Final Cut Pro X for Audio Roundup
Apple’s new version of its dominating middle-end picture editorial system was released on the 21st of this month, and professonal reaction has been negative, even withering, due to a lack of seemingly obvious features and a new workflow and timeline semantic that strikes pros as very different and new, or decidedly iMovie-ish.
Final Cut Pro finds a lot of use in features and television. It’s the favored system of David Fincher, the Coen brothers and many independent filmmakers who prefer it over Avid; all of the larger features I’ve worked on will post on Avid, but all of the independent films and shorts I’ve worked on, and anything that was shot on a digital camera, have been exclusively Final Cut.
First — and this is huge — there’s no more waiting to “render.” You no longer sit there, dead in the water, while the software computes the changes, locking up the program in the meantime, every time you add an effect or insert a piece of video that’s in a different format. Final Cut X renders in the background, so you can keep right on editing.
However the new features came with a horrible dark side, and his readers dumped so many emails and comments on him that he felt he had to do a second review, which has the best and most thorough list of complaints I can find, along with many Apple responses and remedies. Here are some that impact audio folks:
- “Can’t export AAF or OMF files.” This is true — the new FCP does not export OMFs. There is a new version of Automatic Duck that exports OMFs from Final Cut Pro X, but this is an add-on. Apple also has not yet released documentation on FCP X’s XML format, so it’s not clear how quickly we’ll see more add-on software, particularly for things like EDLs which FCP X also doesn’t export, and which we still use due to Avid and Final Cut’s profoundly lossy way of handling multichannel production audio.
- “You can’t assign audio tracks.” (What he means is audio on the timeline is freeform, and can’t be set to be on a track designated “A1″ or “A2″.) The new Automatic Duck can output these tracks in a particular order, I am informed, but it’s not clear exactly how the editor controls this.
- “Can’t import old FCP files.” The new FCP X can’t read FCP 7 project files, and probably never will.
Steve Martin (not that Steve Martin) has done a good overview of the new features in FCP X. Some features are compelling, like surround panning, and some require a closer look, like automatic-on-import ground loop filtering and a new denoising process.
[EDIT: Added a few more links and an aside on EDLs.]