Wednesday, June 22, 2011


In the ramp up to the release of FCPX, we've seen no end of speculation, posturing, deification, ranting, ultimatums, and general nuttyness.  At times I have to admit I've found it a bit disheartening.  I'd like to think of Pro users as a bit more pragmatic and thoughtful.  But proportionately, there's been just as much plain rumor-mongering around the release of FCPX as there was over the last iPhone.  I suppose though, I can't really blame people.  Editors are artists, and they take their art seriously.  They also spend a great deal of time in front of that screen, so it becomes a very personal experience.  And how well they know that software determines their livelyhood.  When things change, people get nervous.

So yesterday FCPX was released and a lot of people went a little crazy.

I think the critical mistake that people are making in is that they're seeing this as an either/or scenario, when what we're dealing with is if/then.  Despite the name, this is a transition to a new platform, and like any of the transitions that editors who've been in this business for any amount of time can attest, it didn't happen all at once.  FILM-->TAPE-->NLE was a slow and frustrating process, with a lot of uncertainty and competing technologies that left many high and dry.

The last 5-7 years have been relatively stable, all things considered.  The same big players.  The same UI conventions.  Things have gotten faster, better, but not a lot has changed.

From my perspective, if Apple had simply taken their existing platform and moved it to 64bit, it would be the expected, incremental move forward.  And some people would have loved that.  The fact that they have taken the effort to stretch out and explore new paradigms new ways of working, says more to me about Apple's commitment to the Pro market than the omission of features, as important to a segment of the Pro market as they may be.

Hold on, what did I say?  A segment of the Pro market?

And I think that's the really important fallacy to burn to the ground here.  These ARE NOT critical features for every Pro.  To say that you're either outputting to a Da Vinci for grading or ProTools for audio; or your a kid cutting his skateboard videos in is parents basement is disingenuous and frankly insulting to a majority of the market.  I work with large companies, and for 6 years [having been in the business for 22] have run my own business and made not an inconsequential amount of money.  And there's only one feature that's missing here that I technically care about for my day to day business, and that's external monitoring.  Am I not Pro?  Professionals are anyone who make a majority of their living off of a given trade, and anything else is an artificial barrier set up by those who'd like to set themselves apart for reasons of ego.  Great that you cut film or television.  That's not my business, so to say I'm not Pro is the hight of delusion from those that do work in those fields.  That's how AVID lost it's majority market share in NLEs in the past 10 years.  Keep catering to the top 5%, and keep setting up barriers for entry to the mid-to low end.

I firmly believe based on what Larry Jordan and Philip Hodgetts have said that it was simply a matter of time and resources that led to the exclusion of the features like EDL, XML, OMF and Multi-cam.  So let me propose two ideas and tell me which of the two makes more sense:

1. Apple holds release of FCPX for another 6-12 months until all of these features can be addressed.  Apple does not talk about unreleased software so the not inconsiderable discontent continues to grow.  Apple finally releases the software this time next year, and large post houses would STILL have to take the time to evaluate, test, learn the new UI [while still being productive] and hold out for a couple of bug revisions before slowing moving over to FCPX.

2. Apple releases FCPX yesterday, and a large swath of the middle market and jump right in start working with it.  Finding the issues.  Providing feedback to Apple.  Large post houses can download the software at minimal cost and play with it in non-work scenarios.  Editors can get their heads around the shift in media management and editorial UI.  Then, in 6-8 months, when the bugs get worked out and these features have been implemented, the high end can start transitioning over as their schedules allow.  OR for that matter companies can evaluate that Apple's new platform does not meet their needs and start to plan their transition to AVID or PremierPro [yeah, right...].

To say that FCPX is not for Pros is flat out wrong.  To say that it's not ready for ALL-Pros is absolutely correct.  The first one would suppose that Pros are not the target market, which is clearly not the case.  The other is born of purely technical concerns, which can and will be sorted out in due course.

The surest sign of how Apple views this is that you CAN run both FCP7 and FCPX on the same system.  They aren't putting a gun to your head and telling you this is how it's going to go!  They see this as a transition from one platform to another, as has been mentioned elsewhere, like the transition from OS9 to OSX.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011


There's been so much stupid chatter about the rumoured Final Cut Studio update that's coming, supposedly in the very near future, that I'd been hemming and hawing about writing about a piece on it for a couple weeks.

People want FCP to get better, but not to change.  Well, you can't have it both ways.  As I already outlined in my first article, DON'T FEAR OUR BUTTONLESS FUTURE, I think there's a lot of room for the UI of pro-edit software to grow and improve.  And although I don't see Apple ready to surprise us all with a touchscreen edit interface for Final Cut Pro 8, the rumours are very strong that we'll see some interesting changes in how the program works.

So instead of killing half a day writing an article, he's a list of links to the best speculative discussion on the mysterious FCPx that should be coming our way soon.

WARNING: This is not light reading.  Though I imagine that any search that brought you here seeking info will mean this is all right up your alley!

Philip Hodgetts Blog has been a great source of speculative info on FCP for several years.  He was entirely skeptical of the possibility of a near-term 64 bit release of FCP this year, until it occurred to him that the new Final Cut could be based on A/VFoundation.

A new 64 bit Final Cut Pro?

What is doing with Quicktime?

Philip and Terrence Curren expand on Philips theories in this great podcast.

and most recently, Scott Simmons waxes about what interface changes might mean to Final Cut.

A lot of people out there, and most especially those critical of FCP to begin with, or those who have already jumped ship to Premier, are decrying the limited info to mean the "iMovieification" of Final Cut.

To those people I say, do you also have lottery numbers you can send me from the future times?

Happy reading, and expect the second part of DON'T FEAR OUR BUTTONLESS FUTURE in the next week.


Friday, February 04, 2011


Go to hell, keyboards!

At this year's Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, ACER introduced a concept for a new laptop called the ICONIA.  The predominant feature was that it had no keyboard.

ACER's ICONIA notebook, with twin touchscreens.

While it's an idea that has been floating around for a while, this is the first production model I'm aware of.  On it's own, it's only sort of interesting.  The demoed U.I. for the "keyboard" half is not particularly well designed or implemented.  No.  The really interesting aspect of this was the reaction to the product.  Tech site articles and their comments were rife with with snarky commentary.  The basic gist of which was that a "real" computer has to have a hardware keyboard.

Wait.... what?!

Here we are, in the year 2011, and regardless of a computer's function, or the work that the user is doing on it- the primary method of input is still a holdover from the 1870's, when the first mass-production typewriters went into service.  A devices who's letter arrangement was set up to stop the hardware keys from jamming against one another.  Really?

Our proud past... and glorious future?!

How not far have we come?

The carryover of the interface from from the typewriter to the computer is certainly an understandable one.  I'm not so young as to forget the days with my VIC 20.  Command line input was the mainstay through most of the 80's and for that you definitely needed a keyboard; until the mapped interface  and computer mouse was developed by Xerox PARC, introduced on the Macintosh, and popularized by Microsoft with it's release of Windows in the early 90's.

And after 20+ years of development, these early tools have evolved into today's modern... mouse and keyboard.


Now, let me be frank.  I know a lot of writers who make their living banging away at the keys every day, and my intention isn't to demean or deride what they do.  And typing is certainly part of just about everyone's day.  But with how far we've come in just about every other aspect of computing how does this make any sense:


WRITER - Keyboard & Mouse
ACCOUNTANT - Keyboard & Mouse
ENGINEER - Keyboard & Mouse
PAINTER - Keyboard & Mouse
MUSICIAN - Keyboard & Mouse
VIDEO EDITING - Keyboard & Mouse
ARCHITECT - Keyboard & Mouse
ANIMATOR - Keyboard & Mouse

Do we see a pattern here?  Even in the cases where add-on inputs are available, such as midi keyboards for musicians, or tablets for artists, they are still subservient to the mouse as a pointer device... and a keyboard.  The keyboard which was designed for ONE task, and has been forced into servitude for ALL possible ends, through a never-ending series of keyboard shortcuts.

As someone who's had to learn several different video editing platforms in my career, it's what creative people fear the most- change.  It's why editors are so faithful to the programs they use.  Because if they switch, it means having to spend months learning how to do what you already know how to do but can't do anymore cause all the goddamn buttons have changed!

The keyboard creates a bizarre layer of abstraction between the user and any non-text input tasks that's entirely unnecessary.  Could there be a new paradigm where the keyboard is only an optional facet to an interface that's optimized for any and every task-- easier and more intuitively?

In PART 2, I'll look at what alternative inputs exist today, and technologically soothsay about how they might impact the future of everyday computing.

Except for writers, they'll hate it.

Tuesday, January 04, 2011


So here we are.  2011.

No flying cars or jet-packs, sadly, but I do have an iPhone- a hilariously powerful computer that fits in my pocket- so powerful in fact, that it's the diminutive size that constrains it's uses, rather than it's computing power.  I also have the magical ability to perform by job as a freelance editor from my home- to work interactively with clients a hundred kilometres away for all intents and purposes with the same interactivity as if they were here in the room with me.  And the truth is, they might as well be a couple thousand kilometres away.

Why aren't I living in Barbados again?

As of this year, I'll have been a professional editor for 15 years, and Disproportionate Pictures is 5 years young this month.  I count myself as fortunate that I entered the post business when I did.  Non-Linear Editing had taken hold by the time I took my first post-graduate job in 1996.  I say fortunate for two reasons-

First, because I did get a taste of the pre-digital world.  When I entered Ryerson Polytechnic University in 1992, the film program was still just that- a FILM program.  Shoot on film.  Edit on film.  Sound on mag stock.  The way it had been done for a century.  We dabbled in A/B tape editing as well, via the Rogers Radio and Television Arts centre.  At that point, access to AVID Non-Linear Editing systems were only just becoming available outside of the very high end, and it would be several years before Ryerson would get them.  My first look at one was through a co-operative that rented out suites to students and low budget filmmakers on an hourly basis.  And they were busy!!  Though there were a fair share of die hard film purists, it was clear by the 4th year of our program that this is where the future was going.

Secondly, I feel fortunate that I never had to use any of these antiquated techniques again once I left the academic world.  I'm a great lover of film history, and to a great extent I am a film purist.  I don't believe in colorization, or retrofitting decades old films with new effects.  But where technology can help to make the process of filmmaking better for the storyteller.  I'm all for it.

This year hopefully marks the beginning of a transition.

In the next few weeks I'll begin editing on my second feature, a wonderfully bizarre film by writer/director Alex Boothby called MR. VIRAL.  The film was shot on the RED ONE digital cinema camera with the new MysteriumX sensor.  This is the same camera David Fincher used to shoot THE SOCIAL NETWORK.  Looking back on my film years again, it's really remarkable; I remember many night shoots when you would be fighting for any kind of exposure, and now cameras like the RED can see just as well as the human eye.  You no longer need to light for exposure- only for look.

Work continues on my great passion, HOVERBOY- the 73rd most popular hero of the 20th Century.  There will be a string of wonderful updates of various shapes and sizes.  New contributors are lending a hand to the restoration of a lot of materials in the Hoverboy Archives.  It's early days, but my fondest wish is that the 1950's HOVERBOY DESTROYS CHRISTMAS!! special could be on the air by this Christmas.  Broader plans for a continuing Hoverboy TV series, featuring clips from many of Hoverboy's  TV and Film incarnations is also in the works.  This would truly be a dream come true for me.

There are also thoughts rolling around in my head for not one but two feature films which could under the right conditions take off this year.  MR. VIRAL and Ben Mazzotta's THE LIMITS [2007] have shown me that though there are many obstacles in the way, the biggest challenge to making a feature film is the determination to do it.

Over the course of this year, I'll be chronically my efforts on these various ventures, and providing some thoughts on the future of the business in which I work.  Specifically, the road to the new Final Cut Studio 4 rumoured to be coming in the coming months; my thoughts on the vision [or lack thereof] in the evolution of editing interfaces and hardware.

I don't profess to be a great expert on some of the things I'll be discussing, just a user who has a perspective.  So hopefully people with broader knowledge than mine can comment or otherwise illuminate on the topics here.  A forum for discussion if you will.

It should be fun.