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.

Would Final Cut Pro X make sense on an iPad Pro?

If Apple unveils a redesigned iPad Pro at next week’s special event in Brooklyn, they will surely have some new software to show running on it. The cat is already out of the bag with Adobe’s upcoming iPad version of Photoshop. That’s huge news for both companies and I’m sure it will be a hit. What else would spark some sales?

How about Final Cut Pro X?

Video editing software has been around on the iPad almost as long as the iPad itself, and today’s offerings are pretty compelling. Just take a look at LumaFusion, a powerful and fun-to-use NLE from Luma Touch. I have it installed on my 2018 (non-Pro) iPad and I’m impressed by its ease of use and depth of features. It has support for cloud services (iCloud, Dropbox, Box, Google Drive, etc.) so getting media onto your device is easier than it used to be. An upcoming release promises external video monitoring and XML support, showing that Luma Fusion is serious about making this a pro solution.

Final Cut Pro X on iPad wouldn’t be a huge technical leap, considering iMovie for iOS has been around for a while and they would presumably share large chunks of code. Currently you can start a project in iMovie and send it to FCPX on your Mac for finishing.

I think the issue boils down to storage and connectivity. The current iPad Pro tops out 512GB of built-in storage, and anyone who works with today’s camera media knows that you could fill that up with one single job. It’s also cumbersome to transfer large files to and from an iPad. The cloud services offered by LumaFusion make accessing files straightforward, but that material still needs to copy to your device to be used for editing.*

A clue that Apple might be looking to address this issue is the rumor that the high end iPad would adopt a USB-C port instead of Lightning. Suddenly a “closed” platform could support things like external storage and 4K video out. Applications like Final Cut Pro X start to make a little more sense.

I’m not completely sold on this concept, though. Is Apple going to release an iPad app that requires tethering your mobile device to a drive? Will 512GB (or 1TB in a future release) be enough storage for most users?

Hopefully we’ll know soon enough. Slicing through my footage with an Apple Pencil sounds fun.

*LumaFusion does have support for wireless storage that lets you preview source files, but shots you choose to put in your timeline still need to be copied.

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.

Adobe’s Premiere Strategy

Yesterday was a big day for Adobe. They announced the 2019 iteration of their Creative Cloud suite of software, an upcoming iPad version of Photoshop, and an in-development drawing app codenamed Project Gemini.

Tucked away in the list of updates is a new, slimmed down version of Premiere, called Premiere Rush. It’s available across platforms (iOS, Mac, Windows) and upon first glance it bears a strong resemblance to iMovie and Final Cut Pro X. Adobe is positioning Rush in a low key way, gearing it toward casual video makers and social media content creators. But I think there’s more going on here.

One bit of criticism occasionally aimed at the full version of Premiere Pro is the notion that the software is built upon decades of legacy code. It’s filled with features and options (arguably too many) while it holds onto links to the past like videotape ingest and output.

Rewriting an application from scratch is no joke, and it’s virtually impossible to do so all in one fell swoop without cutting way back on features and focusing on a key set of functionality. Look no further than the transition from Final Cut Pro 7 to Final Cut Pro X back in 2011 for a case study on that.

But…what if Adobe is taking on the strategy of creating a FCPX-like application alongside its “legacy” version? They can continue to release feature updates to Premiere Pro while working on the stability, functionality, and usability of Premiere Rush. Eventually the two converge in more ways than they differ and become one unified application.

It’s so crazy it just might work.

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.