Work a remote machine running Final Cut Pro or share your live edit session with Splashtop.
I'm sure a few people here will remember iChat Theatre running on FCP7 back in 2009. It allowed you to share the viewer or canvas window with a client over iChat in real time and allowed you to video chat with each other. It helped to speed up client feedback without having to physically FedEx a DVD off to them.
That feature didn't make it in to FCPX. It also suffered from low resolution and low frame rates, but it did provide an opportunity for instant approval or disapproval!
Back to 2021 and there's a very good alternative way to share your live editing with clients, or remote into a machine and work a copy of Final Cut Pro from a distance.
Splashtop is an inexpensive service that allows you to share your desktop, audio, keyboard and mouse across the internet to a remote computer.
I'm pretty sure you can see straight away two possibilities for Splashtop and editing. I've done both and they both work well.
1) Work Final Cut Pro (Or any Mac app) on a machine from a remote machine - Maybe working from home but actually controlling the Mac at your work location.
2) Sharing your desktop with a client in real-time so that they can interact with you whilst you edit.
Ok, I understand there's going to be a lot of you thinking that Splashtop won't be able to stream an FCP GUI across the internet and allow a remote user to effortlessly skim across footage in the browser. I'm the biggest technology doubting Thomas out there, so here's me working FCP on a Mac Trash Can, 110 miles away from where it is installed. There is no local media and the instance of FCP running on the screen isn't FCP running locally. Sorry for the iPhone footage, but I didn't want the overhead or complication of screen recording on the remote machine.
Controlling a Remote Machine
Splashtop works by installing two pieces of software, the Business App on the machine you want to view from and a 'Streamer' client on the machine you wish to view and control. Both are available to download from the Splashtop site and there is a free trial so you can give it a good work out.
One really handy tip here, a pre-configured Streamer app is available as an HTML download link to send to a client or facility house whose machine you want to control.
Once you have the Streamer installed on the remote machine, opening up the Splashtop Business app will show the machines available to remote.
Then click on the screen icon and you will be able to view and control the remote machine. There is a slight wrinkle to get around and that's the audio settings.
Without a special configuration, a Mac can only output application audio via one device, internally or externally. To listen to the audio remotely, just set the sound preference to Splashtop Remote Sound.
Should you wish to have the sound outputting on the remote and local machine, you need to set up a Multi-Output Device in the Midi control panel. (Yes I never knew you could do that either!)
Then assign the sound output to that device in the System Preferences.
This is essential if you want another person to listen to what you are doing on the other end.
Time for more testing and I thought I'd get fellow FCP editor John Matthews to try it out. I decided to share FCP on my iMac Pro via Splashtop, as he's been looking for a way to edit remotely, and he was very interested when I suggested the idea.
With a quick bit of configuration assigning John's machine to the Business app, he was up and running my machine whilst I sat in front of it! The screen grab of John's machine that he sent is lower quality than the original desktop grab, when you sit in front of a remote connection, the GUI is so crisp it is hard to believe it's not on your machine.
John explains -
Like many of us, I’d been looking for a Remote Desktop solution, basically a screen keyboard KVM extender! It was mainly so that I could jump in and assist on Projects.
It’s always Mac based, so the simplest solution is an iPhone or iPad, pointing at a monitor and FaceTime, or use the Messages app, since you can screen share, from the Buddies menu, and microphones are simultaneously connected. The problem though, is that the computer audio becomes attenuated, at both ends. As well as control of the screen, I also needed unattended access.
I had tried TeamViewer, but it was fiddly to set up, and although claiming to be free, limited in functionality, without paying £31.90 a month, for a single user version.
Then I tried Splashtop. With a free trial and priced at only $8.25 a month, for individuals and small teams, It was similar to set up as the others. But what surprised me, was the near zero latency. I continued to use FaceTime, in parallel for voice communication and was able to play and navigate a remote Mac running FCP. Even on my Copper wire to fibre broadband, I got almost full frame playback and sync audio. I think you can edit reasonably successfully by driving a remote Mac this way. Travelling anywhere at the moment to work, is problematic, so this looks like an inexpensive, "work from home," collaborative solution.
There was one problem that John found, that backed up what I had been experiencing. Remote skimming works really well in the Browser, but for some reason doesn't work on the Timeline. Not the end of the world, but it would have been nice to have that as per local machine control.
Editing with a Remote Client Watching and Listening
On to the second use case, and that's editing with a client watching and listening to your machine running FCP. Although the configuration is slightly harder, it works well and I've sat at my machine all day working collaboratively like this.
I have FaceTime open on a separate laptop so I can see and hear the client and vice-a-versa. As the latency is about the same, you don't get an annoying echo when editing.
After a few hours you tend to forget that they're not in the same room with you, it works that well.
There is one wrinkle with this setup. If you are used to your client laying down voiceover when editing, you will have to find another way to get their voice into your Mac. The client recording a voice memo on their phone and messaging it to you works well, although it won't be locked to picture.
The last year has seen a big change in the way we work in post production. Editors and clients have been looking for solutions to enable remote working and Splashtop does exactly that. Having used it in anger on different projects, I recommend you give the free trial a go, even if it's just to see the quality of the FCP GUI remotely.
As for security, I've used Splashtop in different locations (including hotel wifi) without any special security tweaks to routers or firewalls. As you will have open access to shared storage when controlling a machine on a network, it makes sense to disable the streamer and login once you have finished working with it.
There is another product from Splashtop called Mirroring360 Pro for sharing your desktop. I haven't tried it, but it might be less involved with configuration, should you just want to share your screen and audio. I've heard that there are a couple of other services such as Parsec that perform similar tasks to Splashtop.
To go back to the first thought of the article recounting the sad death of iChat Theatre, how cool would it be for Splashtop to release a Workflow Extension for Final Cut Pro that triggered off a screen share and FaceTime call with a click?
Maybe I should email them with the suggestion :)