Wednesday, March 02, 2005

Editing on Final Cut Pro 4.5

By Harry B. Miller III, A.C.E.

Keywords: Final Cut Pro, DVCam, Digital intermediate

Storage: 400 gig Firewire drive

System: Mac G4, OS 10.3


The following are a series of observations from editing A THOUSAND ROADS, a 40 minute dramatic film, shot in Super 35mm (for superior image quality), scanned at 4K on a Spirit (for excellent image quality), assembled on a Lustre at 2K, and projected from a server on to a Texas Instruments 2K projector (to retain the excellent image quality). It was edited on Final Cut Pro… to save money.

It doesn’t take very long to get started editing in Final Cut Pro (FCP). These days non-linear systems are fairly consistent in how work flow is organized. For me it was essential to have an assistant who knew the software that could create and maintain the project. Like other systems, the worst mistakes can occur in setting up the show.

Major FCP Positive Features:

- Extremely stable. Crashed only 2x in 12 weeks. But very dependant on correct set-up.

- Programmable keyboard, so you can mimic keystrokes you are comfortable with. But it doesn’t automatically save the keyboard.

- Very good visual quality. This project was digitized uncompressed, and used about 300 gigs of storage.

Major Negative Features:


- 24 frame projects are not as stable as 30 frame projects in the current version.

- Where you are highlighted in the timeline is extremely important. I once deleted half the edit, and had no idea how it happened. Even with a Mark In / Out it is possible to delete highlighted material somewhere else in the timeline and never know it until you go to that section.

- You have to render every dissolve. On multi-layered, or dissolve heavy sequences, this is very disruptive to the work flow. Rendering in general is the constant roadblock to efficient operation.

- Seems to take more key strokes and mouse clicks than Avid to have any one function work correctly.

- Drop in a shot from a previous sequence, and it doesn’t use the clip names, but the sequence names. And match frame recalls the sequence, not the original clip. This is seriously weird and problematic.

- Ctrl+V overwrites, rather than inserts.

Workflow


This film was shot in its entirety before the editor was hired. LaserPacific did the telecine to Digibeta, and the final scanning and digital assembly. Each camera roll was transferred to a separate DVCam tape with a flex file. This was for the DI, although it means you get well over 100 tapes for a 40 minute film.

My assistant set up the project. We decided to be a 30 frame project, as we’d been told from more than one source that FCP 4.5 isn’t as stable in 24 fps.

There is no ‘user’ settings on startup. So, you can’t store a set of preferences for different users. However, there are preference menus all over the place, with enormous number of options. Most of which I had no clue about. My assistant had to advise me on the right selections.

The following items came up during the off-line cut:

More than once I deleted huge chunks of the timeline unknowingly. If you are highlighting regions in one part of the timeline, but mark in and outs in another area, the highlighted area can be deleted. And you don’t know it, as the timeline doesn’t go to the deleted area.

The attic stores the entire project several times a day, so I was able to find an edit to restore the deleted work. FCP doesn’t attic ‘bins’ but the entire project file. So the attic folder gets huge in a short period of time.

Trim mode – you can drag, you can add frames, but you can’t ‘play’ with a trim (play button extends a cut).

The nomenclature seems silly (‘Viewer’ ‘Canvas’) How about ‘Play’ and ‘Record’.

The picture stutters in reverse

No multicam capability.

Limited image size in bins (thumbnail)

You can match frame a shot. But there is no ‘find bin’ command, to see the original bin where that shot resides.

You can’t change thumbnail images all at the same time.

You cannot view the source (Viewer) window in a timeline.

Copy from one sequence, and paste to another does an overwrite, not an insert.

“Limit on media” - won’t allow you to trim past 1 frame (which would eliminate the frame of media).

Sometimes a double click on a splice would put you in trim mode. Sometimes not. The operation can often be unpredictable.

For some narration, we digitized picture and audio from a non-timecoded DV tape. The audio was a different sample rate, and the sync with the picture drifted once it was cut in the timeline. It was very strange. Over time it went further out of sync.

'Add a selection' (click on an item) has always been with “Shift”. With FCP, to select more in the timeline one uses “Apple”. Another odd function.

No audio gain plug in

No saving the timeline view.

When you move a title it has to “prepare video for display, then you have to render again any effects. Rendering slows the entire FCP process down.

Saving can be very slow (45 seconds) when the project gets large.

FCP doesn’t like the project getting as large as 100 MB. You must open a new projects - you can have more than one open at the same time - and move out unnecessary folders to make the project smaller. And with the backup feature, the attic gets huge by making copies of the complete project.

Audio edits can produce many pops.

After match framing a clip, it isn’t easy to find other information about it, such as tape source, camera roll, sound roll, etc.

Edit to Tape (Digital Cut) is not simple or intuitive.

QT Movie: you can highlight a sequence, but it will only output between the in and out marks.

To output with a matte requires a full real-time render. This is very time consuming.

FCP is not very good at file linking. My assistant mirrored the media drive, as a backup and to create some temp VFX. FCP had a difficult time linking to the correct media, even with a copy of the full project. That also seems to be a problem with networking media. FPC is very usable for a single system edit. But a media share edit would be very problematic.

Finishing

Once the picture was locked, I provided LaserPacific an EDL to start scanning the film. To insure a frame accurate 24 frame list, I re-built the picture cut in an Avid, which was able to create a 24 frame list, with 24 frame timecode.

I output to sound and music departments a Motion JPGA file. The picture quality is excellent, and used about 17 gb of space. Generating this file is slower than real time. I also output OMF audio files, but several times was aborted because of a 2 gb files size limit to the OMF file.

The film was scanned and built from the EDL in the Lustre, in the DI suite at Laser. The film scan, we learned, is framed very differently from the telecine. A lot of things popped into frame we had never before seen.

The film was color graded in the Lustre Theater. The film was re-framed where needed.

The visual effects were delivered as files, so there was no timecode with which to create an EDL. Adding in the effects was the least smooth part of the process.

The film will be screened only on 2K Texas Instruments projectors, played of a computer server. It will open at the National Museum of the American Indian in April of 2005.

2 Comments:

Anonymous Kevin Monahan said...

Hello Harry,
I've seen a lot of negative commentary about Final Cut here on the ACE site and wanted to clear some of this stuff up. I'm an editor and FCP specialist, have written books on the topic and even worked at Apple on the software. I've worked on film projects including at Pixar.

Currently, I'm a certified instructor of FCP at Video Symphony in Burbank, CA and hope someday to be a member of A.C.E.

I hope my comments are not condescending as I respect you and all of the editors at A.C.E. I just want to help clear up some details and would love to help anyone in the A.C.E. become proficient on FCP.

I think that knowing FCP, as well as Avid is an advantageous situation, especially nowadays with budget considerations and more with more established editors (Walter Murch) becoming enthusiastic about the tool.

I know both systems and I'm glad I do. I can take most any job with confidence. Back in the day, I'm sure many Moviola folks made the conversion to Avid, so I'm sure the jump is not quite as big.

"For me it was essential to have an assistant who knew the software that could create and maintain the project"

I highly agree that if you are an ingrained Avid editor, you will have some trouble at first and it will be beneficial to hire an assistant or consultant to get you up and running and to show you workflow. Make sure to allow the time to do this. It takes longer than you'd expect.

"Like other systems, the worst mistakes can occur in setting up the show."

Disagree. If you go to Final Cut Pro > Easy Setup you cannot go wrong.

"Major FCP Positive Features:
Extremely stable. Crashed only 2x in 12 weeks."

Excellent!

"But very dependant on correct set-up."

Again, start your session by going to Easy Setup, you cannot go wrong.

"Programmable keyboard, so you can mimic keystrokes you are comfortable with."

Better to learn the FCP shortcuts or you may fail if you don't have access to your custom keyboard prefs.

"But it doesn’t automatically save the keyboard."

You can save keyboard layouts in the Tools > Keyboard Layout menu.

"Major Negative Features:
24 frame projects are not as stable as 30 frame projects in the current version."

This is simply not true. I've cut 23.98 HD, 24fps Film and both are just fine regarding stability. 24 Frame film projects are fully supported with many features from Cinema Tools now living natively within FCP.

"Where you are highlighted in the timeline is extremely important. I once deleted half the edit, and had no idea how it happened. Even with a Mark In / Out it is possible to delete highlighted material somewhere else in the timeline and never know it until you go to that section."

That's the beauty/danger of being in Segment Mode at all times. Once you become fluent in FCP, you really do not make mistakes such as the above. To an enlightened FCP editor, when you see that there is no action on a keystroke, a delete down the timeline is what you should first suspect. Command + Z is your friend.

"You have to render every dissolve. On multi-layered, or dissolve heavy sequences, this is very disruptive to the work flow. Rendering in general is the constant roadblock to efficient operation."

This is simply untrue, even back in version 4.5. More than likely, you had your RT Popup menu set to Safe RT and not Unlimited RT. Again, your assistant should definitely be able set you up to not have to render at all for simple things like dissolves.

"Seems to take more key strokes and mouse clicks than Avid to have any one function work correctly."

I disagree on this one. If you know the system, you can certainly fly on it. This coming from a trained Avid editor's POV.

"Drop in a shot from a previous sequence, and it doesn’t use the clip names, but the sequence names. And match frame recalls the sequence, not the original clip. This is seriously weird and problematic."

You are operating FCP like Avid. FCP doesn't take virtual KEM rolls like Avid. In FCP, sequences are generally not loaded into the Record monitor. Take heart though, there are other ways to do the same thing.

"Ctrl+V overwrites, rather than inserts."

Actually no. Ctrl + V make an Add Edit (and will do so on the fly). Shift + V is a Paste Insert, CMD + V is a Paste Overwrite. F9 is Insert and F10 is Overwrite.

"My assistant set up the project. We decided to be a 30 frame project, as we’d been told from more than one source that FCP 4.5 isn’t as stable in 24 fps."

This isn't true and even in 4.5. You did need to process 3:2 pulldown in Cinema Tools prior to working in a 24 fps project and everything would've been fine. It's even easier in FCP 5 where the Flex file is directly imported. Reverse telecine or removing advanced pull-down all happens upon capture nowadays.

Unfortunately, many film assistants do not know Cinema Tools, crucial for working with Film projects on FCP.

"There is no ‘user’ settings on startup. So, you can’t store a set of preferences for different users. "

They are all stored as Easy Setups, it really is easy too.

"More than once I deleted huge chunks of the timeline unknowingly"

Training with someone knowledgeable about both systems prior to the session will put you more in the know as to when this happens.

"FCP doesn’t attic ‘bins’ but the entire project file. So the attic folder gets huge in a short period of time."

It's called the Auto Save Vault.

How often you save in your "Auto Save Vault" is a user preference. Check that one out.

"Trim mode – you can drag, you can add frames, but you can’t ‘play’ with a trim (play button extends a cut). "

FCP 5 has dynamic JKL trimming in the Trim Edit Window, however not in the timeline as of yet.

"The nomenclature seems silly (‘Viewer’ ‘Canvas’) How about ‘Play’ and ‘Record’."

This doesn't really matter does it? ;-)

"The picture stutters in reverse"

Never. Your drives may not be fast enough. You did not mention which drives you were using.

"No multicam capability."

There is now in FCP 5. Avid editors actually like it!

"Limited image size in bins (thumbnail)"

I think you mean Icons. I agree, icon sizes should be larger. Thumbnails in list mode as well should be resizeable to be larger.

"You can match frame a shot. But there is no ‘find bin’ command, to see the original bin where that shot resides."

It's not called that, it's called "Find in Browser". Shift + F.

"You can’t change thumbnail images all at the same time."

I'm not at all sure what you mean here.

"You cannot view the source (Viewer) window in a timeline."

Right. You really shouldn't be playing sequences in the Viewer and taking selects from that. FCP is not Avid.

"Copy from one sequence, and paste to another does an overwrite, not an insert."

Shift + V is Paste > Insert

"“Limit on media” - won’t allow you to trim past 1 frame (which would eliminate the frame of media)."

Limit on media means that you are on the end of the frame and the frame will be trimmed.

"Sometimes a double click on a splice would put you in trim mode. Sometimes not. The operation can often be unpredictable."

Double clicking on the cut should ALWAYS put you into trim mode. I've never seen that fail.

"For some narration, we digitized picture and audio from a non-timecoded DV tape. The audio was a different sample rate, and the sync with the picture drifted once it was cut in the timeline. It was very strange. Over time it went further out of sync."

It is bad practice to edit with different sample rates in the timeline. Stick to the native sample rate of your sequence. A quick encode to QT Pro or iTunes makes this painless.

"'Add a selection' (click on an item) has always been with “Shift”. With FCP, to select more in the timeline one uses “Apple”. Another odd function."

That doesn't really matter, does it? FCP is not Avid and vice versa.

"No audio gain plug in"
Not sure what you mean here. There's tons of audio plug-ins available in FCP and ST Pro.

"No saving the timeline view."

You can save timeline layouts. No trouble there.

"When you move a title it has to “prepare video for display, then you have to render again any effects. Rendering slows the entire FCP process down."

Titles are real time effects. You likely had the timeline wrongly set to Safe RT.

"Saving can be very slow (45 seconds) when the project gets large."

Yes, you have to keep your project lean and mean and more so than in Avid (although I've seen Avid projects slow to a crawl as well). You can have more than one project open and move clips and sequences there you know you will not use. It is also helpful not to capture entire tape rolls at a time, as that seems to make the problem worse.

"FCP doesn’t like the project getting as large as 100 MB."

Right!

"You must open a new projects - you can have more than one open at the same time - and move out unnecessary folders to make the project smaller."

Yes. Excellent, that's what you should do.

"And with the backup feature, the attic gets huge by making copies of the complete project."

Manage this in your prefs. No trouble.

"Audio edits can produce many pops."

Yes, if left out on a blank track, I've seen that happen. A quick 2 fr fade up solves this.

"After match framing a clip, it isn’t easy to find other information about it, such as tape source, camera roll, sound roll, etc. "

CMD + 9 reveals item properties. In FCP 5 and up, film info is included in the Browser (project) columns.

"Edit to Tape (Digital Cut) is not simple or intuitive."

Not sure what your problem was. I've been using ETT with RS-422 since FCP 1.

"QT Movie: you can highlight a sequence, but it will only output between the in and out marks."

Simple. Remove the in and outs before exporting. OPT + X.

"To output with a matte requires a full real-time render. This is very time consuming."

A Widescreen Matte is a RT effect. You shouldn't have to render that one on a powerful enough system. Even back in 4.5.

"FCP is not very good at file linking. My assistant mirrored the media drive, as a backup and to create some temp VFX. FCP had a difficult time linking to the correct media, even with a copy of the full project."

I have no trouble with reconnecting media.

"That also seems to be a problem with networking media. FPC is very usable for a single system edit. But a media share edit would be very problematic."

Look into Xsan. Bunim-Murray has dozens of seats all sharing identical media. You can even edit over GigE. Not cheap, but neither is Unity.

"Once the picture was locked, I provided LaserPacific an EDL to start scanning the film. To insure a frame accurate 24 frame list, I re-built the picture cut in an Avid, which was able to create a 24 frame list, with 24 frame timecode."

This was unnecessary as you could've outputted a 24 FPS EDL from FCP.

"I output to sound and music departments a Motion JPGA file. The picture quality is excellent, and used about 17 gb of space. Generating this file is slower than real time."

That's because you are now adding compression to a formerly uncompressed file.

"I also output OMF audio files, but several times was aborted because of a 2 gb files size limit to the OMF file."

Your audio OMFs were more than 2 GB? That seems odd.

"The film was scanned and built from the EDL in the Lustre, in the DI suite at Laser. The film scan, we learned, is framed very differently from the telecine. A lot of things popped into frame we had never before seen."

This doesn't appear to be a FCP issue.

I'm sorry you had such a brutal edit with FCP. If anyone in the ACE requires training on FCP by someone that is qualified by Apple and also an Avid editor, please contact me: kevinjmonahan AT gmail DOT com

Sincerely,

Kevin Monahan
Editor
FCP Consultant

8:54 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

this is just another dumb avid editor obviously bashing on final cut. doesn't take the time to do a quick glance at the shortcut list to see why alot of his issues are arising.

3:24 PM  

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