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.

IMG_2498.JPG

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.

IMG_2447.jpg

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 death of the shared family computer

Computers, like telephones, originally entered U.S. homes in a single unit, tucked away just out of sight but usually accessible to all. Katie Reid at The Verge:

I can still see the Dell I grew up using as clear as day, like I just connected to NetZero yesterday. It sat in my eldest sister’s room, which was just off the kitchen. Depending on when you peeked into the room, you might have found my dad playing Solitaire, my sister downloading songs from Napster, or me playing Wheel of Fortune or writing my name in Microsoft Paint. The rules for using the family desktop were pretty simple: homework trumped games; Dad trumped all. Like the other shared equipment in our house, its usefulness was focused and direct: it was a tool that the whole family used, and it was our portal to the wild, weird, wonderful internet. As such, we adored it.

I remember the phenomenon of losing my dial up internet connection because someone picked up the phone, or patiently waiting my turn to check my email. The PowerMac 7200 (or the IIsi before it) was parked in a spare bedroom and required time and effort to log on. The thought of having unlimited personal access to the internet anywhere you went seemed crazy.

Today when I stand on the subway platform virtually everyone is staring down, their faces aglow in blue light. I’m just as guilty as anyone else- with Bluetooth earbuds plugged into my head I commute in a personal media bubble. As a perfect example of “do as I say and not as I do” we attempt to limit the kids’ access to devices as best we can, knowing that society will eventually force us to relinquish control. Katie Reid:

The advent of constant access has inevitably changed our relationship with tech. At one time, discovering the magical capabilities of our devices astonished and invigorated us. Now, we find them glomming on to our routines: joining us for dinner or family strolls, going on vacations or out on dates with us, waking us up in the morning and tucking us in at night. Though it was harder to come by, the computer time you ended up with on the shared family desktop was cherished and, maybe as a result, that much sweeter. Yet there was an untroubled ritual that, day after day, required us to step away.

Apple’s Mac Pro mistake

This past Monday, June 11, I was able to attend the Adobe CS6 Roadshow in Washington, DC.  I spent the day in training sessions for editors considering a move from their current editing platform to Adobe’s offerings of Premiere Pro and After Effects, along with a whole slew of Final Cut Studio-like tools that come in the package.

The event was sponsored by HP, so it was not surprising that the day had a decidedly PC slant.  There was much talk from the presenters about throughput, processing speeds, expandability, and performance.  But when the first instructor asked for a show of hands from those of us who use PCs in our workflow, less than 10% of the hands went up.

Coincidentally, June 11 was also the day of Apple’s WWDC keynote, and Tim Cook and company spent several hours talking about their wildly successful lineup of Mac and iOS devices.  The signature unveiling was the new MacBook Pro with a Retina Display, slimmer form factor, and a simplified design that removed the optical drive and many ports.  The runner ups for the spotlight were OS X Mountain Lion and iOS, both of which show off some very nice features and move closer to each other in terms of look and feel.

What was not mentioned in the keynote was any improvement to Apple’s long-languishing Mac Pro desktop, whose current model is about to hit its second birthday.  The rumor mill was fired up just prior to the event after some new model numbers for the Pro were leaked, prompting many to wrongly assume that big changes were coming.  Instead, Apple quietly bumped the specs on the two year old model with slightly faster processors and adding a server configuration in the same form factor.  The Mac Pro still stands alone as the only Mac without a Thunderbolt port.

After a day of training sessions at the Roadshow, I took a spin around the exhibitor hall to see what the vendors had to show.  Most presentations were running on PCs (don’t forget who the event’s primary sponsor was) but virtually everyone working there had an iPad or a MacBook Pro behind the table with them for their use.  That’s when it really hit me: many pros running Windows PCs do so because they have to, but use Macs because they want to.

And I would say that if you asked my fellow attendees, most would say they would want to be using a new Mac Pro to make their living.  The irony here is that the Mac software at the high end has never been stronger.  Autodesk just released the first Mac-only preview release of Smoke 2013, and both Avid and Adobe have bent over backwards to achieve feature parity for the Mac versions of Media Composer, Symphony, and Premiere Pro.

I see shades of last June in the headlines this week: Apple was expected to release something new for the professional market (last year it was FCP X, this year it was the Mac Pro), the “release” raises the ire of the faithful, and Apple backpedals slightly.  This year the backpedaling comes in the form of an email from Tim Cook, who assures a customer that great things are coming for Apple desktop workstations…at the end of 2013.

Apple must truly believe that a slim portable or iMac with a Thunderbolt port really fits the need of almost everyone who uses a Mac, and they are buying themselves some time for the rest of us to realize that.  As a result, Apple will probably lose an extremely small fraction of their user base, mostly comprised of people who bought their clunky (in retrospect) gear in the 90s in the hopes that Apple would stay afloat.  At the same time their worldwide market share looks poised for more explosive growth.  It’s Apple’s world now, and the pro market just lives in it.

iPads, textbooks, and education

Apple’s announcement this week that they are jumping headfirst into the education market was an expected and well-received move.  With the additions of iBooks textbooks, iBooks Author, and a dedicated iTunes U app, Apple is looking to both improve the state of educational material available to students and make a whole lot of money in the process.

There’s a lot to like here.  The ability for anyone to create textbooks and then publish them to the iBookstore creates a much lower barrier of entry for smaller organizations.  Apple provides the publishing tools and the distribution channel in exchange for the usual 30% commission of anything sold, and the iBooks Author app restricts you from using it and publishing your final work to another retailer.  If you’re not interested in making money, you can still publish to iTunes U and students can download that content free of charge.

There are challenges, however, and most of them revolve around the hardware itself.  Sure, an iPad is lighter than a backpack full of books, but it’s also an expensive piece of gear with a large glass screen.  Mix that with the average student and you’re looking at a considerable risk of loss and breakage.  Will school systems be able to swallow the combined cost of the devices, replacement or repair, and the books themselves?  Some have suggested that Apple release a stripped-down lightweight (and lower cost) version of the iPad just for the education market, but I honestly don’t believe that Apple has any interest in fragmenting its product line this way.

Then there’s the distraction factor.  Imagine a room of high school students armed with iPads that can connect to the Internet, send instant messages, and play games.  Schools will want a way to control what these devices can do, especially if they are the ones purchasing them and supplying them to students.  This creates an additional layer of IT that could complicate the process for the less tech-savvy school systems.

Another potentially serious issue is crime.  If it becomes known that a elementary or high school has given each student a shiny new iPad to carry each day, those students could be targeted traveling to and from school.  This would be especially serious in disadvantaged neighborhoods, which arguably are the places where improved learning materials are needed the most.

In the short term, this new initiative from Apple seems destined to succeed at the college level.  My pre-Internet college experience consisted of grossly overpriced books and a mad crush in the school bookstore at the beginning of each semester.  It’s generally assumed that kids marching off to higher education need a computer, so perhaps the iPad can fill that role as well.  The big question I have is how can Apple make this work for younger students at all economic levels?