An Open Letter to Final Cut Pro X

This post was published more than a few years ago (on 2013-10-14) and may contain inaccurate technical information, outmoded thoughts, or cringe takes. Proceed at your own risk.

Dear Apple,

I just started a new preditor job, and since FCP 7 is never coming back (as long as I tried to cling to it), I had to decide whether to go with FCPX or Premiere CC. Premiere CC seems closer to what I want in an editor, but since it also crashes like crazy, I've decided to give you guys the benefit of the doubt and have been using FCPX for the past 8 weeks.

I have a few complaints.

The magnetic timeline, I am slowly getting used to. I realize you're trying to enable a new editing paradigm here, and I'm trying to learn your ways. However, your ways seem to make it harder than it used to be to get done some of the things I need to do. Which was my complaint the last time I tried it six months ago, and again a year before that --- but I'm really trying this time, I swear that I am.

I grant that I haven't used it very long, and perhaps I'm just missing the magic button that gives me some of the functionality I'm craving below, but in your next version of FCPX, I implore you to consider the following:

  • Timecode. I am a technical editor. I have clocks to meet. I want to know not just how much I selected, but what the start and end timecodes are. I have to replace part of a graphic that starts at an exact timecode. How to I tell what frame I'm on in the source clips I can edit in on the right frame in the timeline? I can't. I have to eye-match the new clip, which costs me precious time, and is totally unnecessary in this day and age of computers that have been able to keep track of video timecode for nearly two decades. Please give me back my timecode overlays in the viewer, while you're at it.
  • A source viewer. I realize you're trying to save space by only giving me one viewer, but I really want to be able to compare what I'm looking at in the source to the place I'm going to insert it in the sequence. I want to set in and out points. I want to match timecodes. This iMovie filmstrip viewer thing feels vague and imprecise, and maybe it would be okay if I were editing a motion picture of indeterminate length, but I want numbers and precision.
  • Frame match backs that go both ways. I want to match back to a frame in the source, maybe add a marker (that ripples back into the sequence), and match frame from the source back into my timeline.
  • A second-screen viewer window that's resizable and movable. I have two monitors, and my second one is the one I use for my viewer. There appears to be no way to resize the window that surrounds the viewer area, so I can have other things open in that monitor --- like say, a chat window with the client, or a copy of the script. I also have that monitor set up in portrait mode, which I grant is unusual, but I really don't need giant panels of dark gray above and below the actual viewer portion of the window. Let me use my monitor the way that I want --- you don't need to take over the entire thing. If I wanted that, I would pop FCPX into full-screen mode. Which I don't, because then my second monitor just turns into a giant useless swatch of dark grey linen.

Final Cut Pro, I used to love you. Please let me love you again.

Mark Boszko

Update 2013-10-17: I have been told that there is now a source viewer window, but it turns out it's not quite what I'm looking for. It's called the Event Viewer, and it gives me almost no more information about the source clip than the single viewer did before. The only thing it really adds is the ability to see source and edit side-by-side. Which, I admit, is a tiny bit of help, but if I can't see timecodes side-by-side as well, it's not terribly useful. Plus, when I use it on my second monitor, it splits my already-narrow vertical monitor in half, so I have two tiny viewer images and vast swaths of dark gray above and below. There doesn't seem to be any way for me to resize or rearrange these display segments.