Submitting Better FCPX Feedback to Apple
Noah here. As some of you might know, before coming over to FCPWORKS I worked for Apple on the Final Cut Pro X team. What was that like? Well, unfortunately most of what it was like (other than awesome) I can’t reveal due to a non-disclosure agreement I signed and also my own wish for Apple’s surprises to stay secret. But I’ve spoken openly about one of my areas of responsibility during my time at Apple: reading incoming user feedback about Final Cut Pro X.
That’s right, when you “Provide Final Cut Pro Feedback” within FCPX itself or via this feedback form, actual human beings on the other end read it. For a while, I was one of those humans on the other end. So I thought you might like to know how you can tailor your own feedback to be as effective as possible. I found FCPX feedback generally fell into 3 main categories: Bug Reports, Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about using the application, and Enhancement Requests (ERs) asking for a new feature.
Let’s break down each of these types of submissions:
No application is perfect and FCPX is no different. It’s a deeply complex application tuned for very high performance. And let’s face it, pushing multiple streams of 4K+ video along is a herculean task that drives Apple to the limits of hardware development. We probably wouldn’t have a new Mac Pro if FCPX were not around to make use of it. That being said, bugs do happen and feedback is an excellent way to communicate them to Apple and make sure they know about them.
Now here’s the real trick: in order for a bug to be potentially fixed it first has to be reproduced. In other words, a bug you’re reporting should be repeatedly reproducible. If it can’t be reproduced outside of your own system then it can’t be analyzed. And if it can’t be analyzed, it can’t be fixed. Here are some tips for reporting bugs in the most effective way possible:
Observe the bug. What exactly happened? Did FCPX crash? Did you lose some data? Did your computer freeze? Did you see a graphical glitch of some sort? What did you expect to happen vs. what did happen? Make some notes; the more details the better. You never know where the key to understanding the problem may lie.
Are you alone? Check the discussion forums that I mention a little later in this article and look for others having similar issues with FCPX. If you can’t find anyone else discussing anything even remotely similar to the problem you’re experiencing, then it’s quite possible it’s unique to your system. Are you up to date on Mac OS and FCPX updates? Are you running any 3rd party virus scanners or firewall software? Are you running any hacks on your system or working with any unusual media formats or codecs? If not and your Mac is still covered under an Applecare warranty, it may be worth bringing your system into an Apple Store and having it looked over for any hardware-specific problems that could be related to the issue.
Can you reproduce the bug? What were you doing in FCPX when the bug occurred? If you try to do the same thing again does the same bug occur every time? Can you distill it down to a specific set of steps that consistently cause the bug? If you can, then you’ve successfully isolated a potential bug. Go to the user feedback form and enter the following information:
- A precise description of the bug.
- What you expected to happen vs. what actually happened.
- Any error messages you received from FCPX or OS X.
- Clear, concise steps for reproducing the bug.
- Any specific plugins, media types, 3rd party applications you’re running that are above and beyond a ‘stock’ App Store install of FCPX.
Also, please be sure to accurately enter all of the form’s other fields about your hardware specifications and your software/OS versions. You’ll find most of this information via the About this Mac option in the Apple menu. All of this detail will be a major help in making your bug report as informative as possible. And keep it objective. Venting about your frustrations with a bug ultimately doesn’t help it get fixed any faster. And all of this makes the work of those humans at Apple I was talking about earlier a little easier and a little more efficient.
For FAQs in general, the FCPX feedback form is actually one of the least efficient methods for getting help because as it states clearly, “we cannot respond to the comments you submit.” On the other hand, Apple as a company has an army of folks at Apple Stores and online via Applecare whose job is precisely to help you. You’ll find a ton of great info right within the app itself via the Help menu. You can also download a detailed user’s manual as a PDF here.
That said, FCPX is a very specialized app used by professionals like you and me and learning is a group effort. So you’ll often get more detailed answers from peers. Some excellent places to ask questions about using Final Cut Pro X are the forums at Apple Support Communities, FCP.CO, Creative Cow, and on the Facebook FCPX Editors Group. You’ll often find that your exact question (or another very close to it) has already been asked and answered by searching for the subject on Google, which indexes everything above (except the Facebook group).
So keep this all in mind with FAQs. If you want help with the application there are plenty of resources out there that can get you an answer very quickly. The feedback form just isn’t really one of them.
Just about everyone has an opinion about new features they’d love to see in Final Cut Pro X. I send enhancement requests in myself from time to time as I continue to explore new workflows. But before you do send in your ER, I recommend taking a few things into consideration:
Is your dream feature already well-known? I.e. FCP 7-style tracks instead of the magnetic timeline, Motion round-tripping, Batch Exporting and the like. You’re probably not alone in sending in those requests in during the years since FCPX’s launch back in 2011. If your ER falls potentially into this category you should probably add a specific reason why you personally need it instead of you “miss it from FCP 7.”
Does your ER already exist? See the section on FAQs above. If you’re especially new to the application you might find that the feature you’re asking for already exists. Google for it first and/or spend a few moments looking through the manual to confirm it’s not something that’s already in Final Cut Pro X. Perhaps it’s something recently added in a update and you just haven’t discovered it yet.
Or maybe there’s a 3rd party plugin or application that offers the same functionality. Sure, it would be great if you didn’t have to spend extra money for something that you feel should be included directly within the application itself. But if you need something urgently enough for a workflow now, most plugins are a real bargain. Here’s a great resource about many of the available plugins for X.
Does your ER have wide appeal? Think about how many other users might benefit from your desired feature. If your ER is highly specific to your workflow and wouldn’t be of much use to anyone else, the likelihood of it being prioritized for FCPX is low. Think about the 5th wheel on a car. It might look cool but beyond that it’s probably not too likely to happen… On the other hand if it’s a feature that you think might help many other users of FCPX then it’s definitely worth submitting.
Now, if you’ve gotten through these considerations and your ER still fits the bill, you should go ahead and send it in. The more explanation you can provide about your ER and what problem having the feature would solve for you, the better. Provide examples via links if you think they’d help. If an illustration or screencast would help, take the time to make them. You can then include a link to Dropbox, Vimeo, YouTube, etc. Take your time and make your voice count.
Apple Loves Feedback
These are my personal suggestions for submitting better FCPX feedback to Apple. The humans on the other end are really thoughtful people and they truly do want you to be happy with the product. To be honest, these same recommendations also apply to just about any other product Apple makes iMovie, Logic Pro X, OS X etc. (and really same goes for any decent manufacturer).
On the same note, I found another blog post discussing this subject with some great recommendations over at CNET. And here’s a frankly hiliarious look at the life of feedback sent into Apple as a PDF slide deck. (Finally when in doubt on any sort of feedback, you should consult Wheaton’s Law.)
Hope this all helps.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
This blog post contains the personal musings of FCPWORKS’ Marketing Director, Noah Kadner. Prior to joining the company, Noah spent several years at Apple where he worked with internal Workflow and Editorial teams in support of Final Cut Pro X customers. Noah also directed a feature film available on iTunes called Social Guidance and wrote “RED: The Ultimate Guide to the Revolutionary Camera.” Noah’s ongoing career goal is communicating digital post-production workflows to experts and enthusiasts alike.You can follow him on Facebook or Twitter at @FCPWORKS.