Apple Final Cut Pro X 10.0.6: Inside the Biggest Update Yet
On October 24, 2012, Apple released the 10.0.6 update to Final Cut Pro X. It's a free update, so there's no reason not to download it; in this review I'll show you what to expect when you do. For a complete list of new features and fixes, click over to Apple's Release Notes. As you'll see, with 18 new features and 12 fixes, this release boasts the most new features of any update. While none are as sweeping as the multi-camera editing added in 10.0.3, several will resonate in a big way with some key user groups.
For example, if you're a Red shooter, the ability to import R3D files and access Red Raw settings from within FCPX is a huge draw. You can see an R3D file in FCPX in the figure to the right, with the Red RAW Settings on the right. I downloaded this clip from the web years ago and didn't record from where; if anyone spots this and wants the credits, let us know in a comment.
As with most NLEs, you'll have to download a plug-in from Red to import R3D files. You can download the plug-in here. For more information on plug-in operation, check out this tutorial video from Red on Vimeo entitled, Red Apple Workflow: Introducing the FCP X Plugin.
Another new feature with a similarly significant potential impact is support for third-party MXF plug-ins that let producers work with MXF-based content from import to delivery. Apple also updated Final Cut Pro X XML to version 1.2, adding audio component editing as a supported feature and greatly expanding the metadata users can store with media assets in a project. Click here to open a PDF file detailing the updated specification.
The marquee feature for serious audio producers is multichannel audio editing, which presents stereo or 5.1 surround sound tracks as separate mono tracks that you can edit separately. To access the individual tracks, click to select the track, open the Channel Configuration on the right, and choose 6 Mono tracks for surround sound, or Dual Mono for stereo tracks.
Then right-click the track and choose Expand Audio Components to open the individual mono tracks shown in the figure. From there, you can edit each track separately, and once you're done, consolidate the audio tracks by right-clicking and choosing Collapse Audio Components.
One feature all producers will appreciate is the ability to select multiple ranges in a clip in the Event browser, with the selected ranges remembered once you leave the clip, even if you exit and return to the program. In the figure below you can see four selected ranges, a nice convenience when grabbing short scenes from one longer clip. To make this work, after selecting your first range press and hold Command as you click and drag additional ranges.
For those used to working in Final Cut Pro 7 or Premiere Pro, it's the equivalent of creating subclips from the source video, but faster and easier. Once created, you treat all ranges as separate clips for further editing purposes, whether adding to the project or logging metadata.
One of the most significant interface changes is the elimination of the share monitor; now, all exporting is accomplished in the background and is GPU-accelerated. Operationally, you can choose an existing destination, or create your own, which can incorporate a range of outputs, including presets from Compressor, uploading to YouTube, Vimeo, CNN iReport, and Facebook, or creating a master archival file.
Once you create a destination, choose File/Share and choose the destination. Final Cut Pro takes it from there, encoding all the files and transmitting them to the designated locations. It's a pretty slick way to finish up a project and a nice time-saver. You can also select and export a range from a project or event, a useful feature many FCP 7.0 producers missed in the initial versions of FCPX.
Another feature many Final Cut Pro vets missed was the ability to paste attributes from one clip to another, which can be an amazing time-saver when working with multiple source clips from the same scene. Rather than applying color and brightness adjustments individually, you can now apply them once, copy the attributes, and paste them on another clip via the Shift-Command-V combination, opening the Paste Attributes screen shown below. Choose the video and audio attributes to paste over to the new clip, then click Paste. You can move on to your next edit.
One feature that should have been in version 10.0.0 (IMHO) is support for chapter points, which you can now add in the timeline with a thumbnail pin for choosing the poster frame. When you're producing a DVD, all chapter points appear in the chapter menus as shown in the figure below, with FCPX automatically creating enough chapter menus for the markers. You can also use the chapter markers as subtitles on the DVD.
To be fair, FCPX's DVD authoring functionality still trails virtually every known program on the planet. Now, at least, you can render out a disc that lets your clients access scenes from a menu or by clicking to the next chapter point with their remote.
Also new is a unified import feature that lets you import camera-based and disk-based files from the same interface. I've always liked FCPX's camera import facility, which lets you preview and trim your files before importing. That can be a huge time-saver.
The new version lets you import disk-based files using a similar interface that includes the filmstrip view shown below. You can also choose in and out points in disk-based video files, a nice convenience. That said, as I collected the files to test all these new features I would have preferred the ability to simply drag and drop files into the Event browser, which isn't supported.
It's also frustrating that you simply can't import separate .MTS or .MXF files into the program. Basically, importing works great if you're working with the original camera media or the camera itself, but gets complicated fast if you stray from this workflow to load a file downloaded from the web or sent by a client.
You can now open up a separate viewer showing content in the event viewer (Windows/Show Event Viewer), enabling the classic source/preview monitor configuration. You can open video scopes for both viewers, and now place the scopes beneath the video, rather than alongside, which works a lot better for scopes like the waveform and histogram, which I tend to use the most.
The new freeze frame feature is the first I've seen that actually does what I want a freeze frame feature to do; specifically, create a separate image file at the selected location that I can stretch and size as needed. I've always found the frame hold paradigm ungainly for my needs. If you create a freeze frame in the timeline, Final Cut now adds the still frame at the selected location using the default duration for still images. If you add a freeze frame from the Event Browser, Final Cut connects the still image to the existing project at the playhead location.
These are the major features; again, you can get a complete list here. Overall, 10.0.6 release does a nice job backfilling features that some users missed from Final Cut Pro 7, while adding multiple new features like destinations and multiple ranges selection that make the editor much more usable and efficient.
So where does this release leave Final Cut Pro X in the great panoply of professional editors? When first released, FCPX had serious deficits that simply prevented many producers from using the product. As many detractors crowed, it was more iMovie Pro than FCPX. If you produced multi-cam events, for example, FCP 10.0.0 was a non-starter, a trip back to the stone age of non-linear editing. Ditto for Red producers, and those who required XML interchange with other content creation programs.
For many producers, critical gaps still remain. For me, it's custom DVD and Blu-ray authoring and broader input file support; for others, it's shared network usage. Many others need tight integration with Photoshop and After Effects, the two tools that many professional editors can't live without. Every editing situation is unique, and only that editor can say whether a particular product can meet their needs.
To Apple's credit, it has continued to invest in professional-oriented features, like Red support, XML interchange, and many others. At this point, Final Cut Pro X has matured into an editor that can meet the needs of most single-seat streaming-oriented producers, and many others in many markets. For these producers, the NLE selection is now more a matter of preference. Just like the Premiere Pro vs. Final Cut Pro 7 debates that preceded FCPX, there will be plenty of proponents and arguments on both sides, and no clear winner among the Premiere Pro, Final Cut Pro, Avid, and Vegas crowd.
Jan Ozer's article first appeared on OnlineVideo.net