Can you have too much real estate when it comes to editing on Final Cut Pro X? What is the best screen layout for working in an edit suite with FCPX? You might be surprised at the outcome.
I've just finished a week of broadcast editing at the start of a rather busy summer schedule. My normal location for the warm months has been moved from old film cutting rooms that post war, were home to the likes of editing The Cruel Sea and Whiskey Galore! - to plush new edit suites in a modern building.
With the move came new monitors, the Apple Thunderbolt displays had been repurposed and utilised elsewhere. So when I sat down for the preparation day, I was greeted by two rather standard 21.5 inch HP monitors. The large monitor on the right is fed from the broadcast output of a Blackmagic Ultrastudio and the monitors on the walls are for watching incoming feeds and an off-air signal. (The Mac Pro is hiding behind the monitors)
A happy editor you might think. Well not really.
First of all the monitors are 1920x1080 which when doubled up you would think is enough space for FCPX. Not so. The 1080 depth isn't enough pixels to get enough storylines in a project visible. I was constantly having to adjust the track height and display mode to see what was going on.
Secondly, I normally work with the AP (Assistant Producer or Edit Producer) sitting on my right hand side. I then have the edit screen on the left and the Library with all its filmstrip glory on the right for the AP to look at. This is fine until you want to refine a search. That text entry box is a long way away tucked up in the top right hand corner. Let's face it, we have all had a panic over losing footage when we have forgotten there is a search string still in there!
So what to do? The facility company very kindly found me an Ezio 27 inch screen with a resolution of 2560 x1440 - the same as an an Apple Thunderbolt display. I've been very happy working FCPX in a broadcast environment with a 27" Retina iMac and although I wouldn't get the sharpness, I was used to the size and shape.
Then I had an idea. I had seen traders & bankers use a portrait monitor in the City for financial work and also remembered a few people running their mail programs on one.
Why not keep one of the HP monitors, but rotate it by 90 degrees for the Library? This would mean that I'd have a longer column of events, folders and keywords. Hopefully that would stop the constant twiddling of the disclosure triangles to get to media. It would also mean that the search box would be a lot closer!
It was a revelation. I had all the space of a 27 inch monitor for the timeline, viewer and inspector and a long display for the Library. It worked, very, very well. I had thought that the portrait monitor might not be optimal for filmstrip display, but that worked fine as you get shorter rows but more columns. It also made the active filmstrip in list mode easier to navigate as it wasn't stretched out over the right hand side screen. One scan with a mouse instead of two.
As much as two 27 inch monitors side by side looks impressive, I think the wide real estate is too much. The combination of a large landscape and smaller monitor in portrait mode seems the best of both worlds and is quick and very easy to use.
This will now be my default monitor layout for the summer of broadcast FCPX editing. I wish I had thought of doing it a couple of years ago.
Then again, if Apple announce a new monitor at WWDC...
Got a better setup? why not post a link in the comments below.
Peter Wiggins is a broadcast freelance editor based in the UK although his work takes him around the world. An early adopter of FCP setting up pioneering broadcasts workflows, his weapon of choice is now Final Cut Pro X. You can find him on Twitter as @peterwiggins or as he runs the majority of this site, you can contact him here.