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Time for the second entry in the diary from our Final Cut Pro X newbie. Will the 'FCPX Force' be weak or strong in this latest update?


The FCPX Man Diary


Well here we are. Week two of my new life as part of the FCPX generation. Well when I say week two I actually mean month two. Since flying home armed with my new software (and the Editors Keys FCPX keyboard that was a last minute purchase), it has done precisely nothing.

I haven't even opened it: every time I flip the lid on my MacBook Pro it is staring at me from the dock with an accusing, yet colourful, eye.

But a combination of cowardice and inertia means that I have pulled back from the brink, citing all manner of excuses for continuing to open FCP7 instead. Corporate film to do: can't risk using a new edit system. Daughter's school project: too risky, what with her future at stake (and the fact that she would pick X up quicker than me, thereby making me look both stupid and  old fashioned – both of which I actually am). And finally, those three shots of my dog running around the garden chasing a ball with a Go Pro strapped to his head: too flimsy an edit job with which to launch my new edit system.

But every man has a limit to his shameful and craven behaviour – politicians excepted - and I now have a project which demands I use FCPX. It is a load of behind the scenes footage shot on my Canon 5D Mkii at a sports event in the Pacific islands. There is no time pressure, no client pressure and nothing difficult at all from a technical or creative perspective. I am simply going to clip this material together in a logical order and send it to a friend who might find it useful. As he doesn't even know I am doing this for him it doesn't matter if I fail miserably and don't send anything.

So here goes. What follows will churn the stomachs of anyone with a modicum of knowledge of FCPX. In fact it will probably make anyone weep who values common sense, reason, intelligence and human decency.

I had taken my camera to Tahiti as something of an afterthought, as evidenced by the fact that I forgot both my battery charger and my card reader. But people being people there was someone to bail me out, meaning I could shoot more than 5 mins of footage and get it off the CF card.

But where to put it? Because, guess what, I didn't have any external drives either. Just one alternative really. Make disc images of the CF  cards to my desktop and set the capture scratch to my hard drive. Yes, all incredibly stupid so far.

And then I opened up FCPX and got cracking. Fortunately the first thing I needed to do was import some material from one of the disc images on my desktop. That seemed fairly similar to FCP7. I remembered that I needed to set the Import Settings in my Preferences menu but couldn't 100% remember what my Obi Wan Kenobi guru had told me to do, so I clicked on the following options :

  • Import folders as Keyword Collections
  • Create Optimized media
  • Create Proxy Media
  • Separate mono and group stereo audio
  • Remove Silent Channels

I opened the disc image and imported the clips. So far pretty easy.

I then gingerly started cutting them onto a timeline or whatever a timeline is called these days. Putting one shot in front of the next in a logical manner seemed pretty straightforward. After an hour of feeling smug I had cut out all the wobbly shots and had a sequence to export. I couldn't find anything that said File Export in the File dropdown but I did find something that said Share, which I know is the new, touchy-feely buzzword for Export, so I clicked it.

And at this point things began to unravel. All the options, apart from choosing a Destination, were greyed out. Try as hard as I could, double checking my in and out points and all the other technical checks I could perform (making tea and eating biscuits, pacing around the room etc etc), I could do nothing to remedy this situation.

Reach-for-the-manual FCPX

This is probably a good point to tell  you something about myself and my relationship with instructions and Help Menus. I do not sit at the slightly lunatic end of the scale that my wife occupies, where  any instruction leaflet is roundly ignored, but nor am I at the other end with those poor lost souls who spend hours reading technical pamphlets - sometimes for equipment they do not even own - including the bits about battery disposal.

In the universe of instructions I see myself as more of a Luke Skywalker figure. Did the young Jedi prepare for his life-defining moment by reading the instructions for his new X-Wing fighter ? No sir, he did not. He sought the homespun advice of a small green creature with large ears and then listened to the voices in his head. That same approach has got me to where I am at this moment with my new edit system.

But I now have to admit that the Force is not with me. Rather than the FCPX equivalent of depositing my payload down a small opening (stop sniggering at the back) I am careering out of control like one of those expendable extras about to smash into the Death Star. I am, for want of a better word, buggered.

But for every one of life's crises, there is a Millennium Falcon lurking over the horizon (Ok, I know I have beaten the Star Wars metaphor with a big stick until it is screaming for mercy).  Mine is in the shape of a series of video tutorials given to me by a colleague. I am going to have to watch them, because the first lesson has been learnt.

And that lesson is this. You cannot migrate from FCP7 to FCPX on instinct. Neither the Force, nor herbal remedies, nor native wit, nor beer (life's greatest panacea) can magically  make you understand a very different  way of editing. Sure, some of the basic premises are the same. But only in the same way that driving to the shops is the same as dropping a torpedo from a spaceship. I am going to have to expend some time and energy in learning this new system if I want to use it. But first I have to decide if I can be bothered.

To be continued.....


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