Final Cut Pro X is a great editing tool. I couldn't go back to Final Cut Pro 7 or go to Media Composer or Premiere for my video work. I work so much faster in FInal Cut Pro X and I enjoy the user interface.(it just feels better to work in than Final Cut Pro 7, Media Composer or Premiere to me).
But... what would I want in a future revision that I don't have yet? I've compiled a list of things that I think would improve the Final Cut Pro X experience.
Here we go:
A New Relationship with Motion
This is the biggest and most important issue that I think needs to get addressed in the next major version of Final Cut Pro X. I am not sure if the solution is round-tripping like Final Cut Pro 7 and earlier, but I would like to see a better workflow for doing custom animation work for video projects.
The new paradigm seems to be, more or less, that Motion is either a template/effect/transition building program for Final Cut Pro X or it's a program to create finished Quicktime movies. This works great for users creating their own lower third titles, their own opening/closing video series animations, custom color effects and custom transitions, all of which need to be used frequently across multiple projects.
For someone doing custom animation work in Motion, the ability to get that work into Final Cut Pro X and to then make changes is not trivial. Let me give you an example. Let’s say I have a 3 minute video that has a few interview clips and I would like to create animations on top of this that are synced to what is being said. How can I do this efficiently in the current paradigm? One approach is that you use the Final Cut Pro Generators as one-time-use templates.
To do this, I need to first decide on the segment that I want to add an animation to. Then, I could export just that range as a low-res Quicktime movie. I then launch Motion, create a new Motion Generator with the same settings as the movie, import the movie as a reference, and then begin animating. Once the animation is complete, I publish this project as a Generator, switch to Final Cut Pro X, open my Generators section, find the Generator I just created, place it in the timeline at the exact frame that the reference clip begins and voila.
To make changes to this animation (assuming that I didn’t get it perfectly right on the first try), I open the “template”, make the changes, save the changes, go back to the Generators section in Final Cut Pro X, place the “template” on top of the previous one, and then delete the old one. Repeat this process until the animation is finalized.
Does that work? Yes. Simple? No.
Another approach is to export Quicktime Movies from Motion as you work on the animation and import these movies into the Final Cut Pro X timeline. If you need to make changes, you go back to the Motion projects, make changes, export new Quicktime movies, import the new movies into the Final Cut Pro X Event, replace the old movies with the new ones and delete the old movies from the Event.
Does that work? Yes. Simple? No.
Neither approach is a great solution. The current workflows are prone to mis-steps, errors and/or heavy-lifting. There’s got to be a better way.
With this, there's a choice of centralized vs. non-centralized functionality: do you put everything in Final Cut Pro X or do you have a lot of other programs, like the Final Cut Studio model, to handle a deeper level of creation? Perhaps the solution is to allow Motion files and its associated media to be imported into Final Cut Events, so that they become a separate contained instance that can easily be opened and backed up? Perhaps the solution is to allow more hooks into Motion that give the ability to make simple timing changes within an animation “template”? Perhaps it’s an ideal situation to bring most of the capability and functionality of Motion into Final Cut Pro X so that editing and animation is one tool? Being able to farm out animation work across multiple animators is a great argument for a decentralized approach. Ease of archiving and changes is a great argument for a centralized approach. It is a tough dilemma.
So, boiling this all down, what are the goals of a needed change in the Motion-to-Final Cut Pro X relationship? Better ease of use, better ease of changes and better archiving.
Better Archiving and Restoring
I list this next because part of the challenge (as it's always been) is that to archive a project with Motion templates, one has to backup the Final Cut Project, the associated Final Cut Events and the associated Motion templates/effects/transitions. It's not terribly complicated to handle if you’re comfortable managing many elements and folders in the Finder. If you’re not, it could be a bag of hurt if you want to restore a project a year later and found out that you deleted some Titles or Generators.
I would love it if I could click an "Archive" button and then the application gathers up all of the materials that went into that project and bundles them into one Project Archive (similar to the Camera Archive function for video capture). That file could then be stored and moved for later use, either on the same system or another system.
Hold frames for Ken Burns controls
The Ken Burns controls for photo animation work great. At first, its behavior didn’t work as I expected (not sure if it was buggy or if I had some odd photo files). Now, it works great for me. It's a great example of a process made better by not worrying about keyframes. One addition that I would like is the ability to have paused frames at the beginning and end of an animation. Often times I would like to end on a particular framing of a shot before cutting away. Perhaps the simplest way to handle this is to have settings for holding the beginning and ending frames similar to how it can be done in Motion.
Some of this goes back to the choice of "How much of Motion is in Final Cut Pro X?", but I think it would be helpful to have guides in FCPX that would have snapping and alignment information. A grid might be helpful as well, but that depends on how much animation work is done in FCPX versus Motion.
Put all of Compressor into Final Cut Pro X
Why list this? I used to have Compressor open all of the time... probably more than Final Cut Pro because it handled so many encodings for me. It would often work 24 hours a day for days on end. After 10.0.6, my Compressor usage has gone away nearly completely. Why? Because most of my file encoding (both single file as well as batch/bundle) is now handled by the Share feature in Final Cut Pro X. The “Add Destinations” and Bundles features added in Final Cut Pro X were huge improvements for Sharing.
I think there are two main things that are needed to bring Compressor completely over to Final Cut Pro X: custom preset creation and the ability to batch up multiple files from the Finder. The clustering in Compressor is another matter. I’m sure that’s a big feature for a lot of users and that might be enough to justify keeping Compressor separate. It’s not that I want to see Compressor go away. It’s a program that has served me well for years, but if I can simplify my workflow, I’m all for it.
Batch Sharing of Projects
Being able to export several projects at once is a great feature. In Final Cut Pro 7 and earlier, Batch Export was a function I used a fair amount. I didn’t use it daily or even weekly, but those times that I needed it, it was a huge help. In Final Cut Pro X’s Project Library, you can only select one project at a time to share. It’d be great if after working on 15 video interview clips in separate projects to highlight all 15 and share them rather than having to select and export each one.
Better information on what's Sharing in the Background Rendering screen
Being able to batch up several projects and let them all queue up for rendering is great in Final Cut Pro X. What would be even better is the ability to see the project names of what’s been queued up rather than (or in addition to) the preset name. A history (like Compressor) might be nice to see if something failed, but not necessary.
Manual White Balance
Using the old Eye Dropper tool got you 90%-95% of the way towards white balancing your video.(if not 100%). Now, one has to know more about how color works, so that you can remove blue from the shot. Perhaps the solution is something like in the iOS version of iPhoto. It's an intuitive way to identify where your video was shot and then have the software adjust appropriately. There's even an option for more manual control.
Charts and graphs
I’ve needed to create an animated chart or graph in Motion many times and there’s not an easy way to do it. Often times, I go to iWork and use Numbers to create a chart or graph. I’ll input the data, create the chart and either export a video or a still to then bring into Final Cut Pro X. It’s a workaround and it’s not perfect. For some reason, alpha layers don’t work as advertised in the Numbers export and I have to do a Color Key or a Luma Key if I want to overlay the graph.
A good solution? How about a drag-and-drop Generator that allows one to create an animated chart/graph by inputting data. Add in some controls for some build options and you've got a good graph/chart solution for a lot of people.
Motion Blur on/off for animation within Final Cut Pro X
This is a small one, but some elements that are in Final Cut Pro X don’t have motion blur turned on when they animate. It’d be nice if it could be. This might be done as a per element contextual click. (like Optical Flow)
Automated Dictation for Search, Transcription and Subtitling
I’ve found voice dictation in Mac OS X and iOS to be excellent. I try to use it when I can simply to save time. How can this be applied to Final Cut Pro X? It could be used to create text for search, transcription and subtitling for use within a video, Project or Event.
Would it be 100% correct? No, no tool for this is. Proper nouns can be tough to translate. So, there needs to be an easy way to correct this... Just as easy as it is to change text for a title.
Once the text is associated to timecode and connected to the video correctly, there are two things that could be done that would be helpful: transcription and subtitling. Being able to export a transcription of a video/project could be useful for many people...certainly for documentary interview work as well as some educational use too.
Subtitle tracks from this text track would be a great addition to create more closed captioning for videos. Who knows... Maybe even additional language tracks could be added in as well.
Final Cut Pro X has quickly passed FInal Cut Pro 7 (and earlier versions) as my favorite and most efficient editing application. I edit faster, which ultimately leads to better videos. I have also found that I enjoy the editing process more. That's not a very scientific observation, but I've found it to be true. Hopefully, the suggestions presented above will help shape Final Cut Pro X into an even better experience for many more people.