

After Two Years: Colored Tabs, Ladies and Gents!

If FCS's prominence — or lack thereof — on Apple's front page is any indication, rethinking this package is not a priority. Rather, maintaining the status quo would appear to be. Final Cut seems to have somehow moved from flagship to mainstay.


I'll wait to pass final judgment. But I'm prepared to be underwhelmed.