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Automatic Duck’s Wes Plate talks about building bridges

By Randi Altman

If you’ve worked in post production during the past 14 years, there is a very good chance you know Automatic Duck and its president, Wes Plate. Over their time in business, Wes and his father, Harry, have created a number of software tools designed to make different programs and formats work together… the ultimate facilitators.

In 2011, Automatic Duck licensed its technology to Adobe, and Wes joined them as head of its Prelude team. While Adobe had acquired the technological assets of Automatic Duck, it did not acquire Automatic Duck, the company.

Fast forward a few years and the Plates and Automatic Duck are back with new products. As you might expect, Automatic Duck Ximport AE and Automatic Duck Media Copy 4.0 are designed to make post pros’ lives easier. Ximport AE transfers entire timelines, including cuts, third-party effects and transitions from Final Cut Pro X to Adobe After Effects. Media Copy 4.0 uses AAF and XML to simplify copying and moving media files from any Final Cut Pro 7, Final Cut Pro X or Avid Media Composer/Symphony project. Both products are being sold via Red Giant.

XimportAE-After Effects copy

XimportAE — After Effects

On the heels of this news, we reached out to Wes Plate, who, after working for Adobe for two years, is back at the family business.

When you joined Adobe, they bought your technology. How did that work with this AE plug-in?
We do have the ability to use some of what Adobe acquired from us, but we are also limited in some ways. We told them we had an idea for a product — translating Final Cut Pro X into After Effects, and they said, “Okay.” We used some of the After Effects code from the past, but we also had to add a whole bunch of new code for Final Cut Pro X. We are still really good working partners with Adobe and we could not have made this product without rewriting everything from scratch without their help or without their permission.

Why now, and why this?
After leaving Adobe at the start of 2014, I was trying to figure what was going to be next. At that same time, I had been hearing a lot of people on social media talking about how Final Cut Pro X had improved and become a great NLE, so I gave it a try. I really enjoy using FCP X as an editing tool, but while I am editing I want to take clips or a section of timeline and bring it in to After Effects… it’s how I work.

Harry and I were looking for a project, Final Cut Pro X is growing in the marketplace, and I need to get from Final Cut Pro X to After Effects if I am going to use it as an NLE. All of that together meant Automatic Duck should build a bridge from Final Cut Pro X to After Effects.

XimportAE — Final Cut Pro X copy

XimportAE-Final Cut Pro X

Before your plug-in, how were people getting from FCP X to After Effects?
When I started down this path, there was a free utility on the market that would translate a Final Cut Pro X XML into a file format called JavaScript; After Effects would then run that JavaScript to create a comp. I tried it but I couldn’t make it work, which gave us even more reason to jump into this. That particular tool is now in version two and available for purchase through the App Store, but we still feel like what we are creating makes much more sense. Another option is to use Intelligent Assistance’s XtoCC app to convert FCPX XML to FCP7 XML and then import that into After Effects. But that workflow is also not as complete as what Ximport AE can do.

Makes more sense how?
Our solution makes it super easy to get from Final Cut Pro X to After Effects. To get from Final Cut Pro X to After Effects, the first step is to export the XML, then switch to After Effects and import our new product, Automatic Duck Ximport AE. You can change some settings or change some options, but essentially all you have to do now is open the XML file and our plugin brings it directly to After Effects.

Red Giant is selling your new products. Can you explain the relationship?
There is an enormous amount of work that goes into selling a product. What we enjoy the most is making the product, interacting with users and making sure their problems are solved, but dealing with credit cards and that type of thing is less interesting to us and takes our attention away from what we want to do.

Our friend Stu Maschwitz, who designed Magic Bullet, and also Peder Norrby from Trapcode, have been very happy with their relationship with Red Giant, which is essentially publishing their products and doing the sales, marketing and support. Another benefit for us using Red Giant‘s infrastructure for products and distribution is we are now able to offer trial versions of Ximport AE and also Media Copy, our media copying utility.

Media Copy

Media Copy

As we look toward future product development, we’ll be evaluating FCPX as an editing platform to invest in and spend considerable time developing solutions for. The great thing about our partnership with Red Giant is that it gives us access to their expertise and resources. I can foresee opportunities to partner up on products that, all by ourselves, we might not be able to execute or have what we need to make some workflows and solutions possible. I’m excited about what we’ll be able to do both with Red Giant and opportunities that we see coming forward from the FCPX landscape.

Can you talk about Automatic Duck Classic and how that came to be?
After joining Adobe, Automatic Duck retained some products that we were allowed to sell, but we just didn’t have the time to properly support them. So instead we made the products available for free on our website. When we started to prepare for the relaunch and updated our website the download links for the free stuff went away. We didn’t realize people still needed those tools, and I kept seeing posts on social media asking where the links went. We realized that there was still a need for people to get projects between FCP7 and Avid. The old products that we used to give away for free will be coming back on the website at no cost.

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For more details on the products click here.

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