Apple’s Final Cut Pro X was met with a lot of upset when it was launched announced a year ago (and launched in June 2011) at a price point significantly lower than previous Final Cut Pros, and with largely reconstituted features that resembled Apple’s amateur editing program so much it was mocked as “iMovie Pro.”
eBay pricing on sealed packages of Final Cut Pro 7 shot up, as a fine vintage would leap in value. Pro editors cursed Apple and tried to make sense of the new program. Apple responded by doing upgrades that slowly began to restore some features deleted from FCP7.
Now that the dust has settled, where do we stand?
In a post last week on FCPX, Philip Hodgetts noted one possibly-surprising fact: FCPX installs in just these few months have now surpassed those of FCP7. It makes sense in a lot of ways: At $299, more people can make the leap than with the $1,599 price point they had confronted in the past. For newbies, the program builds from their iMovie experience.
Hodgetts notes that according to research, Apple’s share of the “Pro” market has likewise dropped from 55 percent to 52 percent, with users shifting to Avid and other programs. Hodgetts also notes some of the initial FCPX purchasers may have been people simply willing to try it.
First challenge is that they all purchased Final Cut Pro X “to test it out” and no-one’s using it. Well, Apple have already demolished the “no professional is using Final Cut Pro X” canard the week before NAB with the Final Cut Pro in Action stories. But could it be that only one copy was sold to each facility and that gives them 52% of the “pro” market. I don’t find that particularly credible, given that we know that Bunim Murray alone purchased at least 40 or 50 Media Composer seats in that time.
So are professionals warming up to FCPX?
Tor Rolf Johansen of Post Magazine feels FCPX was rolled out prematurely, but has gained back some credibility with its updates. FCP 10.0.4, he says,
…has returned to stake its claim in the pro NLE market. Many of the pro features missing from FCP 7 have been restored and many of those features are actually better and faster now than they ever were in FCP 7. FCP X is lightning fast with get-up-and-go performance. The speed gains (from 64-bit code and multicore support), the two-thirds price cut, and some innovative new edit tools make this update a true contender.
Not all agree.
In the April/May 2012 issue of Streaming Media magazine, Jan Ozer’s “How Apple Took The ‘Pro’ Out Of Final Cut Pro” says that while some features of FCPX are commendable,
Overall, though, I abhor the program. When I run FCPX, my reaction is visceral; I feel the walls pressing in and my blood pressure rising. I adore the clean slate of Adobe Premiere Pro and its doppelganger Final Cut Pro 7. FCPX has so much structure, so many completely foreign concepts, that it feels like my 31″ monitor has shrunk to 17″. With such a supposed focus on simplicity, how could a company run by (Steve) Jobs produce such a program?
Meanwhile, programs such as Adobe Premiere CS6 are gaining some ground. For serious filmmakers balancing cost and performance, the variety of choices for editing is making Final Cut Pro less of the go-to program it was.
For years, Blackmagic Design has been associated with products meant to help connect the camera to the computer — basically unassuming tools that help get the job done. They’re products you don’t see — capture cards hidden inside a Mac or a switcher tucked out of eyeline. So when Blackmagic announced it was introducing a camera at NAB 2012, the crowd was taken by surprise. What isn’t surprising is that it has the look of something built out of a computer rather than out of a traditional film camera.
Blackmagic Cinema Camera, launched Monday, basically looks like an external hard drive with a lens stuck to its side. It has none of the panache of the in-development Digital Bolex I wrote about recently, but it also promises some mighty specs (see below). The camera will go for $2,995 starting in July 2012, but the total “dress-up” package of the camera will be higher when you account for lenses and other accessories. The Blackmagic will accept Canon EF and Zeiss ZF lenses, and it lends itself to aftermarket bits from companies like Zacuto and Cinevate. And because it is devoid of the ergonomics of other cameras, the camera looks eminently droppable — it does not seem suited to handheld work. The dress-up will include handles (Blackmagic Cinema Camera Handles sell them for $195).
It’s either a 1080p or a 2K, depending on whether you output in a codec like ProRes or as RAW footage. In RAW, it produces 12-bit files, meaning more robust footage that lends itself to post-production. The camera promises a 13-stop dynamic range, meaning it will reach deep into the blacks while also capturing usable detail high into the whites.
Blackmagic’s announcement signals a change in the industry: The making of cameras is no longer the provenance of traditional film-camera and tape-based camcorder manufacturers. The quality of any camera has become more about the processing abilities of the device, so it isn’t a surprise that a company well-versed in moving footage from one place to another could jump in. The ability of filmmakers to get their hands on equipment that rivals the high-end stuff is getting better and better…
Here are the tech specs from the manufacturer:
- High resolution 2.5K sensor allows improved anti aliasing and reframing shots.
- Super wide 13 stops of dynamic range allows capture of increased details for feature film look.
- Built in SSD allows high bandwidth recording of RAW video and long duration compressed video.
- Open file formats compatible with popular NLE software such as CinemaDNG 12 bit RAW, Apple ProRes and Avid DNxHD. No custom file formats.
- Includes no custom connections. Standard jack mic/line audio in, BNC 3 Gb/s SDI out, headphone, high-speed Thunderbolt I/O technology, LANC remote control and standard DC 12-30V power connection.
- Capacitive touch screen LCD for camera settings and slate metadata entry.
- Compatible with extremely high quality Canon EF and Zeiss ZF lenses.
- Supports 2.5K and 1080HD resolution capture in 24, 25, 29.97 and 30 fps.
- Thunderbolt connection allows direct camera capture via included Media Express software and supports live waveform monitoring via the included Blackmagic UltraScope software.
- Includes a full copy of DaVinci Resolve 9.0 color grading software.
Montreal-based director Mathieu Roy is not afraid of tackling huge and existential questions within the wrapper of an 86-minute documentary.
That he begins “Surviving Progress” with a primate confronting a geometric curiosity – in the case a block it must balance for the payout of a banana – Roy knowingly evokes Kubrick’s “2001: A Space Odyssey” and warns us we’re in Big Think territory. In this case, “Has the human race progressed so remarkably that we’re about to put ourselves out of existence?”
With so many wonderful documentaries taking the macro view of issues and questions (I just again viewed Danfung Dennis’s remarkable “Hell and Back Again” and its story of a war through one man’s journey), it’s yet again heartening to see a director (along with co-director Harold Crooks) take on something so massive, so important and so troubling.
“It took six and a half years to make the best film we could,” said Roy, as his project goes into release. “We thought at time, ‘Should we take it a bit easier on the audience? But this is the way the world works, and when you learn it, you do feel more pissed.”
The film, with executive producing by luminaries such as Mark Achbar (“The Corporation”) and Martin Scorcese (whom Roy worked for on “The Aviator”), the film is a chilling omnibus of Wall Street misdeeds, environmental plunder, and cultures in collision. Its ambition is an example of what the best documentaries do, which is unflinching truth. It kind of started that way.
“Harold and I didn’t want to scare off our producers and distributors!” Roy said of the early phases. “But the opening movement from a chimp to an astronaut sets the tone. What took so long was that it became an effort to make a coherent structure. The more the film unfolded itself, the more it became a bigger snowball.”
Starting with the inspiration of the book “A Short History of Progress,” by Candadian author Ronald Wright, and it reveals the ultimate plot twist: Have we become so productive our consumption is killing the planet? Has medicine become so remarkable we don’t know what to do with the booming population? Has the lust for progress itself sent us hurtling into the ultimate regress?
The film takes us from such far-flung places as the rain forest of Brazil to the “new” China (with a priceless open-camera argument between a tourism-business son and his Communist-era professor father sitting on their sofa); it brings in people as diverse as primatologist Jane Goodall to economist Michael Hudson, a chorus of voices saying all is not well, and American Idol isn’t going to fix it. Documentaries such as this make for hard viewing in one way, but is infused with imagery that makes it a worthy journey. Roy says 100 hours of primary footage was supported by edits out of another 100 hours of secondary and archival footage, conducted at the hands of editor Louis-Martin Paradis. One quirky aside was the primary interview subject looking dead-on at the viewer, made possible by the EyeLiner, which in turn comes from Errol Morris’s Interratron.
The film was shot on HD tape, and funded by $1.8 million mostly due to Achbar’s Telefilm Canada-funded “performance envelope”: The success of “The Corporation” success set aside funds for the exclusive use of Achbar’s production company, Big Picture Media Corporation. Achbar, in turn, moved those funds in support of “Surviving Progress.”
“Mark had other projects, so the envelope funding supported four separate film projects,” Roy said.
Scorcese’s contribution was not funding, but mentoring. “He looked at cuts and sent me notes, because he just supports projects he likes.”
The film, especially as it explicates on Wall Street’s shark-like affinities to accumulate money to degrees that go to the greater detriment, premiered at Toronto Film Festival last September, but it may have caught a Zeitgeist. The Occupy Wall Street movement luached a short time later.
“I thought, after what I learned in making the film, ‘Why aren’t people coming out on the streets about this?’” Roy said.
“And then they did.”