Five Ways I Think FCP-X is Changing Editing for the Better.

In the past half-year, I’ve used FCP-X nearly exclusively for my corporate video editing. In that time, I’ve had to to deliver a wide range of work for a very diverse group of recognizable national clients – often under very tight deadlines. I doubt I could have hit these deadlines while delivering the same quality without FCP-X. That’s based on looking back at what I’ve done, the deadlines, the programs and client requirements and how FCP-X often helped me work faster and more efficiently than I was working before.

Here are five things about FCP-X that have improved my life as an editor.

1. The Event Browser
In FCP Legacy, editing took place almost exclusively in the Timeline. In X, the timeline sits behind a new workspace called the Event Browser. The event browser is a viewing, naming and project organization area – sort of a virtual workspace where you can do a lot of very powerful “pre-editing” work. It’s also the gateway to X’s new “database” engine. Work you do in the event browser “persists.” Trim a clip once in the EB, and that trim is available for use in all your subsequent projects. Apply keywords, audio adjustments, or color corrections in the event browser, and use the result again and again from that point on. It’s a powerful, time saving arrangement that works along with…

2. Metadata Flow.
In FCP-X there’s a “flow” that’s important to understand. Imported or captured media arrives as clips attached to an event. Events are displayed in the event browser. Clips from your events are then arranged in storylines – and all storylines reside in and are reflected to a space called the project library. The “flow” is important because at each production stage prior to the project library – metadata from the previous stage will be “inherited” by the next. And in X, everything from where you place a cut to the font you choose for a title is all stored, expressed and manipulated as metadata. It’s no overstatement to say that a good FCP-X editor – working exclusively in the event browser, can do a huge amount of useful editing and preparation before they ever open a new project. The key concept to take away is that if you’re coming to FCP-X for the first time and simply try to edit as you did in another NLE, dragging clips directly to the timeline to start editing there – you’ll be jumping in too far downstream– and missing a chance to use a lot of the power of X.

3. Speed
Let’s be honest. Legacy had a nasty “render penalty” that we all had to work around and it’s a relief that X has largely eliminated that. But what makes X significantly faster and more agile for me isn’t actually any single thing like its background rendering approach – but rather a whole bunch of changes coming together in a single editing experience. I love the “single-keystroke” instant mode changes (append, overwrite, connect, etc.) I value the ability to “auto-correct this” but let me “manually tweak that.” I’ve learned how much efficiency is to be found in “tagging clip ranges” which (after some modestly disciplined set-up) allows me to drill through big complex clip collections and instantly call up precisely the clip I need right now. These, along with other improvements large and small, are the things that have made it easier for me to get my work done faster. And that’s always a good thing.

4. The Magnetic Timeline
Some hate it. I love it. I think the magnetic timeline is the editing equivalent of a bicycle. Pretty much everyone has to learn bike riding through a bit of practice. For most of us, the moment you “get it” it just becomes a normal part of your life. When your goal is quick assembly or rapid scene re-ordering – or if you’ve built complex connected-clip relationships and want to move them as a single unit – magnetism rocks. However, if you decide to spread your work out and “scratch pad” elements in time without magnetism, a keystroke puts you in “position” mode and you can do that. Having the choice, I now find myself working “magnetically” nearly always. But basically I think that if you can ride a bike, you can learn to edit magnetically. It’s really no harder than that.

5. Output
In the past, the goal of most edits was final, fixed “master.” Nothing wrong with that – but let’s acknowledge that today, we’re living in a new world of constantly connected mobile devices and pervasive internet access. Apple understood this when they created the App store where apps get revised and re-published constantly. In X, I see the Project Library reflecting this new way of thinking. It shows “current versions” of all your available work. With a few clicks, you can re-load and re-work projects at will. If you want to preserve the current version, just create a duplicate before you start tinkering. When you’re happy with your edit – a few clicks sends your edit out via the Share menu – all without ever leaving the FCP-X interface. I find this to be much more sensible then Legacy’s “always export a standalone file” approach. It’s more “connected” and seems a lot more flexible and modern to me.

These are just five “areas of change” among hundreds of large and small revisions that represent the “new way” that FCP-X approaches time-based content editing.

As much as I personally love the approach of FCP-X, I acknowledge that some editors with specific needs for large shop interchange and collaborative workflows won’t be able to work in X at this point in its development – and maybe never will.

However, nobody can say that in its first six months, FCP-X hasn’t seen rapid and significant development. Apple has made it clear that this is their new flagship editing application. Missing features are coming back in interesting new forms such as Roles, The new Multi-Cam implementation, and XML interchange (returning some badly missed Legacy import and export abilities!)

For me, diving into FCP-X whole-heartedly has changed my business for the better. After taking the time and the effort (and yes, it takes a bit of effort) to learn it, I’m editing faster and having more fun creating video than I have in years. That’s right I said fun. Editing in X makes me smile a lot as I uncover the small things they built in to make my editing work easier.

After major and minor “updates” in FCP-X’s first six months, I can also see a very clear path for the program to continue to mature and grow into something very special. And I’m really looking forward to that!

With better tools available today than at any time in the history of editing, this is an exciting time to be a video editor – and an increasingly exciting time to be an FCP-X editor.


About The Author

Bill Davis

Bill Davis owns and operates NewVideo, a production studio in Scottsdale, Arizona focused on corporate video projects. During his 20 year career in the visual arts, he’s been in demand as a voice talent, videographer, script writer, and producer. He became one of the earliest adopters of Final Cut Pro in 1999, and spent a decade as a featured writer and Contributing Editor at Videomaker Magazine. He is also the creator of StartEditingNow! — a unique modern turnkey editing instruction curriculum that ships with professionally shot, fully rights-cleared “multi-track movie” content for classroom editing instruction in middle schools, high schools and universities.

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