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FCPX diary 3

The third instalment of the FCPX Man Diary catches up with our FCPX newbie as he starts a series of tutorials whilst at 30,000 feet. A smooth ride or does he encounter turbulence?


City of Angels and Demons

There is a scene in the BBC comedy series Blackadder where the eponymous hero has a duel with the Duke of Wellington using mini canons placed about 10 feet apart. While the Duke very efficiently goes about loading, priming and elevating his weapon, Blackadder is reading the introduction to the instruction manual which says ‘"Congratulations on choosing the Armstrong Whitworth four pounder cannonnette. Please read the instructions carefully and it should give years of trouble free maiming." Not surprisingly the rubber-faced butler loses the duel.

On a flight to Los Angeles and thence onto London, I know that I am passing  30,000 feet above thousands of latter day Dukes of Wellington, already enjoying a bit of trouble-free maiming with their Final Cut Pro X edit systems. Having failed to inflict so much as a scratch when I tried to operate X without any prior knowledge I am having to get some instruction from a series of video tutorials provided by a colleague.

Instinct tells me to avoid the “Congratulations on choosing…” opener but I am determined to do this properly.

Always follow your instinct. The drinks trolley has arrived just in time to prevent me leaping to my feet and throwing either myself or my MBP out of the plane. I need a rum & coke to remove the sound of that very earnest man’s disembodied voice from my clogged brain. Still, some key knowledge from his instructions has seeped into that valuable organ. Within half a dozen lessons I have discovered why my first efforts to import and edit ended in defeat on the scale of Napoleon’s retreat from Moscow (Star Wars last time, early 19th century European history this week !).

FCPX diary 3 los Angeles

It seems to me that the import and organization of material seems slightly more complicated/involved/onerous with X than with 7. That may just be a misconception based on lack of familiarity, but in a way I don’t mind. Over the past few years I have increasingly felt that from a production perspective people have become lazy, feeling it is okay to simply import reams of footage and turn up in an edit with very little organized. There is probably the option to do this with X, but I am hoping that the import process encourages the use of key words and sensible folder structures. (Or no folders! -Editor)

Much has been made of the ability to suck different codecs in and get on with editing but for the most part that is a facility I don’t need. My edits are usually relatively relaxed and I enjoy drinking tea and pretending I am working while Log & Transfer is on the go. But who knows, perhaps the ability of X to get cracking straight away will be useful. I do often shoot separate audio so the ability of X to sync that without me playing around with clapperboards will be useful.

I like the concept of an in-edit database of material: I have a job in a few months time where we will need quick turnaround of in-the-field logged material and am already wondering if there is some logging software for iPad that can be married up to the import process. It would be great to have a production assistant logging next to the camera and be able to pull in that data with the material. Anyway, I digress.

The slight problem with my method of learning is that in a cramped economy seat there’s not much room to whip out a keyboard and drive, and start playing with X in tandem with listening to the lessons, but I hope some of the information is sticking. Also, I only have a few hours left to LA and need some shut-eye. Onwards and upwards.

Falling asleep on an aeroplane is a strange experience and seems to induce very realistic dreams. Let me tell you about mine. I dreamed that I woke up, got off the plane, queued for an hour at immigration with no toilet facilities, was fingerprinted on both hands and photographed by a joyless lady in a blue uniform, was then allowed to walk out of the terminal, go up a flight of stairs, queue for another 40 minutes at security, remove my shoes, belt, kidneys and spleen, get back on the same plane, in the same seat and continue my journey. What a surreal dream, yet here I am back in seat 42c and wide awake.

A few more video lessons and I am beginning to get more of a general understanding of the system. What I am finding immensely irritating is the seemingly pointless re-naming of everything. Quite why a sequence could not remain a sequence, a project a project etc is baffling. It feels as if some geeks have simply decided to do it for the hell of it. Part of me knows that this should be a simple mental switch to flick but it isn’t. The architecture of the file system seems at first glance to be little different to what I was using on FCP7 but maybe it isn’t and maybe the seemingly arbitrary name changes that are disorientating me will prove to have some point.

My guru had told me to forget everything I knew about 7 and approach with an open mind, but for a middle aged chap such as myself it’s a bit like trying to read those damned canon instructions in Mandarin. For now I will persevere with the instructions and the theory. I am even writing notes. When I reach London, get out of this damned seat and find a bit of room for my shiny new keyboard, the real duel will begin.



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