Yesterday Apple released their first update to Final Cut Studio in over 2 years, and I am thrilled! Why, you may ask, do I care about the latest iteration of Final Cut when I haven’t used FCP in over 3 years? The answer: competition. Every substantial release of a non-linear editing application raises the bar for each of its peers, forcing them to consider integrating the better features of competing products and innovate to produce stellar new features that will hopefully tip the scales in their favor next time an editor or post house is looking to make a major software purchase. Without the NLE “arms race” Media Composer wouldn’t be blessed with the “Select All to the Right” feature (which I use practically all the time now), and Apple would not have included a large timecode window, color-coded markers that automatically ripple through the timeline, an equivalent to the “Remove Match Frame Edits” command, and an offline HD codec in their latest version of Final Cut (see the complete list of new features here).
There seem to be a lot of small tweaks in the new Final Cut Pro release that improve the editing process (those of you that use FCP would know far better than I which ones editors are most excited about), but the one that seems most revolutionary to me is background exporting. You can start a QuickTime export of your sequence, and then continue editing it while it exports! As an Avid assistant editor who is used to starting a humongous export and then moving to another edit bay or twiddling my thumbs for two hours, this feature would be HUGE! Avid, the ball is in your court. And while you’re at it, why don’t you add background saves, background imports (with more detailed progress windows indicating the overall status of the batch), and the ability to work in bins while a sequence is playing. You know what? I’m feeling another Avid feature requests post. In addition to the requests I made last year (some of which made it into Media Composer 3), here’s a list of new features I would kill for.
1. Undo last keystroke/mouseclick.
This would solve a bunch of problems at once. I hate it when I’m scrolling through a giant timeline and accidentally hit the “Go to Start” or “Go to End” keys (I use “Page Up” and “Page Down” for timeline zooming) and forget where I was parked. I also hate it when I’m editing clip names in a bin and hit Enter to go to the next clip, but inadvertently hit “\” at the same time, erasing that clip’s entire name. If we can undo editing commands, why can’t we undo a single mouseclick or keystroke as well, no matter what it was?
2. More robust options for clip renaming.
I’d love an easier way to get out of clip renaming mode in a bin, since Enter takes you to the next clip and any other key adds to the name. I also hate that if you click back in your timeline, your bin stays in rename mode. If there were a toggle setting to allow Enter to set the clip name and exit renaming mode, then I could avoid accidental renames much more easily.
3. A customizable incremental duration for jumping around the timeline.
The fact that Avid remembers how much time you’ve jumped forward or back using the keypad (and will continue that duration every time you press Enter) is brilliant and revolutionary. But imagine if you could assign a specific duration to any key to automate the process even further. Every time I prep a sequence for output, I go to the first frame of my sequence (01;00;00;00), add 15 seconds of filler at the start (that only takes one keystroke), and then type in “-10;00″ and “Enter” to jump back 10 seconds to add my slate at 00;59;50;00. Imagine if I could just jump back 10 seconds (or any other duration I choose in the Settings) with the press of a button, regardless of the duration of my last jump.
4. Close bins without saving.
The implementation of this could get a little complicated with the AutoSave feature, but I’d love to be able to undo the changes I made to a bin simply by closing and reopening it. Anyone who has ever forced Avid to crash after accidentally deleting an important sequence so as not to save the changes knows what I’m talking about.
5. “Multigroup this sequence.”
Once you’ve laid out all your clips into a sequence and synced them, there is a whole slew of steps to make a multigroup that takes forever (up to several hours if you have a ton of cameras and a lot of clips). See my popular post on multigrouping for the detailed tutorial. Since all of the mental work is done at that point, why can’t Avid just make a multigroup from that sequence? If multigrouping were a breeze, shows might not have to hire as many assists (which could ultimately be bad for us), but it would still save us a lot of time and frustration. The “Add Edits And Auxiliary Timecode And Make Subclips” routine is so tedious, you’d think by now Avid would have found a way to simplify it, especially considering how many multicamera shows use their software. The show I’m currently working on even forced their cameramen to never stop recording so that there are fewer clips to have to group. Now that is a symptom of inefficiency.
6. Open last bin.
How many times have I closed a bin and then realized I need it open again right away, yet I can’t remember where in the project it is located? One way to solve that is to go into “Flat View” and find the bin by name, but it still takes time. If I could open the bin with one keystroke (or perhaps even better, have a folder of “Recently Opened Bins” at the bottom of the project, similar to the “Unity Bins” folder), that would save me a lot of time.
7. Allow matchframing into titles.
Not quite sure why this isn’t possible (I’m sure there’s a good reason), but there’s no easy way to load a title from your timeline into your Source monitor and cut it into your sequence somewhere else. You have to copy and paste, which is clumsy and not very useful if you’re trying to create a title with a new duration and different keyframes somewhere else in your sequence.
8. Better “Focus” options.
The focus button would be incredibly useful if there were more options than just centering the cursor and zooming somewhat indiscriminately. If you could pre-set the amount of zoom (including none at all) and/or the new placement of the cursor (I often want it at the far left of my timeline rather than the middle), that would make it a much stronger tool. For now, I often tap the keys I’ve assigned to “More Detail” and “Less Detail” rapidly in succession to center my playhead without changing the zoom.
9. Timeline zoom presets.
There are certain times I want to be zoomed in on my sequence a specific amount. It’s easy when you want to see the whole sequence (Just click “Show Entire Sequence” in the timeline options menu) but not so easy otherwise. If there were zoom options that you could map to specific keys that represented various levels of zoom, you could instantly jump to a tighter zoom for more detailed editing, then jump back to your original view with one click.
Hopefully someone from Avid reads this post and takes these ideas into consideration. I know absolutely nothing about computer programming, but I would imagine that a bunch of these would be pretty easy to implement. With the “New Thinking” philosophy now well over a year old and a new version of FCP to compete with, here’s hoping that Avid continues the one-upmanship in their next release. Maybe someday we’ll have a “Make this edit work better” button. One can only dream…