As we celebrate the end of 2020, it is time to look back at the highlights in the world of Final Cut over the last 12 months. It was a year of a flurry of software updates from the Final Cut team plus many hardware updates from Apple. It also saw an acceleration of editors working remotely and big improvements to the hardware and software of video production.
Final Cut Pro X
The first half of 2020 was quiet when it came to our favourite video editing application. Apart from a development that meant Final Cut would be mentioned by Apple CEO Tim Cook during April’s Q2 Apple earnings call with market analysts.
Because more and more people were staying at home as coronavirus-related stay at home orders spread around the world, in March Apple extended the free 30-day trial of Final Cut Pro X to 90 days:
The trial is a full working version and is not limited or watermarked in any way. All projects made with this version can be opened after the trial if the user wishes to purchase the app. Also, for the first time, the digital audio workstation (DAW) Logic Pro X has a free trial, again another 90 days.
At the end of April Tim Cook said
Since early March, we've seen unprecedented demand for our pro apps from students, enthusiasts, and creative professionals. These folks are keeping us all entertained and inspired as we stay at home, and to help them do it, we made Final Cut Pro X and Logic Pro X available for free for 90 days for everyone. And the reaction has been overwhelming, driving software downloads and usage to record levels.
Final Cut Pro X 10.4.9
Towards the end of August Apple released the major update of Final Cut Pro X for 2020: version 10.4.9. It was an update that provided new features for different Final Cut constituencies. Improved RAW media management for production, new proxy workflows for high-end post collaboration, machine learning-based aspect ratio conversion for social media makers and 3D model manipulation for motion graphics designers. fcp.co covered the news on Episode 16 of fcp.co Live. Apple went on to release three more bug fix updates later in the year.
The many video tutorials for version 10.4.9 apply equally well to those learning to use 10.4.10, 10.5 and 10.5.1.
Alongside adding macOS Big Sur and Apple silicon compatibility, version 10.5 did see another big change: The Final Cut Pro X name no longer included the ‘X’ (pronounced ‘ten’). Since November 2020, it has been just Final Cut Pro.
The Final Cut Ecosystem
As in every year over the last 20 years, it has been a busy year in the world of third-party software and services for Final Cut users.
In February we covered Brusfri from Klevgrand, a new $60 audio noise reduction plugin. It promises to quickly remove background noise in dialogue without effecting the quality of the speech. Not all tools for editors are plugins or applications that link directly to their NLE. The standalone Pro Color Monitor application shows a floating window over Final Cut to aid in colour correction:
The user selects a rectangular area of the Final Cut Pro user interface which is replicated in 'false colour' in the Pro Color Monitor app. It's not a screen grab, it remains 'live' for the time it is open. False colour shows the way to push the colour correction controls to get rid of a colour cast. If you see blue, push the controls towards blue until it goes white.
April saw the release of version 2.1 of Color Finale, a plug-in that adds advanced colour grading tools to Final Cut Pro X:
Color Trix launched the revamped Color Finale 2 this past December with the goal of building Final Cut Pro X into a competitive, professional grading environment. In keeping to that goal, Color Trix just released Color Finale 2.1 - the first major update since the December launch. Color Finale 2.1 is a free upgrade to Color Finale 2 owners and adds several new features, including inside/outside mask grading, an image mask, a new smoothness function, and the ability to copy and paste masks between layers.
In May we covered V3.6 of Frame.io - which included a Beta of their new Transfer application.
“It’s always exciting to announce new features and updates to Frame.io. But today, we’re facing a world where these updates are not just nice to have, they’re necessary components to keeping our customers’ businesses and livelihoods pushing forward,” states Frame.io CEO Emery Wells. “Frame.io Transfer, combined with even stronger security, smarter notifications, iOS Offline Mode and more, equips users with a powerful toolset that we hope will make their lives easier.”
Also in May we wrote about Film Convert Nitrate, a Final Cut Pro X plugin that modifies footage using changes in colour and the application of texture to emulate 19 film stocks:
Overall, this plug-in plays nice with Final Cut Pro X. It's responsive and real-time playback performance is typically not impacted. It is common in other film emulation filters to include grain as an overlay effect. Adjusting the filter with and without grain often results in a large difference in level. Since Nitrate's grain is a built-in part of the preset, you won't get an unexpected level change as you apply more grain. In addition to grain presets for film stocks from 8mm to 35mm Full Frame, you can adjust grain luminance, saturation, and size. You can also soften the picture under the grain, which might be something you'd want to do for a more convincing 8mm emulation.
In July iPhone and iPad editing app LumaFusion 2.3 introduced features that could tie it closer into Final Cut Pro workflows:
You can upload ProRes media to Frame.io from FCPX. Then you can download the proxies into LumaFusion. You will of course want to do an edit, then when happy, export an XML out of LumaFusion. This XML will then relink to the ProRes files in Final Cut Pro X. This surely is the Holy Grail of mobile editing. Being able to seamlessly get media onto the iPad for a client, producer or even yourself to edit with and then being able to get the edit back into FCPX with a couple of clicks - Well, we will let you go through the possibilities, we are thinking of editing sitting around a pool with a G&T.
We also covered the launch of Creator’s Best Friend - an application that converts Final Cut chapter markers into YouTube chapter segments. Developed by Intelligent Assistance, based on an idea by fcp.co’s Peter Wiggins:
There was only one thing to do, pickup the bat phone to Philip and Greg. Which I did, but Greg was out, so I enthusiastically went through the idea with Philip, took him through a few examples and explained what was needed to get YouTube to see the timestamps correctly. He agreed an app was possibly a lucrative opportunity and he would ‘pitch it’ to Greg. Half an hour later, I got a message from Philip: “He’s on it.”
10.4.9 update = better collaboration services
As well as plugins and applications, Final Cut-related services are important to many editors. The introduction of improved proxy workflow features in Final Cut Pro 10.4.9 in August meant new features in the services part of the ecosystem. Firstly with the introduction of Postlab Drive – shared storage in the cloud for editing collaboration:
The original Postlab allowed FCPX editors to share Libraries via the cloud, checking them in and out so no one got confused about who had the latest version. Postlab Drive is one step further and now incorporates media, obviously helped by the new proxy features in the Final Cut Pro 10.4.9 update. This gives you shared storage in the cloud, allowing editors to edit with footage directly without having to download it first.
FCP.co’s Oliver Peters took Postlab Drive for a test drive in September:
Postlab users can utilize the original workflow and continue with local media - or they can expand remote capabilities with the addition of Drive storage. Since it functions much like DropBox, Drive can also be used by team members who aren’t actively engaged in editing. As a media volume, files on Drive are also accessible to Avid Media Composer and DaVinci Resolve editors.
He also covered how Color Finale Connect introduced high-end remote colour grading to Final Cut:
Connect enables two or more Final Cut Pro X users to collaborate in near-real-time in a color grading session, regardless of their location. This review is in the context of long distance sessions, but Connect can also be used within a single facility where the participants might be in other parts of the building or in different buildings. You can work in a Connect session with or without local media on every participant's system. In order to operate smoothly and keep the infrastructure lightweight, person-to-person communication is handled outside of Connect. For example, interact with your director via Skype or Zoom on an iPad while you separately control Final Cut on your iMac.
As well as third-party Final Cut Pro plugins, applications and services. Editors also need third-party hardware.
If you do location editing, especially with a MacBook Pro, then the Flex 8 can provide all your peripheral connectivity and storage in one box. A lot easier than carrying around a separate RAID and a dock with you. Reminds me of the days when you could load up a cheesegrater Mac Pro with 4 disks and an I/O card for monitoring and take that on the road.
In November OWC announced that macOS Big Sur 11.1 allows new Thunderbolt 3 docks to act as Thunderbolt hubs. Good news for Macs with only one or two Thunderbolt ports:
The new Thunderbolt Hub from OWC allows users to have three Thunderbolt 3 devices connected to your Mac via a single Thunderbolt 3 cable via the hub. As the unit is powered, it will also charge a laptop you have connected (up to 60W) and power the other devices (15W each).
Final Cut Pro in action
FCP.co prides itself through education on Final Cut techniques through detailed case studies. The way real editors combine Final Cut Pro with other products and services provide lessons many can learn from.
We kicked off 2020 in January with the tale of how Bangkok-based Jake Carvey used CoreMelt’s Scribeomatic to aid the quick turnaround production of a two minute video based on 225 minutes of source footage:
All in all a good result - we had an aggressive first delivery, and a long, drawn out second delivery - two of the most challenging client management situations in my experience. […] I was very happy with how smoothly our multicam synchronization went, and how Scribeomatic transcriptions assisted our client relations from the moment production was wrapped and we moved immediately into the next day edit, and preparing for the secondary deliveries.
When it comes to producing hundreds of videos a year for 5 million followers with 15 million monthly views, LA-based Kin uses a Jellyfish Mobile server for Final Cut Pro X editors at their office and Frame.io with clients and collaborators:
As a studio, we aim to be flexible to keep up with the changing trends and needs of the digital marketplace and the vast audience that consumes short-form content across multiple devices. We’re planning to launch several new shows this year – and having a fast, stable, and powerful tool like FCPX is key to our ongoing success.
In the case of feature films, Brittany Lyles and Tangier Clarke used Final Cut Pro to edit ‘Jezebel’ - an independent movie acquired by Netflix:
We supplied [production company] Array with a DCI 2K (full frame) Quicktime master in ProRes 422HQ per their delivery schedule, along with other elements such as stereo and 5.1 mixes, Blu-Rays, DVD, and DCP masters. I expected to do special things to make it ready for Netflix. [The director] Numa and I discussed this, but to my knowledge, the Quicktime that I provided to Array is what Netflix received. There were no special conversions made just for Netflix on the part of Array.
YouTuber Justine Ezarik, aka iJustine, works with a team that produces new videos almost every day of the year for her 6 million followers. In 2020 the COVID-19 pandemic made working from a single location been more difficult. She now can use a new collaborative workflow using Final Cut Pro X, Frame.io and Postlab.
We covered the story of how Final Cut Pro was used to edit an independent documentary feature on women and the music of Iran while on a bus moving from location to location:
I began dropping in the footage we already had from previous years and built a rough cut of many pillars of the movie long before even going to Iran to film the rest. I did this on my 2015 maxed-out iMac 5K. All the material lived on a LaCie Rugged 1 TB HDD with Thunderbolt 2, which was joined by another one for the new material we shot in October 2019. On the road I brought by MacBook Pro, also from 2015, also maxed-out. So, only with FCP (still “X” back then) it was possible to really get the best performance and battery life. I had 2 hours to edit if there was no power outlet around.
In March freelance promo editor James Branch was commissioned to edit a prime time BBC series using Final Cut Pro. ‘Have I Got News for You’ is a current-affairs comedy panel show that reached its 60th series over 30 years in 2020.
After the first show it quickly became apparent my trusty 2015 5k iMac simply couldn’t cope with the demands I was making of it so an 8-core iMac Pro was ordered and I never looked back. The other essential element in my workflow was my internet connection. The 50 Mbps upload speed I was getting from my BT Infinity 2 service was crucial. Over course of the run I had to learn and use some pieces of software and online services I’d never used before and, as ever, whenever I reached out to the FCPX community for help and advice, they didn’t let me down.
2020 saw many hardware updates from Apple. This started in March with a new MacBook Air, and iPad Pro :
[The MacBook Air] has now up to two times faster CPU performance and up to 80 percent faster graphics performance. You can specify up to 2TB of SSD if you wish! It also comes with the new Magic Keyboard we first saw on the 16-inch MacBook Pro last year. Video editors might like to note that it can also support a 6K external display.
Apple used video editing applications to promote the features of the new iPad Pro and Magic Keyboard:
As you might have seen in the video, the app doing the editing is LumaTouch's LumaFusion. Sadly no FCPX on the iPad Pro yet, but this iOS app is a very close second. The other YouTube video from Apple shows Enlight's Videoleap video editor. Interesting.
In May came the 13-inch MacBook Pro update:
Apple today updated the 13-inch MacBook Pro with the new Magic Keyboard for the best typing experience ever on a Mac notebook and doubled the storage across all standard configurations, delivering even more value to the most popular MacBook Pro. The new lineup also offers 10th-generation processors for up to 80 percent faster graphics performance and makes 16GB of faster 3733MHz memory standard on select configurations. […] The integrated Intel Iris Plus Graphics deliver up to 80 percent faster performance over the previous generation 13-inch MacBook Pro for 4K video editing, faster rendering, and smoother gameplay. The new graphics also enable users to connect to Pro Display XDR at full 6K resolution.
Even with the 16-inch MacBook Pro getting a better discrete GPU option in May and the 27" iMac being updated with faster and larger storage in August, Apple's 2020 Mac hardware story had barely begun.
Moving beyond Intel CPUs
At the 2020 Worldwide Developer's Conference in June, Apple announced that by the end of the year, they would start transitioning the whole Mac line-up to a new non-Intel CPU family. They also said that the ‘Apple silicon’ transition will take place within two years. fcp.co covered WWDC in episode 13 of FCP.co Live
At the time we considered what the forthcoming Macs might mean for Final Cut Pro X in the area of machine learning:
Every iPhone developer will now be able to write or port their apps for macOS. Having done the hard work of harnessing AR or ML on the phone, they will be able to incorporate all their knowledge and resources into apps or plugins to run with FCPX. This will start off a whole new sphere of plugin and app development.
In November Apple announced which Macs had first been updated to run on Apple silicon. The new M1-based MacBook Air, Mac mini and entry-level 13-inch MacBook Pro.
The new M1 chip gives a large performance boost. By having the CPU, GPU and security processing all on one chip, not only is it faster, but it produces less heat.
Apple explained how much better their new system on a chip was by referring to how much faster Final Cut Pro X is on the new hardware:
FCPX timelines can render up to six times faster. [The MacBook Air can] Integrate 3D effects into video in Final Cut Pro up to 5x faster. For the first time, play back and edit multiple streams of full-quality, 4K ProRes video in Final Cut Pro without dropping a frame. [The 13-inch MacBook Pro can] Render a complex 3D title in Final Cut Pro up to 5.9x faster.
Once editors got these new Macs, some reported on how much faster Final Cut runs than on previous Intel-based computers.
One of the few questions left unanswered about the trio of M1-based Macs is whether their few limitations - only two Thunderbolt ports, no discrete GPUs and a RAM ceiling of 16GB - prevent them being used on video production of all sizes. On the other hand, if these first three M1-based Macs are this powerful, we can’t wait to see what the rest of the Mac transition to Apple silicon will bring in 2021 and 2022.