It started off as a post from Thomas Carter on our popular Forum and as suggested, this Final Cut Pro X user story just had to make the front page. The new Sony Xperia commercial gets cut on FCPX and the result is rather superb. Enjoy.
1x 90sec Commercial with 60sec cutdown and a cinema version.
5x 30sec product films with 20sec and 15sec cutdowns
Shot over 9 days in Berlin on Arri Alexa.
Cut on location and back in London.
Grade, effects and sound were all done at post houses in London.
On location I used a 15” Retina Macbook Pro with 16GB Ram, 4TB G-Drive for media, HDMI to the HDTV in the room for big screen joy and a Jambox for sound. Back in London I had a 3 screen set up off a Mac Pro and an assistant editor using an iMac.
Each night the DIT handed over ProRes transcodes of the days rushes and I would then get organising and selecting as the shoot continued.
As well as the media on the G-Drive, I also let FCPX create proxy files. With my library on the MacBook it meant that if I needed to pop down to set I could move quickly without dragging a drive and cables about, safe in the knowledge that all my media was there in proxy format. One note, after importing all video i set my FCP to “copy media into library”, just so I knew graphics and audio would be with me when I switched to proxy.
After using Batch Renaming to match the Slate/Take numbers (which is really fast), I broke down footage into keywords based on scenes. Then within each scene I used the “scene” metadata column to organise the shots further. Meaning whether a-cam/b-cam, sequential or not, all relevant footage would be grouped together. And I could hide sections within a keyword if I wanted to concentrate on a certain part.
I used keyword collections in other folders for music, audio effects and graphics. I tend to keep all my media in one event. This is because I often need scenes/keywords which span a few days shooting. Keywords in separate events are new instances and only contain media from that Event (obviously). This doesn’t seem to cause me any issues. On this job I also tagged any parts of shots which has the product in. This wasn’t a rigid process I went through at the start, I just tagged as I was selecting. Very handy for later down the line when clients asked to see other options for product.
I made Smart Collections for my edits. Using “is” and “is not” parameters FCPX can create collections which automatically sort your cuts. For example, when I stated cutting my 90” down to a 60”, I duplicated the edit, renamed it with “60 sec” and it automatically disappeared from the 90 sec collection and appeared in the 60 sec collection. The same was true of sequences prepped for EDL and AAF outputs. And when my assistant sent me XML of cuts, they automatically appeared in the correct place.
Any syncing was done with or timecode or markers and the synchronise function. Interestingly I found that if I had a 50fps shot with corresponding audio track, I could sync at the clapper, then change the audio’s connection point to the clap. Then if I chose to speed up picture to fit sound, or slow down sound to fit picture, it would ripple around this point and sync perfectly.
Anything shot ‘Low Mode’ on a steady cam (upside down) I had to open in its own timeline to rotate 180º. This is a little frustrating. It would be great if we could edit transform parameters etc on groups of clips in the browser, just like we can with metadata.
I skimmed through and rejected all the crap before action and after cut and hid the rejected so I didn’t have to waste time again reviewing useless footage. This generally seems to remove about a 3rd of the rushes running time instantly.
I then went through and selected all the stuff I liked using Favourites. This is so fast in X. JKL to navigate, In, Out, F for favourite on the fly, no stopping to write to a timeline, copying between timelines or selecting the next clip from a bin. No Stopping, more editing.
And later when it comes to reviewing selects if I (or the director) feel I’ve missed something I can instantly switch my view from ‘Show Favourites’ to ‘Hide Rejected’. If I need to add a new favourite at a later date, it’s instantly there in context, across all the associated keywords. Each Scene keyword can act as raw rushes, a string out, and selects at the click of a button. It’s really dynamic.
Persistent in and outs also helped me review take options quickly. By setting the in and out on all the bits clips you want to compare, you can then use the up and down arrows to quickly jump back and forth between the options before hitting F on the best ones. A very small detail but makes it so much better.
I find editing in the magnetic timeline really fluid and fast. I worry less and less about sync. A few simple things make this possible. Connecting the music to a specific sync point meant that I could ripple the shots at the start to my heart content, knowing that the rest is in sync. Later in the cut, when things are more locked down timing wise, I used the “lift from storyline” command a lot to work on a little section before dropping it back in.
I edit on the keyboard as much as possible. [ ] and \ keys for selecting out, in and roll, make trimming really fast. I’ve NEVER used the precision editor, it feels like a redundant feature. But I also don’t feel the need for an AVID style Trim Tool, it’s not something I ever used either. There is a keyboard shortcut for almost anything. But a lot of these aren't even assigned by default. When I'm thinking about or using a feature I'll often have a search in the keyboard editor to see if there are any hidden shortcut gems lurking.
Retiming clips is incredibly fast. I’ve set up shortcuts for 2x speed change and reverse (as I use these most frequently). The Blade Speed function is brilliant. Just playing with a clip, pushing and pulling frames into the right place visually rather than punching in numbers and looking at a graph feels so right.
I was able to do most of the comping/matting and screen replacement directly within FCP (thought this would all be done later but dedicated VFX artists) to a pretty high standard. I love compound clips for this. Grouping shots and compressing them into a neat bundle is really elegant when you are trimming and finessing a cut. And breaking them apart ready for output to online is made really simple with the Break Apart command. If you title them all with a common name (I call them all ‘something-something comp’), then you can search for them in the timeline index, select all, and blow them all apart with one short cut.
A lot of people seem to complain about the audio in X. I personally love it. It feels like its build for fast and efficient audio editing. Dynamic waveforms, fade handles, clips which jump out the way, range selection, speed changes with and without pitch shift are great. To select a region, duck and raise it, is so much faster than manually adding keyframes, and selecting and moving groups of keyframes is so handy.
Quite often on this job I would adjust the volume of a clip, with the keyboard, while playing back the edit. By the time we get to the end of a watch through, the change is made and ready to be reviewed. On most jobs I get heavily involved in sound design to help the cut. FCPX allows me to experiment and play much closer to the ‘speed of thought’ than any other NLE.
One tiny niggle is that with a lot of audio clips, the timeline can get a bit messy, even if you keep on top of it. This would be solved if the audio could be organised by roles (mentioned on these very forums). Horizontal regions where clips are grouped by role. I already have everything tagged as ‘Music’, ‘Dialogie’, ‘Effects’ and ‘VO’ so why not automatically use this metadata to make me look neater. X2Pro and Logic X both do this (in a track based way).
For the client edit we had an un-released Michael Jackson track to cut to (this is not in the directors cut shown above). I was given the stems so we could tease the track in, and only use it fully at the very end. I tried something out here which sort of worked. I put all 20 stems into a multi clip and enabled all the audio at once. I used this as the track to cut with, connected in the timeline, If i needed to drop out the bass or voice, for example, I expanded the audio components, dropped the relevant stems in volume, then collapsed it down to a manageable again. Also, once expanded you can ‘clip skim’ each of the audio tacks individually and check out whats going on in that stem without having to disable/solo any stems.
There’s so much I could mention here about the things I love and which work brilliantly.
As I’m not finishing the colour or sound in the offline the only outputs I really do, besides EDL’s and AAF’s, are viewing Quicktimes. For this I use a painfully simple method, just because its very quick and used no brain power. I export a same as source Quicktime from FCP, open in Quicktime X, Export to 480p. It’s so quick and I haven’t been able to replicate the speeds in compressor. A 90 sec HD ProRes takes 12 seconds to compress. It’s fast, easy and looks great. Cuts are then uploaded to WireDrive for presentation.
In the latter stages, once we needed multiple versions/alternate cuts, I had an assistant working alongside me. For this we had a duplicated Library (duplicated after all media was imported). We then passed cuts back and forth with XML’s and Dropbox. This works fairly well (certainly better than previous versions of FCP), but it would be great to have something like, but better than, Avid Unity for true Project (Library) collaboration.
3rd Party Support
I used a few third party apps and plugins.
- Final Cut Library Manager for keeping those render files in check.
- EDL-X to send the picture to the grade, which is brilliant. so fast to make layered FX EDLs particularly.
- X2Pro to send AAF’s for audio. Makes you look like a really tidy editor by allocating tracks based on Roles and Sub Roles. Though I occasionally get compatibility issues when the sound house isn’t using Pro Tools. Need to work this out.
- Slice X/Track X. Worked really well for all my comp shots and screen replacements.
A few negatives, and these feel like bugs and things which need ironing out as they seem to boil down to slowdown and lag. A large number of Sequences (projects) seems to significantly slow the UI down. Sometimes having the Inspector open seems to do the same, and weirdly a lot of markers also do.
While I’m here I may as well rattle of a few ‘wants’.
Dupe Detection. An old FCP Legacy feature which hasn’t found it’s way back. It’s so easy to accidentally add more to the end of a clip which might be duplicated elsewhere in the timeline. And sometimes you just end up with two copies of the same clip. I’d love to have a indicator of this again.
Playing through Clips in the browser. When playing back Favourites (reviewing all the selects with a director) it stops at the end of each clip/favourite. If I want to play through a big chunk of selects in one go I have to keep skipping to the next clip, or make a sequence to play them in. It would be great if it just played through from one to the next when in filmstrip view, after all, the new iMovie does this already by default.
A Master In-Out selection. When you put an In and Out on the timeline and delete, it only removes connected clips which are directly connected to clips in the selection. Any clips over hanging, remain. Meaning I often end up with loads of little tail ends lying about. Currently the only way clear this to do this is to Blade All and then manually select and delete. An In-Out delete which included connected clips would be great.
Scrolling Timeline Playhead? No thanks.
There are LOADS of other things I could mention but it’ll take forever. I will just say that all the directors I’ve worked with in FCPX have loved it. After the usual “But isn’t FCPX rubbish” they quickly see the benefits and come to love the interface and the way I work with it.
If you’ve made it this far, thanks for reading!
A huge thank you to Thomas for sharing his story, if you would like to to know more, check out the original thread on our Forum.