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Final Cut Pro X for Pros: New Features Expand the Editing Experience

Final Cut Pro X is steadily gaining support among professional editors as Apple integrates more features in response to users’ needs. Unlike the previous iterations of Final Cut Studio—where everything was integrated into a bundle of Apple applications—FCP X relies to a greater extent on an ecosystem of outside developers who have brought a number of useful tools to the table. This means that you buy only what you need and build out your toolkit according to your own specific workflow. Here are some tips on getting the most out of FCP X.

Apple Final Cut Pro X

Motion and Compressor

Apple sells Motion 5 and Compressor 4 as standalone applications through the Mac App Store. Although not essential for running FCP X, each adds useful functionality. Motion 5 is an advanced compositor that’s optimized for the design and animation of motion graphics. It also has become an effects creation tool for Final Cut Pro X. Many of the filters, transitions and generators found in FCP X are actually Motion templates. It’s easy to open a copy of an effect from FCP X in Motion and customize it. Likewise, you can create your own effects plug-ins from scratch and “publish” them back to Final Cut. Many of the free or low-cost filters available for FCP X were created exactly this way.

Compressor 4 is an updated version of Apple’s encoding software. The new version is faster, better optimized for current hardware and includes new presets for Apple devices. Since DVD and Blu-ray creation has been integrated into the FCP X Share menu, as well as Compressor, this will be the tool you need for separate production of “one-off” review discs.

Moving Between the Final Cuts

Numerous applications—7toX for Final Cut Pro, Soundbite, ClipExporter and others—extend the capabilities of FCP X.

Final Cut Pro X introduced a new version of XML that differs greatly from the XML used by Final Cut Pro 7 and Adobe Premiere Pro, yet this is the core method Apple provides for interchange with other applications. If you need AAFs, OMFs, FCP 7 XMLs, EDLs and so on, you first have to go through the new FCPXML format. To date, only a handful of applications, like DaVinci Resolve, can natively read/write FCPXML; therefore, general interoperability will require one of several third-party translation utilities.

Intelligent Assistance/Assisted Editing jumped into the game early with applications designed to make FCP X a better citizen of the postproduction world. Xto7 for Final Cut Pro and 7toX for Final Cut Pro are XML translation utilities that let editors bring legacy FCP projects into FCP X, as well as from FCP X back to FCP 7 (or Premiere Pro).

Intelligent Assistance’s Xto7 for Final Cut Pro translates the new FCPXML format into the XML format used by Final Cut Pro 7 and Premiere Pro CS6.

While the need for 7toX seems obvious, going in the other direction (Xto7) is also quite useful. For instance, it’s the only efficient way to create an audio OMF from an FCP X project. Use the translation to get the timeline into FCP 7, where you can generate the OMF export. This is also a good way to get from FCP X to Apple Color, if that’s still your preferred grading application.

Other applications for FCP X from Intelligent Assistance include Sync-N-Link X, which is designed to batch-process double-system audio synchronizing based on timecode. Lastly, Event Manager X is a tool that lets editors control which Events and Projects show up inside Final Cut Pro X at launch.

Interoperability with Other Applications

Apple left EDL generation to third-party developers. XMiL Workflow Tools’ EDL-X is the application to use if you need to generate CMX 3600-compliant edit decision lists (EDLs). This is still an important need in many industry workflows—for example, when sending files and a sequence to an outside color correction or visual effects facility. EDL-X gives users the ability to customize lists based on the needs at the other end. This includes setting the length of reel names, specifying which data is used for the reel names and including source lists.

X2Pro Audio Convert from Marquis Broadcast translates FCPXML files into the AAF format to transfer audio sessions into Avid Pro Tools.

Final Cut Pro X uses a trackless timeline design, which doesn’t translate to a layout required by audio mixers working on a DAW, like Avid Pro Tools. Marquis Broadcast’s X2Pro Audio Convert will help, as it is designed to translate an FCP X Project (edited sequence) for use in Pro Tools. It reads the FCPXML file and generates an AAF file with linked or embedded media. This is compatible with newer versions of Pro Tools. In addition, the FCP X Roles and Sub-Roles feature is used to organize the track layout when the file is opened in a Pro Tools session.

If you’ve left Apple Color behind, then Blackmagic Design DaVinci Resolve is tailor-made for Final Cut Pro X. The round-trip between the two applications is solid, and even their user interfaces sport similar aesthetics. Resolve is a world-class grading tool used on blockbuster features, but even the free version will cover nearly all of your needs. Another interesting free application (donation requested) is ClipExporter from Mind Transplant. This translation utility can generate composition files for SynthEyes, Nuke and After Effects from FCP X timelines, as well as self-contained or reference QuickTime movies from individual Event clips.

Boris Soundbite is a dialogue search tool that is compatible with FCP 7, FCP X and Premiere Pro.

Two more applications that will add powerful capabilities to your system are Red Giant Software’s PluralEyes 3 and Soundbite from Boris FX. PluralEyes 3 is a standalone application for clip synchronization using audio. It can sync double-system productions, as well as multiple camera angles, based on matching audio waveforms—without the use of timecode. This new version supports the FCPXML format, as well as round-trips to and from FCP X.

Soundbite is a dialogue search engine powered by Nexidia that was known as Get before Boris FX picked up the product. It’s the cousin of Avid’s PhraseFind, but it operates outside of any specific NLE. To use it with FCP X, first analyze a folder of media to search for specific words, phrases or terms. Markers are placed at the word matches within the “found” clips. Then generate an FCPXML file for these search results, which will be imported into Final Cut as a new Event, complete with markers placed at the locations of the word matches.

Filters, Transitions, Titles, Generators and Templates

Video effects in Final Cut Pro X are based on Motion templates built on an updated version of the FxPlug architecture. Many of the effects created for FCP X by third-party developers are simply a combination of native Motion effects that have been “published” as a single FCP X effect. In this process, the developer can choose to suppress or reveal as many adjustment sliders as is appropriate; therefore, a very complex effect can be controlled with a single slider within the FCP X inspector pane. Some plug-in developers go beyond the basics, of course, but the combination of traditional developers and the new crop of editor-designer-entrepreneurs has led to a rich ecosystem of effects just for FCP X.

FxFactory from Noise Industries is a plug-in management tool that controls the licensing and installation of partner plug-ins into Final Cut Pro, Motion, Premiere Pro and After Effects.

All of the major developers have introduced FCP X products. These include Boris FX, CoreMelt, GenArts, Red Giant, Tiffen, Digital Film Tools, RE:Vision Effects, Digieffects, CHV and many more. I find those from Noise Industries and Digital Heaven to be the best match for most users. Digital Heaven’s Transitions Pack, BoxX, ReincarnationX and SubtitleX effects form a nice combination of tools that you’ll use every day. Not overly flashy, but very useful.

Noise Industries’ FxFactory is the only comprehensive package that you can grow as your need increases. The free version acts as a license manager for the partner plug-ins, while the paid pro version adds a set of Noise Industries’ own filters. Most of these plug-ins run in FCP 7/X, After Effects and Premiere Pro, although a few are specific to FCP X only. Since these plug-ins are developed by individual partner companies—Nattress, Luca Visual FX, idustrial revolution, PHYX and others—you can buy the filters as you need them and increase the repertoire over time.

Final Cut Pro X naturally includes a nice complement of built-in filters, so before you start draining the bank account, you should definitely check out what’s already included. If you want freebies based on Motion templates, simply search the web and you’ll find no shortage of effects. FCP X also includes a wide range of audio filters brought over from Logic. Additionally, it recognizes most third-party AU (Mac audio units) filters, like Focusrite or Waves plug-ins.

Apple Final Cut Pro X is proving to be a viable platform for the professional user. You’ll find a range of tools that augment FCP X and will enable you to complete productions at nearly any level of complexity. The supporting ecosystem of applications, utilities and plug-ins is growing every day and quickly expanding this next-generation Final Cut Pro beyond its seemingly simple beginning.