Filmstrip View Restores Hours of Productivity to Humanity – Final Cut Pro X

Continuing what I love about FCPX, I’ve saved my favorite feature for last. Many hours of potentially productive work by mankind has been wasted by double clicking on footage in a bin, moving the mouse over to the viewer, clicking and dragging the time indicator to skim through the video, returning to the bin and repeating until the desired clip is found.

No more! All the media in FCPX is now displayed as a filmstrip. I can zoom in and out of footage while viewing it all in one continuous filmstrip, skimming and scanning and finding what I need near instantaneously. I can drag across areas, mark favorites and tags and see what areas are tagged based on different colored lines. Massive timesaver.

There are also a lot of options on how to display and group the clips – name, date shot, camera shot, etc. Paired with smart collections and metadata, it gets even easier to find footage.

Premiere CS6 borrowed some of this functionality, but really didn’t go the full mile to make it as useful as FCPX. In Premiere you can view you footage as thumbnails, and as you skim over it with the mouse you can preview the clip. But that’s still valuable time wasted mousing over everything. With FCPX, it’s as simple as scrolling down with the mouse to move through the filmstrip, then mousing over a section to finely search for your specific clip.

For a more classic view, you can still view footage in a list. Tags and favorites appear below each clip.

Final Cut Pro X – It’s Like Illustrator for Editing

They say Adobe After Effects is like Photoshop for video (or aims to be). I’ll take it a step further and say Final Cut Pro X is like Adobe Illustrator for editing.

This post is a continuation of what I like about Final Cut Pro X. Check out part 1 on metadata here.

It takes some getting used to, but one of my favorite features of FCPX is the magnetic timeline and compound clips.

About the same time I began experimenting with FCPX again, I was trying to learn Illustrator. I’m pretty good at Photoshop, but I was having a hard time figuring out how layers in Illustrator worked.

Turns out that’s because layers aren’t the organizational foundation of an Illustrator file – it’s groups. You have groups within groups within groups. It’s the same idea with groups and compound clips in FCPX.

You can instantly create compound clips in a timeline – like nested sequences but on steroids. Highlight as many clips as you like and then create a Compound Clip. Now you have one clip to deal with on your timeline. You can double click on the clip to edit the clips within in. Or you can Ungroup and restore the clips to the original timeline.

This is great for project organization or if you create an instant animation with a few layers that you want to continue to use. Also great for handling time-lapse sequences of lots of photos.

My one complaint about Compound Clips is I can’t move a clip I created in a project into an event, just in case I wanted to use it again elsewhere (like my logo analogy). I’d have to go back into the project and copy/paste it. At least for now. You can create Compound Clips in an Event, which is what happens when you use FCPX to sync media together.

Speaking of time-lapse, another awesome feature is batch changes. Let’s say I have a time-lapse sequence with each frame lasting 5 seconds. I can highlight them all and change the duration for each clip to say 3 seconds. The change is applied to everything, and with the magnetic timeline, they automatically squeeze back together.

Skimming takes some getting used to. But once you do, it’s like having two time indicators. One remains at the last position you stopped or clicked. The other follows your mouse, letting you quickly scan through clips or the project. You just have to be mindful of where exactly the mouse is. You might be inadvertently hovering over a clip, and whatever changes you want to make (say inserting a clip or splicing) will apply to the time indicator of your mouse, not the one controlled by your keyboard.

As for the lack of tracks, I don’t mind it. You just have to take some extra preparation time in the Events, when you’re logging and tagging your footage, to make sure you set the roles of music and FX. But you can take it a step further, because you can create as many roles as you like. Once they’re cut into your project, you can turn them on and off at will, or filter them in other ways. But again, preparation is key, because once a clip is in a project, changing the role in the Event won’t change what’s on the timeline, and vice versa. And since there are no tracks, you can get really crazy, like stacking audio on top of video. Though I’m not sure why you’d want to do this.

But wait,there’s more! Stay tuned.

Mac Pro – Light at the End of the Tunnel is not Death

I’m not one to post breaking news, but as a Mac Pro user this make me very happy. A lot of new Apple toys were announced on Monday. Many of us hoped there would be an update to the Mac Pro, which hasn’t seen any changes in over 2 years.

What Apple did was akin to leaving a 10 cent tip. They didn’t forget about the Mac Pro, but they did quietly update the Apple store with a new model that lacked a lot of needed features, like Thunderbolt and USB 3.0.

A concerned user emailed Tim Cook and shockingly got a reply.


Thanks for your email. Our Pro customers like you are really important to us. Although we didn’t have a chance to talk about a new Mac Pro at today’s event, don’t worry as we’re working on something really great for later next year. We also updated the current model today.

We’ve been continuing to update Final Cut Pro X with revolutionary pro features like industry leading multi-cam support and we just updated Aperture with incredible new image adjustment features.

We also announced a MacBook Pro with a Retina Display that is a great solution for many pros.


via Tim Cook Reveals Secret Mac Pro in an Email to Random Apple Fan.

Final Cut Pro X – I Had it All Wrong. Metadata is the light.

Not too long ago, I swore off FCPX as a project sabotaging POS and was trying to figure out where to go next.

Today, FCPX is all I’m using and I don’t see myself jumping ship. How’d I learn to stop worrying and love the bomb? One word.


With completely digital workflows, I have thousands of clips and terabytes of data. Data wrangling and logging was a big issue for my feature, Bots High.

To manage the 5000 files, I created a custom FileMaker Pro database, wrote shot descriptions for everything, and created custom fields for characters and general tags.

This gets the job done, but there is no synergy between your notes and the media. There’s a lot of jumping around between programs, and repeatedly watching the same clips multiple times to find and re-find footage.

Also, some shots could run 10 minutes long or more. Lots of different things could have happened in that clip, yet logging wise all those notes are crammed into 1 record, and I’d have to dig through the clip again to find what I was looking for (or not).

I’m gearing up for another feature, and was taking the proactive measure of starting a new database in pre-production, to keep up with the media as I shoot.

Around the same time I saw mention of Philip Hodgetts’ book Conquering the Metadata Foundations of Final Cut Pro X. For $5 I figured it was worth a read. Maybe I could use FCPX as a media manager, and edit elsewhere.

Best $5 I spent that month. This book covers everything you’d want to know about tagging, sorting, logging, and searching media, and it opened my eyes to the ninja tricks FCPX is capable of.

Here are some of my favorite Final Cut Pro X Metadata tricks:

  • When logging footage, you can create custom metadata views, showing only the fields you need. Plus, you can create custom fields.
  • Not only can you tag clips, you can tag a section of a clip. For documentaries with 10 minute takes (like I’ve had), this is a life saver.
  • Everything you’ve been tagging and logging is searchable. Or you can create smart collections that gather all your clips (or the tagged section) based on criteria you pick.
  • Playback is amazing. In real time I can play a clip, mark the in and out and tag that section without ever stopping playback. You can even assign keyboard shortcuts to specific tags or groups of tags.

Logging is actually enjoyable. I can focus on watching the footage and not the hassle of jumping back and forth between different programs and using hacks to tag and log footage.

Even if you have no intention of cutting in FCPX, I’d argue (especially for documentary filmmakers) that it’s worth the $300 alone just to log and manage your footage.

Giving these metadata features a try with some media for a short project, I decided to give editing another try as well. At this point 10.0.3 was out, which meant some bugs had been fixed and it had XML export, so there was an escape hatch if I needed it.

After getting used to the workflow and keyboard shortcuts, there’s a lot to like. In a nutshell, it’s like Adobe Illustrator for video.

I’m splitting this up into multiple posts. In the next part, I’ll write about the rest of what I like in X.

Get the Real Bitrate for Your Video Files

I’ll go more in-depth soon with how I’ve been loving the GH2, but wanted to post a quick free app I found that’s been very helpful in analyzing video files.

First off, I hacked the GH2 to get a bitrate of 44 mbps. Great stuff, but it leaves me with AVCHD files that need to be transcoded into something else. As I experimented with different codecs, I wanted to make sure I wasn’t undermining the work of the hack by encoding to something with a lower bitrate. But bitrate is not something that pops up in the Finder info window.

Enter MediaInfo. This totally free program gives you all sorts of data on you video files, no matter what the format is. So I can compare the original MTS file to the new codec in the MOV I want to analyze.

Very handy. Very free. Good for Mac and PC. Download it here.

In Russia, Subtitles Fork You!

With a tight budget I’m always a big fan of turning to Elance to outsource some work. I’ve had interviews transcribed with timecode reference, After Effects animation, and poster design done. Now I needed some subtitles for Bots High. I knew this would need a higher level of accuracy than I expect with transcripts, so I was willing to pay more than I do for transcription.

I got a bid from a Russian company. At first I was hesitant – I really wanted a native English speaker. But their emails had proper grammar and they said they had English speakers on staff. So I went with them.

You know how it goes, you get what you paid for. I knew I’d probably have to tweak some stuff, and I was expecting what I got back to be 90% towards a final product. It ended up being more like 50%.

The timecode with the subtitles didn’t match up to the dialogue (which I can’t fully blame them for, I think there was an issue on importing), subtitles with six or seven lines of dialogue on one card, and my favorite – some of the most bizarre transcription that leaves me wondering what the hell they think this movie is about. I know not all the dialogue is crystal clear, but if you’re a native English speaker doing this, where you excel over a computer is you can take context and infer what they’re saying.

I realized when working with foreign freelancers / virtual assistants you have to treat correspondence and outlines like a computer program. You need to state every parameter, think of how they could stray, and write out what you’d think would be obvious but probably isn’t. I can’t blame them for putting six lines of dialogue on one really long card because I never said “maximum of two lines per card.” I just assumed people doing subtitles knew that, but you know what happens when you do that.

Below are some screen shots of my favorite WTF captions. It made the two days of going through everything and fixing it tolerable. Enjoy!

When girls fight there’s no knowing what they’ll do.

Sounds like she lost her arm in a vicious robot battle and got it replaced with a wrench – because she loves robots so much. How can you take her arm from (form) her??

Just reading this it’s probably not that funny, but that’s because it’s supposed to be, “How long is the shaft?” To which Will replies, “That’s a personal question.” As with anything you can still find some sexual innuendo in ‘hollowing your shaft.’

The best for last. They did understand that the robots were fighting, not having robo-sex in the arena, right? Line should be, “Good game, that was awesome! We actually lasted thirty seconds, so I’m proud.” I guess a guy’s firmness and proud-ness could be considered the same thing…in Russia!

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