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First-Person Final Cut Pro X, Day Two: Learning the Ropes

First-Person Final Cut Pro X is the unvarnished story of one pro editor's week-long introduction to the new Final Cut.

Since my traumatic first day, I've been cutting a small project in FCP X. It's growing on me in some ways and driving me bonkers in others. The good news is that, unlike last night, I don't think I'll wake up tonight with night sweats after having feverish nightmares about my editing software.

Basic editing is not that different. I kind of like the new "skimmer," which is kind of like a second playhead, and you can make a three-point edit just like you used to.

I need to get re-accustomed to some basic functions here. For instance, you can "overwrite," "overwrite just audio," and "overwrite just video." That could be a plus, because frankly, patching is a pain in FCP 7 and doing it from the keyboard was always awkward.

The trick is that I only found those last two commands when I tried to reprogram my keyboard, because they're not on any menu and I couldn't find them in the docs. So I suspect there's a lot of things that are in the program, but to use them you'll have to reprogram your keyboard. I took a couple of minutes and reprogrammed as much of my keyboard as possible to vaguely resemble FCP 7.

I found a lot of things that I thought weren't there: the scopes, for instance. I've never been so happy to see a waveform monitor!

I have to say that the magnetic timeline's "primary storyline/connected storyline" paradigm just does not work for me yet. The concept is this: think of a documentary. The interviews are your "primary storyline," and the music, titles, and B-roll are your "connected storylines."

In theory this is very cool, because a particular piece of B-roll is "connected" to a particular piece of interview in a particular place, and you can reorganize the interviews and the associated B-roll comes with them.

In practice it's really annoying. It assumes that you always have a block of footage that starts and ends with a cut-in video and audio simultaneously, which I actually almost never do.

If you use a B-roll clip to "bridge" two interview clips, is this clip connected to the end of the A clip or the beginning of the B clip? What about the music? If I connect it to the first clip in a montage, and then I decide I want to swap the clips around, the music winds up in the wrong place.

Maybe it's just a matter of getting used to it. Right now I feel like I'm dragging a lot of things around in a really imprecise way and it makes me uncomfortable to feel like the project is more or less what I want rather than exactly spot-on.

The magnetic timeline also irritates me because I'm a strong proponent of track discipline. If I put something on V2, it's there for a reason. But in the magnetic timeline, items on subordinate tracks just jump up and down all over the place. Your music might be towards the top here and towards the bottom there. I suspect that in a complicated project, it will become impossible to find a given element.

Something I really like: auditions. You can put a clip in the timeline, and then put an alternate clip in the same place. Then you can swap out your "picks" very easily. Imagine having two very different reaction shots on take 2 and take 3, or two voiceover reads, and being able to have them both in the timeline simultaneously. That could be very useful in session with an indecisive client.

Something I despise: the loss of Reconnect Media. Not having that on Avid was one of the worst things about it, and losing it on FCP hurts. A file suddenly went offline for no reason -- I hadn't moved it -- and I was just hosed. That sucks.

Professional film & video editor Matthew Levie is based in San Francisco; he produced and edited the documentary Honest Man and writes Blog and Capture. First-Person Final Cut Pro X is the unvarnished story of his week-long introduction to the new Final Cut.

Note that all opinions and assessments of FCP X expressed here are Matt's own, not TUAW's, and that any misconceptions or misunderstandings of FCP X features represent Matt's hands-on first reactions. –Ed.

Part III coming up: more on media management.

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