Montag, 22. August 2011

A review of FCP7 from a FCPX-user

For those who didn´t follow our whole "megatest". We had a project for 3 weeks in July where we ended up with close to 6.000 clips to be editied into two seperate films for two different pan-european networks.
Produced in 1080p in FCPX. And it went well. If you are interested in it....start in the beginning of July on this blog.....
For those who hate FCPX and bash it wherever they can, because they are sour with Apple and never got around to learn FCPX....well, leave, because this post will hurt you and expose you as an editor stuck in an old workflow.

I went back to FCP7 for two films. You might ask why since I was all over FCPX for a month.....well.....
Project A was edited in 2009 in FCP7 and it had to be rearranged a little and made ready for a broadcast with 8-channel output. So there you have it: the lack of backwards-compatibility definitely didn't have me thinking for more than a second. Had to be done in FCP7. (until we can import legacy projects that is)

Project B is a bit different. A 25-minute season-review for a sportsclub that consisted of several long recordings (exist as huge ProRes files; huge means 50+GB per file and there were 15+ of them) and there were five 10 minute magazines that were done in FCP7 and there was much material (interviews, talking heads, practices, gamefootage) to be used from within them. And I wanted to grade them again.
I also had about 10 hours of fresh footage (XDCam EX, XDCam Hd 422, Canon DSLR that had to be imported)
And I needed 8-channels out so would anyway at some point have to come back to FCP7.

This time the decision was harder, but I figured it would be faster to stay in FCP7, have the magazines open in tabs and copy-paste the clips that I need in the summary-film to have handles.

So here's my FCP7 review of August 2011:

The overall look
When you open FCP7 for the first time you are shocked at how old-fashioned it looks. The fonts are so small you need a magnifying glass. Everything has a dull grey look.
The bin-window is a mess. It is a neverending scrolling-procedure once you have a few hundered clips in the project.
Edius has the best Bin-window in my opinion and FCPX comes close. Graphically FCP7 is just an eye-killer and it is easy to lose overview. Show a complicated FCP7 project to a person who never saw it and tell them to find a certain clip from a certain day/reel/take. Then do the same on another NLE...guess which one is slowest.

Importing old material
I had a project with all magazines and the long recordings in it. It was easy to just select it and it opened without problems. I had several missing files. FCP7 is great in that situation, because while it opens the project it offers the option to reconnect the files by pointing at the backup drive; or you just rightclick the missing clip in the timeline and reconnect. This took quite some time, because some stuff was spread out over several backup-locations the week before and I had to find it again (didn't expect to make this movie out of it and therefore didn´t have it properlycatalogued yet )....costed a day, but it would have taken just as long or rather longer to find it and import to FCPX, because I would also have to find the stuff that was reconnected quickly.
I also had some new graphics ....I have just overwritten the old ones and they appeared in the project just fine.
So importing old material that had been moved is a feature FCPX is missing and it misses this badly.

Importing new material
I had to ingest XDCam EX and XDCam HD 422 footage. Well , same procedure as in FCPX, use the XDCam Transfer and XDCam Browser to re-wrap them to quicktime. Then import those files.
Importing Canon DSLR stuff is a bit of a hassle, because FCP7 doesn behave well with h.264 files. You need to convert first. At least Canon made a nice plug-in so I can do that within the "Log and transfer window". So it was not a big hassle, you only need for the material to be transcoded and AFTER THAT can edit away. FCPX would have handled this better and it would allow me to edit while it's working in the background on the re-wrap/transcode.

Conform files
 I had some XDCamEX material shot in 720p50 so I could have audio and also create smooth slomos of it. In FCPX you simply conform the clips in the timeline; it uses the old cinema-tools engine for this and it is non-destructive and in real-time (plays back instantly and renders in the background).
FCP7 has none of this. You need to identify which clips are actually in 720p; that takes time; then duplicate your material (the following process is destructive), then you have to make ProRes files out of everything ; then open these ProRes Files in Cinematools (it works with a Batch list)...then it conforms. Import these files again. Well....this costed me a few hours I could have used better. Point for FCPX; to me an important feature that FCP7 doesn't have or only with a long workaround. Pretty much offset the time I saved with the re-connect feature.

Footage Managment
Now I had everything in the project. Hundreds of clips, approximately 60 hours or more. FCP7 did not once slow down and also works fine on my Macbook Pro (late2008; 4GB RAM). So it doesn't really need a huge machine to work.

I started watching interviews...ahm...where was the keywording? Oh....yeah that's right...subclips and notes is how I did that. So I created dozens of subclips. My Bin structure started to get messy and I had to scroll quite a lot to find stuff......searching in the bins is possible, but somehow not as fluent as in FCPX. Also once I have 12 answers to one topic there is no automatic way (that I know of) to collect them.
I don´t know....the bin-windowin FCP7 is the one I really won´t miss.

Finally let´s get to work.
Ah, yes...there is the split timeline with audio/video separated. So here we go. Every clip I put into the timeline needs to have the audio-tracks selected beforehand or it gets very chaotic; after all I have ambience, music, interviews, voice-over and stereo-mix to be separated. Speaking of "adding to the timeline"...where´s my APPEND command "E"? Oh really need to watch out in FCP7 before you do anything. Gone are the FCPX days when you effortlessly add clips and never have to worry to mess up an edit or an audiotrack.

When you did some editing (like 20 minutes with 600 clips) and you want to add one extra piece at 1minute3seconds22frames and then maybe trim it anyway....WATCH OUT ...clipcollisions on the audiotracks....use the audio-patch-tabs...hey I did checkerboard my timeline after all, but dropping a new clip with audio while wanting to keep both audios is a task. J clip, detach audio, lift video a track higher, press "T" four times, lock the audio, press "R" two times and roll, attach the audio again...phew.....what a clumsy way wehn in FCPX you just double click the audio and drag the video or audio; at least FCP7 has the red numbers that show me missing sync. FCPX is missing those, but then again....I hardly see a reason why FCPX should lose sync on my primary audio.

You know what, I want to see how the other interview sounds / looks here. Where´s my audition button...oh right. Didn´t exist when FCP7 was around. So that involves some work when they are not the same length. A lot of work .

Yes you can read it.....editing in FCP7 is just a hassle once you got used to FCPX (unless you need multicam....).
I also need to mention FCP7 crashed at least daily on me....usually after 6-8 minutes in the 10 minute autosave-loop. And every autosave that shows me a spinning beachball gives me a near-heartattack. In my experience crashes happen often when I need waveforms (turn them off mostly for that reason alone) and also thumbnails-cache seems to be buggy always in legacy FCP. FCPX crashes also in its 1.0 version, but at least you never lose work, because it saves every step anyway.

Speaking of steps.....FCP7 has one step involved often......RENDERING...something you simply never need in FCPX. In FCP7 you often need to stop to render a quick preview to see how a composite or a transition with a graphic overlayed looks or you have like me Nattress Effects or other 3rd party effects that don´t play realtime. Annoyning when you have a machine that costed thousands and has more power than needed for this.

Some good news in FCP7: I could watch my editing on my monitor via the calibrated Matrox MXO2....something FCPX doesn´t offer (yet) and is missing badly.

Colour correction:
Send the timeline to Color. Since I use the FCPX waveforms and Colourboard I can´t get around to use the 3-way colourwheels in FCP7. They are just bad in quality; the scopes are pixelated like a Nintendo Game Boy game. Color on the other hand is a monster and gives great results. Send the corrected timeline back to FCP7......done. But once you want to handles...the roundtripping starts. In this project the FCPX colourboard would have been sufficient, I never used more than 3 secondaries here, something FCPX handles easily.

Video: no difference; create a Quicktime in Apple ProRes, drop into compressor if needed. Well there is a difference: if you need to render or you want to render all once again for some reason (switching from one ProRes flavor to the next) then it takes LONGER in FCP7. Way longer, because it doesn´t use all your cores.
Audio output: FCP7 shines. Change the audio-output settings, set the dedicated audio-tracks and voila.....8 tracks out to an OMF for the audio-department in the network.
One feature that really is only in FCP7 (unless you want to buy Automatic Duck for FCPX)

In the end I doubt I was faster by using FCP7. had I imported all the capture scratches and keyworded them I could have had a nice project (event) setup. The problem was the 10-minute films where I wanted the turned out I only needed an  extra-handle on a clip once or twice, so had I rendered some ProRes versions and taken the needed parts from there I would have had the advantage of the faster editing, saved the roundtrip to Color and would have a project now that can be used in 3 years again when FCP7 is probably not installed on many of my machines.

FCP7 is EOLed.....and this was probably the last time I used it out of my decision. From now it only comes into play when a client wants some old (as in pre-June2011) project changed.

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