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 Walking Dead’ shuffles on

Rob Bricken, reporting for io9:

Were you sort of dreading the season nine premiere of The Walking Dead? I was. The series has had increasing problems since the beginning of the boring, interminable Savior War, and the show’s declining ratings back that up. But I’m surprised—and happy!—to report that the season nine premiere really feels like a new beginning, and damned if it didn’t make me excited for the show all over again…mostly.

I still watch TWD, but I’m not quite sure why. As a narrative springboard there’s so much potential there, but the characters have felt increasingly wooden (the living ones, mind you) and the storylines have been well south of compelling.

Something certainly felt different right from the opening credits of season 9’s debut. Color. Crows scatter from a tree as its leaves burst into view, and a pitchforked skull on the ground is overtaken by blooming vines. Even the title itself shows a hint of life.

TWD_S09.png

I’ll stick it out and see if this goes anywhere. Pivoting the story in a new direction as Rick Grimes departs is a smart move. Let’s just hope they fill the void with something more than Negan’s latest antics.

The tech of Better Call Saul and Breaking Bad

Nathan Mattise at Ars Technica takes a look at the subtle but effective use of VFX in two of this century’s greatest shows:

On the surface, nothing about Better Call Saul appears particularly innovative. Crime and legal dramas stand as one of TV’s oldest formats, and this one happens to be set in the near-past. The show can’t even draw on the latest headlines where the bleeding edge of tech runs into law. On top of that, of course, Saul spun-off from the wildly successfully Breaking Bad, meaning a lot of this world’s largest narrative arcs have been spelled out already (to say nothing of the critical shadow Breaking Bad casts).

The included video is a great watch, but you may want to skip it if you haven’t finished Breaking Bad- there are series finale spoilers.

They used to be called “commercials”

Netflix has been testing out the playback of video promos that play in between episodes of a show you’re watching. No joke. Shannon Liao at The Verge:

Users who have spotted the test feature have taken to (since deleted) Reddit and Twitter to voice their annoyance at having their show-binging interrupted by an ad for other shows. A bug appeared for some users where they were unable to skip the promo and had to watch a certain amount — like with ads on YouTube — before they were able to get to the next episode of their show. Netflix told The Verge that the video promos are supposed to be skippable and that the feature is not permanent. “We are testing whether surfacing recommendations between episodes helps members discover stories they will enjoy faster.”

It’s not clear if this will ever get out of the testing phase, or what other shows Netflix would choose to promote in the middle of your couch-bound binge session. In theory they could sell that eyeball time the same way a traditional network sells advertising.

When cable television was new, the dream was that you’d pay a monthly fee in exchange for commercial free channels. This New York Times piece from 1981 is a perfect time capsule of that era:

Although cable television was never conceived of as television without commercial interruption, there has been a widespread impression – among the public, at least -that cable would be supported largely by viewers’ monthly subscription fees. These days, however, as cables are laid across the country and new programs constantly pop up to fill the gaping maw, cable experts are talking as glibly about the potential advertising revenues as they are about opportunities for programming.

The 100 Best TV Episodes of the Century

I hadn’t heard of The Ringer before, but this site design is fantastic.

To come up with a list of the 100 best episodes, the entire Ringerstaff was asked to submit their favorite episodes of the century. The list was then assembled with those submissions in mind, and with one stipulation—that only one episode per show could make the cut.

Prepare to lose track of time reading this list. There are some controversial choices, too. I’m sure #1 will irk more than a few.

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.

Jumping off the cliff

It’s been a while since I’ve posted, and that’s largely because I’ve been deep in a project that I recently completed, and it just happens to start airing tonight.

The show I worked on was somewhat complex in its source material, organization, assembly, and deliverables (multiple versions for different media outlets) and I stayed within FCPX for all of it.

On day one of the job, I stood on a metaphorical cliff deciding which NLE to use (my choices at hand were FCP7, Premiere Pro, and FCPX). As a bit of history, I started using Avid from 1995 to 2001, FCP “Classic” from 2001 to late 2012, and from there began testing the waters with Premiere and FCPX. I had lingering concerns about how FCPX would perform with an increasingly complex project, but the first few days were comprised mostly of logging and tagging sources, so I had a window of escape to another program if things started going downhill.

They didn’t.

FCPX performed quite well. I set up some hotkeys to tag media using keyword collections, and was able to very quickly get things organized. Switching between list and thumbnail view, or drilling down to only favorites were a few more keystrokes. It was all fast and fluid.

I was also dealing with many tracks of timecode-synced split audio files, so I selected them and created multicam clips, cut them into the timeline, and activated only the channels I needed in any given instance. When it was time to send the show to ProTools for the final mix (using the rock-solid X2Pro application), only the active tracks I chose were included in the AAF. Very convenient, and it kept the timeline streamlined. Speaking of the timeline, the timeline index was indispensable. With a click I could enable or disable music or effects globally, and I regularly used the search field to track down and select specific items in a sea of other clips.

FCPX’s most “controversial” feature, the magnetic timeline, is also fast and flexible in my opinion. I found that during the rough cut phase I could do a lot without taking my hands off the keyboard- no tracks to patch. In X I tend to do a “sketch” of the story I’m telling by quickly getting the pieces in place, and then I go back through and refine my edits. It’s nice to know that I can drill down to a specific moment in the timeline and make adjustments knowing that I’m not knocking something out of place further down in the sequence.

There were other little features in X that I appreciated. The Vimeo integration was handy for firing off a version for approval while I kept working on a different part of the show. The to-do markers helped to keep track of changes. Having color correction and image stabilization options built into every clip (as opposed to applying a filter each time) was great.

Overall I was glad I jumped off that cliff.