Working Around Final Cut 7: Or, How To Use Final Cut 7 When The Whole World Tells You Not To
I like Final Cut 7.
Final Cut 5 was my first editing program; it popped my editing cherry, as it were. I learned how to cut pictures on it. It was incredibly simple and, indeed, even revelatory. I watched Larry Jordan videos and his weird, over-explanatory, yet gentle cadence — like a half-retarded uncle that yet is some kind of savant in one thing, like identifying paprika in any dish instantly, or remembering Yellow Pages numbers, but only for P-Plumbers — and to this day the memory of editing on Final Cut 5 fills me with mixed emotions. At the time, I was in an acting class, never filmed anything before in my life. I had actors, I had stories I had to tell, I had disposable income, I saw a dv video camera I liked, and I thought: why not?
And I did learn Final Cut. And it was very good.
About 7 years, two Hackintoshes, and Final Cut X version-whatever later, I still haven’t moved beyond the 32-bit structure of Final Cut 7: even though I need to. The projects I work on demand a 64-bit editing and compositing platform.
I’m sure there’s still lots of more professional companies out there that are still using Final Cut Studio.
Why are we doing that?
I can’t really speak for anyone else, but for myself, I’m just really picky. I can pick up a program alright, if I’m motivated enough to do so, but Final Cut, bitchy program that it is, does the things I use most often right, for me.
Let me just preface this by saying that I’ve tried the following programs in the last couple of years in vain, hoping for a 64-bit Final Cut replacement: Autodesk Smoke, Premiere Pro, Lightworks, Final Cut X, and even Avid for crissakes.
I hate them all. Premiere Pro especially, even though it’s the most Final Cut-like of them all. It’s like Bizarro to Superman. The buttons and UI especially I can’t get my head wrapped around. They still look the same as when Premiere came out, and it’s like the one thing they tried to imitate from Final Cut but failed miserably; like a poor DNA clone, like Danny Devito to Arnold Shwarznegger in Twins.
The one thing I can’t stand, as an inherently impatient person, is an inefficient workflow. The one thing that stood out from trying all these programs is, like, all these programs focused on doing one little thing Awesomely, and everything else Shittily or Half-Assed. Avid, for instance. I opened it up and it was like, immediately, you got to transcode your files to OUR way! And deep down objectively I was like, I get it, you want a stable system. But in my lizard brain, I was like, FUCK YOU DON’T TELL ME WHAT TO DO AND JESUS SONY VEGAS CAN EVEN DO MIXED MEDIA FOR CRISSAKES!
Whereas Final Cut 7 does everything pretty average, really. It’s not the best or even great or even good compositing. But what it does have, if you need something quick, does it reasonably ok. It’s like, when you need a date for the prom, instead of getting the most gorgeous girl in high school, or at the other end of the spectrum, the a living, breathing pulsating sludge-thing, you have access to your average-looking next-door neighbor who, at first blush, you couldn’t say you were attracted to in the least but hey, seems harmless enough–but then, when you both get liquored and you get her undressed, you’re like, woah, look at that! Coloring. Reasonably ok. Filters. Reasonably ok. File management…reasonably ok…etc. And what it couldn’t do reasonably ok, a filter stepped in to do it Awesomely. Neat Video is brilliant, as well as Twixtor and the smoothcam capabilities of Mercalli. And of course, Colorista and Magic Bullet Looks. Those were the programs and filters I used All The Time. While Final Cut 7 is not heads-and-shoulders above these programs by any stretch, it does what I like it to do and leaves me alone to edit the way I want to edit. But then when I did use filters to compensate for what Final Cut 7 couldn’t do, I’d have to render, and then Final Cut would crash, and then I’d just about lose my shit.
How do I edit? Pretty roughly, really. I’m sure there’s plenty of editors who would be aghast at the simplicity of tools that I use. I never use the slip tools. I don’t use any of those fancy tools at all. The features I use the most are: blade, double-blade, extend and close tracks using the mouse, and Close Gap. That’s it.
Horrible, isn’t it? The weird thing is, all I needed for Apple to do to make my life easier was just to make Final Cut 8 a 64 bit system. That’s all I needed. I didn’t ask Apple to decide that their way of editing was better than my way. Editing time-wise was never a problem with me. I can fly editing on Final Cut. What took the most amount of time wasn’t the editing at all. For example, I’ve tried Final Cut X. It’s irritating. I like taking hours to decide my edit, put this part here, shave off a frame there. File system management? That’s retarded, Final Cut 7 already had meta-tags in place for people who need that shit. And it makes Final Cut look like a girl’s notebook in Grade 7, covered in stars and glow-in-the-dark lipstick and markers and shit. I go through and review all my clips and get them sorted out, because I need to do that, and I like doing it anyway. It’s like traveling down memory lane because I shoot my own footage and forget 50% of what’s going on in front of my camera because my brain focuses intensely on one thing at a time.
Magnetic timeline is a good idea. But does it have to be fucking on all the time? All I needed for Final Cut 8 was a short-cut button I could press to activate “magnetic” properties and get shit moved out of my way so I can insert it properly. It could have even been just a third insert option, in addition to “place on top” and “replace” when I’m throwing files on the timeline. A simple movement to move that stupid arrow, where if you did it wrong it would replace instead of place on top. Right now to do an insert I either call up the viewer clip and insert it that way, or I generate a slug and insert and delete. Even that is preferable to the “magnetic timeline” of Final Cut X, where there is nothing separating the audio from the video and everything is connected in one incestuous conjoining. Here’s a thought: I actually enjoy cutting and splicing my audio up. Manually. The audio is actually easier to work with than all of Apple’s DAWs. How is that possible? Final Cut is almost like, I hate to say it, the most-PC like of Apple software. Whereas I like Apple, it’s programs all share some inherent trait to make an operation multiple steps more complicated than it’s equivalent in a PC program. Bleh.
All I needed was a little more audio capability. Would it have been so hard to get Final Cut to actually display audio filters with their actual UI instead of those stupid sliders? How can anyone even know what the hell is going on? I could have actually done ALL my audio editing in Final Cut than transfer it to Soundtrack or Logic. I actually love audio. From what I hear, the closest editing software that understands the importance of audio is Sony Vegas. Believe me I contemplated moving to that, but PC’s are like old VD-infested hookers in the Red Light District.
And the colour of Final Cut 7’s UI…that nice, light grey color, where I can see everything clearly. Now, Everyone’s UI is some kind weird charcoal colour, like they’re trying to be the Dark Knight of editing software. You can’t even change Da Vinci’s Resolve’s UI! That’s irritating.
Videos playing in the File Browser…Awesome. I guess that would be a logical step when you boost up the capabilities of your system. Except…why does everything frikkin scrub in Final Cut X? I used it for ten minutes and I just about kicked my computer in. It was like being lost in a Chinatown market. In counter to this idea, for example in Lightworks you can open multiple windows up. I actually like that because it gives you a chance to preview shit in comparison to other things. Does a little fucking scrub box do that? No.
It’s almost like when I read the reviews of the newest version of Smoke. I thought, awesome! They took all the good shit of Final Cut 7 and made an all-in-one editing and compositing suite. I tried it out, holy shit it was like the time I took a super 16 class and tried to edit my footage on a Steenbeck. An hour later I’m standing there with footage of every length hanging of my limbs like I’m a scarecrow in the Editor’s Field of Hell. The hilarious thing is Autodesk actually advertised that they videotaped editors in order to improve workflow. Whaaa…?! And that was their result?! What did they videotape with, super 8 cameras? What editors were they taping, monkeys? Whoever they were taping or whatever they were taping, basically it doesn’t matter, because it wasn’t me.
Overall, I can totally confess that if given enough time, my misunderstandings and/or misconceptions of Final Cut X or any other editing program could be totally 180’d. I accept that. I’m impatient. But at the same time, I spent all this time learning a program and getting a workflow that works for me in place, and the least I can expect for improvement is to make the way I edit easier. And the thing about Final Cut 7 that took 90% of my time wasn’t the editing itself…it was the renders. It was the transcoding. Hours upon hours of transcoding and rendering, and rendering and transcoding, and then crashing and then starting up again–wash, rinse, repeat. The problems themselves that a simple upgrade to 64 bit and the ability to use your GPU would have solved INSTANTLY.
My workflow now? I edit in Final Cut 7, and export an XML to BlackMagic Resolve 10. Now that BlackMagic is accepting plugins, I let BlackMagic do all the heavy lifting coloring, compositing, etc, and keep Final Cut 7 to do my basic editing. I suspect I’ll be using this workflow in the next couple of years, until somehow, some software startup company realizes that editing on a touchpad would be next to intuitive, and actually designs a completely intuitive, touch-based editing system. Because really, editing hasn’t fundamentally changed in like 100 years, from when it was a razor cutting and splicing film together. That process isn’t going to change. So change the materials around that process instead of trying to think the process is the problem.
Now, if only BlackMagic would let me change the color of its freakin UI…