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FCPX: My brain damage (Updated)

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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. http://www.peterdv.com

Note: I don’t receive income or remuneration for this blog, or for products seen or mentioned here. Advertisements on the page have nothing to do with me. The ads support WordPress, the publisher.

Martin Place: Flowers for Sydney

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A year ago when I visited Sydney, Australia, our hotel was around the corner from the Lindt cafe in Martin Place.

In the background of many of the news photos showing the thousands of memorial bouquets, there’s an unusual mushroom-shaped building. This time of year it’s lit for the holidays with constantly-changing colored lights.

All of Martin Place’s multiple plazas are filled with holiday decorations, as seen in my snapshots below.

It’s very sad to think about that happy place right now.

On the other hand, the “I’ll ride with you” actions are a good thing, but it’s sad, too, that it’s necessary.

Peace.

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©2014 Peter J. DeCrescenzo. All rights reserved. http://www.peterdv.com

Note: I don’t receive income or remuneration for this blog, or for products seen or mentioned here. Advertisements on the page have nothing to do with me. The ads support WordPress, the publisher.

BMPC-4K: Like planes & rockets?

This past weekend I visited the Evergreen Aviation & Space Museum, home of Howard Hughes’ Spruce Goose and many other flying machines. I shot home movies with my BMPC-4K camera. Video isn’t ready to show yet, but attached are 3840 x 2160 frames grabbed from the 4K “ProRes 422” 24p video (“Film” mode). Sigma 18-35mm f1.8 zoom lens. Shot handheld without a rig or tripod because the museum doesn’t allow it without prior arrangement. I did basic color correction on these frames using Mac Preview and compressed them to JPEG @ 50% for display here. There was something great to shoot anywhere I pointed my camera!

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©2014 Peter J. DeCrescenzo. All rights reserved. http://www.peterdv.com

Note: I don’t receive income or remuneration for this blog, or for products seen or mentioned here. Advertisements on the page have nothing to do with me. The ads support WordPress, the publisher.

BMPC-4K: Like trains? (Updated)

Every winter, Portland’s Oregon Rail Heritage Foundation runs a “Holiday Express” train pulled by a steam locomotive.

It’s great to watch the train as it r-o-a-r-s by, billowing smoke and steam in the near-freezing cold air. If you make a reservation you can buy a ticket and ride the train for a few miles.

I shot the video footage above for fun last weekend with my BMPC-4K camera. It’s 4K ProRes 422 footage shot at 23.98fps, Film, ISO400, with a Sigma 18-35mm f1.8 lens @ f8.

Scaled to 1080p in FCP7 and exported as 1080p @ 10 megabits/sec H264 for Vimeo.

In previous years I’ve shot footage of these trains using a CMOS sensor camera with a rolling shutter. When positioned near the big heavy locomotive as it passes, it makes the ground (and tripod) shake, resulting in RS jello city. One more reason I love the BMPC-4K’s global shutter — no jello!

For the extreme wide shot I used 2 microphones and my SoundDevices MixPre to record stereo audio into my BMPC-4K camera. The last 30-seconds sound especially great. I also used a graduated ND filter to darken the sky slightly. The zoom and pan was created in FCP by scaling 4K video from 50% to 90% in a 1080p timeline.

Below is a 2.39:1 cropped (3840 x 1608) frame grabbed from the video:

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UPDATE 12/13/14: The still image below is a 3840 x 1608 frame (2.39:1 cropped) from “4K” video I shot handheld at Portland’s Alpenrose Dairy today. (The video itself isn’t ready to show yet.) The dairy is a unique & complex location; check out their website! Every December Alpenrose has nice displays of holiday lights, farm animals, and model trains. They have 2 big toy train models set up. Really nicely done, and maintained by employees & volunteers. The guys running the train exhibit say I’m welcome to come back again with my camera & tripod — I’ll definitely try to take them up on their generous offer!

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©2014 Peter J. DeCrescenzo. All rights reserved. http://www.peterdv.com

Note: I don’t receive income or remuneration for this blog, or for products seen or mentioned here. Advertisements on the page have nothing to do with me. The ads support WordPress, the publisher.

BMPC-4K: Shooting indoors, in lowlight, with a long lens.

I shot footage for a documentary this week using my “Blackmagic Production Camera 4K” camera, including using a rented Canon 70-200mm f2.8L IS II zoom lens. The photo below shows the two positions where my BMPC-4K was located this past Sunday during two morning religious services, one after the other. Note the multiple sources of dim, very different color-temperature ambient light: Daylight through windows, and incandescent & florescent ceiling lights.

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Below are frames grabbed from the “ProRes 422” 1080p29.97 video. Shot @ f2.8, ISO 800, with shutter angle at 270 to increase exposure. “Video” (Rec.709) mode per client request. The medium shot is from the position in the back pews @ 200mm. The close-up is from the front row @ 200mm. The lens was fitted with a 77mm Hoya IR-UV cut filter. Camera is running firmware 1.9.7. These frames have basic color correction applied in post, but more and better correction is possible working with the 10-bit 4:2:2 “ProRes 422” files.

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Below are some cutaway b-roll shots of the congregation (same settings as above):

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During a breakout session between services, the featured speakers were seated with their backs against a bright window. Lighting is a mix of ambient daylight and ceiling incandescents. The wide shot is @ 70mm, and the close-up is @ 200mm. F2.8, ISO 800, shutter angle 180, “Video” (Rec.709) mode.

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Below are frames from interviews I shot yesterday using the lens set at about 100mm, f2.8, ISO 800, shutter angle 180, “Video” mode, WB 3600K, hot tungsten lights (650w key, 250w backlight), Hoya IR-UV cut filter.

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I also shot a lecture in a classroom setting using my Sigma 18-35mm f1.8 lens, again under mixed lighting. Here’s a cutaway shot of some of the students @ f1.8 ISO800 4800K:

students

I really like the results I get with my BMPC-4K and this rented lens. Perfect for event work and  interviews. Here’s a photo of the rig I used. Related info here and here.

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Century/Vocas matte box, Canon 70-200mm f2.8L IS II lens, Hoya IR-UV cut filter 77mm, Sennheiser ME66 shotgun mic, Rycote Softie, MixPre, EW100 wireless, Monoprice XLR-to-1/4″-TRS-balanced-mono cables, custom top plate, Wooden Camera baseplate, Ikan rods & AB battery plate, AB Dionic 90 batt., AB Multitap, and Hoodman HRT5.

See also:

BMPC-4K: Shooting tips from early users

For my words only ©2014 Peter J. DeCrescenzo. All rights reserved. http://www.peterdv.com

Note: I don’t receive income or remuneration for this blog, or for products seen or mentioned here. Advertisements on the page have nothing to do with me. The ads support WordPress, the publisher.

BMPC-4K: Additional shutter angles in firmware 1.9.5

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Blackmagic Design announced release of yet another new version of their Camera firmware, v.1.9.5 available for download from their Support page.

Firmware 1.9.5 adds several new features to their Production Camera 4K, including a new menu “dashboard” design (see above), the ability to format an SSD in-camera without use of a computer, and also additional shutter angle and white balance Kelvin settings.

The new shutter angle and WB settings were added to the original BMCC and BMPCC pocket cams in a previous firmware release. Blackmagic Design says the new in-cam media formatting features will be available for these cameras “soon”.

NOTE: To use the new firmware’s in-camera formatting feature to format a SSD disk as HFS+, the camera’s “Reel” metadata field must contain at least one character (can’t be blank). The exFAT format option doesn’t appear to have the same requirement (“Reel” can be blank.) Just a heads-up. UPDATE: This issue appears to be fixed in subsequent firmware update 1.9.7.

Click here to see all the current shutter angles, and their shutter speed equivalents, in a PDF table. I calculated the equivalent shutter speed values using an online tool.

The current white balance color temperature Kelvin values are: 2500K, 2800K, 3000K, 3200K, 3400K, 3600K, 4000K, 4500K, 4800K, 5000K, 5200K, 5400K, 5600K, 6000K, 6500K, 7000K, 7500K and 8000K.

On a related note, I found this handy color temp chart online years ago:

color temperature kelvin chart

See also:

BMPC-4K: Shooting tips from early users

For my words only ©2014 Peter J. DeCrescenzo. All rights reserved. http://www.peterdv.com

Note: I don’t receive income or remuneration for this blog, or for products seen or mentioned here. Advertisements on the page have nothing to do with me. The ads support WordPress, the publisher.

BMPC-4K: Thankful for “small” improvements

histogram and meters

In the past few weeks, Blackmagic Design released multiple free firmware updates for their Production Camera 4K and other cameras. Some of these additions are more significant than others, depending on how one uses the cameras.

Firmware update “Camera v1.9” is specific to the BMPC-4K, and adds on-screen histogram, record time remaining, and audio meter displays (as shown above). This display can be toggled on/off with a swipe on the camera’s touch-screen, and does not output to an external monitor via SDI. Version 1.9 also improves the BMPC-4K cam’s video S/N performance (reduces fixed pattern noise “FPN”). Supposedly these features will be coming to their other cameras “soon”.

[UPDATE 8/21/14: “Camera 1.9.3” is now available. It adds the histogram, record time remaining, and audio meter features to the original BMCC cinema and BMPCC pocket cameras — plus additional shutter angle and white balance settings. I hope the new shutter & WB features will soon be available for my BMPC-4K camera, too! UPDATE 10/14: Subsequent firmware update 1.9.7 brings all these UI features to the BMCC, BMPCC, and BMPC-4K.] 

These changes are in addition to previous recent updates which added 4K RAW recording, momentary Auto-Focus, several additional 10-bit 4:2:2 ProRes recording modes for 4K and 1080p (ProRes 422, ProRes LT, and ProRes Proxy), improved audio sound quality, and more. All improvements are rolled-into the latest update; you only have to install the most current software to get all the new capabilities and the latest BMD Camera User Manual.

I’m a big fan of ProRes. The BMPC-4K’s original ProRes HQ mode is wonderful, and now I have more options for situations when long recording times are required, or when media space is running low. For info about ProRes recording modes, data rates, and file sizes, see Apple’s ProRes White Paper (PDF).

So, after a l-o-n-g wait, great progress is being made. I hope BMD is able to quickly address other issues, such as the BMPC-4K cam’s “black/red” extreme highlight artifacts, and add the ability to format an SSD in-camera without a computer.

Meanwhile, I continue to enjoy shooting with my BMPC-4K, now even more with BMD’s recent firmware updates.

Below: Last week I used my BMPC-4K to shoot “corporate” B-roll footage outdoors all day in 102F heat. Firmware v1.8 (not v1.9), ProRes HQ 1080p24, Film mode, ISO 400, WB 5600K, Sigma 18-35mm f1.8 lens, Hoya IR-UV cut filter, Tiffen ND .9 filter. Nice results!

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See also:

BMPC-4K: Shooting tips from early users

Behind-the-scenes photo by Sam Locklin.

For my words and photos only ©2014 Peter J. DeCrescenzo. All rights reserved. http://www.peterdv.com

Note: I don’t receive income or remuneration for this blog, or for products seen or mentioned here. Advertisements on the page have nothing to do with me. The ads support WordPress, the publisher.