I started this blog in 2005, when I made my leap from editing on an Avid in standard definition…to editing with FCP in high definition…thus the name Little Frog in High Def (Little Frog being my Indian name from my youth). This blog was me talking about my foray into the world of HD specifically using Final Cut Pro…for broadcast TV shows. A diary of my successes and my failures…lessons I wanted to share so that people could learn from my…well, successes and failures.
So now, with the EOL of FCP and me moving back to using Avid Media Composer…and Adobe Premiere…I’d like to list off my 10 favorite things about FCP that I will miss. My favorite features that made me love the application. Don’t get me wrong, I’ll still use it for a while, my current job as a matter of fact most likely will use it for a few more years. Companies out here tend to do that…use what they have because it works…until it no longer works (in some cases, even when it doesn’t work). I post these in hopes that the other NLE makers will see them and go “yeah, that’s a cool feature” and try to incorporate it into their future releases.
Here are the top 10 favorite features that I’ll miss in FCP…in no particular order:
1. Resolution independence. I like that I can add HD to an SD sequence, and it works fine. 720p in a 1080p sequence look fine too. And I can take 1080, put it into a 720p sequence, and scale and reposition to show what I want to show. Adobe has this too…Avid does not. If I put a 1080p clip into a 720p project…it becomes 720p.
2. Audio mixing on the timeline, and with keystrokes. My favorite ability is to lasso audio, and press the CONTROL key and bracket and + – keys to increase and decrease audio by a few db. Control brackets adjusts by 3db in either direction, – and + by 1db. This allows for very quick and very precise audio mixing. And if I didn’t do that, just toggling Clip Overlays brings up the level lines and I can drag up or down, quickly add keyframes for more controlled audio dips. Yeah, Avid does this too, but it isn’t as elegant. And Avid doesn’t do keyboard audio mixing. Nor Adobe.
3. Speaking of audio…I like having more than 16 tracks of realtime audio. Most times I don’t have more than 8-14 channels of audio, but it isn’t all that rare for me to have between 24 and 48 channels of audio. I have been in that boat many a time, especially when dealing with 6 people on individual mics, the need to add b-roll audio, extensive sound design for SFX, and smoother music editing. And yes, as a picture editor I am responsible for a lot of the pre-mix. Many clients/network execs can’t watch a cut with temp sounding audio…so it needs to sound finished. And be very in depth. Avid stops at 24 total tracks of audio…only 16 audible at a time. PPro is better…it allows, well, at least 48. Although the audio mixer is track based, not clip based, and mixing audio on the timeline is lacking…more difficult than it should be.
4. The ability to work with picture files at full size on the timeline without plugins. Being able to add picture files, in their full size (well, they have to be under 4000 pixels or FCP gives the über helpul “general error”) onto my timeline and do small moves, or temp moves on them and have them remain sharp is handy. Avid imports still as media, unless you use the Avid Pan & Zoom plugin, which allows for manipulation. But isn’t as easy as direct picture access. Adobe works like FCP in this respect…so that is good.
5. Clip enable/disable. With the click of Control-B, I could turn off clips in the timeline that I had highlighted…rendering them invisible and silent. This was a quick and easy way to see clips under clips, without turning off track visibility and un-rendering EVERYTHING. It enabled me to only turn of portions of my timeline. To be fair, Avid doesn’t need this, as you can monitor separate video tracks, and go under clips without losing one render. Disabling audio files quickly, so that I can only hear the music though…that is something Avid doesn’t do. Yeah, I could click-click-click to turn off tracks. But it is so easy to lasso/disble in two quick strokes. And I could use it to turn off clips surrounding others for easier soloing of audio elements.
6. Simple compositing on the timeline. FCP is a far better compositor than Avid…for an NLE. Adobe is good too, but the simplicity and ease that I can composite shots in FCP dwarfs what I can do in the Avid. And I can blend elements better, add filters to single clips only, rather than from a clip, and everything below that clip. Composite modes right there on the timeline for many cool effects (not all broadcast safe, so beware). Building a composite shot, or funky transition is easy in FCP…a tad more involved and difficult with Avid. As I said earlier, Adobe Premiere Pro does this well too.
7. The wide variety of plugins. Let’s face it, there are simply a LOT of plugins available for FCP. Enough free ones to keep you occupied and happy…and dozens more cheap ones. A few spendy ones. But really, A LOT of plugins. Did I use them all? No, I have favorites, and I don’t rely on them a lot. But when I need them, I know that I have a wide variety that I can choose from, give the look I want to make. Avid has darn few, and of those few, they are EXPENSIVE. The only free ones are the ones built in. There are no great free fan-made plugins for Avid. FCP had lots of people doing this for free…for fun. FCP has a great and vast plugin community.
8. Organization of materials. This is big…so big that I had a tutorial DVD that covered all aspects of this topic. I am big on organization. But the strength of this, the beauty of it, was also a curse. If you are new to FCP, or don’t know how it dealt with assets or just weren’t paying attention, you could hose your project in a big way, or make life difficult down the road. So it’s a gift, and a curse…to quote Monk. FCP allowed for organizing footage in the project, and outside of the project, on the desktop level. It kept all tape imports and tapeless imports separated by project. And renders as well. All captured/imported media was imported into the Capture Scratch folder, into project subfolders. This made it really easy to find only the assets used by certain projects. I liked to make one folder per project, point FCP to that project for captures and renders, and make folders for audio assets, stills, graphics…everything. So that all assets for one project were in one location. Easy to backup, easy to transfer…easy to delete. The danger of the way FCP did things is that if you just grabbed a picture file, or audio file from your desktop and put it into the FCP project, the original file REMAINED on the desktop. So when you transferred the media to a drive for mobile editing, or to hand off, you might forget those odd stray files. So you really had to pay attention and be organized on the desktop level, and in the application. But this was a REALLY powerful way of doing things.
Adobe does this too…so that point is moot.
Avid doesn’t. Avid puts ALL imported assets, regardless of project, into one location. Or if you need to use multiple drives, into single folder locations on multiple drives. And the media wasn’t accessable via the desktop level, all organization needed to be done inside the Media Composer itself. I find this limiting. But, it is just one way that Avid keeps track of everything, and VERY well. There are power-user things you can do, like change the MXF folder names so that you keep multiple folders, separated out by project. But you should only do this if you know what you are doing, and know how Avid does things.
9. Exporting a Quicktime file with multiple channels of discreet audio. Before MC6, this was something ONLY Final Cut Pro did. In fact, when I asked someone how to do this from Avid as DNxHD, they responded “it can’t. And that is the reason we have one FCP station, so that we can do just that.” But now, with MC 6, I can do that too. Isn’t as smooth as it is in FCP, but it is close, and will only improve. Adobe PPro cannot do that…it has Mono, Stereo, and Dolby 5.1 options only. We’ll have to see if CS6 adds this ability.
10 – The ability to import only portions of tapeless media via Log and Transfer. In Final Cut Pro you can import only portions of clips if you want. Have a 1 hour clip of nothing, then 2 min of something happening? Import only that. Premiere Pro, being native only, does not do this. All or nothing. With Avid, you have to do a few tricks…extra steps. Access via AMA, put your selects onto a timeline, and then transcode. I guess that isn’t too bad, but not as slick as Log and Transfer. And again, Premiere Pro doesn’t do this.
OK…eleven things. I will also miss the ability to open multiple projects…and especially multiple sequences.
Avid and PPro have improved, and might now include something I used to only be able to do in FCP. Either that or I simply only have 9 things. Either way, I’m keeping the title the same…sounds better to say “my top 10 list” rather than “my top 9 list.” Monk knows what I’m talking about.
Please feel free to add your favorite features you will miss in the comments section. Doesn’t need to be 10, but I am interested in what tricks other people do in FCP, that aren’t doable in other apps.