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The Mac Pro and Final Cut Pro X one year on. What has changed?

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The Mac Pro and the 10.1 update to Final Cut Pro X are now over a year old. So using the same jobs as benchmarks, how far have we come with the combination?

 

I was very lucky here at FCP.co to be one of the first to be lent a new Mac Pro back in December 2013. This coincided with the 10.1 release of Final Cut Pro X with its major updates including the new libraries and multicam, retiming & GUI enhancements.

I discovered that on the new Mac Pro, Final Cut Pro X 10.1 screamed as you might recall from this article posted back in January. Plus this funny but mind expanding series of tests where myself and Alex Gollner stretched the combo to the limit. Also there was a big sum up with a long term test right here. All worth a read.

A year on and the same paid broadcast jobs returned, so I thought this was an ideal time to test out the duo again and see what has changed.

 

That now familiar black tube came out of it’s case on a rainy New Year’s day to be plumbed into an existing edit network in an outside broadcast van.

The shock of the new had slightly worn off, people no longer came into the truck just to take a look at the new machine. Funny how new technology gets so quickly accepted. It took its place up on a shelf out of the way with a few Thunderbolt connected GRAIDs for local storage and there it stayed for over a week. The main storage was via an ethernet connected NAS.

MacPro FCPX 3

 

I mentioned to the senior AP (assistant producer) that I had been really impressed with FCPX’s automatic syncing and editing with multicam and that putting an extra camera in interviews wouldn’t slow down the edit process. It would allow more edit flexibility (cutting out material by cutting to the other angle) and look a lot sexier onscreen.

The crew of excellent APs and the excellent cameramen took it other step further by setting up the usual main camera (This time a Canon C300) with two canon 5Ds. Thus nearly every interview over the week was a 3 camera multicam edit. (More on multicam editing to come in a later article.)

The team actually ended up having seven cameras on the job. Two Sony PMWF800’s, A Sony NEX-FS700 A Canon C300 and three 5Ds in various states of wear and tear.

Not a problem for FCPX, although we did end up converting the majority of footage to ProRes for other uses as well.

We again cut with files streamed from a EVS. Unfortunately Multicam 12 wasn't installed on the OB’s machines, which meant that the long files still didn’t have timecode.

I've heard from a reliable source that when using Multicam 12, the ProRes files that the EVS produces are proper Apple specification, not the reverse-engineered FFmpeg flavour that can cause problems. Looking at the document, EVS are on the approved list of Apple's authorised products which is good. Not everybody is. Watch this space for more information on EVS & FCPX.

I thought that Apple had tinkered with FCPX and Yosemite as I had noticed much improved waveform analysis and drawing with EVS files via an ISIS client. I'd timed it at 10 seconds per hour of 8 track audio EVS streams.

Unfortunately using a Synology file server reset us back to where we were this time last year with regular quitting of FCPX when waveform creation bogged the Mac down.

I had the joy of returning to FCP7 the next week and after spending 30 seconds trying to find where the overwrite button was, it struck me that FCP 'classic' also has a problem with drawing waveforms. It too is slow but as it really is a background task, you experience little slowdown. Sometimes they don’t even fully draw no matter how long you leave the machine sitting there!

MacPro FCPX 2

 

I heard from a colleague that edits similar footage on Adobe Premiere, that he has to turn off the waveforms completely to edit. So it seems like a pretty universal problem. I really hope that Apple fix this issue soon as it’s a real pain when using long files on certain storage - that includes XSAN unfortunately.

The year has however allowed third party manufacturers to issue new drivers and optimise their software and hardware for the Mac Pro and Thunderbolt 2. Everything was very stable and frame accurate.

So how did it all work? Fast. As you would expect.

Last year the MacPro was being used for the odd edit that needed heavy effects or templates. This year it did the majority of heavy lifting in my suite apart from edits that referenced a lot of material that was logged with timecode. FCP7 was waiting in the wings for that. 

The difference was I had complete confidence in the machine & FCPX and thus we worked it very, very hard for long hours right up to transmission deadlines. Just take a look at some of the multicam interviews we got through.

MacPro FCPX 4

 

A new level of production speed seems to have been created. The traditional areas where other NLEs would bog down in have been removed. Rendering isn’t an issue. You tend to finesse an edit more, more attention to colour correction, stabilisation of shots, fine tweaks that make a visible difference. And all with the confidence of being able to go into a complex edit and change anything without worrying about what happens to the rest of the timeline. Once mastered, the magnetic timeline is an amazing feature.

All a bit groundhog day? Yes you've heard it all before from me. I've probably even used the same phrases out of my limited editing vocabulary. But this time it's the norm rather than the exception. 

Import, edit, export, rinse & repeat. Quickly.

Take a look at this opener, some of the shots are running at large positive and negative percentages. There’s multiple overlays, repositioning of images, colour correction and a widescreen matte. All done from scratch in about an hour and a half and that includes finding all the shots (some from the EVS!) and the very short render. (Probably under 30 seconds.)

 

So what didn’t work?

Sorry to be boring, but just the same things we mentioned a year back. Minor gripes or bugs like grades not sticking and extra frames being introduced on export have all been fixed.

The audio in FCPX however still needs some love. I quite like adjusting the levels of music to voice using a range, but it is still not as quick or accurate as manually riding a fader in real time. I’ve gone off the idea of audio only crossfades as I can see them not really working in some cases. What we need is one click audio fades applied to each audio component under the video transition.

Most TV in the UK is interlaced, so one way or another you will end up editing with an interlaced timeline, even if it is just to add interlaced graphics. It does cause a problem with matching cameras and live footage without a way on the timeline to deinterlace.

A deinterlace filter would solve that. Please.

Probably the biggest stumbling block with FCPX being accepted in the broadcast sports market is media managing. Trimming off unused parts of long clips is essential to avoid the mass duplication of footage on drives. We are getting close with Clip & Primaries Exporter.

My final 'it would be nice' thought is Motion. Not only would a ‘send to Motion’ command in FCPX be a superb present for its upcoming 11th birthday, (I was there at the birth!) a few new features would be a welcome addition too.

So to go back to the original question set in the title of the article, what has changed the most?

My job.

It might have got more fun and more creative over the year, but in a broadcast environment it's also got a lot harder and much faster.

 

peter wigginsPeter Wiggins is a broadcast freelance editor based in the UK although his work takes him around the world. An early adopter of FCP setting up pioneering broadcasts workflows, his weapon of choice is now Final Cut Pro X. You can find him on Twitter as @peterwiggins or as he runs the majority of this site, you can contact him here.

 

 

 


Written by
Top Blogger Thought Leader

I am the Editor-in-Chief of FCP.co and have run the website since its inception ten years ago.

I have also worked as a broadcast and corporate editor for over 30 years, starting on one inch tape, working through many formats, right up to today's NLEs.

Under the name Idustrial Revolution, I have written and sold plugins for Final Cut Pro for 13 years.

I was made a Freeman of Lichfield through The Worshipful Company of Smiths (established 1601). Though I haven't yet tried to herd a flock of sheep through the city centre!

Current Editing

great house giveaway 2020

2020 has been busy, the beginning of the year was finishing off a new property series (cut on FCP) for Channel 4 called The Great House Giveaway. I also designed and built the majority of the graphics as Motion templates. It has been a great success and the shows grabbed more viewers in the 4pm weekday slot than any previous strand. It has been recommissioned by C4 for 60 episodes, including prime-time versions and five themed programmes. The shows have also been nominated for a 2021 BAFTA.

Tour de france 2020
Although both were postponed to later in the year, I worked again on ITV's coverage of the Tour de France and La Vuelta. 2020 was my 25th year of editing the TdF and my 20th year as lead editor. The Tour was the first broadcast show to adopt FCPX working for multiple editors on shared storage.

 

BBC snooker the crucible

BBC's Snooker has played a big part in my life, I've been editing tournament coverage since 1997. I'm proud to be part of a very creative team that has pioneered many new ideas and workflows that are now industry standard in sports' production. This is currently an Adobe Premiere edit.

amazon kindle BF

Covid cancelled some of the regular corporate events that I edit such as trade shows & events. I was lucky however to edit, from home, on projects for Amazon Kindle, Amazon Black Friday, Mastercard and very proud to have helped local charitable trust Kendall & Wall secure lottery funding.

As for software, my weapon of choice is Final Cut Pro and Motion, but I also have a good knowledge and broadcast credits with Adobe Premiere Pro, MOGRT design and Photoshop.

Plugin Design & Development

I'm the creative force behind Idustrial Revolution, one of the oldest Final Cut Pro plugin developers. It hosts a range of commercial and free plugins on the site. One free plugin was downloaded over a thousand times within 24 hours of release.

I also take on custom work, whether it is adapting an existing plugin for a special use or designing new plugins for clients from scratch. Having a good knowledge of editing allows me to build-in flexibility and more importantly, usability.

FCP.co

Now in its 10th year and 4th redesign, running FCP.co has given me knowledge on how to run a large CMS- you are currently reading my bio from the database! Although it sounds corny, I am pretty well up on social media trends & techniques, especially in the video sector. The recent Covid restrictions has enabled live FCP.co shows online. This involves managing a Zoom Webinar through Restream.io to YouTube and Facebook. 

The Future

I'm always open to new ideas and opportunities, so please get in touch at editor (at) fcp.co. I've judged film competitions, presented workflow techniques to international audiences and come up with ideas for TV shows and software programs!

 

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