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A Final Cut Pro 5 Wish List

If only FCP had [fill in the blank here with two dozen wishes], it would be perfect! By Peter May

The editor of this site is an old guy. Sorry Charlie, but its true. Charlies so old, his social security number is 11. Hes so old if he acted his age hed be dead. Hes so old he started editing on a system that consisted of two, hundred-fifty pound, top load machines with a deck controller the size of a microwave sitting between them. The system was cuts-only, required a seven second pre-roll before each edit and, pre-time code, you had to limit your previews because the edit points drifted a few frames every time. I cant think of a more Paleolithic edit system except maybe the one I started on, a few years before Charlie. [A lot of years before Charlie -- Ed.] Luckily the only thing that remains of those old systems is the perspective it gave us. Old guys like Charlie and me have a certain tolerance for edit systems that have evolved in the early years of digital video editing. Charlie would say, ?OK, Premiere 1.0 doesnt do real-time dissolves but it renders a dissolve faster than a BVU 200 pre-rolls. So, sure Charlie and I criticize, but its with love and understanding in our hearts. Like my dad used to say before he chained me in the basement, ?Im only doing this because I care. So please understand that the next few pages of criticisms, wishes and optimistic encouragements are offered because I just want Final Cut to be the best Final Cut Final Cut can be.

That said, I dont know why Im writing this article. Its too late now. Final Cut Pro 5 is rolling out at NAB in just a few days. Still, if I wait until after Ive seen the new version, then start carping about all these piddly revisions, fixes and add-ons, Im bound to look niggling and petty. I mean, it sounds like were going to have a lot to be pleased about. According to rumors stacked so high they must be solid, there will be multicam editing capabilities, there will be support for distributed rendering and there will be support for CoreImage and CoreVideo which will lessen the time we spend waiting for our dreams to be revealed at the end of that throbbing blue line. That stuffs all great but Im a simple editor with simple needs. So here it is, in no particular order, my Final Cut Pro 5 (or 5.5) wish list.

1. Ok, Im going to hit this point as I have in the past, and will again until this substantial flaw is corrected. The ?Undo command needs work. First, the ?undo command needs some sort of history, like on an Avid, like in Microsoft Word, for Petes sake. For those of you whove never edited on Avid, when you pull down the undo menu theres a list of actions preceded by the word ?undo. So you see a list like this; ?Undo trim -5, ?Undo trim -1, ?Undo speed change, ?Undo overwrite, ?Undo mark in, ?Undo luminance change, etc. That way, if youve ventured off on a foolish little escapade and you realize youre just getting more and more lost, you have a rough map back. Theres no staring intently at the timeline, tentatively typing command-shift-z, hoping to actually see each level of undo come undone, hoping youre not going to undo something youre going to have to spend time redoing the night before delivery.

2. While Im griping about undo, there ought to be some limits on what is undone! If, at the farthest point of my adventure, I decide, ?OK, this is a bad trip but maybe the client will want to see pictures, youd think I could duplicate the sequence, then go back to the original and start working my way back. Unfortunately the first thing that gets undone is the duplicate! Clicking undo will also indo things like ?Import and ?New bin. As the robot used to say, ?That does not compute. 

3. OK, one last little suggestion on the subject of undo. Give me a key command so I can suspend ?undo. Have a little red ?lamp flash until I reengage it, but give me the opportunity to stop recording. See, I can eat up a hundred layers of undo just tweaking a key. By the time Ive convinced myself this just isnt ever going to work, Im miles down the undo river without a pulldown paddle.

4. Heres a little advantage Id like to have in Final Cut and I dont believe itd be too hard to program. After all, weve got snapping all over the timeline -- clips snap together, keyframes snap to markers, the playhead snaps to everything in sight! How about give me some snapping horizontally too! Let levels snap. What if Ive got one audio clip set at -4db, how about letting me drag the contiguous clips level up or down and have it snap to the same level. Same thing with luminance levels on contiguous clips, maybe even speeds! Not a big thing but, if the kids in Cupertino would work on it, I promise to spend the time I save working to rid the planet of video in flying boxes. Deal?

5. Im not the only one to ask for this next one. If you frequent the user groups it seems that at least 30% of the posts that dont begin with, ?HELP! are questions about how to apply transitions over a range of edits. Its easy to do on Avid, it ought to be easy to do in Final Cut.

6. Ive got some render grievances too. Interviewing a Final Cut Pro developer a few years back I complained that FCP lost render files too easily. He said that was by choice. He told me theyd made a conscious decision to err on the side of caution and release render files if there was any chance at all it was going to be wrong. Hows this for a compromise? Give me a slider where I have the choice between conservative and liberal, freak out or chill out. That way those long render files might just follow along when I start dragging shots. And maybe renders wouldnt be lost the moment you drag something into place, even if you dont leave it there.

7. Once youve worked that out, give me a command called ?Release render files from selected clip in my option-click menu. That way I can get rid of the render file that stubbornly tags along, showing me vestigial dissolves embedded in shots I copy and paste.

8. Last year I had to do 400 video screen grabs and turn them into 400 CMYK graphic files. I was able to streamline the process by recording an ?Action in Photoshop. All I had to do was hit play and the file was cropped, adjusted, converted and resaved. In FCP I do a lot of panning and scanning oversized still photos. In order to prepare to manipulate the stills, I go through a series of steps. First I edit the still into the timeline, and then double click on the still to load it into the viewer. I activate "Image and Wireframe," set the ?Playhead synch to "Follow" and drag my viewer motion tab down to my timeline window. How about give me a Photoshop-like action menu so I can record repetitive steps and streamline my preps?

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Related Keywords:Final Cut Pro 5, Peter May, NAB, nonlinear editing, Steve Jobs, wish list

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