BLOG: The first LAFCPUG meeting since the release of FCP X
By Michael Kammes
June 29, 2011

BLOG: The first LAFCPUG meeting since the release of FCP X

LOS ANGELES — I thoroughly expected to see the Hollywood post community villagers, torches aloft, en masse at Tuesday nights Los Angeles Final Cut Pro User Group (LAFCPUG) meeting. I anticipated rioting and perhaps even a lynching or two. The buzz for the past week and a half surrounding Apple's release of FCP X has been nothing short of incredible, and appears to have polarized the community. As the center of mass media for the United States, Hollywood's user base’s uproar and commotion was deafening. An estimated 300 people showed up to this meeting to see what the experts had to say.

The lineup for the event included a who's who of heavy hitters in the Final Cut Pro community: Phillip Hodgetts, blogger, author and president of Intelligent Assistance; Larry Jordan, trainer, author, and blogger; as well as Michael Wohl, author, award-winning filmmaker and part of the original engineering team for Final Cut Pro 1.

Kicking off the presentation portion of the evening was Philip Hodgetts, who illustrated the powerful metadata abilities inherent to FCP X, including keyword tagging ability & the concept of a "smart collection" — FCP's way of organizing content for seemingly faster organization and retrieval. "I've been singing the metadata song for a decade, and Apple has finally joined in with a resounding chorus", commented Hodgetts. There were a few technical hiccups, however, which seemed to only underscore the pink elephant in the room — the perceived notion of, 'This wont work.'

Philip praised the software for many things: it's speed, it's organization and it's media analysis (albeit slow). Hodgetts also noticeably concentrated on the positives of the software — not its limitations. This was definitely a theme for the evening.

Following Philip, was Larry Jordan. A master presenter, Jordan descended down the aisle to the presenter table through a round of rousing applause. He has had extensive access to the software for several months, as he was one of the "Cuppertino 50" — a small group of respected industry professionals who got unprecedented access to see Final Cut Pro X, and the ability to offer feedback to Apple earlier this year.

Prefacing, "I did not write this application" was an excellent icebreaker to the crowd. Jordan did state he was optimistic about the future of the application, but that his optimism did "not excuse what Apple has done" with regards to the release.

Jordan was quick to remind the user group that he has never endorsed the purchase or mainstream usage of a first iteration of a software package. Initial releases — FCP X included — are not ready for realtime production work. Quite simply, "If it fits, use it. If it doesn't fit — don't use it." cautioned Jordan.

Jordan's usual calm smoothness and pacing seemed to put audience at ease. Backhanded jabs about features in FCP X during his presentation to punctuate a point drew many laughs and claps from the audience — further relaxing the crowd. As an audience member, we needed it. I felt there was a slight mob mentality prior to the meeting of wanting to bash the application. Humor seemed to alleviate at least a portion of that.

Introduced as demonstrating effects, Jordan instead concentrated on the basics: New project settings and subsequent creation, event library best practices and organization and skimming techniques.  Jordan helped to bridge the gap between the previous FCP version and FCP X by using familiar “Final Cut Pro Classic” terminology. Aside from the missing feature set, which most high-end professions rely on, there were many frustrated whispers from the audience whenever Jordan explained a shift in the editing process.

Ending with a quick overview of effects: Picture in Picture, transitions and the like, Jordan showed some of the color abilities. Quoting a colleague of his, "Apple opened the color circle as a square," describing the color palette inside FCP X.

It's been said that an Apple performed demo is scripted and that every word is carefully chosen.  The FCP X sneak peak at the Las Vegas Supermeet was no exception, and neither was Larry's presentation.  Jokes walked the line and comments were punctuated with humor.

Closing out the presentation portion of the evening was Michael Wohl. Wohl has been able to work with FCP and the latest version of Motion for months.  According to Wohl, he submitted "pages of notes" to Apple regarding Motion, none of which seemed to be used. This easily garnered one of the most laughable moments of the evening.

Wohl stated he was initially unhappy with the product and that the product was misrepresented, but has since gotten over it, and was more than impressed with its speed. Following up on that point, Wohl said, "...on the other hand, it's really cool — it's just called the wrong thing. Maybe it should have been called Final Cut Z. X implies it comes after 7. It's not. It's new."  He reminded the audience that FCP X is not the rightful heir to FCP 7. It's new. As consumers, we need to accept that. All of this being said, he again told the crowd "It's a really fun application!"

Wohl also showed how the typical editorial process has been altered in FCP X, including simple things, such as marking In & Outs on a clip not being retained, unless saved as a favorite. "Remember I-O-F!" he said, coaching users to remember this keyboard combination. Wohl demonstrated 'Back timing,' a technique essential to editors, and the gotcha’s associated with performing this to audio and video. He showed the new "Connect Edit" — currently the only way to do audio- or video-only edits, which he described as a cool name "that sounds all networky and facebooky!"

"Don't hiss at me, it's not my fault!" proclaimed Wohl at several points during the presentation to the audience upon reactions to the loss of features.

What drew the largest reaction from the audience was the fact that FCP X has no sync indicators.  This means that an editor has no ability to see if audio or video clips are out sync from one another.  Presumably, this should never happen, due to Final Cut Pros X's media management.  This is not the case, as Michael was able to demonstrate.

Wohl seemed to take all of the changes in stride; after all, what 's the alternative?  FCP X is here to stay.

Following a 30-minute intermission, the three men returned to the presenter table to field questions, which audience members had submitted on cards.  They were quick to preface that none of the men had any knowledge of Apple's timetable, what Apple is doing or what Apple was thinking, so any questions pertaining those issues would not be handled. Some of the questions included:

Q) Does FCP X mean Apple is getting out of the Pro Market?

A) Larry Jordan: It's still too early to make a decision. Apple is still reflecting, and it's too soon to base a career on the viability of FCP X.  Wait a month and see what happens.

Philip Hodgetts told the audience that in a recent conference call, Apple told him "FCP X was designed for a vast majority of the Final Cut Pro professional editors", which drew a unified groan from the audience. Hodgetts added that he does not want to try and predict what's next for FCP X — it's too early.

Among the other concerns from audience members: there is no transcription import for the notes field, there is no button bar or the ability for custom buttons, no F (function) Key ability within the application (aside from OS functionality). The pasting of effect attributes still exist, but the user no longer has the ability to choose specific attributes to paste — it's all or nothing. Other features that did not make it over in the initial release include no ability to matchframe — just reveal (or show) in the Finder. Deck control, let alone Capture from tape or Edit to Tape does not exist within FCP X.

All three men agreed that FCP X was optimized for a single user and tapeless workflows — and that "it flies!"

It was discussed if FCP X would run on OS 10.7 Lion. Users have reported that it does run, but there is no word from Apple if FCP 7 will be supported — and subsequently users would be using FCP 7 at their own risk if it was not supported.

The audience swelled with whispers and discussion. A humorous “CALM DOWN PEOPLE!" came from the presenter table.

Hodgetts reiterated that there is no way (currently) to move projects form FCP 7 to FCP X.  Apparently, examination of the underlying code shows Apple tried, but the data structures between the two applications are so vast, the interchange would not have worked well. If Apple released a product that didn't do this successfully "Apple would be eviscerated," said Hodgetts.

Larry Jordan reiterated his earlier comments: "The launch was completely screwed up and there is no excuse for it."

Wohl added, "FCP was great for 10 years, but not great for the next 10 years. [FCP X] is Apple's guess on what is the foundation for the next 10 years.”

Michael Horton concluded the meeting with, "We will continue to talk about any version of Final Cut Pro. But LAFCPUG has never been about just FCP; we're about the craft of editing, the art of editing — no matter what tool you use."

"We just draw the line at PCs," joked Horton.

A poll taken during the presentation showed that a mere 10 percent of the estimated 300 people in attendance had purchased FCP X. Following the presentations, it appeared that of those polled, only a handful more would consider purchasing FCP X.  

The mood had become one of less anger, but more frustration. The event seemed to calm some fears, shed some light, and yet still show the benefits in FCP X. In light of the uproar, this could be considered successful — and with no torches.

Pictured are L-R: Michael Wohl, Larry Jordan, and Philip Hodgetts fielding questions at Tuesday night's LAFCPUG meeting. Picture courtesy of Misha Tenenbaum.