Apple’s positive future for pros

9to5Mac’s Michael Steeber looks back at Apple’s recent history with its pro customers:

To say that the initial release of Final Cut Pro X made waves in the creative community would be an understatement. Among full-time video editors, the shakeup is still spoken about with the same energy as it was seven years ago. Most users felt burned by the upgrade, and many bailed on Apple’s video tools altogether. Two years later, pros were wowed by the radically redesigned Mac Pro, only to be left in the cold without another meaningful update. It was a tough time to be a pro customer.

I launched this site way back in 2011, not long after the release of Final Cut Pro X 10.0, and I had some thoughts at the time. A lot has changed in the years since. Steeber recaps the just-completed FCPX Creative Summit:

This past weekend told a different story. After last year’s impressive announcements, video professionals gathered once again in Cupertino to hear about Final Cut Pro 10.4.4. After seven years of iteration, Final Cut Pro X is no longer the stripped down, controversial editing “toy” it was once perceived as.

New workflows have been developed. Features have returned. The industry is taking Final Cut seriously again. The question is no longer “are you still using Final Cut?” but rather “how are you using Final Cut?”

I can say that I share these sentiments. As I wrote earlier this week, Apple is taking the pro market seriously, and making significant gains in both hardware and software development. It’s an exciting time to be a creative professional.

2018 FCPX Creative Summit Recap

The 4th annual Creative Summit is in the history books. It was quite the experience. Apple hosted the show attendees in the Town Hall at 4 Infinite Loop and gave a keynote highlighting the new features of Final Cut Pro X, Motion, and Compressor.

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This venue has a storied history of famous events that include the debut of the original iPod and the “Antennagate” press conference.  After the presentation they opened up the hands on area where members of the FCPX development and marketing teams were available to answer questions and show off the new features.

The conversations I had with the FCPX folks were pretty fascinating. Most of them come from a post production background, and they are all committed to making Final Cut the best tool in the industry. I overheard other editors talking about specific features they would like to see or technical issues they had run across, and the Apple team was listening.

Days 2 and 3 of the event were focused on training sessions at the Juniper Hotel in Cupertino, and my presentation was in that first 9am slot. People walking by my hotel room the night before could probably hear me talking to myself as I ran through everything one last time.

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I was there to talk about how I used Final Cut Pro X to cut an entire promotional campaign for a broadcast television documentary series. It was a project that lasted for well over a year and was filled with lots of challenges and learning experiences that I shared with the group. The audience had great followup questions and (hopefully) were able to walk away with a new tip or two.

The other presenters did an amazing job covering a wide range of topics. I tried to soak in as much as I could on the long list of technical and creative training sessions that were offered. If only I could have cloned myself to see them all.

Apple’s presence was felt throughout the weekend. The FCPX team attended the presentations, hosted a Q&A session, and generally made themselves available for anyone who wanted to chat. I came away feeling very positive about the future of Apple’s Pro Apps.

UPDATED November 20 to include revised information about Apple’s Town Hall.

The iPad Pro and USB-C

A few days ago I opined that a power application like Final Cut Pro X would only make sense on the iPad Pro if Apple did away with the Lightning port in favor of USB-C. Well, that day has arrived, but we may not be quite there yet. Jason Snell at Six Colors loves the new iPad Pro, but he does raise this good point:

Which brings us to USB-C. The iPad Pro is the first iOS device to ditch Lightning for the port standard favored by computers. This is another sign that the iPad Pro is really embracing being a computer—but the sad fact is, it’s hamstrung by iOS itself. The hardware is willing, but the software is weak. iOS’s support for USB devices is sorely limited. It will import photos and videos from cameras and memory cards. You can hook up a keyboard or an Ethernet adapter or a microphone or audio mixer. And I assume the iPad Pro will be able to power a much wider array of devices than could have been powered by the USB 3 Lightning Adapter without a power assist.

But plug in a hard drive or flash drive and you can’t view the files in the Files app. Plug in a USB webcam and I assume nothing happens? There’s more to be done here. On a standard computer we have an expectation of what happens when we plug in a USB device. iOS has holes. Maybe the existence of USB on iPad will finally prompt Apple to prioritize better USB device support in future versions of iOS.

I’m keeping the dream of touch-based FCPX alive for now. Connecting fast RAID storage to something as powerful as the new 12.9″ iPad Pro would truly blur the lines between Mac and iPad. iOS, for better or for worse, feels like the future of computing for most people.

2018 FCPX Creative Summit

I’m excited to be a part of this year’s FCPX Creative Summit in Cupertino November 16-18, where I’ll be talking about some of my editing workflows with Final Cut Pro X on large scale promotional campaigns.

I’ve been an editor for over 20 years, hopping platforms from linear tape, Avid Media Composer, Final Cut Pro “Classic”, to Final Cut Pro X, with side trips into Adobe Premiere Pro and Blackmagic Resolve.

Apple used 2017’s Summit to unveil FCPX 10.4 running on the new iMac Pro, so with any luck we’ll have some interesting news this time around.

The future of eGPU support on the Mac

Back when the cylindrical Mac Pro was hitting the scene in late 2013, there was much made of the twin AMD FirePro graphics cards tucked away inside. When developers updated their applications to take advantage of them, performance would soar.

The reality has been quite different. Aside from Apple’s own Final Cut Pro and Motion, not many companies jumped on board. In some cases systems would overheat because a pro application would overtax one GPU and leave the other one sitting mostly idle.

With Thunderbolt 3 here now and a promised (modular) Mac Pro replacement on the horizon*, things seem to be looking up for high end users. Apple now fully supports third party eGPUs (ones that sit in an external box connected via Thunderbolt) which is a pretty big deal. Jeff Benjamin at 9to5 Mac pushes the envelope with dual GPUs in his testing:

On this week’s episode of Back to the Mac, we go nuts with an eGPU setup featuring two Sonnet eGFX Breakaway Box 650 units mated with a pair of workstation-class 16GB AMD WX 9100 GPUs.

The results are pretty astonishing. You should check out his video too.

I learned something new while filming this episode: the 2018 MacBook Pro can handle up to four eGPUs — two eGPUs per Thunderbolt 3 bus — simultaneously. On the MacBook Pro, or iMac Pro you can connect eGPUs to any of the available Thunderbolt 3 ports. I briefly dabbled around with connecting four eGPUs to my MacBook Pro, and needless to say, it was downright absurd.

We’re slowing coming full circle, back to the place where we were with the “cheese grater” Mac Pro tower- you can add your own additional components for your niche high end use. Sadly, this now means a string of boxes, cables, power supplies, and fan noise instead of an all-in-one solution. Apple bet heavily on the 2013 Mac Pro and came up short. Let’s see what 2019 holds.

*iMac Pro and MacBook Pro users can take advantage of this tech today.

Tour de France and the switch to FCPX

Peter Wiggins, for fcp.co:

I was starting to get concerned about how long we could continue to edit in FCP7. By now it had had no support for three years and very little in the way of updates for 2 years before that. At some point it was going to break, already we were seeing slowdowns and hangs. Yes we could probably hold out another year but that would be all. Time to look for a replacement.

All in all a great read, and much of what Peter describes is what FCP7 editors have been grappling with since 2011.