Category Archives: Apple

Finalist In Rode Reel 2014

Best Documentary Finalist

"Action". Edmond Terakopian shooting 1 Sixpence 1 Play pinball film. Photo: Magda Rakita

“Action”. Edmond Terakopian shooting 1 Sixpence 1 Play pinball film. Photo: Magda Rakita

We’re absolutely delighted to share that our short documentary film on pinball is a finalist in the Rode Reel 2014 competition. Our team of Magda Rakita and Neil Patience (TAP TV) would like to thank Rode Microphones and Philip Bloom who was the judge for the category.

Rode Reel Title

We’d like to congratulate all the winners; some exceptional work. You can view the entries HERE.

The film, 1 Sixpence 1 Play, was shot on a pair of Olympus OM-D E-M1 cameras and Olympus lenses. We also used a GoPro Hero 3+ Black Edition for a few shots from on the play field. All audio was recorded onto a Roland R26 using various Rode microphones. The films (including the behind the scenes) were edited using FCP X on a Mac Pro, using Eizo monitors and Event Opal audio monitors for the sound edit. For a more detailed post on this, including the behind the scenes video, please see HERE.

rode documentary finalists 2014

My Rode Reel 2014 Finalist Page

Other World Computing

The Fastest; Accelsior PCI Express SSD

Long Term Test

OWC stands for Other World Computing, a title which I felt was very apt for this article. Since I started using OWC’s adapter for modifying my Mac Pro to take multiple SSDs in the optical bay and installing their blisteringly fast SSD into the optical bay of my MacBook Pro, I’ve become a fan of this company. Their adapters and SSDs just seem out of this world; great design, well made and extremely fast.

It was with great interest when I first heard that a PCI Express SSD card was going to be introduced by the company. The advantages of using a PCI Express SSD card are numerous. Firstly, one is directly plugging into the motherboard, using the fastest interface, without having to go through the SATA connectors, adding some speed to operation. Secondly, it frees up your SATA connectors and drive bays for more SSDs or conventional hard drives for storage. In my Mac Pro, I now have four conventional hard drives in the drive bays which I use to store my RAW files amongst other data including documents, music, video and so on. I also have two SSDs installed in the optical bays. One is used to clone the Accelsior every night which is my OS drive, and the other is used for video files when editing  a project. Having FCP X run on the OWC Accelsior and the ProRes 422 video files run from a OCZ 120Gb SSD makes for a very fast and fluid editing experience.

If you’re on a PC, the Accelsior will also work. Regardless of which system you’re using, the helpful thing is the card does not need a driver, so will just work once installed. On a Mac, you will naturally need a Mac Pro as the iMac does not have PCI Express slots.

I decided to go for the 240Gb version which is enough space to store the OS, applications and Documents. Via iTunes I did move the iTunes folder to another drive though as it was simply too big. The card uses Sandforce controllers and several systems to ensure that the SSD chips are used efficiently and kept running smoothly. The SSDs themselves are on smaller circuit boards which clip into the PCI Express daughter card; this means that in time if you want to upgrade to a larger size, it’s easily done.

Speed

Using OWC’s own figures, comparing their top of the range traditional SSD (Pro 6G) to the Accelsior makes interesting reading.

OWC Mercury Extreme Pro 6G – Read 559MB/s Write 527MB/s (Peak Data Rate)
OWC Mercury Accelsior  – Read 762MB/s Write 763MB/s
Traditional 5400rpm Hard Drive – Read 75MB/s Write 77MB/s

These are test figures so real life use will vary, but it will vary proportionally, so the speed advantages are clear to see.

Compared to my previous OS SSD, the OCZ Vertex 3 Max IOPS which was very quick, the speed advantage of the OWC Acceslior is immediately noticeable, even without timing.

I did perform some comparisons though using my early 2009 model Mac Pro.

Reliability

Speed isn’t the only consideration to have though. I’ve had the Accelsior installed in my main imaging workstation, a Mac Pro, for three months now. It has performed without a single hiccup. I installed it when running OS Lion, cloned the OS drive onto the Accelsior using the superb CCC and upgraded to OS Mountain Lion a few days after it’s release. My Mac Pro is on 24/7, used for photo editing, photo archive use, Giclée printing, video and audio editing and general computing too. It’s hooked up to a Sonnet D800 raid with a PCI Express RAID card as well as countless other peripherals and I didn’t have a single issue at all! The Accelsior just performed with 100% absolute reliability and speed.

Final Thoughts

As new technologies come and go and we take leaps forwards, some leaps are giant. The leap to SSDs being one. They are still too costly for storage, but for using as our OS and program disks, the capacities are more than there and the prices have dropped to affordable levels. Although purely on paper the jump to PCI SSD doesn’t appear huge, it is much more than just the speed increase; it’s the convenience increase of freeing up a drive bay for storage too. I for one can’t recommend SSDs highly enough; however if you have a machine with compatible PCI Express slots, then the OWC Accelsior is an absolute no brainer. You’ll love it!

European Buyers – Macupgrade has kindly offered readers of this blog a 10% discount with the code: macupgradephoto

So You Want To Be A National Geographic Photographer

Randy Olson; Adapting To The Assignment

It’s perhaps the dream job for most photographers; to be on assignment for the “Geographic”. It most certainly is one of mine. However, perhaps we don’t fully appreciate the lengths their commissioned photographers go to, to make the amazing images that grace the pages of the magazine.

Photographer Randy Olson shows how a job in Easter Island involved normal photography, astro photography, underwater photography and perhaps the most challenging of all, aerial photography using a kite, an Apple MacBook Air and an Apple iPad.

Reportage On The RNOH

The Power Of Photographs

Following the RNOH film, I decided I wanted to do a different edit to our TAPTV film. My thoughts were to combine some photographs within the edit. At first I looked through the beautifully edited by Neil Patience film and realised that there were some nice still images within the footage. With Quicktime 7, I went back to the original Canon 5D MkII footage and exported some still images, particularly from the interview sections.

These images were imported into Aperture 3 where I processed them. For the B/W conversions I exported them into Nik Software’s Silver Efex Pro 2. Here I created four custom looks and these were applied to the images as appropriate. Using FCP X I then did an re-edit of the film, incorporating the images captures. I also used Red Giant’s Magic Bullet Looks 2 to grade the film slightly differently to our original.

Earlier this year, we decided that to coincide with the launch, it would be a great idea to shoot a proper photo reportage on the RNOH, so over a three and a half day period, using a Leica M9 and M9-P, I wandered the operating theatres, halls and wards (with the invaluable help from the fundraising and communications teams), making a set of pictures. I mainly shot the entire project using the Leica  50mm Noctilux APSH, the new 35mm Summilux ASPH and the 28mm Summicron.

These were first edited in Aperture for my agency Eyevine and once done, I set about incorporating them into my video edit. As before, Nik Software’s Silver Efex Pro 2 was used for the B/W conversions and I set about importing them into FCP X and making the new edit of the video.

There is something much more powerful with B/W imagery and for me, this version is even more powerful. It’s a full multimedia marriage of video, audio and photography. I’d love to know which version of the film you find stronger and why.

My biggest ask though is that if you were touched by this amazing place, please help in their redevelopment and donate to the RNOH fund. Thank you.

Lastly, here is a slideshow of my favourite photographs from the project:

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Behind The Scenes

The RNOH Appeal Film

I was very honoured when Neil Patience (an extremely talented video editor) invited me to take part in a project he was going to be involved in. He mentioned it was the RNOH, a hospital which I had already done several assignments in (photographing Princess Diana and on a separate occasion my first ever award winning picture; a wheel chair basketball game, to mention a couple).

In April 2011 we had a meeting with Rosie Stolarski (Head of Fundraising, RNOH Charity) and Professor Tim Briggs (Consultant Orthopaedic Surgeon), the subject of which was to make a fundraising appeal film. The original brief was for a very short, straightforward appeal type film, but after the first few days of shooting, Neil and I had decided to go for more of a documentary feel. Neil put together a rough cut of what we had already and we were overjoyed when the RNOH went for it and changed the brief.

Photographer and film maker Edmond Terakopian filming at the Royal National Orthopaedic Hospital in Stanmore. Filming in an operating theatre with two Canon 5D MkII camera, one on a Gitzo (GT3531LSV + G1380 head) and the other on a Zacuto Striker with the Zacuto Z-Finder Pro attached). Both cameras have Rode microphones attached for ambient sound recording. The VideoMic (closer) and VideoMic Pro. A Think Tank Photo Multimedia Wired Up 10 belt pack is also being used. May 16, 2011. Photo: Neil Patience

We spent a long time planning various aspects of the film, including the patient interviews. With the hospital team, we chose a cross section of their previous patients who had had the full gamut of operations, thus transforming their lives. We covered a wide age range and conditions to paint a full picture.

Photographer and film maker Edmond Terakopian filming at the Royal National Orthopaedic Hospital in Stanmore. Filming in an operating theatre with a Canon 5D MkII camera on a Zacuto Striker with the Zacuto Z-Finder Pro attached and the Rode VideoMic Pro. A Think Tank Photo Multimedia Wired Up 10 belt pack is also being used. May 16, 2011. Photo: Neil Patience

The flip side to these life changing stories though was the conditions in which this amazing staff have to work. Huts that serve as wards dating back to the 1940s, crumbling, leaking building, sloping corridors that require special locomotives to pull beds along. A truly extreme juxtaposition of amazing medical work in such atrocious conditions.

Photographer and film maker Edmond Terakopian filming at the Royal National Orthopaedic Hospital in Stanmore. Filming in a prosthetic limb manufacturing section run by Blachleys. A Canon 5D MkII camera, on the Gitzo (GT3531LSV + G1380 head) tripod, with a Rode VideoMic Pro microphone. Extra equipment needed for the shoot is carried in a Think Tank Photo Multimedia Wired Up 10. May 16, 2011. Photo: Neil Patience

Having an amazing client though is the start of great work and I really must thank the RNOH in helping us be creative, change the brief to make it a more powerful film and for all the logistical help. All the coordination by Rosie Stolarski for the entire project and the patience of her team members Jenny Blyth and Sam Bowie when they accompanied us on site was paramount. A huge word of thanks goes to head of communications Anna Fox who spent the most time with us on site, making sure everything was planned and helping us get the shots we needed. We’d like to thank all the amazing surgeons who invited us into their operating theatres and all the physiotherapists, nurses, prosthetics team and other medical staff for their help. A big thanks also go to the ushers and the security team for all their help.

The biggest words of thanks go to the former patients who let us into their lives and inspired us with their strength and courage. Our thanks go to HRH Princess Eugenie of York, Molly Poole, Carol West, Phil Packer, Phil Coburn, Kat Reid and the amazing Caitlin Kydd.

Camera assistant Nicola Taylor recording audio, using a Rode NTG3 on a Rode Mini Boom pole, onto a Zoom H4n audio recorder. This is in a Think Tank Photo Multimedia Wired Up 10. Edmond Terakopian uses a Canon 5D MkII and 135mm f2L and Rode VdeoMic Pro on a Gitzo (GT3531LSV + G1380 head) tripod. RNOH Children’s Ward, Stanmore. July 19, 2011. Photo: Neil Patience

Along with the invaluable help of my assistant Nicola Taylor (an amazingly creative photographer in her own right), Neil and I shot the project over a nine month period.

If you haven’t yet seen the film, you can watch it HERE.

Techniques & Technical

Behind the scenes photographs of the filming of the appeal DVD. Showing film maker Edmond Terakopian & Editor and Producer Neil Patience. An iPad is used for interview questions. RNOH, Stanmore. Photo: Nicola Taylor

I shot the entire video using two Canon 5D MkII cameras, using a range of Canon lenses; 15mm f2.8, 16-35mm f2.8L II, 24-105mm f4L, 35mm f1.4L, 50mm f1.2L and a 135mm f2L. My main tripod was a fluid head Gitzo (GT3531LSV + G1380 head). For the locked off shots with the tighter lens (135mm f2L) I used a carbon fibre photographic Manfrotto tripod. For the handheld shots, I used a Zacuto Striker and Z-Finder Pro eyepiece. Having to cover long distances across the hospital grounds and wards with the kit meant needing to plan not only the right and relevant kit, but the right bags too. We used a Think Tank Photo Airport Internal v2 and also a Multimedia Wired Up 10. On the last interview with Consultant Orthopaedic Surgeon Professor Briggs, I also used a Marshall 5” monitor (V-LCD50-HDMI).

Behind the scenes photographs of the filming of the appeal DVD. Showing film maker Edmond Terakopian, editor and producer Neil Patience, Rosie Stolarski (head of fundraising) and ex-patient Phil Packer. RNOH, Stanmore. Photo: Nicola Taylor

Behind the scenes photographs of the filming of the appeal DVD. Showing film maker Edmond Terakopian and ex-patient Phil Coburn. RNOH, Stanmore. Photo: Nicola Taylor

Operating Theatre 4 with Prof Tim Briggs. A Marshall 5″ monitor (V-LCD50-HDMI) is used to check focus, lighting, composition and exposure). The light on the left is a Kino Flo Diva Light supplied by New Day Pictures. September 21, 2011. Photo: Edmond Terakopian

To keep the same feel and uniformity with the ex-patient interview scenes, we decided to shoot them against a black background. One of the problems though was that although some interviews would be done at the hospital, these were at different days and in different rooms. The other interviews would be on location at ex-patients’ homes. We needed a proper light absorbing black, but also a background which was sturdy and stable. On top of these requirements, it also needed to be highly collapsible and portable. After having a chat with our friends at Lastolite, we found just the trick. The Lastolite Plain Black Velvet Collapsible Background (which has a collapsible frame) and the Lastolite background support (1109).

Royal visit to the Royal National Orthopaedic Hospital (RNOH), Stanmore, Middx. HRH Prince Andrew being filmed by Edmond Terakopian. For this shot two Canon 5D MkII cameras were used. One on a Gitzo (GT3531LSV + G1380 head) tripod. The other is on a lightweight Manfrotto carbon fibre tripod. The camera further away (Camera A) is mounted inside a K-Tek Norbert cage (mount frame) and has a Zoom H4n audio recorder mounted on it. This in turn is plugged into a Pinknoise splitter cable, with one end going to camera (to record audio in camera) and the other to headphones. A Rode NTG3 microphone is used for the main audio which is recoded onto the Zoom H4n in WAV format with the passthrough recording in camera. The B camera also has a Rode VideoMic Pro recording audio onto it. The black background and supports are Lastolite and were used in all the interviews. The lighting is by a single Kino Flo Diva Light (supplied by New Day Pictures) and a Lastolite reflector. June 02, 2011. Photo: Nicola Taylor

The other aspect to keeping this consistency was to make sure the lighting was as identical as possible. After consulting with the specialist hire company New Day Pictures, we went for a Kino Flo Diva Light (shot through it’s softbox diffuser). This has been the most amazing light I’ve ever worked with.

Audio

For audio, I used Rode microphones throughout. The cameras where fitted with the Rode VideoMic and VideoMic Pro for all of the cutaway and GV scenes. Although we had originally thought that all their audio would be replaced with the interviews with Professor Briggs, Neil ended up using a fair amount of the audio from them. The main audio, which was for all the interviews, was done using a Rode NTG3, recoding onto both camera A (using a Pinknoise splitter cable) and onto the Zoom H4n (in WAV format). We mounted the mic on a mic stand and had it just outside shot.

The Royal Connection

Royal visit to the Royal National Orthopaedic Hospital (RNOH), Stanmore, Middx. HRH Prince Andrew being filmed by Edmond Terakopian. For this shot two Canon 5D MkII cameras were used. One on a Gitzo (GT3531LSV + G1380 head) tripod. The other is on a lightweight Manfrotto carbon fibre tripod. The camera further away (Camera A) is mounted inside a K-Tek Norbert cage (mount frame) and has a Zoom H4n audio recorder mounted on it. This in turn is plugged into a Pinknoise splitter cable, with one end going to camera (to record audio in camera) and the other to headphones. A Rode NTG3 microphone is used for the main audio which is recoded onto the Zoom H4n in WAV format with the passthrough recording in camera. The B camera also has a Rode VideoMic Pro recording audio onto it. The black background and supports are Lastolite and were used in all the interviews. The lighting is by a single Kino Flo Diva Light (supplied by New Day Pictures) and a Lastolite reflector. June 02, 2011. Photo: Nicola Taylor

The first of our interviews was with HRH Prince Andrew, who not only only was the patron of the hospital, but is also the father of a former patient; Princess Eugenie. We also did an interview with the Princess and both pieces added so much to the film. These weren’t only essential, but were also an absolute joy to shoot.

Royal visit to the Royal National Orthopaedic Hospital (RNOH), Stanmore, Middx. HRH Princess Eugenie being filmed by Edmond Terakopian. For this shot two Canon 5D MkII cameras were used. One on a Gitzo (GT3531LSV + G1380 head) tripod. The other is on a lightweight Manfrotto carbon fibre tripod. The camera to the left (Camera A) is mounted inside a K-Tek Norbert cage (mount frame) and has a Zoom H4n audio recorder mounted on it. This in turn is plugged into a Pinknoise splitter cable, with one end going to camera (to record audio in camera) and the other to headphones. A Rode NTG3 microphone is used for the main audio which is recoded onto the Zoom H4n in WAV format with the passthrough recording in camera. The B camera also has a Rode VideoMic Pro recording audio onto it. The black background and supports are Lastolite and were used in all the interviews. The lighting is by a single Kino Flo Diva Light (supplied by New Day Pictures) and a Lastolite reflector. June 02, 2011. Photo: Nicola Taylor

Editing Workflow

Editing the fund raising video for RNOH at New Day Pictures’ Final Cut Pro editing suite in Surrey. Assistant Nicola Taylor and video editor Neil Patience at work, discussing the interview transcripts. November 08, 2011. Photo: Edmond Terakopian

After every day’s shoot, we would make copies of all the CF cards (video) and SD card (audio) onto both Neil and my MacBook Pros. Once back at our respective offices, we would both also make backups onto our Mac Pros and RAID systems. On top of this, I also made multiple off-site backups. With a project that has so much data and is shot over such a long period of time, it’s not worth risking losing something before delivering the final cut to the client. With this workflow we had multiple copies (RAID 1 and RAID 5) across three geographical locations.

Editing the fund raising video for RNOH at New Day Pictures’ editing Final Cut Pro suite in Surrey. L-R: Cameraman Edmond Terakopian, assistant Nicola Taylor and video editor Neil Patience at work. November 08, 2011. Photo: Edmond Terakopian

Once Neil had put together a long assembly, Nicola and I met with Neil at the New Day Pictures’ editing suite. Although able to edit video myself, I never thought of myself as anything but having rudimentary skills. Watching Neil at work was an amazing education. The philosophy behind editing is the most crucial thing; watching him operate the keyboard, mouse and various break out boxes full on knobs and sliders like a concert pianist was amazing, but understanding the reason behind constructing edits was just mind blowing. The three days that I spent with Neil were invaluable. The film naturally did take much longer than that to do though. If you’ve never worked with a professional editor, I highly recommend it; in fact, it’s essential.

To find out more about the editing, have a read of Neil’s post, Making The RNOH Appeal Film.

The Premiere

Our first screening was for the RNOH fundraising team. The silence and sniffles, combined with the teary eyes confirmed for us that we had succeeded in making a powerful and emotive documentary. It’s always difficult to fully judge a project until you’ve shown it to someone outside of the team. Close colleagues who had seen it had all been positive, but it was only when our clients at RNOH approved, that we were completely happy.

The premiere of the film was at the launch of the RNOH Funding Appeal at St James’s Palace, at an event hosted by HRH Prince Andrew and Princess Eugenie. Along with the screening was also a photographic exhibition of my work documenting the hospital. I must admit to being quite nervous when the film was shown; it’s again the fear of not knowing how it will be received. The huge room (bigger than a typical hall) fell quite and stayed quite for the entire length of the film, the silence only being broken by the occasional sniffle. As the film approached it’s end, the sniffles grew not only more frequent, but louder. A gentleman in front of me, who is the father of the amazing Caitlin who is featured in the film was in fact crying fully. It’s hard not to be moved and humbled when witnessing such an amazing reaction to one’s work. After the film finished, there was silence; a silence which carried on for a good five seconds and then the room burst into applause. Later, Neil and I shook hands.

Proud. This is one word which kept coming up between the TAPTV team; we were all proud of what we achieved with this project. When I look back at my career which started in 1989, although I give my all to everything I do, certain assignments stand out and I feel proud; this is certainly one of them.

My hope is that we have helped this amazing hospital to raise some of the money they need; they do amazing work there. I hope that you will help by making a donation HERE.

FCP X 10.0.3 Update

Massive Update For FCP X

Apple today (January 31, 2012) announced a rather big update for it’s professional video editing software, FCP X, rather modestly, calling it version 10.0.3. Having seen what the update has, I would have thought it was more like a full digit update, something more along the lines of 10.1.0!

This update made me realise just how far things have come; an email press release from Aple announcing it’s launch and moments later I was on the Mac App Store downloading the updates for the suite; Compressor, Motion and of course, FCP X.

Much has been said about FCP X not being ready for the pro environment and a bandwagon of people not really knowing what this means have joined in. Certainly before this update, editors working within a broadcast house or film company where lots of collaboration, specialist PCIe cards for monitoring on reference broadcast monitors, waveform displays and vectorscopes, multi cam work and so on are part of the workflow, were definitely left wanting.

Version 10.0.3 though goes a long way to answer these needs. After attending a press briefing and demo at Apple’s London HQ, I am very impressed with all that has been done. FCP X was launched in June 2011 and had it’s first update in September of the same year. Now on January 31, 2012, it has had what I consider a huge update and one which should bring it in favour with professional editors. FCP X was pretty much perfect for smaller productions and sole video DSLR shooters already, but with this update, it’s even more capable.

FCP X showing it's Multicam abilities. Photo: © Apple

The biggest news for me personally is that it is now fully Multicam capable, offering up to 64 angles! What’s more, all the cameras used (angles) and external audio, can all be synchronised and lined up in seconds! You can even choose the method of synching; audio, time code, markers or time of day from EXIF. With audio, one can even specify the separate audio clip (one often records audio separately on an audio recorder for best results) to be used as the main audio and the audio from the various cameras is then ignored when you come to edit. There is also a very useful and easy to use Angle Editor to handle the multi cam clips. Genius.

Another huge update is the way plugins are used and this has opened the doors for companies like Red Giant with their superb Magic Bullet Looks and GenArts popular Sapphire Edge to bring out their plugins. This is due to the updating of the FxPlug architecture. Rather surprisingly and very much welcome, updates in the XML has also led to Intelligent Assistance launching 7toX –  a way to transfer your FCP 7 Projects to FCP X! I had to question this several times as it was completely unexpected; to say this is absolutely useful would be putting it mildly!

Another new ability which brought a smile to my face as I realised the creative possibilities is FCP X’s ability to now handle layered Photoshop PSD files. The image is imported as a compound clip and each layer can be edited independently; an easy and fast way of achieving After Effects effects.

FCP X showing an image graded using Red Giant's Magic Bullet Looks. The logo on the bottom left of the viewer shows which filters were used and also has an edit button for opening up the Magic Bullet grading window.

Revisiting the ability to run Broadcast monitors, on non Mac Pro setups that cannot use PCIe cards, there are Thunderbolt boxes from various suppliers which will allow such equipped Macs to also take advantage of this feature, allowing the use of Vectorscopes, Waveform Displays and calibrated specialist Broadcast Monitors.

Red Giant's Magic Bullet Looks on FCP X. A closeup view showing the logo on the bottom left of the viewer which shows which filters were used on this shot of model Vicki Blatchley, which also has the all important edit button for opening up the Magic Bullet grading window.

There are also advanced Chromakey capabilities too which not only work accurately, but surprisingly quickly too.

All in all, this is a huge update and has really elevated FCP X from it’s earlier version 10.0.0 which I reviewed on launch. This update hasn’t only made it even more ideal for the solo film maker and editor, perhaps working with DSLRs, but also brought it much, much closer to being suitable for the professional video editor working in a collaborative studio and having specialist hardware needs.

I for one do not miss FCP 7; roll on FCP X!

Final Cut Pro X Review

Is FCP X right for the DSLR filmmaker?

Reviewed July 2011, FCP X version 10.0.0 

Depending who you speak to, the world is either about to end or something wonderful happened when Apple launched it’s professional video editing program (June 2011), Final Cut X. Not so much of an upgrade but a completely new 64-bit program. I’ve never seen so much hysteria about a computer program; some it purely misinformed, others from individuals blindly following what the pro editors are saying and some from very justified sources.

FCP X, showing the Event Library, Clips, Viewer, Inspector (Colour Adjustment), Timeline, Effects Browser and Audio Meters.

The professional editors who rely on Final Cut Pro to make a living do have a point and FCP X is not ready to meet all of their needs. To get an understanding of the issues faced, I contacted Editor and Colourist Neil Patience. “Its fair to say that FCPX received a very negative reaction from many sections of the editing community. The ones who seemed to be shouting “foul” the loudest were those working in TV facilities houses and broadcast environments. As someone who has been working in broadcast television for about 20 years I can understand why they were unhappy”.

“Making television programmes is rarely a solitary endeavour. Collaboration is a key part of the process. TV facilities need to be able to move media along the stages of post production process as efficiently and seamlessly as possible. Shoot, ingest, rough cut, fine cut, finishing, visual FX colour grading and audio dubbing and layback is a common path for many TV shows. Different people bring different skill sets along the way, kit wise, Avid, Apple, DaVinci, Baselight, ProTools and Fairlight are just a few that are used. Getting all those to integrate uses a combination of EDL, XML and OMF files depending on what is going where. The ability to open archive projects is also critical and with no support for opening FCP7 projects, FCPX is again left wanting.”.

“Tape is not dead in our world, we wish it was, but the archive of tape is huge. Apple’s tapeless utopia is no where near a reality. Fifty odd years of worldwide tape based acquisition and mastering adds up, not to mention all the film that was transferred to tape.

Final Cut X, in its current incarnation, literally allows none of the above to happen.

All the tools we need daily to collaborate with our colleagues are missing and the hardware to allow critical external monitoring and measuring to ensure technical compliance is not supported”.

“But it is not all doom and gloom. Not everyone has to meet broadcast delivery requirements or needs elaborate collaborate workflows. The first things that struck me about FCPX is that it feels quick and the timeline feels smooth. The 64 bit architecture is certainly a performance boost. DSLR film makers, for example, can take advantage of this speed and the easy file based importing, everything is geared towards the single user operator. Effects and “looks” can be quickly and easily auditioned and FCPX guides the less technically skilled editors along the way, automatically creating tracks as needed, avoiding clip collisions and keeping things in sync. Background render is a big advantage too. If your main skill is shooting, these features will initially make your life easier as you develop your editing skills”.

Projects Library in FCP X.

I think it’s important to understand all the issues and negativity from parts of the editing community as it will help make an informed decision on FCP X. I would imagine that the majority of the readership of the BJP will be from a background of photography and of creating photographs and video and like me, working on projects on their own or within a small team. For me, the Canon 5D MkII opened up a whole new world of creativity in film making; one that I thoroughly enjoy. Whilst I enjoy the editing process, it’s not my favourite thing. In fact the first time I ever opened up FCP 6, I had to shut it down and only returned to it days later after mustering up enough courage. FCP X is different; the interface is radically different and no longer looks or feels like an ageing OS 9 program. It’s 64 bit which means it can access all of your system’s RAM. It’s also designed to utilise all CPU cores and also use the GPU. I’ve found it to be super fast and stable. It’s also a bargain compared to the £850 or so FCP 7 Studio cost; FCP X is £179.99 and the two other modules, Motion and Compressor, are both £29.99 each and are all available from the App Store.

Armed with Larry Jordan’s brilliant FCP X Complete Training course (which I thoroughly recommend), I downloaded FCP X and began my exploration. Not having much of an iMovie background, it did initially take me a short while to grasp FCP X but it’s so intuitive that I took to it very easily and quickly. This review addresses whether FCP X is right for the DSLR filmmaker. As always, I decided to do real world tests and spent several days editing a project involving video, photographs, music and recorded audio. For another test, I edited from scratch using native Canon 5D MkII files a piece on the 70th Anniversary of the Battle of Britain; the entire process took around four hours:


What’s New?

One of the biggest things is the new magnetic timeline. FCP X has done away with tracks and it’s just a canvas that let’s you drag your video, audio and photographs onto and they just snap on and into place. It lets you move and insert clips and automatically moves the other clips around for you without the need for modifier keys like previously. You can easily connect clips together (such as effects, titles and so on) so when they are moved around, they always stay together and in sync. Compounding clips takes this a step further allowing various elements to be consolidated into a single clip and as such, edited as one clip. All of these make entire process easier, quicker and much less prone to user error. As a bonus, it also takes up much less space which means working on a smaller screen is so much easier. On the subject of photographs, the previous version’s 4000 pixel limit no longer applies; larger photographs can be imported and used.

The Inline Precision Editor lets you do very intricate and accurate trimming straight on the timeline. With Auditions, you can take a segment and try various clip edits, grading and so on until you have got it spot on.

Importing files has also radically improved, especially for the DSLR video user; the import dialogue lets you not only import, but have your video transcoded to Pro Res 422 and have both the video and audio analysed. All of this happens in the background, so even when these processes are occurring, you can still begin your rough cuts, saving a huge amount of time. A misconception is that FCP X won’t work with tape at all; if you have a firewire controlled video camera which is supported (check with manufacturer for a driver), you can import from tape. Importing from professional broadcast decks or exporting to tape is not supported though. A point to note is that you can always use FCP 7 to log and capture your tape, export this as a Quicktime file (say Pro Res 422) and then import that into FCP X for editing.

The transcoding is optional but recommended. If you’re on deadline and editing a small piece, you can just import your DSLR movie files and edit them natively. For best results though, transcoding is always best; with this happening in the background, it’s no longer such a time waster. Another feature is that all rendering is also done in the background, making the entire editing process fluid as you no longer have to keep stopping to wait for rendering to finish.

Another massive improvement is media organisation; the Event Library is where imported clips are saved; you can choose to have Event Libraries on various connected hard drives. The browser lets you easily look through clips and the skimming feature lets you very quickly skim through a clip to find the segment you are looking for. The ‘I’ and ‘O’ let you easily add In and Out points or you can just use the mouse to click drag a selection straight onto the clip. Once you’ve created your Project, it’s then a simple question of adding (by dragging, keyboard shortcuts or clicking on the relevant button on screen) these clips to the Timeline to begin your rough cut. The whole system, of Events and Projects makes it very easy to share or backup your work through the Duplicate function (which can included source and render files too). This new structure has made organising and backing up extremely simple and manageable. Tagging of clips with ‘favourite’ or ‘reject’ tabs in the browser helps speedily locate useful clips and hiding the ‘rejects’ makes for a tidier workspace. Keywords and smart collections help organise your archive as it grows.

There’s also an abundance of control over audio editing, effects, titles and colour corrections and grading with helpful export presets for commonly used sites for the solo filmmaker like Vimeo as well as export to DVD and even BluRay.

All’s Not Perfect

For me, perhaps the biggest disappointment is that previous FCP projects are not compatible, which means that I must keep FCP 7 installed. I do wish that either Apple or a third party comes up with a translator but it doesn’t seem likely as FCP X has an entirely new project architecture and trackless timeline. I’m also puzzled to why Soundtrack Pro was dropped, although there are more audio facilities built in to FCP X. Although not a user of it myself, I think dropping Colour may have been a mistake.

As far as plugins (such as Magic Bullet), camera and video card support and so on, it’s only a matter of time until 64bit compatible plugins and drivers are released. Most of the big name plugin manufacturers have already openly said they are working on upgrades.

Conclusions

I spent a while discussing FCP X with a photographer colleague on Twitter. He was enraged, quoting video editors as to how bad this release is and he can’t trust Apple and is switching to Adobe Premiere and so on. Funny thing was, two days later, this DSLR using colleague actually tried FCP X and had nothing but praise.

With FCP X, Apple has done what Apple does best; it’s looked into the future (remember the outrage when it dropped the floppy drive?). FCP X seems to be designed for the coming decade and not for what went before it. It has revolutionised the ageing look, feel and workflow of FCP 7 and really brought it in line with OS X; it’s intuitive, elegant, solid and stable. With multi-cam and XML support on the way from Apple, with OMF, AMF and EDL support on the way from third parties, I feel that even the video editing community with all their specific needs will begin using FCP X in 8-12 months.

If you rely heavily on plugins or use specific hardware, my advice is wait a month or two until the upgrades for FCP X arrive. It can co-exist with FCP 7 anyway, so you can carry on using it and begin learning FCP X. One thing is for sure though, FCP X is definitely the future and for the indy filmmaker and DSLR shooter, FCP X is absolutely ideal. Having used it for all of the past week, I dread ever having to open FCP 7 again. I rather like it!

Reviewed, July 2011