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FCPX: My brain damage (Updated)

December 29, 2014


In a recent article, Charlie Austin writes about how wonderful the Final Cut Pro X user interface is.

Sure. Whatever you say, bub.

Apologies in advance while I vent (and yes, I know, complaining about FCPX is old news) …

I understand only about 1% of what Charlie’s talking about, and that’s after I’ve spent days trying to figure out the free, fully-functional, trial version of FCPX. I’ve actually tried to learn FCPX several times over the past several months, and each time I’ve given up after a few days. I might give up again soon.

It’s amazing to me that years after FCPX’s release, its UI still sucks as hard as it does. It’s ridiculous!

Apparently, my using old FCP versions 1-7 for many years caused enough brain damage to impair my ability to “think different” anymore.

It’s really too bad, because FCPX does in fact have some really nice features. For example, FCPX’s “Stabilize” feature is truly amazing, as is FCPX’s built-in support for my BMPC-4K camera’s “Film” log ProRes videos. Not to mention the software costs only $300 to own outright — no subscription required. FCPX runs on almost any Mac, and even runs faster on my old MBP17 laptop than FCP7 does.

I don’t need top-of-the-line, industrial-strength video editing capability. I don’t work as an editor. However, I often need to work with — review, scope, slice, dice, process, demo, etc. — the video files I shoot, especially 4K ProRes. I need a semi-industrial-strength application, but it’s got to be designed for humans, preferably humans who’ve edited video before.

Unfortunately, the more I try to learn FCPX, the more I hate it. Really and truly hate it. Especially its UI and the way it handles and relates to files on disk and clips in the timeline. Not that files and timelines are important!!!

FCPX’s idiotic new names for almost every aspect of video editing are aggressively counter-intuitive and completely, totally, unnecessary. Examples include “Libraries”?! “Events”?! “Storylines”?! And UI windows that can’t be moved/relocated/resized the way I want?! WTF?!

Timeline video editing has been around for a long time. It wasn’t broken. It didn’t need to be “fixed”! Occasionally the underlying video rendering and other processing software code needs to be rewritten to take advantage of new computer hardware. But the entire fricking UI and most of the fundamental naming conventions certainly didn’t need the “fix” provided by FCPX!

I don’t store video files and other media in “libraries” (they’re on disk volumes and in folders). My video/media files and the productions I work on are not “events” (and unlike FCPX’s default, I rarely group video/media files by date, since a single production often spans multiple days). My rough and alternate edits aren’t “storylines” or whatever gibberish Apple wishes to call them. Unlike FCPX, old FCP7 made it super-easy to work on multiple edits (projects) at the same time. I don’t want to have to do a mental translation from real-world speak to FCPX-speak each and every time I touch, or work with, a video/media file within the app!

Here’s a simple example of FCPX’s insanity: In the Mac Finder you can color-code (tag) files on disk to make them easy to prioritize and find. This is a super-useful feature, and has existed for years. Ancient FCP 7 can see the color-coding in its open file dialog box when you import a file. FCPX’s import window does not! WTF!? This is only one small example; there are many more.

And don’t get me started on FCPX’s inability to easily do audio-only cross-fades without jumping through hoops or using additional software!

So far I haven’t found the FCPX documentation to be very helpful, but in fairness, docs aren’t tutorials. I obviously can’t ask the docs a question, and the doc’s search feature results in an endless spaghetti rabbit hole waste of time.

Likewise the tutorials I’ve seen online haven’t helped. As with the article above, I mostly find the online tutorials confusing more than anything else. Because I can’t say “Wait! Stop! WTF are you talking about?!” to an online tutorial. Well, I can, and I do, but it doesn’t help. 🙂

Trying to learn FCPX the weirdest technology product experience I’ve ever had, except maybe Microsoft Word, another powerful software product I absolutely loathe and only use when absolutely necessary! It’s quite a dubious achievement that Apple has managed to create software with a worse UI than Word.

Unfortunately, FCPX may be the only alternative I have going forward. Understandably, Apple isn’t likely to support the old FCP 7 software on Mac OS “11” or whatever it ends up being called. And, if you don’t update your OS, pretty soon Apple stops making internet security updates available for the old OS. And FCP7 doesn’t support 4K video well, nor take advantage of modern computer hardware.

It’s really a drag contemplating spending $300 on software I already can’t stand using!!!

I can’t consider Adobe’s subscription model, even though I’d probably enjoy using the latest version of Premiere and it’s more conventional UI & powerful features. However, I want to own the software I use, forever. I have zero desire to lease or rent software. (Likewise, AVID is not an option for me.)

I’ve also been trying-out Lightworks, but have decided that even though it has a much more “conventional” UI than does FCPX, and like FCPX you can buy it outright if you want, it’s missing many features that its developers say they’re not interested in adding. For example, it doesn’t include a Stabilize feature — and may never.

What about Davinci Resolve? After all, the full version of the $995 software was included with my BMPC-4K camera, and Resolve now includes video editing capabilities. Resolve fully supports 4K RAW and ProRes video. Chances are good that subsequent versions of Resolve will include even more editing features, and the upgrades might be free, too, so even better, right? Well, yeah, except that to run Resolve smoothly I’d need to buy a new computer system that costs $3,000-$5,000. Unfortunately, that’s not in the budget anytime soon. Remember: I don’t work as an editor for hire. I just want to be able to work with the footage I shoot.

Update 1/2/14: Maybe the cost of building a DIY Windows PC that can adequately support Davinci Resolve 11 and 4K video isn’t as expensive as I first thought, according to this thread on BMCuser (scroll down). I haven’t built a PC in years, but wouldn’t mind doing it again if I can save hundreds or thousands of dollars (with as good or better performance) compared to FCPX running on a new Mac Pro! (I’m also not a fan of the dead-end, all-in-one hardware design of iMacs, and even a top-of-the-line iMac “Retina 5K” doesn’t support Resolve 4K well at all). I just re-watched BMD’s video demos of Resolve 11’s new edit features here & here, and read the Resolve 11 user manual and Resolve 11 Windows Configuration Guide (PDFs). The basic editing UI in Resolve looks infinitely more sane and rational to me compared to FCPX! Hmm … I’ll have to give the idea of editing in Davinci Resolve 11 running on a DIY Windows PC some serious thought!

Update 1/4/15: New blog post!

UPDATE 8/5/15: New blog post about the PC I actually built.

I’ve put in a call to an editor friend who uses FCPX to see if either she or someone she knows can give me a brief, in-person tutorial so I can ask questions. Maybe if someone shows me how to get started with FCPX “the right way”, and I can ask questions in-person, then maybe I can make some progress. Maybe.

Again, apologies for venting … and for my brain damage.

©2014 Peter J. DeCrescenzo. All rights reserved.

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