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  • FCPX for doc work and a bit of shameless self-promotion

  • Scott Witthaus

    January 19, 2021 at 6:01 pm

    So I finally finished editing an hour long documentary called “The Judge. Cases. Character. Courage” in November. It was all cut on FCPX, with a broadcast premier in December and an international TVOD and streaming release on January 26th.

    More information can be found here:

    Color Correction for the interviews were done in Resolve and b-roll correction was done in FCPX. Audio post was done in Pro Tools.

    I fell that all in all, FCPX was the best program for the job. It’s just so much fun to cut on and so fast that I always felt I was a step ahead of my director. However, there were some areas of improvement, mostly when going out of FCPX for finishing.

    In no particular order:

    I would love to be able to group events in a folder or something like that. We had over 24 interview subjects, and I put each in their own event, created a TC burn for the director which was also in that event. After a while, it became cumbersome with so many events to go through (there were dozens more for b-roll, etc). If there was a way to put all the interview events in a folder called (wait for it) Interviews, that would clean things up immensely.

    fcpxml to Resolve on images with Ken Burns moves was an utter failure, hence me correcting all the b-roll in FCPX. We had hundreds of stills that I did moves on that just did not translate to Resolve. Most were black and white, however, and were perfectly suited to my color correction skills. Anyone have issues with these moves going over to Resolve?

    On the other hand, audio post with X2Pro was fast and dead-on-nuts accurate. I kept everything as simple as possible, so that might have helped there

    After a while, opening the Library became a 5 minute affair…perfect coffee time. This was on a tricked out 2017 iMac.

    This one is more my directors fault. His studio is out in the country and I set him up with a UPS power supply with surge protection. If we were not editing for a few days or so, he would go out and unplug everything just to be safe. One day, he forgot and plugged the Promise array and iMac directly into the wall and that was the day lightening struck. Amazingly, we were able to get the Pegasus up and running, but the Library was corrupted and would not open a backup or create a back-up for the rest of the project. So that was scary.

    Anyway, we are all happy with the result and (most) of the process. I would love to see what other editors experienced using FCPX when cutting long-form work (I probably forgot a bunch). Tag, y’all it.


  • Oliver Peters

    January 20, 2021 at 10:18 pm

    Congrats! I absolutely agree about folders for events. The current structure is a bit restrictive.

    As far as Ken Burns moves – don’t hold your breath. That’s the sort of info that just won’t be translated in the same way between different systems. Also not helped by the FCP method of behaviors.

    In the future, you’d probably be better doing the color correction inside FCP rather than round-tripping to Resolve. But that’s probably an uphill sell.

    When you say the Library took 5 minutes to open – was this with native media or proxies?

    – Oliver

  • Jacob Bricca

    January 27, 2021 at 5:22 pm

    Hi Scott,

    I’d be curious to hear about your use of keywords in editing the doc. This is one of the features I like most about FCPX and I’m interested to hear hear if you used them in particular ways.

  • Scott Witthaus

    January 28, 2021 at 2:43 pm

    Hey Oliver. This was an all HD show, so I stayed native throughout the process. It indeed was a bummer that the Ken Burns effects did not transfer via fcpxml. Its a great effect but it needs to work in the overall workflow.

    As for keyword collections, I used them a lot, especially with the massive amount of still images. Again, so as to keep my events manageable, I put stills in general events (such as “Kepone” “De-segregation”, etc)., then would create collections inside of those. Extremely helpful. For the interviews, I created a TC burn for the director as he liked to take paper notes, and then I scrubbed the interviews as well and used filtered using Favorites.

  • Oliver Peters

    January 28, 2021 at 3:37 pm

    My guess is that the still images are what caused your Library to load so slowly towards the end. It’s old school, but I’m a great believer in actually printing out large scale stills and doing real camera moves on them. I’ve done it both ways and a human operator gives you much more natural results.

  • Paul Golden

    January 29, 2021 at 3:07 am

    Oliver: are you talking about doing moves on an Oxberry? I’ve got one here if you need one! I’ll get the platen cleaned off for you.

    As far as stills are concerned, I think FCP still does not work with them efficiently for many things. I often cut animation storyboards, which are stills in sequence with or without camera moves. 4 frames here, 2 frames there etc. I find FCP sluggish when it comes to playback of still sequences and often needs to be started twice in order to play out properly at speed without hanging or dropping frames. And that’s with a 6 disk SSD RAID and iMac Pro. And don’t get me started about lack of support for image sequences. Resolve, AE and Motion all know what an image sequence is. C’mon Apple!

  • Oliver Peters

    January 29, 2021 at 1:36 pm

    Oxberry! Now there’s a blast from the past! That’s a good idea, but I was actually thinking of large photos on an easel with a human camera operator – camera on tripod. Less controllable, but more natural. Unfortunately, you have the cost and time to print out the stills.

    Making moves on stills in an NLE chews up RAM, which is part of the issue. Best would be to prebuild the moves or stills sequences in Motion or After Effects and render them out as video source clips.

  • Paul Golden

    January 29, 2021 at 9:11 pm

    In truth, the Oxberry is around to do 2.5D style animation with repeatable motion control, but photo animation/pan & scan moves seems a lot more straightforward in AE or FCP using Ken Burns. Back to FCP, there is something, shall we say, “non-optimized” about working with stills sequences in a timeline. I like using FCP for cutting board-o-matics because it’s fast and easy to retime panel lengths using Control D and a frame duration. I use adjustment layers to do overriding camera moves while the frames below change out. I prefer not to go out to AE or Motion because it breaks the flow of editing and makes doing timing adjustments a PIA. But there’s something about the way FCP does “pre-roll” that tends to frame-skip the first time around and then locks on for the 2nd playback. I’m not sure why there should be memory issues because these panels are either 4K or HD jpegs/pngs sized so they are no bigger than average video footage. It works, but it can be laggy, no matter how beefy your system. I’d love Apple to rethink how stills are treated (image sequence support!) and make more of an effort to speed things up.

  • Oliver Peters

    January 29, 2021 at 10:19 pm

    Paul – I believe it’s an optimization issue. FCP is designed for video, pure and simple.

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