Bradley Olsen is such a fan of FCPX that he made an entire documentary about it.
Bradley Olsen is a filmmaker, editor, post-production whiz (Fedora Pictures) and director of Off The Tracks—the much-anticipated feature documentary about Final Cut Pro X. The film "aims to clear the air once and for all" about FCPX by interviewing several of the software's developers and users about the intention behind the creation and release of the non-linear editing system.
I interviewed Olsen himself in advance of the film's release for my new podcast FCPX Marks the Spot. Our interview lasts over an hour and covers everything from the history of Final Cut Pro, its development into X, and the initial backlash against the NLE all the way up to its more recent resurgence as a legitimate, professional option. Throughout our conversation, I was wonderfully surprised to learn a number of things about the notorious NLE I had never known. Check out the entire interview below or scroll down for a recap of the most fascinating segments.
"Randy Ubillos got a call from Steve Jobs about [FCPX] that culminated in Steve Jobs asking Randy, 'Do you believe in this?' and Randy saying, 'Yes' and Steve Jobs saying, 'Then I do too.'"
1. iMovie was designed as a companion app to FCP 7
That's right, folks. As much as people like to poke fun at FCPX as a sort of "iMovie Pro", the histories of the two programs are more entwined than you could have imagined. As Olsen explains:
I know there's a lot of iMovie pro memes and all that bashing, but the interesting thing about that version of iMovie was Randy [Randy Ubillos: Chief Architect behind FCP7, FCPX, iMovie & Adobe Premiere] had created that as a program called 'Rough Cut' that was supposed to be a pre-editor for Final Cut  where you would organize and start your edit and transfer it over. Steve Jobs saw it and he made it iMovie. So there were ideas in that that were more advanced; like skimming and the beginnings of the magnetic timeline and the filmstrip view and things like that—were actually more advanced than what Final Cut 7 could do even though it was a rudimentary, simple program. And I said, 'They need to make a pro version of this'. So when everybody was up in arms, and 'iMovie Pro this and that', I was like 'But guys, this is the future. This is exactly what they need to do!' And I guess it was just too soon for people.
2. Steve Jobs Saved FCPX
Not only did Steve Jobs recognize the incredible work that Randy Ubillos and the design team at Apple were doing with 'Rough Cut' enough to make it its own stand-alone application but Jobs also had enough faith in Ubillos and the innovative, forward-thinking direction that FCPX was heading in to keep the dream alive.
Final Cut Pro X notoriously had a disastrous release, with a lot of folks jumping ship for Premiere rather than re-learn this seemingly foreign new program. In addition, the fact that you couldn't migrate your FCP7 projects over created such a public backlash that the entire effort could have been derailed if not for a fortuitous phone call. As Olsen tells it, "Years later we found out that Randy Ubillos actually got a call from Steve Jobs about it and that call culminated in Steve Jobs asking Randy, 'Do you believe in this?' and Randy saying, 'Yes' and Steve Jobs saying, 'Then I do too.' And for me, that moment is just so crucial."
3. Final Cut Pro 8?
With Avid, Premiere, Resolve, FCPX (and even Vegas), you have your pick of the litter when it comes to what NLE you want to cut your project in. Perhaps not surprisingly, Olsen edits almost exclusively in FCPX these days—though he does admit to having Davinci Resolve ready and available as a "swiss-army knife" of sorts. We all have our favorite NLE and sometimes people can get a little sensitive and territorial with them but Olsen had some interesting insight into what could have been had X not happened:
Avid doesn't make that much money from Media Composer—I don't know if that's a secret or not. They make money from support but they've been on a life-line for a long time. And in fact I think if it wasn't for Final Cut 10 coming out in 2011—if Final Cut 8 had come out with 64-bit support and was more like what we know Premiere to be—I think it's very likely that Hollywood would have switched over to that. Final Cut was making enough in-roads, but Apple decided to do this left turn and left everybody kinda in the dust and they looked back at Avid, 'You're still here, you're faithful. Yeah, I was about to break up with you but you're faithful and there's this (other) thing I can't trust.' So that's what it comes down to, but change is an inevitable thing and I think that we need to be open to it because that's the empowering thing about it, it allows us to be creative and inspired and have more fun. Like I said... Final Cut 10 is fun!
If you'd like to see for yourself, FCPX is offered as a 30 day free-trial over at the App Store.
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I think I can break this topic down into one relevant question - do users of FCX have any reason to trust that Apple will not pull the rug out from under them again when it's convenient? No? Sorry, Apple. You care far too much about your own image, and far too little about your (drastically shrinking) pro user base.
July 23, 2018 at 9:57AM, Edited July 23, 9:57AM
What would pulling the rug out look like? That they discontinue FCPX for something else? There's no indication of that. It keeps on getting better and better and more pro features added with every update. They have a team of pros working on workflow issues in the new hardware design. To me that looks like they haven't abandoned the pro user base. Some people will always hold their grudge but I think most will get past it. I know I have.
Nobody can predict the future of course but at this point in time in my opinion it's the best NLE there is. I use all the major ones now and I see the differences. Apple appears to sincerely be working hard to make reparations to pro users both with FCP and their hardware. I suspect also that their sights are with the needs of the future of video production and not so much accomodating its past.
I've heard people speculate that Resolve will become the editor of choice for those still attached to tracks but personally I don't know of anyone using it to edit with. To me it's clunky.
I've been in the biz long enough to have seen all sorts of new things come along and there was initial resistance. I remember when FCP 6 was the new thing and Avid editors were resistant to it but it eventually took over and became what most used.
Switching from shooting with film and videotape to files on a hard drive was hard for me to become accustomed to it. I didn't trust it but that's the way things were going so I learned it and now it's normal and the industry developed procedures to work with its characteristics. (Though I still wish LTO backup drives were cheaper.)
From what I see at the post houses I work in is that while they wish that getting things in and out of FCPX was easier they know they can do it.
July 23, 2018 at 12:06PM
I guess I've never seen it that way. They took a giant risk in releasing FCPX as FCP7 was not only doing great but it was becoming the industry standard in many ways. They took this risk because they had an opportunity to innovate and that's exactly what they did. Whether you hate X or not, you can't deny that it is not an innovative NLE; if it wasn't than why is everyone trying to copy it (smart collections, built in synchronization, proxy editing, etc). Every feature I just mentioned was first introduced in X and now every NLE has these features. Two features that no one can copy though is the magnetic timeline and roles, those are under patent by Apple. I cut on X, Premiere and Resolve and X is by far the most fun to cut with, it's also the fastest NLE I've ever worked with as well.
July 23, 2018 at 12:11PM
I agree with a lot of the sentiment so far and also find X to be the most fun, most productive and by far the fastest NLE out there-- and the only one catering to the future of content creation. And I also just wanted to point out that ProRes RAW and the iMac Pro's are two great indications that Apple is in no way abandoning their pro- user base-- in fact, quite the opposite.
July 23, 2018 at 2:11PM, Edited July 23, 2:11PM
CLICK BAIT ALERT! Everything in the "article" has all been said before in many other articles. But the funniest part of that in the picture there is a Tangent Ripple on the desk and FCPX can't use what WITHOUT some other apps supporting it! Off the tracks indeed.
July 23, 2018 at 3:49PM
Shooter Steve - maybe I haven't read any of those other articles. And who said he's using the Tangent Ripple on FCPX? I've got lots of things on my desk I don't use with every application. Besides, right there in #3, it says Olsen sometimes uses Resolve.
July 23, 2018 at 4:01PM
It's the FIRST IMAGE in an article about FCPX. Of course it could be used in other things but IT'S THE FIRST IMAGE IN AN ARTICLE ABOUT FCPX!
July 23, 2018 at 4:35PM
Yes, you need third party software to use a Tangent Ripple, but Command Post is free, and does way more than just control a Tangent. You can use a MIDI keyboard to do color grading if you want. Grab it here: commandpost.io
July 23, 2018 at 4:35PM, Edited July 23, 4:35PM
Brad indeed says he uses Resolve in the interview but you're right-- how DARE someone have a piece of hardware on their desk they're not using at every moment! Also, that featured image clearly has the director of the film in question editing on the NLE that the article is about so please explain to why it doesn't make sense? And I am quite well versed in FCPX and quite a nerd and did not know those details about Randy, iMovie and Steve Jobs. Appreciate your feedback though! Always nice to see people engaging with the content.
July 24, 2018 at 5:09AM
The only people talking trash about FCPX are those who HAVE NOT taken the short time it takes to become accustomed to it (and maybe some die-hard Windows users). It's such a giant step ahead of any other NLE out there. I use Resolve Studio too but, FCPX just seems like a well-oiled machine compared to others.
Now, with ProRes Raw, it's really going to gain a lot more traction
Really looking forward to seeing this documentary.
July 23, 2018 at 3:53PM, Edited July 23, 4:06PM
For me this really isn't true, I can not understand how people would want to edit on FCPX.. I was coming from fcp7 when starting film school and being forced to edit on X. For years I edited all projects on X being frustrated with every single time.
even though the organisation and all is quite innovative, the edit itself feels not precise at all, all those automatic helpful features feel like you have a person that really wants to help you but isn't very good at it and you get so stressed because you never know what she will do.
Never got around this thing of making a transition and it doing those weird bulbs around your take that you can't really move anymore.
And then AUDIO ?? how can you edit fiction film with it, if every audio clip has to get attached to an imageclip, and if you have a coherent sound and you want to change the image above you're really stuck. So many times stuff got desynched because of those mechanisms.. I ended up always using the grey fill in clip on the first level to gain a minimum of flexibility.
Finally, after film school I opened Premiere and found the pleasure and precision I was used to years ago in FCP 7. I could edit without stress knowing that everything depended on where I would decide stuff to happen and nothing would happen just because de NLE thought that it would be helpful
July 24, 2018 at 3:14AM
Hey Max. Thanks for taking the time to respond! Just to throw some well-intended responses your way though... It of course makes sense that you would feel at home in Premiere from FCP7 since Randy literally designed both of them. I have to say though I don't understand how a single one of the issues you pointed out are a problem in FCPX-- or at least any more of a "problem" then in other NLE's. Not precise? FCPX has sub-frame audio capabilities, that's fairly precise. And it goes frame by frame just like every other NLE with snapping features, nudging etc. "Weird bulbs around your take", I don't even know what that means. Do you mean secondary storylines? As far as the audio issue goes all you need to do is "expand audio" or "show in audio lanes" and you are good to go on J and L cuts. And there's nothing wrong with using a fill clip to attach a piece of audio to. It's the nature of the magnetic timeline-- which in my humble opinion is far superior to the "track" way of doing things. That is a new way of thinking about things that FCPX angered people with-- but hey, you gotta change with the times. I think a lot of people dove in thinking you didn't have to put a little elbow grease in to learning how the program works. I get it. It's an NLE and we already know the OTHER NLE's. I was lazy for the first few years on FCPX too and went back to Premiere. Once I finally made a point to actually learn FCPX properly from scratch though I've never gone back. It's PAINFUL when I go back. Happy cutting!
July 24, 2018 at 5:18AM, Edited July 24, 5:18AM
Max, if you found precision lacking in FCPX, it seems clear to me that you just never got the hang of the Magnetic timeline, even if you used the program a fair bit. If you "always used the grey fill in clip on the first level" it's obvious that you just never got it, never learned why Apple went to the trouble of upending the entire program and angering an entire industry. As this documentary probably illustrates, you are (were) not alone.
And yes, indeed using FCPX as if it's a track based NLE is frustrating. It's a bit like refusing to learn how to drive a fork-lift because it turns with its back wheels – But I hope you realise some manoeuvres are only possible when you can turn on the spot, when the focus of your actions is on what you are moving around and not the shelves you are stacking (OK, that metaphor got stretched a bit...).
Personally I found that once I understood that nothing in FCPX is destructive, that everything just shifts and slides to accommodate your changes, I felt free. And I felt like everything was even more deliberate, more precise – that's after years of using FPC7.
July 27, 2018 at 6:15AM
I’m really happy about this article and about this movie. I worked in FCP 7 for many years, tried FCPX when it came out but found enoug problems with it that I switched to Premiere instead, which I really enjoyed, but I kept FCPX around with the hopes that it would improve, and wow it really did. I didn’t intentionally abandon Premiere, but as I advanced my career and the pressures of speed became higher and higher, I began to cut more and more in FCPX just to save myself time (fewer clicks and keystrokes to do things, skimming filmstrips, key wording and lightning-fast exports really decided it for me). I am also a whiz at Apple Motion (again, not as full featured as AfterEffects but 100x faster to use once you are familiar with it). When Adobe switched to the subscription model I lingered on CS6 for a while until it wasn’t compatible with the latest MacOS on my new machine, and now I don’t even bother to install my Adobe apps anymore. Long live FCPX. ITS FAST!
July 24, 2018 at 5:11AM, Edited July 24, 5:11AM
You can not beat FCPX in terms of speed, reliability and intuivity (I made that word up). Happy (quick) cutting, Noah!
July 24, 2018 at 5:20AM
Cool info I wouldn't find anywhere else. Thank you!
July 24, 2018 at 9:02AM