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Final Cut Pro X resurrected: Focus’ advanced workflow

By Daniel Restuccio

To many, Apple’s Final Cut Pro editing application died in June 2011 when they announced Final Cut X.  Derided as an odd version of iMovie, it lacked many of the features of Final Cut 7 and fell out of favor with many editors looking for an alternative to Avid Media Composer.

Nearly four years later Final Cut Pro 10.1.4 is fully resurrected and, for the makers of the Will Smith caper Focus, a godsend that provided a flexible, efficient and cost-effective workflow to post their feature movie shot on the Arri Alexa.

Less than two years since releasing the new MacPro “cylinder,” Apple claims that they have upgraded Final Cut Pro X to the level where it can be taken seriously again as a post production solution for features and episodic television. According to Michael Cioni, CEO of Light Iron, Final Cut Pro X is the first NLE designed around a data-centric ecosystem. Previous NLEs were
timeline-based systems that sat on-top of a database, something that is ideal in a videotape world.

Final Cut Pro X is the reverse: an advanced database system that sits on top of a timeline, which is more ideal in a data-centric world. In addition, one of the biggest advantages of Final Cut Pro X is the ability to edit native 2K+ without the need to transcode to proxy or “offline” files.  For time-pressured productions, such as episodic television or web series, the reduction or elimination of an online conform translates to a measurable time and cost advantage.

Convincing Warner Bros. to allow Focus to be posted using Final Cut Pro X was challenging, according to Focus associate producer Jeffrey Harlacker, but what finally convinced them was to “mirror” the FCP X system with an Avid in case of an unforeseen issue…which never happened.  In fact, according to Harlacker, “It really does work well and the interaction is a really great creative tool that satisfied the creative way this team works.”

Cioni, whose Light Iron provided on-set digital dailies and DI services, notes, “I’ve heard some say that Focus is Apple’s new Cold Mountain, but Focus is different because Cold Mountain was about getting Final Cut Pro 3 to do exactly what Avid Media Composer did using a film workflow. Using Final Cut Pro X to edit Focus is about getting FCP X to explore an entirely new world of workflow potential and do everything better than other NLEs.” Jan Kovac edited Focus. Mike Matzdorff was assistant editor.

In order to highlight Focus‘ post workflow, on March 7 Light Iron, along with Arri and Apple, hosted a VIP Case Study. The event began at Hollywood’s ArcLight Cinemas with hands-on production demos and was followed by a panel discussion — featuring Focus‘ associate producer, co-director, DP, DIT and editor — and ended at Light Iron’s facility.

Check out the videos below showing the Light Iron and Apple presentation called Focus on Advanced Workflow with Final Cut Pro, and check out photos from the event here.

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Part 4

8 thoughts on “Final Cut Pro X resurrected: Focus’ advanced workflow

  1. Duane Martin

    I am 1st Assistant picture editor on a TV drama in Canada that is about to (hopefully, rumour has it) go into a 9th season and we are looking to replace our current editor, FCP 7, this coming season because we are anticipating a couple more seasons; we want to move to a new solution while the current one still works. In other words, move while its still our choice,

    Unfortunately, though I am keen enough to build a FCP X workflow, the rest of the post production team is not sold on it. Three reasons: Technicolor in Toronto, who do our dailies and online, have yet to run a show through FCP X; editor’s are reluctant to try; Apple did such a lousy job introducing FCP X and it still carries the stigma. Great to see how Focus used FCP X and more stories like this will eventually turn the tables. I worked through the introduction of FCP legacy and saw first hand the tide change on that one in the TV drama world (and picture editing overall) here in Canada.

    In any case, looks like we will be adopting Avid this year. Might as well relearn Avid, earn while you learn, as it is still largely in demand since FCP legacy was EOL’d. Shame. If FCP X was just one year older with a few more stories like this it might well have been a contender. I will continue to use it on my side projects for no other reason than it is fast, or at least, I am fast while using it. Impresses the directors and producers. I like that.

    Reply
  2. Chris Coats

    David, initially I was very apprehensive of Fcpx; it is radically different from other NLE’s in many ways. After using it for 2 years now, I can say pretty emphatically that it is the most intuitive NLE on the market. Easy to learn and deceptively simple, I cringe when I have to edit something on premeire now.

    Reply
  3. Ben Balser

    Huge learning curve? No way. I teach it monthly, and I’ve taught a lot of professional level applications in my life as a professional educator/trainer. Never has anything been so easy and fast to teach/learn.

    Reply
  4. Dave Sheehan

    There are a lot of Apple haters out there, especially when they pull stunts like discontinuing support for FCP 7. I waited a few years before jumping to FCPX, now, I only wish I had done it sooner. So fast and intuitive it’s hard to imagine going back to 7 or any “old style” timeline. The clincher for me was learning how to master the initial annoyances like “full-time” scrubbing, auto-snapping of clips, lack of audio mixer.

    This is the 5th NLE that I’ve learned and it’s no different than any other in terms of learning curve. If anything, it’s a hell of lot easier than learning AVID or FCP Version 1, 2 or 3.

    Once you realize you can turn those annoying features off or toggle them as you need, you’ll love it!

    I’ll put in a plug for FilmStyle plugins as well, adds pop to pictures; contrast, depth of field simulation, many presets based on modern films and looks.

    Reply
  5. Bill

    It depends on the paradigm that you use.

    For someone who wants to operate by time code and set definitive in/out points, FCP X will never be intuitive the way FCP 7 was or that Media Composer or Premiere continue to be.

    However, if you’re used to being able to scroll through clips, and in general a more “iMovie” way of operating, FCP X will seem like genius.

    Reply
  6. samie

    FCPX is the film vs digital, mirroless vs DSLR battle all over again and again. But It’s not about the present, it is about the future. The truth is that today’s media collection methods are very different from the film era, why hold on to old workflow limitations. It’s a new tool, why not learn it?

    Reply

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