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Old April 19th, 2008, 05:23 AM   #1
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Nagging concerns about FCP

First off, I really must emphasise that I'm not trying to start a flame war. I genuinely am looking for some answers.

I've been editing on Premiere Pro on the PC for years. However, I'm getting very frustrated with PPro - it seems to get less and less stable with each release. I've been thinking seriously about buying a Mac Pro and Final Cut Studio for quite some time now. All my research suggested that FCP has far more industry penetration than PPro and that FCP more seamlessly integrates with "pro" workflows (e.g. exporting OMF to do an audio mix in Pro Tools etc). I've also heard countless people tell me that FCP is more stable and generally more reliable than PPro. I was very close to making the payment a few weeks ago but then I started hearing a few niggling doubts about FCP.

My biggest concern is that I've heard several people say that FCP is long overdue for a full re-write. One argument seems to be that FCP's inability to do RGB (let alone 32-bit RGB) holds it back, especially when working with cameras like the RED ONE. But maybe this isn't such a problem because most people who care about high-bit-depth will do their colour correction in COLOR which will soon natively support R3D.

Is this true? Is FCP long overdue a re-write?

How stable is FCP for you?

To be honest, I'm getting to the point where I think I'm just going to have to bite the bullet and buy a Mac Pro + FCP + an external RAID + some software for rendering WMVs; sell my PC and use Boot Camp on the Mac so I can still use all my Windows software. But, it goes without saying that's a MASSIVE investment and not one I want to take without doing all the research I can possibly do before hand.

Any advice would be most welcome!

Many thanks,
Jack
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Old April 19th, 2008, 08:05 AM   #2
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I've done a little bit of digging with regards to the issue of whether or not FCP can support RGB.

It turns out FCP can support:

8-bit RGB
8-bit Y'CbCr 4:2:2
10-bit Y'CbCr 4:4:4
32-bit float Y'CbCr 4:4:4 (high-precision YUV AKA r4fl)

Apparently it is possible to "finish" in RGB in FCP. See this thread for more info:

http://www.reduser.net/forum/showthr...?t=4035&page=2
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Old April 19th, 2008, 08:15 AM   #3
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FCP 6.0.3 is extremely stable - probably the most stable yet. I'm editing a full HD doc in ProRes 422 HQ right now with a Kona LHe card, footage shot on XDCAM & HDV and input via HD-SDI and I'm thrilled with the FCP software.

I can't speak to how well it works with RED however.
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Old April 19th, 2008, 09:59 AM   #4
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With respect to RED, Jim Jannard and the team has always had FCP workflows in mind when designing the RED camera and REDCODE software. In fact Apple has a few whitepapers about dealing with RED workflow. Take a look at the RED forum/website for more info on that.

With respect to overall stability/usability there isn't any other desktop-based editor - other than Avid - that has more industry penetration. However just like any NLE on the market FCP certainly has it's nit-picky things most users would like to see changed or updated.

In point of fact, there isn't any other NLE package on the market today that is as well-rounded or complete as FCS2; not only do you get an editing platform but one of the best software encoders/compressors, color finishing, and of course DVD authoring. To get all that from a standalone Avid package would cost 4-times as much as FCS2.

However FCP's weaknesses are it's lack of hardware acceleration (a comparable Avid box handles renders/output faster) and if you work with film or digi-film workflows Avid handles DPX files and that flow much better.

FCP also still lacks native support for P2 MXF files requiring them to be transcoded either by the Log & Transfer process or third-party plug ins. Every other pro NLE on the planet has had native P2 MXF (drag-n-drop to the timeline) for over a year. In fact, with each new release and update FCP is becoming more and more HDV/XDCAM friendly and seems to be ignoring other professional codecs.

Lastly, Avid has had Blu-Ray authoring abilities through a special package deal with Sonic which provides a version of Scenarist for the higher-level Avid packages, to date Apple is still lagging seriously behind in that respect as well. Many feel that Apple is purposely ignoring Blu-Ray because they want to instead shove Apple TV and iPod distribution down the consumers throat rather than more optical media. While this view may have some merit Apple will have to soon offer BR authoring just to keep competitive, otherwise there will be a massive exodus away from the platform just on that issue alone. Apple needs to realize that people like and want Blu-Ray regardless what plans Apple has.

I can tell you that if Apple doesn't update DVDSP to include BR authoring AND finally offer native P2 MXF support for FCP within the next 4-6 months then I will be migrating my production company over to a fully Avid-based suite without hesitation; I've waited too long for Apple to play catch up in these critical areas.
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Old April 19th, 2008, 10:05 AM   #5
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Hi,

Many thanks for the very thoughtful and detailed reply. That's a real help.

I'm 99% of the way to pulling the trigger on a Mac Pro purchase. Very exciting (if a little daunting!).

And just to knock a rumour on the head: am I right in believing that the rumour that Apple may sell off Pro Apps was completely unsubstantiated?
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Old April 19th, 2008, 11:54 AM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jack Kelly View Post
And just to knock a rumour on the head: am I right in believing that the rumour that Apple may sell off Pro Apps was completely unsubstantiated?
I'd like to believe it's just rumour - and it may well be - but I'd also not be completely surprised. If I had to lay odds on that possibility I'd say there's greater than a 30% chance that rumour has merit and here's why:

Many moons ago Apple was at or near bankruptcy; they had serious software issues, hardware sales were way down and they had no "gotta-have-it" product. The company was saved with iTunes. More recently Apple again surged with the iPhone and for the past few years Apple has since treated their "iProducts" as their bread-and-butter - because it is. There are literally millions of "iCustomers" compared to only thousands of pro app users.

Apple has become so "iCentric" of late that the pro apps have suffered severely, both in bug fixes, product offerings and compatibilty; look at recent history:

Apple just recently dropped XServe RAID (XSAN is still being supported but for a limited time); Shake, a long-standing effects product was also dropped with just a few of it's features being integrated into FCP/Motion, but the product core and it's capabilities are gone; Color was added to FCS2 but it's interface is anything but intuitive and other competitve products to the job better, faster; FCP and especially Quicktime has suffered serious bug issues with the last 3 QT updates which took months to iron out, rather than weeks. 3 years ago when a serious, wide-spread bug was detected it only took Apple a few weeks (or less) to parse out a fix; the last 2 years especially that's not been the case, which clearly indicates that Apple's product development and focus has strongly waned from it's pro apps.

Last year just prior to NAB 2007 there was a strong rumour that an "ultimate" version of FCS was going to be offered that would compete strongly against Avid's offerings, instead what came was FCS2 with the AJA "IO" box for some hardware-interfacing with ProRes 422. not exactly the hardware-accelerated version we had all hoped for. DVDSP4 was expected to have Blu-Ray support but in point of fact it remains virtually unchanged since it's release date of 2005.

Apple learned it's lesson: They make the bulk of their profits from consumer "iProducts" not professional apps and they could very easily decide to dump the less-profitable (and more high-maintenance) pro apps to concentrate solely on their cash-cow consumers. What's more disturbing about the timing of this rumour is that since things like DVDSP4 have gone so long without an update - especially the lack of Blu-Ray - could very well be that Apple simply decided *not* to update it because they have planned to spin it off. ( ! ) Disturbing, yet possible (emphasis on *possible*).

So it is an unsubstantiated rumour? At the moment it appears to be, but it is absolutely worth keeping an eye on.

Personally Jack, I would highly recommend you consult with an AV distributor in your area and discuss your needs/budget before locking in any UK Sterling into a purchase. FCS is highly capable but considering Avid has just dropped product pricing substantially you'd be wise to look into those options too.

Last edited by Robert Lane; April 19th, 2008 at 02:07 PM.
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Old April 19th, 2008, 02:05 PM   #7
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The points you raise are certainly disturbing.

In your opinion, what would happen to FCP if Apple decided they didn't want to continue developing it? Surely they'd sell it off (to Adobe, perhaps?) rather than kill it?

Thanks,
Jack
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Old April 19th, 2008, 02:13 PM   #8
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It would be very strange for Apple to "sell off" their Pro Apps as they have cornered so much of the video pro market. It's not hurting them or dragging down their profit margin at all. Certainly 10,000 customers (that's a number out of my head, I have no idea how many FCS customers there are) doesn't compare to millions but 10,000 people happily paying $1200 or so for an excellent set of pro applications isn't a line of business anyone would drop. Filemaker was an Apple software business that was spun off but it still is tied to Apple. It's a possibility that Apple decides to spin the pro apps off into their own company, but it will still be tied to Apple in some way.

Apple and FCP (which is very stable) will be together for a long time.
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Old April 19th, 2008, 02:19 PM   #9
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I believe that most popular cameras like the Panasonic DVX100a and the Sony Z1 sell many tens of thousands of units. I would guess that FCP's install base is at least 100,000. That's just a guess though.
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Old April 19th, 2008, 02:23 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jack Kelly View Post
The points you raise are certainly disturbing.

In your opinion, what would happen to FCP if Apple decided they didn't want to continue developing it? Surely they'd sell it off (to Adobe, perhaps?) rather than kill it?

Thanks,
Jack
Impossible to say, that is even more difficult to surmise a probable future than the original rumour itself. Since you're seriously considering your options, again I highly recommend getting with a distributor in your area to go over options.

The main problem with Apple is that they are 100% secretive about their plans; nobody ever knows about anything they plan to do until they actually do it, so if in fact they do decide to drop or sell the any of the pro apps - or all of them - nobody will know until the day the hammer comes down. We can only hope that if the rumour ever becomes fact that a transition plan is put in place.

But, to be safe you should consider all options and don't be swayed by the glossy ad campaigns or "fans" who will convince you that Apple is king and that they would never do such a thing. At the end of the day, Apple is just another large corporation and they will do whatever it takes to be profitable.
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Old April 19th, 2008, 02:32 PM   #11
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Many thanks for the reply.

I have spent some time considering which editing app to go with. I've considered sticking with PPro. I've considered Sony Vegas. I've considered FCP but I must admit I hadn't really considered Avid yet particularly seriously. You're right, I should take a closer look at Avid's new line-up.

Although, if we're going to get paranoid about what the future holds for the various editing apps out there, Avid's future certainly doesn't look 100% solid.

Thanks,
Jack
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Old April 19th, 2008, 02:35 PM   #12
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It would be very strange for Apple to "sell off" their Pro Apps as they have cornered so much of the video pro market.
Let's be clear as to FCP market share:

The main install base of FCP users is the pro-sumer market (weddings, events, indie producers) who have little to no budget. Small production facilities have even cropped up based around a FCS suite however these companies are also in the lower-end of the market (city/regional/local). Once in a while you'll get a mainstream editor or producer who will use FCP for a scene or even an entire edit, and when that happens Apple does it's best to splash that across an ad campaign and make it appear that FCP has taken over the planet.

To date, the highest installations of professional editing suites is Avid mainly because of one thing: scalability. That's something FCP/FCS has never been, it's one version for all users.

In the pro-sumer market there are far more FCP installations than Avid because of one reason: cost. Few home-based editors or low-budget producers can afford a hardware accelerated Avid suite - but if Avid and FCS had pricing parity, there would be far more Avid users and by a wide margin.

FCS does an excellent job and is the best bang for the buck in the industry regardless of implementation but, it is not and might not ever be the seasoned and well supported giant that Avid is. And that is why as I said earlier, that if Apple doesn't wake up and give FCS the much-needed updates it sorely needs I'll be taking my entire company over to an Avid suite.
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Old April 19th, 2008, 02:43 PM   #13
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Although, if we're going to get paranoid about what the future holds for the various editing apps out there, Avid's future certainly doesn't look 100% solid.
Considering the state of the world economy and how fast things change there isn't one company or corporation that could be considered 100% solid. However here's one last thought about all this:

In the past 4 years Avid has consistently revised and innovated it's product line, even at this past NAB.

In the past 4 years Apple has spent the mother-load of it's innovation and inventiveness in it's "iProducts", not it's professional apps.

I personally see the FCS suite as being a very slowly sinking ship for all the reasons mentioned in this thread, and unless Apple breathes new life and re-energizes it's efforts into it's pro apps see the ship taking on more water with each passing quarter.
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Old April 19th, 2008, 03:00 PM   #14
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The points you raise are certainly disturbing.

In your opinion, what would happen to FCP if Apple decided they didn't want to continue developing it? Surely they'd sell it off (to Adobe, perhaps?) rather than kill it?

Thanks,
Jack
This is all very, very speculative.

On a business level, FCP isn't being sold or killed off. Nobody in this business climate would have the money Apple would want for a highly successful yet specialized market application that in addition makes film and video students want to go out and buy some Apple hardware and Apple is light years from where it was in the dark years when Avid and Media100 were running like the dickens from the platform.

PPro is going to be around for a while as well as Sony Vegas (which in my mind is a better competitor to FCP than Avid products at the low end of the professional scale). Both companies have these products working to further promote other products from that company. Avid has a different business model now than when it started and got the non-linear ball rolling. And they are aiming for a different market than Apple has tried for yet. Final Cut Server indicates an attempt to reach broadcast markets that have been using 3rd party equipment to feed FCP systems.

Sure Apple is secretive and that's frustrating. But it seems to work for Apple and their products are generally excellent in some way.

I would recommend that unless you find some real compelling reason to stick with PPro, buy an Apple with FCS. After a week, you'll be extremely happy. Or at least get Vegas if the new hardware costs are too much. Does that make me a "fan boy". No, I consult and install pro video equipment all the time and I only recommend the hardware that works the best for the application. Apple just happens to make the best editing system for most applications, that could always change.
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Old April 19th, 2008, 05:06 PM   #15
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My advice, based on more than twenty years making films and videos is buy your mac, buy FCS, stop worrying and start making something. After a week you'll wonder why you ever procrastinated.
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