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Is Professional a Euphemism for Complex?

December 8, 2014 Tags: , , , , ,
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Sam here…. It’s starting to dawn on me what professional subconsciously means to a lot of people in the post-production world.

It means, “overly-complicated thing that is so confusing that the average person can’t use it. And the people who do know how to use it never need to explain why things with the particular product don’t work the way they should.”

When I look at at some of the software out there that’s considered highly professional I notice some common themes. User documentation tends to be inaccurate, not covered, or completely wrong… and yet the veteran users often say how much better it’s gotten.

Getting up and running with many of these products is often extremely difficult… almost like it was designed to keep people away from the interface and features. Basic functionality that you would expect from any piece of free consumer software can be touted as a “new innovation” that still often doesn’t work as expected (or without knowing which submenu or preference you need to have memorized).

The bottom line is that because many of these applications are so specialized and expensive, it becomes an excuse to explain away the entire product’s MASSIVE design and implementation flaws. Essentially, the attitude becomes “well, this is the most professional and expensive thing there is… if you don’t get it, you probably shouldn’t be doing this sort of work.”

My own recent experiences with some of these tools made me think a lot about whether the fact that I tend to use a lot of Apple products in my day to day has made me less capable, or whether Apple’s simplistic design has simply made my threshold for unnecessary complexity far lower than it used to be.

At the end of the day, my definition of professional is finding the most efficient, practical way to get from point A to B without having to sacrifice quality.

What I’m finding more and more in the post production world, though, is that a lot of professionals hide behind their apps’ complexity as a way of keeping their lack of actual working knowledge hidden and preserving their rates.

For most people, all professional really means is “have you created a system that the average person can’t use so that you can charge more money for this complicated, specialized product?”

I’m pretty sure the average colorist getting $650 an hour is not happy about Resolve Lite going free. Especially when the same exact application used to be much harder to use and part of a million dollar hardware package. And that was just a handful of years ago.

A real professional should be looking at the traditional production pyramid of cheap, fast, good (pick two) and doing their best to find ways to deliver all three in as painless a way as possible to their clients. That’s real value, and real professionals know that the faster you can do the same job (at an equal quality) as someone else, the more money you can make from that job.

Delivering at that level of cheap, fast, and good would mean that you would want your tools to be as simple and easy as possible so that you can get done what you need to get done without the tools getting in the way… and so you don’t need to constantly apologize for poorly executed design choices while you work.

The general idea is that developers should design for simplicity and ease of use and with the end user in mind… very few people besides Apple do that. Give a 4 year old a Blackberry instead of an iPad and you’ll see exactly what I mean. And yet somehow they get slammed for applying that philosophy across the board to their professional applications.

At the end of the day, I’m just a little surprised that in order to be considered professional you have to have something that only a subset of people can figure out… when the truth is that the only thing that matters when it comes to being professional is the end product.

I wish more professional products followed that philosophy. We’d all be able to get more work done.


Sam Mestman

Sam Mestman, FCPWORKS.

This blog post contains the personal musings of FCPWORKS’ Workflow Architect, Sam Mestman. Sam’s also a regular writer for fcp.co and MovieMaker Magazine, teaches post workflow at RED’s REDucation classes, and is the founder and CEO of We Make Movies, a film collective in Los Angeles and Toronto which is dedicated to making the movie industry not suck. If you’ve got any FCP X questions or need some help putting together a system, drop him an email at workflow@fcpworks.com and you can follow him on Facebook or Twitter at @FCPWORKS.

Submitting Better FCPX Feedback to Apple

December 4, 2014 Tags: , , , ,
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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

fcpx feedback marked
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.


FCPWORKS Noah Kadner

FCPWORKS Noah Kadner

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.

FCPX 10.1.4 – Why It’s a Good Thing

December 3, 2014 Tags: , , , , ,
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Version 10.1.4 of FCPX hit yesterday… and from what I can tell the general reaction was a mixture of disappointment/sadness/impatience… due to its not having perceptibly new tentpole features (and so close to Christmas too). Except for FCPX users that work in the Broadcast world, who I think all simultaneously pumped their fists. I think it’s a worthwhile maintenance update with the critical addition of native import/playback/export of the MXF format for higher profile clients.

MXF is a file format or container that for a very large segment of broadcasters is critical to workflow. As in, without it being supported directly there’s no uptake of FCPX, period. So even if you’re not using FCPX yourself, its complete inclusion in FCPX is a sure sign that Apple intends this application to be used in professional broadcast environments.

All this MXF goodness is likely a result of acquiring the good folks over at Hamburg Pro Media, which closed up shop mysteriously last summer. This used to be an expensive plugin that barred many broadcasters from getting into FCPX as a platform. Now it’s just a no-brainer and it means if you’re looking at the value proposition of learning FCPX as a platform for getting jobs in the broadcast market, your vista just got a whole lot wider. More on that here and here.

Now if you’re not one of these broadcast clients… guys, seriously, this is not the end of the world and it does not mean Apple has stopped caring about you and is going to stop innovating with this app.

As a person who has been lucky enough to peak behind the curtain and see how the sausage gets made, and has met the people on the FCPX team, and considers a lot of them friends… THOSE GUYS CARE. They are listening to you. They have not abandoned you.

The thing that was most difficult to me when I did my first stint and met the FCPX team for the first time was simply that I didn’t know how software development worked. Just because you want a particular feature doesn’t mean that it’s easy to implement… and just because you want a particular feature that used to be in another application (FCP7), it doesn’t mean that’s the way that feature should implemented moving forward.

The biggest thing I learned from working with those guys is that I didn’t even know what I didn’t know… and that things take time… and that the software was in good hands. The bottom line is this… if there’s something you really want to see implemented in FCPX, use the feedback form in the app and let Apple know. I know for a fact that they read those. If you think yesterday’s release was FCPX in its final form… you’re crazy. We’re going to have a special upcoming insider’s blog on how to give better feedback to Apple soon.

If you want my opinion… I think the FCPX team is just getting started and yesterday’s update was just a few bug fixes and some major fixes they knew they could address and deliver safely to certain customers while they’re busy working on bigger things. These are not educated guesses, these are knowing how the process goes.

So… all I can say to the FCPX users back home who are not happy about the lack of major new features in the latest update – keep calm, keep editing, and use the software in its current implementation… we’ll all be able to look back a few years from now and simply laugh about all the drama this kinda stuff caused.


Sam Mestman

Sam Mestman, FCPWORKS.

This blog post contains the personal musings of FCPWORKS’ Workflow Architect, Sam Mestman. Sam’s also a regular writer for fcp.co and MovieMaker Magazine, teaches post workflow at RED’s REDucation classes, and is the founder and CEO of We Make Movies, a film collective in Los Angeles and Toronto which is dedicated to making the movie industry not suck. If you’ve got any FCP X questions or need some help putting together a system, drop him an email at workflow@fcpworks.com and you can follow him on Facebook or Twitter at @FCPWORKS.

Vizrt Changes the Broadcaster Game

October 2, 2014 Tags: , , , , ,
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Hey guys,

Sam here…

Some of the most interesting FCP X related stories to emerge out of IBC this year came from the broadcast world. Great news included EVS showing ProRes recording and edit-while-ingest connected to FCP X and of course we all know that the BBC have decided to use FCP X for news-gathering. To me, that shows some real momentum in the broadcast world for a fast, easy to use video editor and now some of the more well known developers have started taking interest in how deep their integration can go with FCP X.

Between the lack of transcoding with FCPX, options like Tools on Air, Softron and SIENNA– which can do amazing things for ingest and playout on off-the-shelf Macs, any modern broadcaster should take a close look at what’s happening.

Norwegian graphics powerhouse Vizrt have taken it just that extra bit further. First of all they released a very low cost MXF plugin for FCP X, but they also previewed an amazing piece of integration of their graphics system running inside FCP X. Just that by itself is amazing; Viz One is not a toy, it’s an ultra high end graphics system for broadcasters that’s been in use for years. Viz One is a really big step forward for FCP X as a serious broadcaster’s tool:

NAB 2014 – Viz One & Final Cut Pro X from Vizrt on Vimeo.

It basically works by presenting templates from their graphics system inside FCP X (complete with previews) and you can position the graphics layers anywhere you want on your timeline and preview what it will look like. That’s all well and good, you say, you can in fact do the same thing with regular Motion templates which essentially turns FCP X into a live production system.

However, the real magic happens on export. Instead of burning in the graphics onto your finished package, the system inserts timecode-based metadata into Vizrt’s database. So, when the time comes to play back the clip to air, the system knows exactly when to trigger the graphics based on your edit decisions from FCP X. This means that exports are much faster (no need to render those graphics) and also modifications can be made up to the very very last moment before going to air! Spot a typo? No need to go back to the edit bay to fix that, just do it from the news system even after the edit is finished!

This truly is a complete game changer for news and sports. Take a look at the demo, if you’re in news or sports broadcasting this will really get your attention: http://www.fcp.co/final-cut-pro/news/1506-viz-one-integration-with-final-cut-pro-x-will-support-meta-graphics


Sam Mestman

Sam Mestman, FCPWORKS.

This blog post contains the personal musings of FCPWORKS’ Workflow Architect, Sam Mestman. Sam’s also a regular writer for fcp.co and MovieMaker Magazine, teaches post workflow at RED’s REDucation classes, and is the founder and CEO of We Make Movies, a film collective in Los Angeles and Toronto which is dedicated to making the movie industry not suck. If you’ve got any FCP X questions or need some help putting together a system, drop him an email at workflow@fcpworks.com and you can follow him on Facebook or Twitter at @FCPWORKS.

Alternatives to Creative Cloud Apps

September 8, 2014 Tags: , , , ,
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Sam here…

So… just in case you hate being locked into a subscription/rental model, here’s a list of alternatives to Creative Cloud apps you can use to move away if you find that you want to.

For the record, from the list of the Apps in the chart below, the ones I use in my day to day are: FCPX ($299.99), Motion ($49.99), Compressor ($49.99), Davinci Resolve (free for lite/$1000 for paid), Pixelmator ($29.99), and Logic Pro X ($199.99). All are available on the Mac App Store.

A late addition to the list but still something we love for quick and awesome looking design is Canva.

For the high end jobs I do, when I send off an edit for sound design or VFX, the pros I’m collaborating with are typically using Nuke or Pro Tools… However, I’m not going to count those in the following price comparison, as I don’t use them in my day-to-day and have never needed to buy them.

  • Anyway, here’s the total cost to buy the Apps I use in my day to day as an editor/colorist (using the Lite Version of Resolve):

    About $630

  • Number of computers I can install these Apps onto from the same Apple ID:


  • Total cost to rent the Cloud for 3 years, which is what I would consider the typical paid upgrade cycle for software to be:

    About $1800

  • Number of Computers I can install the Creative Cloud on before I have to start deactivating machines:


Not only that, but even if I count updating to the paid version of Resolve ($1000), things would still be cheaper than they would be with a paid license from the Cloud over that 3 year cycle.

Alternatives to Creative CloudIn my humble opinion, one system feels like it’s providing a lot more value and flexibility than the other. With the Apps I’m using (all of which are on the App Store), I’ve never had to pay for an upgrade since I bought them, and I’ve never had a problem with a download or had my access to an App I’ve already installed affected by a cloud service outage or for not making a payment (as many Creative Cloud users have experienced).

Also, I’m only paying for Apps I use, whereas with the Cloud model, I’m either locked into single App rental pricing (which at $9.99 for Photoshop or $19.99/month for other Apps is still going to be more expensive over three years than the most expensive App I’ve listed), or I’m going to have to get the whole suite of Apps, most of which aren’t going to be my first choice for the work that i do.

"For an editor/colorist like me, especially one who is not a After Effects/motion GFX centric user, I simply just don’t have a need for the cloud at all."Sam Mestman

In fact, out of the whole suite of what I consider to be the “creative apps”, I’d only really rate After Effects, Illustrator, and Photoshop/Lightroom as the industry leaders in their respective categories… and for most editors, Motion and Pixelmator are more than suitable replacements for the type of things they’re typically asked to do by clients. For an editor/colorist like me, especially one who is not a After Effects/motion GFX centric user, I simply just don’t have a need for the cloud at all.

I’m not writing this to get anyone upset or to attack the Adobe suite of products. I actually happen to like a lot of what they’re doing and would be a Premiere user if I wasn’t cutting with FCPX… but I’m not a fan of the Cloud model, and I don’t think it offers a lot of value for users, in general.

So… without further ado, please take a look at the chart below if you’ve been looking for alternatives to Creative Cloud Apps, and let me know in the comments if you think I’m missing anything or there are other apps you’d recommend over the ones I’ve listed:

Alternatives to Creative Cloud Apps

Creative Cloud App Alternative App Price Link Worth Looking At Comments
$24.99 (Mac App Store) Duke Review of iDraw as Illustrator Replacement. Most of the vector graphics on this site, including the FCPWORKS logo were created with iDraw. It’s a legit alternative and less complicated app than Illustrator.
$29.99 (Mac App Store) Review of Pixelmator at Graphics.com. I love Pixelmator.  By nearly all accounts, it would seem that with the latest update, it’s now a pretty suitable replacement to Photoshop for what 95% of editors do.
After Effects

$3K-5K YouTube clip, migrating from After Effects to Nuke. If you’re doing High end visual effects work, Nuke is generally perceived as the best there is. It’s not cheap, though. I think After Effects would still win based on price vs. performance.
$49.99 (Mac App Store) Motion vs. After Effects Discussion on Creative Cow. I’m a Motion user and I love it.  For most motion graphics tasks that FCPX editors need, Motion is fantastic.  For more specialized tasks, After Effects is the way to go… until you graduate to something like Nuke.  But if you just need to make some nice looking Motion Graphics stuff quickly, Motion is the fastest, most intuitive thing out there because of how closely it integrates with FCPX.
$1470 ProVideo Coalition on Smoke. By everyone I’ve spoken to who has used it, Smoke is extremely powerful and is a full fledged editor/finishing station. It’s great for the graphics/effects centric editor, and lots of people love it. There’s a pretty steep learning curve with it though.
Premiere Pro

$299.99 (Mac App Store) Editors’ Preferences on FCPX/Avid/Premiere. You guys all know how I feel about this one… no reason for me to beat a dead horse.
$1299 Digital Films compares various editing platforms to Avid. Not a huge fan, mostly because it doesn’t play well with any other Apps outside the Avid ecosystem (something Adobe Apps do really well).  However, for high end studio/union editors, Avid is without a doubt the industry standard, even though the code/ interface/ workflow/ business model is archaic and outdated.

DaVinci Resolve
Free for lite or $1000 for full version Digital Films compares various finishing applications. Resolve is now pretty much the industry standard… that’s really all there is to say about it. Pretty soon, it could also be a legitimate NLE competitor to the big three (Apple, Adobe, Avid)… but right now, it just happens to be the best color correction software on the planet in terms of price/performance.
Pro Tools
Around $600 Pro Tools is the industry standard for Sound editing for movies. I really wish it had more competition because I think it would be good for the industry, but there really isn’t much. When it comes to doing heavy sound editing for picture, Pro Tools is currently the best there is and it’s not much of a debate.
Logic Pro X
$199.99 (Mac App Store) Personally, I don’t think Logic is great for film/video sound design/editing, but it is fantastic for scoring/ mixing/ music creation/ podcasts, which is typically how I’m using Logic… although i’ve got a long way to go before I really become competent with it.
Media Encoder

$49.99 (Mac App Store) Larry Jordan compares Media Encoder with Compressor. So… while that comparison article I listed is a deep dive… the bottom line is that both programs work just fine for what you’ll likely need to do with them.
$299.99 (Mac App Store) My presentation on metadata creation in FCPX at the FCPWORKS Los Angeles event. FCPX’s metadata workflow once you combine it with tools like Shot Notes X and Lumberjack, is light years better than anything you can do with Prelude. You can do metadata entry very easily in Resolve as well.

Detective Dee

July 1, 2013 Tags: , ,
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Tsui Hark edits Young Detective Dee: Rise of the Sea Dragon using Final Cut Pro X.

In more than 30 films over three decades, renowned Chinese director Tsui Hark has regularly looked to the past to move his art forward. By bringing the advanced filmmaking techniques of the West to Eastern genres like wuxia (sword fighting and kung fu), gangster dramas, and romance, Hark helped create the Golden Age of Hong Kong cinema Read More