New and Improved: Apple Final Cut Pro X 10.0.6 Adds Some Serious Features

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On the same day Apple launched the iPad mini, the fourth generation iPad, a refresh of the iMac line and a 13” MacBook Pro with Retina display, Apple also quietly released the 10.0.6 version of Final Cut Pro X. By the end of the day, the App Store lit up and the various online forums were buzzing.

The Four Bullet Points

Dual Viewers

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A familiar dual viewer layout is now possible within Final Cut Pro X. Both viewers can include videoscope displays in horizontal or vertical stacked layouts.

The unified viewer was a huge shock when FCP X was first released. As you move between a source clip in the event browser and the project’s edited timeline, the viewer display toggles between these two images. You now have the option to change this behavior by opening a second event viewer window. Source clips show in the event viewer while the main viewer displays only the project timeline image. You cannot skim or scrub with the mouse directly from within this window. There is also no way to gang source clips and timelines together. Having this second viewer does add some cool new features, like the ability to have scopes with each viewer. These can be displayed in a horizontal or vertical arrangement. The good news is that you have the choice between single and dual viewers depending on your task.

Multi-Channel Audio Editing
To prevent audio from slipping out of sync due to user error—and to reduce timeline clutter—FCP X keeps clips as combined A/V sources. Until this release, if you shot an interview and used two audio channels for individual microphones, you could not separately edit or mix levels on them unless you broke the audio out as separate clips. Then you risked the possibility of accidentally slipping them out of sync. With this update, audio channels still stay attached to their source clips, but you can expand the clip in the timeline or inspector to reveal multiple audio channels. This enables renaming, editing, volume and pan control for individual audio channels.

RED Camera Support

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Features like dual viewers, RED support and multi-channel audio editing highlight the latest version of Final Cut Pro X.

The RED user community has been vocal about wanting native edit support for the REDCODE camera raw compressed media format. With 10.0.6, Apple has more than met that challenge. There’s native file support at up to 5K sizes, plus you can transcode to an optimized ProRes 4444 or ProRes Proxy format for a more fluid editing experience. With FCP X’s unique architecture, transcoding happens in the background, so you can start with the native files, which are automatically replaced by the optimized or proxy files when ready. Edit with proxies for a lightweight load on your system (like laptop editing) and then switch to the optimized or native files for the final output. Or simply stay with the native files throughout if that’s your preference.

The RED ROCKET card is supported for accelerated playback, transcoding and rendering with full resolution debayering. Software-based renders, exports and optimized media generation will also be at full resolution but much slower. In order to enable RED support, you’ll need to install the latest RED plug-in.

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Native RED camera support has been added along with easy with access to camera raw settings.

You now have direct access to the RED camera raw color settings from within FCP X. Click “Modify RED RAW Settings” in the inspector window and a floating heads up display (HUD) pops up with adjustment sliders. Select one clip or a group of clips in the event browser and change the settings for a single clip or for all by adjusting one HUD panel. Native .r3d files in a 4K project played well on my Mac Pro thanks to multicore playback. Performance seemed comparable to what I see with Adobe Premiere Pro on the same computer. Given Apple’s optimized/proxy media workflow and the ease of adjusting raw settings, I feel that FCP X now offers the best option for cutting a RED-originated production.

MXF Plug-In Support
Final Cut Pro X has added native support for MXF camera files. As with FCP “legacy” versions, the 10.0.6 update lets you use plug-ins offered by Hamburg Pro Media and Calibrated Software for direct access. This enables native use of MXF files and facilitates end-to-end MXF workflows, such as the DPP digital delivery standard in the UK, when Hamburg Pro Media ships its AS-11 Import and Export product.

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Multiple range selections may now be marked on each clip. These are retained until changed by the editor.

A Few Surprises
The engineers added more metadata (a whole slew of ARRI Alexa and RED camera metadata, for example), changed a number of interface functions, updated the XML format and added 42 new effects, transitions, titles and generators, including a drop shadow filter and a one-step freeze frame.

Several of these changes are significant for users. We now regain the ability to copy and paste clip attributes. You may paste specific effects, individual filters, transforms and audio parameters to one or multiple clips on the timeline.

There’s a new range selection function. Many editors had asked for “persistent in and out points”—basically that a source clip holds the last in/out marks made by the user. Instead, Apple opted to place multiple marked ranges in a fashion similar to range-based Favorites, which may take some getting used to. For instance, if you mark two ranges within a single event clip and then decide to reject the clip (with the event browser set to “hide rejected”), you are left with three clips instead of one. Those three clips represent the leftover, unmarked sections of the single original clip. In order to prevent this, you have to first mark the whole clip (the X key) and then reject it (delete key).

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Multichannel audio editing lets users expand audio tracks. These can be individually edited along with volume and pan changes without splitting the clip into separate elements.

Working with connected clips has been a learning experience for many. The benefit is that you can move a group of linked clips simply by moving the one main clip on the primary storyline. Sometimes you don’t want this, such as when you want to move a sound bite clip without moving the attached B-roll cutaway shots. Holding down the grave/tilde key as you move, slip or slide a primary storyline clip keeps any connected clips in their original place and prevents their movement.

Previously, the process for importing media files was different than the import module for camera media. With the update, these have been combined into a single-window interface. Media can be previewed in a filmstrip view from this window, regardless of whether it’s from a camera card or a file on your hard drive. If the file comes from a camera card or a mounted volume (such as a disk image made of a camera card), then you additionally have the ability to select ranges within the file for import. Once imports have started, the window may be closed, allowing you to continue editing while the import happens in the background. Commonly used areas, like a shared folder, may be dragged to a Favorites area of the window.

Lastly, the share menu has been moved and streamlined. This is where you export media. It may be used for master files, as well as batch processes, like DVD creation or Vimeo uploads. You may use the existing presets or set up your own, but now there’s also a bundle function. This is a folder of presets designed as a job batch. For example, if you always need to create three versions for your client—a master file, an iPhone review copy and a YouTube upload—set up a bundle with these presets and you are ready to go. There are other enhancements to compound clips, markers and multicam, as well as faster rendering performance, that I won’t go into. Suffice it to say that this update has a lot in it, so it’s well worth diving in to explore.

Things to Know Before You Update
Final Cut Pro requires OS X 10.6.8, 10.7.5 or 10.8.2. I was already on 10.7.4, so the bump to 10.7.5 was easy through Apple’s software update. If you opt to go with 10.8.2, then it’s an App Store purchase if you’re using an earlier OS or an App Store update if you are on an earlier version of Mountain Lion (10.8 or 10.8.1). Running this OS X update also updates Safari and Aperture (if applicable). Once you are on either of these OS versions, the App Store will let you update FCP X, Motion and Compressor. These are free updates if you already own the applications. Like all App Store purchases, they are valid for up to five personal computers on a single Apple ID.

Final Cut Pro X 10.0.6 is a solid upgrade that may be the turning point for many professionals. I’ve been reliably editing most of my broadcast and corporate projects for months in FCP X. Yes, it’s different, but it’s also growing and evolving. Changes in this version are a direct answer to the needs of professional editors. No software is perfect, but this update checks off many items that may have been objections before. At least now, folks who’ve been sitting on the fence can judge Apple’s commitment by the progress made in FCP X to date.

Product: Apple Final Cut Pro X 10.0.6 Update
Pros: Improved multichannel audio editing, native RED camera support, MXF plug-in support and dual viewers. Numerous interface changes, including streamlined import and share modules.
Cons: No audio mixer, oddly implemented approach to persistent in and out marks.
Bottom Line: This is a solid improvement to Final Cut Pro X that reinforces Apple’s commitment to the professional user.
MSRP: Free update to existing users / $299.99 new

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