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.

iFixit’s 128K Mac teardown

iFixit takes a break from cracking open the latest Mac Pro and turns their attention to the original Mac for the 30th anniversary of its release.

Cult of Mac will have us note that no vintage Macinti were harmed in the making of this guide — although with a pretty awesome 7 out of 10 repairability score, they didn’t have to worry much about us breaking it. Disassembly was straightforward once we figured out how to open the case.

Apple’s definition of “Pro”

post by Ken Segall has made the rounds this week, where he describes a moment behind closed doors where Steve Jobs considered abandoning the pro market.

I hope you’re sitting down for this, but Steve Jobs did in fact once consider that very option.

This was back in the days when iMac had established itself as a global bestseller. During one of the agency’s regular meetings with Steve, he shared that he was considering killing the pro products.

His rationale was as you might expect: consumer products have an unlimited upside, while pro products are aimed at a niche market that eats up major resources.

This obviously never came to pass, but some would argue that Apple has strayed too far from what the industry considers “pro” with Final Cut Pro X and the new cylindrical Mac Pro.

Some won’t like it, but basically it’s the difference between Final Cut Pro 7 and Final Cut Pro X.

In FCP7, the controls are rich and deep. As a consequence, getting proficient with the app is a serious undertaking.

FCPX is very powerful, but less daunting and more seductive — streamlining and automating some of its advanced capabilities.

There seems to be a correlation for many where “pro” must equate to “impenetrably difficult for the non-pro.”  Yes, Apple has made the basics of Final Cut Pro approachable for someone new to editing, but that doesn’t automate the process of ideas and creativity.

The real question is whether or not Apple has chosen the right path for the future of its professional products.  They could have moved the feature set of FCP 7 to a modern 64 bit architecture, darkened the color scheme a bit, and called it a day. Pros would have been happy to not re-learn what they already knew, and there would be a bump in performance and better codec support.  This is similar to the course taken with Premiere Pro- evolutionary but not revolutionary.

Instead, Final Cut Pro X is more than a re-write.  It’s an entirely new set of concepts with a lower barrier of entry for the new or intermediate editor.  This is not to say that the “pro” isn’t in Final Cut Pro anymore.  It’s there, just beneath the surface, perhaps most importantly in the new attention to database driven organization.  Anyone working in X who has sifted through footage marking favorites or tagging keywords will attest to the power and flexibility of the software.  The timeline has an index that allows the editor to quickly find or isolate clips based on a host of criteria.  Roles are an easy way to organize files for export to post audio.  The list goes on.

Apple’s definition of “pro” has evolved to allow non-professionals easier access to the basics, while also giving seasoned veterans the speed and tools they need to create great work.  This gives Apple two areas of growth instead of one, and it’s hard to see a downside for anyone in this equation.

WWDC 2013

After half a year of almost total radio silence, Apple came out swinging this week with a two hour keynote that had a lot to prove.  The bullet point recaps are everywhere online, so instead let’s look at a few major themes from the presentation.

Design

Mobile and desktop technology have evolved in the mainstream to the point where the term “fashion” can be used with a straight face.  Apple’s message this week was that the current version of iOS looks dated, inconsistent and, well, out of fashion.  What’s interesting here is that Apple also seem to acknowledge that they may not always be the trendsetter in this regard.  There’s a lot of the Google+ aesthetic throughout the new mobile OS, and certain navigation elements have a Windows Phone feel to it.  Functionally iOS 7 borrows some tricks from all the competitors (not to mention iPhone jailbreak hacks and WebOS) and tries to refine and redefine them into a cohesive experience.  It will be interesting to see how this new iOS evolves by the time it ships.

On the hardware side, Apple released the long awaited Mac Pro.  Say what you will about its lack of expandability or the trash can/R2-D2/Pringles can look- this machine is unlike anything anyone else has ever released.  It represents everything Apple stands for- it’s bolder in design than the 2000 Cube as it breaks with the past more than the original 1998 iMac.  This is a machine that virtually anyone would recognize from 20 yards away.

Secrecy

Seriously, how did Apple manage to keep the lid on the Mac Pro considering how long it’s been in development?  Last year Tim Cook claimed that Apple was going to “double down” on secrecy, and it looks like he was successful in that regard.  Across the board Apple was able to keep a lid on things like no keynote since the original iPhone.

Apple after Jobs

Not to dwell too much on the Mac Pro, but it struck me that this could very well be the first major piece of new hardware to emerge in an Apple after Jobs.  It’s possible that the iPad mini beat it to the punch, but this is more than just a shrunken-down version of an existing product.  If anyone was wondering whether Apple still had the ability to push the norms than this box puts that to rest.

In many ways I feel like this was truly the first post-Jobs keynote, even though technically it was not.  There was a confidence in the presenters that seemed to stem from new ideas and new creations, ones that originated after the company’s founder was gone.

Tim Cook

Speaking of confidence, Tim Cook has come into his own as Apple’s leading persona to the world.  I think back to the iPhone event in the fall of 2011, just before Jobs died.  I thought his performance was admirable under the circumstances, but it took him a while to really own it the way he did this past Monday- he was comfortable in the role and you could tell he was ready to swing back at the “Apple has lost its mojo” press stories swirling around his company.

Cook has also forged a new path that his predecessor might have disagreed with.  The firing of Scott Forstall and promoting Jony Ive to head up both software and hardware design is a clear break from the past.  Forstall was a brilliant but caustic personality that Jobs admired, and he was a strong proponent of the skeuomorphic touches of green felt and leather stitching that have been scrubbed from the new versions of OS X and iOS 7.

 

Apple has kicked off the second half of 2013 with what looks like an accelerated schedule of new releases and updates across most of their major projects, both hardware and software.  But perhaps more importantly we are starting to see signs of Apple transitioning into a post Steve Jobs existence.

Leave Steve out of it

There have been plenty of stories posted lately about Steve Jobs and how he would disapprove of the moves being made by Apple without him. Apparently the new Apple TV interface goes against his better wishes, and paying dividends to shareholders would not happen on his watch! The list of these kinds of tales goes on.

This is lazy journalism and low-hanging fruit for page views. And besides, who can dispute these stories now? Leave the guy alone, and move on.