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FCPX Magnetic Timeline: Apple's New Paradigm REVISITED

COW Library : Apple Final Cut Pro X Debates : David Lawrence : FCPX Magnetic Timeline: Apple's New Paradigm REVISITED
CreativeCOW presents FCPX Magnetic Timeline: Apple's New Paradigm REVISITED -- Apple Final Cut Pro X Debates & Beyond Editorial


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Editor's Note, May 2015: NLE interface design pioneer and longtime editor David Lawrence first wrote about the editing approach of FCPX, including its highly controversial Magnetic Timeline, soon after FCPX's release in the spring of 2011. Time has passed, the editing landscape has changed, some of the controversy around X has diminished, and some of X's early detractors have been become fans. While FCPX has in fact become an important part of David's workflow, some of his initial observations ring truer than ever. So we asked David to take another look at his thoughts at the time, to see what he might like to add or revise. We'll let him tell the story, though, starting with this new introduction.


Hard to believe that over four years have passed since Apple rocked the NLE landscape with its radical transformation of Final Cut Pro. Since then, a lot has happened. Other big vendors such as Adobe and Avid have seriously stepped up the quality of their offerings; even Blackmagic Design is getting into the NLE game. Now more than ever, it’s a level playing field - editors have more choice in tools to fit their editing style, and competition is making those tools better and better. It’s a very exciting time in the industry.

When it first launched, FCPX’s editing approach was a source of intense debate. And some of that debate continues at a less heated level. But as it’s matured and evolved, one point is clearly settled. There’s no question FCPX is a high quality, professional quality tool, as its recent use in the feature film, Focus, proves. FCPX is ready for the big leagues.

For me personally, the biggest surprise is FCPX is now a big part of my editing workflow. I love its tools for organizing footage. It’s possibly the best ingest, logging and organizing tool I’ve ever worked with. '>I wrote about the workflow here. (To be fair, I concede that “universal” was a poor word choice for for the title. I was very enthused.)

But as much as I enjoy organizing in FCPX, I still don’t edit with it. The Magnetic Timeline just doesn’t work for me, for the same reasons I wrote about four years ago. I’m not fighting The Magnetic Timeline, The Magnetic Timeline is fighting me! The debate over absolute/external frames-of-reference vs relative/hierarchical parent/child relationships as a way to represent media in time is alive and well.

Four years later, we’re almost half-way thru what Apple described as a 10-year roadmap for FCPX. Will The Magnetic Timeline ever change to accommodate editors like myself who prefer a more spatial editing style? My guess is probably not, but that ultimately it doesn’t matter. For editors who love cutting in FCPX, its perfectly fine and they’re having fun. For the rest of us, there are plenty of great options that continue to get better. That’s a win for everyone. And ironically, four years later, even that old horse FCP7 is still around, especially in the documentary scene where it continues to be used on Oscar winning films.

Final Cut Pro is dead. Long live Final Cut Pro!

David Lawrence, May 2015



With its June 21 release of Final Cut Pro X, Apple shocked the entire post-production industry. FCPX discards not only its own eleven-year history of development, but also decades of industry standards in both language and interface conventions for non-linear editing systems.

I set out to understand just exactly what Apple had done to a tool that for many of us, is the cornerstone of our livelihoods. The changes in FCPX are broad, deep and many. This article will focus on just one aspect of these changes -- the main NLE editing interface an editor uses for the bulk of their work -- the timeline.

Apple's new "magnetic timeline" is very different than anything that has come before it. Apple's strength as a market leader means that their new timeline paradigm will receive widespread attention and use. A user interface reflects the assumptions, priorities and values of its designer. How does the philosophy behind a tool's design determine how we're able to work? What does "better" mean in the context of usability?

I feel it's essential to examine these kinds of questions and try to understand Apple's changes with informed criticality as we decide whether to adopt or reject their new approach. Many of the missing parts in FCPX can and will be fixed with plug-ins and updates. But if Apple's fundamental design assumptions about editorial workflow don't work for you, it won't matter. You'll eventually switch to something else.

Disclaimer - What follows is my opinion only. I have no special inside knowledge or connections with Apple. I'm just calling it the way I see it, having thought about NLEs for a long time.


The Magnetic Timeline - What's the Paradigm?

Let's start with the basics -- stuff you already know but which bears repeating.

Let's start with Time.

Time is linear.

Our experience of time is linear.

We can subdivide it however we like, but our normal perception is that time always moves forward. This is hardwired into our bodies and brains.

Editing is the art of structuring media experience in time.

When we edit, what we're actually doing is making intentional, creative, decisions for every moment of the experience of our piece. We intentionally choose exactly what the viewer sees, hears, and consequently feels. Most importantly, we control how and when this happens. This precise sculpting of time-based experience is the essence of the art of editing.

In an NLE, the timeline is a fixed, spatial representation of time itself.

The beauty of the "open" timeline is that it gives editors unlimited flexibility in placing media - represented as objects - exactly where they want in the linear timestream. Objects are freely, precisely placed in time to create linear experience. It works exceptionally well. This is why the timeline metaphor has been in use since the invention of the NLE almost 25 years ago.

Tracks are layers of timelines dedicated to specific media types. They're a great organizing tool. An important thing to remember about tracks is that all tracks share a fixed frame-of-reference in regards to time.

The other important thing is that all tracks follow a common spatial model. The timeline is a direct, one to one mapping of spatial position to temporal event. When you look at a complex timeline at the wrap of a project, what you're seeing is an exact, crystal-clear 2D map of every creative decision you chose for every frame of your piece. It's a map of experience in time.

FCP 1-7 is designed around the "open timeline" paradigm. It has a fairly robust toolset for manipulating objects on the timeline(s). The tools aren't perfect, but overall they're very good. In my opinion, they just feel better than the tools in other systems. It's a matter of personal taste I suppose. The main thing is once internalized, they do the most important thing a digital tool can do - allow the clear expression of user intention and otherwise stay out of the way.

With FCPX, Apple introduces a fundamental change in the NLE timeline model - the "Magnetic Timeline". It's a whole new paradigm that changes how we edit! Tracks are gone! Clips are sequenced and synced with "connections." It's locked in ripple mode! I can see the gaps! And so on.

There's no in between -- you either love or hate this thing.

But what is it exactly? Why does it provoke such a visceral reaction in so many?

On the surface, there's nothing groundbreaking or even new about the magnetic timeline. As others have correctly pointed out, it's a 1V 2A fixed ripple mode timeline - with lots of other seemingly arbitrary constraints. So what?

But under the hood it's actually deeply radical. In FCPX, Apple has abstracted time away from space. The timeline is now a container-class object. It's no longer just a fixed spatial representation. The implications are huge. Once you wrap your head around it, a lot of things fall into place; things like the new language -- "Storylines" instead of "Timelines", the lack of tracks, even the visible gaps.

Apple is betting everything on a pure object model for media representation. They're building around an object and database driven architecture. The FCPX UI and toolset directly reflects this shift. It's radical. It's innovative, and as currently implemented, it's seriously flawed for advanced editors.


Time, Space, and One Clock To Rule Them All

One of the analogies I frequently see in the FCPX forums goes something like this -- "Using FCPX is like using a relational database as opposed to using a spreadsheet a la FCP7 and earlier. People having difficulty using FCPX are simply not getting the relational database model. They're stuck in the spreadsheet way of thinking."

While this analogy has factual basis, I think it's a mixed metaphor and misses the larger point:

FCPX is built around an object-oriented data model. FCPX uses a relational database to manage this data. Structured data objects in a relational database can be manipulated in very powerful and flexible ways. All of this is true and we see the potential of this throughout FCPX. Metadata and keyword tagging are powerful organizational features; but there's an inherent disconnect.

A relational database can have an infinite number of dimensions. It can store any type of data set in innumerable ways. But there's one Very Big Thing a relational database doesn't understand or even know about.

Time.

A relational database exists completely outside the dimension of time. In a relational database, all possible data relationships exist simultaneously in a timeless, abstract state. They have no perceptible human meaning until we use tools to call and display them.

In order to experience time-based data, we must play it. In order to represent time-based data on a computer screen, we must use space.

Human beings work with data and time very differently than computers do. I think this point is getting lost in much of the discussion of FCPX's interaction model.

While it's true FCPX uses a relational database foundation and metadata is a powerful, flexible way to organize, it's also true that humans don't process data or time like a computer. We use pattern, space and physical reference points to understand and navigate the world around us. This is wired into our bodies and this is why all NLEs use timelines.

Timelines give tangible, perceivable form to the abstract data and relationships held by a computer. Timelines allow us to perceive and manipulate time-based data in a way that makes physical and experiential sense.

FCPX introduces a radically different approach to the timeline interaction model. It replaces the familiar model with something that borrows many similar representational conventions, yet behaves very differently.

I'm convinced that any similarities between the old and new timeline models are fundamentally necessary. Yet Apple's newly added differences run counter to years of expectation in regard to the timeline's central frame-of-reference. This makes it unintuitive for many editors.

Frame-of-reference is key, and leads to a fundamental truth about the timeline:

There must be a Master Clock.

In any NLE:

There is always a Master Clock.
The Master Clock dictates absolute time.
The Master Clock is the master frame-of-reference for time.
The Master Clock must be represented in space.
This is where things get curious with FCPX. FCPX has changed the frame-of-reference for the master clock. FCPX changes the frame-of-reference from what we've used for decades - the sequence window, a fixed, external frame-of-reference defined by absolute spatial position -- to a container object inside the sequence window. Here's an illustration:





In FCPX the primary storyline container is the master clock.

This is why there can only be one primary storyline. This is why connected clips only connect to the primary storyline. In object terms, the primary storyline is the parent container for all media events in the project (sequence).

This change in itself is a big deal. It means that in FCPX, we edit the temporal frame-of-reference and constantly change its spatial foundation as we edit our piece.

This in itself is unusual. It's further complicated because FCPX's master clock has gravity. Locked in ripple mode, the primary storyline always pulls all contained objects to the temporal singularity of 00:00:00:00. Ripple is useful if you need help avoiding black gaps in your program, but it has a side effect of constantly changing the time position of everything else you're working on. This may or may not be a problem depending on what you're doing. Most NLE timelines do not ripple by default.

A simple exercise demonstrates how FCPX treats time in the project (sequence) window:

Drop a clip in the primary storyline. Hit shift-z (zoom to fit) so you can see the full clip. Use the blade tool to make a cut near the center of the clip. Use the trim tool to select only the head of the clip on the right. Now drag the selected head right and left to trim the clip head forward and backward. Keep your eye on the time indicator. Notice what happens to the timeline and where time is in the window space. Time is moving in space relative to the object being trimmed.


FCP7 Open Timeline


Try the same thing in FCP7. Use the ripple tool to simulate the FCPX trim mode (which is ripple only). Also try this with the regular trim tool.





The difference in how each version of FCP performs this function demonstrates how each version treats the master clock frame-of-reference.

In FCP7's open timeline, time is absolute in relation to the sequence window. Changes to any media objects on the open timeline affect the objects only. Time in space is constant.

In FCPX's magnetic timeline, time is always relative to 00:00:00:00 on the primary storyline. Depending on how you manipulate objects on the timeline, 00:00:00:00 can and will move in space. Time in space is variable.

FCPX's new interaction rules and behaviors are loaded with assumptions about how you should edit. Depending on your needs, they'll either help you or get in the way. But make no mistake. If you work in FCPX, you must follow them.

In the next part of this article, I'll look at the rules that govern object and timeline behaviors in FCPX.






UPDATE:

While working on the second part of this article, several threads in the FCPX Debate forum went into great depth on the issues I intended to cover. These engaging conversations offer a broad range of thoughtful perspectives and examples of the workflow implications of FCPX's rules, behaviors and assumptions. I encourage you to read and join in with your thoughts.


NLEs, DAWs, Tracks and Audio-centric Workflows -- Continuing the Conversation...
http://forums.creativecow.net/readpost/335/16886


The Open Timeline and Spatial Workflows -- An Example
http://forums.creativecow.net/readpost/335/16979


The Position Tool Does Not Disable Ripple Mode -- Here's Why
http://forums.creativecow.net/readpost/335/17555


The Open Timeline and Spatial Workflows -- Another Example
http://forums.creativecow.net/readpost/335/17728




About David H. Lawrence



Comments

Re: FCPX Magnetic Timeline: Apple's New Paradigm REVISITED
by Mike Warmels
I am a director doing a lot of offline cuts to my documentaries and other programming. For the last couple of months I have been working a lot on FCPX, getting the hang of it. Working with editors with a lot more experience to find out what works best.

For the last twenty years I have done my offline (and the occasional online) editing on Media 100, AVID and FCP7. On the last two I am pretty fast. But I too find the timeline characteristics of FCPX difficult to work with comfortably. After a couple of weeks looking in on others working on it I have come to the conclusion that working on AVID and FCP7 is like building blocks on a fixed table top. And working on FCPX is like working with these blocks floating in the air all connected: everything is relative. Now, that has advantages... but my biggest problem is that a lot of people say FCX is so much faster.... I seriously doubt that.

On the whole, I can edit on it now. Comparing my way of working with much more experienced editors on FCPX taught me I am doing it the right wat. But I find myself pushing a lot more buttons to do simple simple things than I do while cutting on AVID. Things like split edits, audio fades (the constant opening and closing of the audio) or just to get my playhead somewhere in a position where it's not stuck at the side of the timeline. Or when you accidentally press something too quickly, end up at the end of your timeline and trying to find the spot you were working at. And then there is the loading of all the separate projects FCPX does when you use the Reveal in Browser option and the software doing all this stuff in the background that you cannot see or turn of... Nothing is happening is the so-called Background Tasks...but when you shut it down, it actually says it's cancelling background tasks. My external hard drive is rattling like crazy at times... doing "stuff" for FCPX... but slowing the programme down.

In all honestly, I cannot by the life of me see why FCPX would be faster than AVID MC8. Essentially it comes down to this for me: a lot of the basic cutting, trimming, fine tuning cuts and playback (the preroll function), split editing etc etc. in AVID means pressing a lot less buttons. And I mean a LOT LESS! So where has this "new paradigm" gotten us? You learn FCX in two days...granted (it takes a lot longer to learn AVID), it's cheap... but is it really better and faster??? I dunno... I am not convinced.
+1
Re: final cut pro X
by Lawrence Dean
Aloha,

I am in a state of confusion. You all seem to be working editors, while I am aspiring. I have been totally wrapped up in tutorials from lynda.com, final cut training series, soundtrack, color, motion, while starting a documentary, polishing my first short film that is far beyond back yard/youtube stuff. I desire more than anything to lauch my self into the professional community at the begging of 2012, and am now crushed wondering if I am going to have to switch platforms before I get started. I have been viewing CS5.5 and Avid tutorials to see if I should start switching now so I am prepared in the upcoming year. I have poured myself into these programs, and I now feel as lost as I was before knowing anything about NLE. I have been reading everything I can find on final cut pro x and 99% of it seems very negative. Any advice would be most welcome.
Re: final cut pro X
by Alan Okey
[Lawrence Dean] "Any advice would be most welcome."

The tools you use can be dictated (or at least influenced) by the type of editing you wish to pursue, and the geographic location in which you work. For example, If you aspire to edit news in NYC, you will probably need to learn a different set of tools than if you want to be a feature film or trailer editor in LA. Can you provide some more information about your professional aspirations?
Re: final cut pro X
by Richard Herd
The days of one single unified non-linear editing program is gone (if there ever was such a day). Learn many programs, but that's really not that important either. What matters THE MOST is if you can tell a story. At some point the UI and the Input device will disappear and you will be telling a story. And because this is also a business, learning to negotiate is also very important.

EDIT: I see now that this is an old post. Oops.
Re: The Magnetic Timeline -- Thoughts on Apple's New Paradigm
by Leo Hans
I understand your point, because I had some projects like that.

Compound clips are not the same than nests, but almost. One difference is, perhaps, that you can open the nest breaking apart all of the clips in the same timeline with a single keystroke.

My comment about the trimming is not about trimming in the timeline per-se, that's something I use a lot. I find not comfortable to trim a project organized that way. Maybe I am wrong.

As I wrote before, besides the lack of multi-cam, I couldn't find a project not doable in FCPX. (By doable I mean in a reasonable way and not with weird workarounds).

Probably it's right that some tasks may need a little more steps in FCPX, but the faster editing tools for the common operations compensates that. (at least in my own experience).

Leo Hans
Editor AVID - Final Cut Pro
http://www.leohans.com
Re: The Magnetic Timeline -- Thoughts on Apple's New Paradigm
by Gerald Baria
To demonstrate my suggested solution to this another over exaggerated overineterpretation of FCPXs features. If you want time - based editing on the timeline, heres an extremely simple solution:

1. Create a GAP with a length to whatever you please so long as it is longer than what your final output would be, and make this your primary storyline.

2. Clip connect all you "real" clips in this Gap..in TIME.

3. There is no step three. Problem solved.



Hello.

Quobetah
New=Better
Re: The Magnetic Timeline -- Thoughts on Apple's New Paradigm
by Nick Toth
I do a lot of spots. X is just faster and more intuitive for me.

I use a gap clip and connect to it when appropriate. I may use video or audio on the primary storyline and connect to that. I may drop some of my footage into a compound clip and edit inside the compound clip. I may make secondary storylines and edit there. I'll take that kind of flexibility any day.

And yes, I have done heavily layered spots with lots of graphics similar to the screen shot in a previous post. I have also done long-form with X and I find it so easy and quick as to be laughable.

To each his own. I would guess that every editor thinks their way is the only way. I know I do... LOL!!
Re: The Magnetic Timeline -- Thoughts on Apple's New Paradigm
by Gerald Baria
If time based edit is what your looking for in fcpx, there's a pretty simple solution to that. Make a massive infinite Gap as your primary storyline. Then just clip connect all your real clips anywhere on it...in time.

Next issue.

Quobetah
New=Better
+1
Re: The Magnetic Timeline -- Thoughts on Apple's New Paradigm
by Shawn Federline
David,
I completely agree with you on your comments in this article. I especially agree with you on your point on the fact that this timeline is great for very specific things. Quick, simple, basic projects. This is one area that I think is FCPX's greatest downfall at the moment, and it seems that no one realizes that. Everyone complains about missing xml support and all that which I understand but those things can be fixed. The bigger problem with the new FCPX is a matter of functionality. The beauty of the open timeline is that it works great whether it's a simple one track of video and audio project or if its 20 tracks of video with a lot of composites and layered effects. The open timeline is flexible and scalable to any project you need to work on. I have tested the new FCPX and it is completely unusable for a project like the timeline I included.


I edit commercials on a daily basis and this is how many of my timelines look by the time the project is done. The "magnetic timeline" is very limiting in its current configuration and I'd love to see someone try to replicate this project on FCPX then go back and try to make changes like a client might request.

I think for the new FCPX to even start to be a viable contender for me, and many other "pro" editors in the future, the missing features that we all know about need to be added, but there are three areas of the software that need to be fixed. First, we need control over which files are associated with which projects, rather than seeing every element we put into final cut from every other project. This is ridiculous when you work on as many projects and with as many elements as we do on a daily basis. Second, give us the ability to customize the software again. The software is SOOO set in its ways in every aspect of the program that it makes it unusable for me. My timeline takes up my entire second window on my machine. The ability to customize almost every aspect of FInal Cut Pro was one of the things I loved when I switched from Avid. Of course, you can't customize anything on FCPX. This is a big deal breaker for me. Third, the "magnetic timeline" needs some major fixes to be as flexible and usable as the open timeline. Such as fixing some of what you mentioned in your article.

Shawn

Sales Production Editor
NBC/Universal
+3
Re: The Magnetic Timeline -- Thoughts on Apple's New Paradigm
by David Lawrence
[Shawn Federline] "The beauty of the open timeline is that it works great whether it's a simple one track of video and audio project or if its 20 tracks of video with a lot of composites and layered effects. The open timeline is flexible and scalable to any project you need to work on."

Thanks Shawn for sharing your thoughts as well as this screen capture. Your image is a perfect example of the transparency and flexibility of the open timeline model. Apple's marketing department would now tell us that this is cluttered and difficult to use. Maybe that's true for novice or non-editors but it should be crystal clear and completely manageable to anyone experienced enough to call themselves a pro.

This image demonstrates the constraint and artificiality of the "storyline" model. There's no need for hierarchy here. It's like a musical score, reading top to bottom, left to right, every event visible and easily accessible. This makes the concept of storyline meaningless. There's no need for "primary" or "secondary". The entire timeline window space contains the story -- story defined by freely made placement of media objects in space.

FCPX needs to handle this level of complexity with just as much flexibility and immediacy before it will be suitable for advanced projects. I hope Apple is listening.

_______________________
David Lawrence
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Re: The Magnetic Timeline -- Thoughts on Apple's New Paradigm
by Leo Hans
Shawn,
I edit TV commercials on daily basis, in fact, I work 99% as offline editor for commercials.
Mostly they are shoot on film, some with RED, Alexa or -sometimes- in DSLR.

Since the last 12 moths (at least) I didn't capture a single one tape. So it's true, sooner or later, we are going to use plain files.

I never got a timeline like that, but because I found it a mess. It's almost impossible to trim in a project organized that way, but, let me say that that is not an impossible nor complicated project to do in FCPX.

Your audio tracks:

- You have 1 stereo pair for dialogue -> This track in FCPX will be part of the video clip itself.
- 1 stereo pair for music -> You can have it in FCPX like this, or in a compound clip.
- 1 stereo pair for an audio intro or music and two "crash" sfx, I guess.
- 3 empty audio tracks

Nothing complicated.

Your video tracks. Well, here is were I find you editing a little messy.

It is imposible to know what clips are actually playing without taking a look at the video monitor. You have a lot of clips "covering" the ones below them or you have a lot of picture in picture clips.

Every stack in your timeline can be turn into a compound clip in FCPX. If you need to turn on/off a stack, you can just do it to a single compound clip. If you need to edit it's contents, you can edit the compound clip or break the compound clip into the same timeline, so you have everything in your main timeline again.

I find your example a little bit exaggerated. It is easy to get lost in a timeline that is part of other editor work. It's always like swimming in an unknown waters. That's why people gets impressed with this screenshot, but I don't find it complicated but disorganized.

I am not bashing your work. I am just saying that this timeline is not a complicated one and is not true that you can't work like this in FCPX.

Since FCPX release date, I ingest every commercial I working on FCP7 or Avid in my home iMac just to see:

- Would be I able to do this project in FCPX?
- Will it be more simple to do it in FCPX or just the opposite?
- Will I be able to edit faster or not?
- Will I have the same precision with the new tools?

I have to admit that sometimes, while I am working in FCP7 or Avid, I find situations where I think "Nope, I am not going to be comfortable doing this on FPCX". But then, at home with FCPX, my fears always fades. All of those things are doable in FCPX without any problems.

I tell you more. You work faster on FCPX (even taking in mind that I already know my footage in FCPX because I already did my edit on other NLE).

Leo Hans
Editor AVID - Final Cut Pro
http://www.leohans.com
+1
Re: The Magnetic Timeline -- Thoughts on Apple's New Paradigm
by Shawn Federline
Leo,
I appreciate your thoughts. Here are mine.

"Since the last 12 moths (at least) I didn't capture a single one tape. So it's true, sooner or later, we are going to use plain files."

We are actually a completely tapeless facility, have been for over 2 years now, however there are still times where we have clients deliver material on beta SP and must accommodate them. I have no argument that tape is on its way out, but it is unfortunately still a part of life. That's not a complaint for me as there are plenty of ways to work around this problem for the short time it still exists. The bigger problem here is the loss of the ability to view your work on an external video monitor, and to me the fact that apple released this software with the intention of it being a Professional Level editing software, with so many things missing. This isn't their first "high-end" editing software where they could use the excuse of being ignorant of some of the things required for pro editors. The fact that they left so much out and intentionally created this new UI that is completely non-customizable is the part that really tells me where they are going with this software.


"Your video tracks. Well, here is were I find you editing a little messy."

I will tell you that the timeline I posted does not look that way because "I am messy" on the contrary I'm very anal when it comes to keeping things organized in my projects. You call it messy because you're not aware of what is going on in this particular timeline. The timeline looks that way because as you said there are many picture in picture effects and alpha mattes and other items at work here and because, as you I'm sure know as an editor, that layer order plays an important part in achieving the desired visual outcome. So there are times that you need to have spaces in between different tracks of video because of what is grouped together and what transitional and composited effects are applied. Which as you pointed out you cannot tell without seeing my record monitor. There is a point to the layout of the timeline. This is also my point as to why the open timeline is superior to the magnetic timeline in its current configuration. I have the freedom to arrange my timeline the way I need to have it arranged, from you're point of view you think it looks "messy", so you work they way you wish to work on your timeline. You have the OPTION to work how you wish to work. This is not the case in FCPX.

"It's almost impossible to trim in a project organized that way"

I have a hard time understanding why so many people find it hard to trim in a timeline. I have never had a problem trimming items in a timeline, even one as video track intensive as the one I posted. It's just a matter of knowing what you're doing when you decide to trim something.

"Every stack in your timeline can be turn into a compound clip in FCPX"

While this would sound like it would be a reasonable assumption. The problem with compound clips is the same problem with "nesting" a group of clips. Once you make a compound clip, or a nested clip, when you want to go back in and modify the clip you double click it and it opens in its own timeline, thus breaking your frame of reference with the audio and other clips in the original project. This process is more of a problem than solution. My projects must always stay quick and easily modified because we often have clients that return on a monthly or annual basis to slightly update pieces of video or graphics to reflect new sales initiatives. This is one area where Avid really outshines other NLEs with their "collapse" function. This allows you to achieve the same effect in the timeline as a compound, or nested clip but when you double click the "collapsed" clip it opens within the current timeline to allow you to modify and adjust your clips still with a reference to the rest of your timeline.

"You work faster on FCPX."

I maintain my position that yes, FCPX may possibly allow you to lay your INITAL spot out faster, but I completely agree with David "I think the magnetic timeline is fantastic for very specific things. It's highly optimized for fast assembly work. TV news professionals cutting in the field will love it. For novice or non-editors, it's approachable, and helps avoid common beginner mistakes. But once you need to push past the basics and move into advanced cutting, I think it breaks down fast. Unless Apple makes some big changes, I don't believe their UI model will scale to meet the needs of advanced users."

The point being that it makes you work ONE way. The way apple has dictated you work, which for some people is not a problem and they will love it, but for many others including myself it limits the freedom to work they way you want to work or more importantly need to work. No two editors work the same way, and no two editors have their timeline or UI set up the same way. That is the beauty of most professional grade programs. They allow you many OPTIONS to let YOU work faster and more comfortably. They are flexible and scalable to the users needs. FCPX is non of these.

I will say there are some things that I really like in FCPX. However, there are MANY things I also don't like about FCPX and make it unusable for me. If they gave us the ability to customize the software from the media browser and user layout to the timeline layout and settings I'd be willing to give FCPX more of a chance, right now its out of the running for me and most other high end broadcast companies.

I put it like this, the traditional open timeline was more like a canvas that gives you the freedom to paint anything, and you can start creating your vision from anywhere you want on that canvas. FCPX is more like an coloring book, where yes you can get a colorful picture out of it, but your confined to color within the lines on the pre-drawn picture they have provided for you.
+3
Re: The Magnetic Timeline -- Thoughts on Apple's New Paradigm
by Richard Herd
I only have 1 question: Have you delivered a professional project using X? I'm not saying X is right for you. I'm saying that it is perfectly reasonable to reject X, if and only if, it has been actually used. In fact I hold that as maxim for vegetables with kids all the time! ;)

My one comment is: Your render times are killing you.
Re: The Magnetic Timeline -- Thoughts on Apple's New Paradigm
by Leo Hans
Well, I disagree in one fundamental point:

Our work is not about time, is about storytelling, and that's not the same.

In FCPX everything is related to the story, not time.


You have some mistakes, like the timeline being affected in ripple editing. When you edit your left clip, that is the clip is going affected, so it's ok to show that way the timeline moving, but the time indicator (ruler) remains unaltered. That's why the 000000 moves relative to the WINDOW space, not timeline. That way you can see what's going on the left side of your timeline.

What's the problem with T being program end instead of infinitum? Avid does the same, plus don't let you add gaps after the last frame (yes, there are some workarounds, I know).

Leo Hans
Editor AVID - Final Cut Pro
http://www.leohans.com
Re: The Magnetic Timeline -- Thoughts on Apple's New Paradigm
by David Lawrence
[Leo Hans] "Our work is not about time, is about storytelling, and that's not the same."

Our work is about storytelling in a time-based medium. There's a different medium for storytelling where time is not part of the experience. It's called writing.

[Leo Hans] "What's the problem with T being program end instead of infinitum? Avid does the same, plus don't let you add gaps after the last frame (yes, there are some workarounds, I know)."

True about the AVID and the reason why FCP7's open timeline is more flexible. By allowing clips to be easily placed anywhere in time, the timeline can hold not just the main program, but multiple program versions, as well as any material an editor might want to consider. It allows the timeline to act as an infinite scratchpad.

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Re: The Magnetic Timeline -- Thoughts on Apple's New Paradigm
by Jim Giberti
Good thoughts David.
One disagreement - "There's no in between -- you either love or hate this thing."

I doubt that I'll be alone in this sentiment (and after all it's VERY early in this particular timeline), that is that I started out with enthusiasm over X, then as a busy producer got annoyed at the changes, now after working in both environments in our studios I'm exactly "in between".

I'm very comfortable and productive in FCP and have been since v.1.
But I'm seeing what a number of other creatives have stated - after working in X and going back to projects in 7, the new paradigm definitely feels like the future and much more intuitive the more I learn it.

Honestly, I think that if you embrace the concept and adjust to it, it's very smart and fast and as it evolves it will be a better (meaning easier and faster) approach for most editors.

Trust me, I've vacillated in my opinion, which is why I don't think it's at all a love it or hate it proposition. I see that over arching statement as the weakness of your article.
It needs more understanding and time to feel either way about it. And frankly many of the people who hate it most have expressed that feeling from the very early hours of it's existence (as have many lovers).


But warts and all It's a very smart program that is going to grow better.

Second disagreement - the Position tool negates a good deal of your argument regarding the inflexibility of the MT. Switching between the two offers the positioning flexibility of 7 but 7 can't assemble a basic storyline nearly as quickly as if it had a MT.

And of course (and there should be a short hand for this in all opinions) this is all accepting the horrible roll-out, secrecy and critical missing features for pro facilities.
Re: The Magnetic Timeline -- Thoughts on Apple's New Paradigm
by alban egger
[Jim Giberti] "It needs more understanding and time to feel either way about it. And frankly many of the people who hate it most have expressed that feeling from the very early hours of it's existence (as have many lovers)."

many who hate it have not even had their hands on it. and if then for only a few hours, missed the FCP8 they expected and turned away.

Re: The Magnetic Timeline -- Thoughts on Apple's New Paradigm
by David Lawrence
[Jim Giberti] "One disagreement - "There's no in between -- you either love or hate this thing."

I doubt that I'll be alone in this sentiment (and after all it's VERY early in this particular timeline), that is that I started out with enthusiasm over X, then as a busy producer got annoyed at the changes, now after working in both environments in our studios I'm exactly "in between"."


Agreed Jim. I initially wrote that in my first COW post a couple weeks after the launch of X. The language may be a bit strong but based on my conversations with colleagues and observations of the discussions in this forum, I still stand by the notion that Apple's UI model is polarizing. That's not to discount your experience or the experience of others. I understand how you might be on the fence at this point. It all depends on what your needs are.

I think the magnetic timeline is fantastic for very specific things. It's highly optimized for fast assembly work. TV news professionals cutting in the field will love it. For novice or non-editors, it's approachable, and helps avoid common beginner mistakes. But once you need to push past the basics and move into advanced cutting, I think it breaks down fast. Unless Apple makes some big changes, I don't believe their UI model will scale to meet the needs of advanced users.

[Jim Giberti] the Position tool negates a good deal of your argument regarding the inflexibility of the MT. Switching between the two offers the positioning flexibility of 7...

Not exactly true. The Position tool allows you to position clips in a storyline by creating a slug object on the storyline to hold your clip in place. It does not turn off ripple mode. Inserting a gap object is a workaround, really a tacit admission from Apple that ripple isn't always wanted. There needs to be a way to turn ripple off. This is different than filling space with an object. The Position tool doesn't help if you need to lock sync to a specific timecode location. This is trivial to do on an open timeline with tracks. How do you do this with the FCPX model?

[Jim Giberti] ...but 7 can't assemble a basic storyline nearly as quickly as if it had a MT.

I think that depends on how good you are with FCP7. ;)

_______________________
David Lawrence
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Re: The Magnetic Timeline -- Thoughts on Apple's New Paradigm
by Richard Herd
[David Lawrence] "But once you need to push past the basics and move into advanced cutting, I think it breaks down fast. "

What is "advanced cutting"? Thanks!
Re: The Magnetic Timeline -- Thoughts on Apple's New Paradigm
by David Lawrence
[Richard Herd] "What is "advanced cutting"? Thanks!"

An imprecise term written four years ago in response to FCPX 10.0.0? ;)

I believe the reason Tim W. marked this article as "new" was to highlight the new intro I recently wrote reflecting on how my view of FCPX has changed over the past four years. I didn't realize it would pop to the top of this forum. The comments here are old news and I consider the "debate" pretty much settled. I think we can move on to other, more interesting topics.

_______________________
David Lawrence
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Re: The Magnetic Timeline -- Thoughts on Apple's New Paradigm
by Tim Wilson
[David Lawrence] "I believe the reason Tim W. marked this article as "new" was to highlight the new intro I recently wrote reflecting on how my view of FCPX has changed over the past four years."


Yes, and
of this forum."

Oops!

This is an unintended byproduct of the much requested feature to move threads to the top based on most recent posts. So, yes, as David notes, there was no intent to make this appear as an article written today...but one new post, and tah-dah! The thread is back to the top.

The same would happen with any other legacy (pun intended) threads as well of course. It's not unique to this one.

I should also note that for anyone coming to the forum by legacy (no pun intended) methods -- such as the "View posts by thread" selection in the pop-up on the forum index page -- this thread is tucked away back in mists of time.

I'll look into how to manage this. I do think that the updated introduction is important, and it's fun to touch base with the historical (rather than reimagined) progress of the debate...but I certainly didn't mean for this to show up as brand new.

As David notes, we have plenty of brand-new things to talk about...including some brand new, never-before told history of the work of David and his colleagues at the pre-dawn of NLEs unspooling on other threads.

We now (hopefully) return you to the present, and to the newly revealed.


Regards,

Tim Wilson
Editor-in-Chief
Creative COW
+3
Re: The Magnetic Timeline -- Thoughts on Apple's New Paradigm
by David Mathis
I was about to reply to one post but then noticed the date. Oh well, still great to see an insightful article such as this.
It is nice to have a historical view point. Helps one appreciate progress and the obstacles that come with it. Almost like putting speed bumps in some random aisle at the local grocery store. Cheers to Mr. Lawerence and Uncle Tim for making the COW the place to go to. Keep up the excellent work!
+1
Re: The Magnetic Timeline -- Thoughts on Apple's New Paradigm
by Bret Williams
Yes, would love it if you guys could fix this. My browser and phone keep going back to "view by topic" which I can't understand why anyone would ever want to view any forum that way. I'm sure David would have a better explanation of how viewing by topic doesn't properly observe the continuum of forum space and time and is likely to tear open a hole in something.

The proper way to view a forum is by thread.
Re: The Magnetic Timeline -- Thoughts on Apple's New Paradigm
by Petros Kolyvas
Thank you so much for taking the time to share this.

I am curious about the example you present. Another helpful post on the Cow (http://forums.creativecow.net/readpost/335/12764) has a video of one Andrew Balis talking about the FCPX tools.

Wouldn't switching to the Position editing tool (from the default arrow tool) duplicate the FCP7 behaviour in FCPX and thus provide editors with the behaviour they crave/expect?

Just asking - more importantly the wealth of knowledge shared here and open discussion about our workflows (in a general sense) can only help us in the long run, irrespective of the tools we choose to use. Understanding why we should consider/choose them is a great starting point.

--
There is no intuitive interface, not even the nipple. It's all learned. - Bruce Ediger
Re: The Magnetic Timeline -- Thoughts on Apple's New Paradigm
by Steve Connor
Yes the P tool gives you timeline behaviours similar to FCP7, basically turning the default ripple setting into an overwrite setting and disabling much of the magnetic timeline behaviours.

Steve Connor
Adrenalin Television

Have you tried "Search Posts"? Enlightenment may be there.
Re: Article: The Magnetic Timeline -- Thoughts on Apple's New Paradigm
by alban egger
David, I disagree a little.

While you are maybe right about the "philosophical" part with time and space being used differently I as an editor, who open-minded plunged into the FCPX structure, don't really care about that.

I give you an analogy: telephones had buttons. Apple made the iPhone, with one button; a button that did nothing else than get you to the HOME screen!? WTF? Are they MAD!? How can you operate this as a phone?

Well, as we all know, yes you can. And you can do much more. And actually even if it is not the best "phone" as such, it is what everyone uses, because you need more than a phone nowadays. Or at least you think you "need" it.

I strongly disagree that in FCPX you HAVE TO follow certain rules while FCP is supposed to be SO free. You also HAVE TO follow rules in FCP7 or other programs. If you want to avoid clip-collisions you HAVE TO set measures in FCP7, and they are quite strictly limited. Select more tracks, checkerboard your tracks, lock your tracks. All this takes time and is time consuming and drove me mad all the time I used FCP, because it has no true Ripple mode.

I used FAST/Liquid Chrome before. Maybe that´s why I like FCPX more than FCP7. Liquid was superior in its time to any other NLE in its efficency (a reason why Avid bought it and EOLed it from one day to the next??? Food for thought about AVID and how they treat their customers, both professional and Pinnacles private-users!!).

Interestingly FCPX has MANY similarities to FAST/Liquid Edition: one viewer, that turns into two when needed; strictly preset windowlayout; pure metadata-based organisation of footage; audio linked into videoclip on timeline; automatic colour balancing (optional); background rendering; toolset that understands where the mouse is positioned (ripple, overwrite, slop, roll). And that was like 7 years ago.

Add the secondary storyline and all the other new features that FCPX brings to the table (audition being one for instance) and you can see how this software can become the iPhone of NLEs in terms of gamechanging potential and relative profitability for Apple. The timeline is different, but in my 4 weeks of experience with it (and I have a FCPX project broadcasted in a few hours on a national 1080HD network and another in 3 weeks on another network (SD though)) it beats FCP7 in almost every aspect.

Does it shift time? Huh? If my project is 4 minutes long, that´s what I go for. In practical terms this TIME/SPACE structure has only helped me and that´s what Apple is going for. There is no button on the iPhone, but you can press thousands of sensors on your screen there to make even more than these 12 buttons ever could. It is all about usability, and if you are working in Alaska and wear gloves all winter, well then it is not for you.

Re: Article: The Magnetic Timeline -- Thoughts on Apple's New Paradigm
by Tim Wilson
I heartily agree that FCPX is very much an echo of Liquid. I always wondered why Liquid's way of doing things wasn't more widely adopted, and well, now some of it has been. Motion has features sort of similar to Liquid's directly integrated title animation (although Liquid's title creation - not shockingly - was much superior), and if Apple would build in, or allow third parties to build in, robust DVD authoring from the timeline, FCPX might soon be almost as fresh as Liquid was in 2005.

[alban egger] "Liquid was superior in its time to any other NLE in its efficency (a reason why Avid bought it and EOLed it from one day to the next??? "

I worked at Avid when Pinnacle was purchased, and I can tell you that this is simply not true. Liquid was an active part of Avid's lineup for over 5 years, reaching the end of its life in September 2010.

Compare this to Avid Xpress Pro, which was EOL'd in March of 2008. That's right: Liquid lived three and a half years LONGER than Xpress Pro. Among the reasons why it lasted longer are exactly the ones you list.

Avid not only kept Liquid alive, but continued its development with new features and versions. They also created a new sales channel to support the goal of reaching new customers, and actively supported Liquid user groups with money, marketing, and Avid representatives participating in those meetings. (In a couple of cases, that was me.)

Liquid was also prominently displayed at trade shows around the world, including NAB, where there was no hesitation in showing features beyond those found in other Avid products.

While there was never any question that Liquid was far more efficient, there was also no comparison between demand for that and demand for the software-only Media Composer. There was also the issue that Liquid's code base had gone about as it could (as was the case with Adobe Premiere being EOL'd for Premiere Pro before FCP 7), but more importantly, as MC software has continued to become even more robust and more affordable to a wider range of customers, there simply became no reason for Avid to develop more than one editing application.

I understand why you might disagree with this decision, but Avid making a public announcement (with a web page still online)) after five years of continued development and promotion isn't the same as sudden death. Apple yanking FCP 7 - THAT is how something gets, as you say, "EOLed from one day to the next."
Re: Article: The Magnetic Timeline -- Thoughts on Apple's New Paradigm
by David Lawrence
[alban egger] "I give you an analogy: telephones had buttons. Apple made the iPhone, with one button; a button that did nothing else than get you to the HOME screen!? WTF? Are they MAD!? How can you operate this as a phone?"

Well, not quite. Apple simply changed the hard buttons of a cell phone's keypad to soft buttons. But other than tactile feedback, the layout and use of the iPhone keypad is functionally identical to just about every cell phone on the planet. So from a UI standpoint there's nothing new to learn.

If you want to use the iPhone as an analogy, a better point of comparison would be the text keyboard. Remember, the soft text keyboard was somewhat controversial when the iPhone was introduced. In fact, many pundits predicted that the iPhone would never be accepted in business because it didn't have a hard keyboard like the Blackberry. I'm sure RIM wishes that were true, but in fact the soft keyboard works fine for most people including the business set. This is because even though the keyboard is soft, it's still familiar. One thing Apple did not change is the standard QWERTY keyboard layout that you'll find everywhere including on every Blackberry.

To take this a bit further, I'll borrow @David Roth Weiss's analogy:

Imagine that when the iPhone was introduced, the text keyboard was not only soft, but laid out in DVORAK layout, with no option for standard QWERTY input. Users would be forced to learn this new, more efficient way to type. Let's take it even further - what if Apple decided that from now on, all their laptops would only be available with DVORAK keyboards. Because it's been scientifically proven that DVORAK is more efficient, more ergonomic and better than QWERTY. How successful do you think Apple would be with these products?

This is the kind of change Apple's new timeline UI is forcing on editors.

_______________________
David Lawrence
art~media~design~research
propaganda.com
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Re: Article: The Magnetic Timeline -- Thoughts on Apple's New Paradigm
by alban egger
[David Lawrence] "Because it's been scientifically proven that DVORAK is more efficient, more ergonomic and better than QWERTY. How successful do you think Apple would be with these products?

This is the kind of change Apple's new timeline UI is forcing on editors."


Well, but maybe they didn´t change the layout, but included voice-recognition so you don´t even have to type that much at all.

You can spin these analogies any way you want. Fact is for me (and apparently others, like Craig, also) the new UI is more efficient. so far I have not seen or heard one "problem" that I couldn´t solve - usually quicker - in FCPX (of course excluding missing backwards compatibility, missing interfaces to EDL-XML-OMF etc).

Re: The Magnetic Timeline -- Thoughts on Apple's New Paradigm
by Norman Lang
Great piece. You have very skillfully communicated the essence of the Storyline concept. What was missing is why. What is the benefit to the editor? Was it necessary to change the paradigm as a result of incorporating a relational database approach? That part is not clear to me. I want skimming, keywording, background rendering, 64 bit processing power and my old FCP interface back. That seems to be what we all want. Is that so hard to deliver?

I don't hate FCPX. I don't love it. I love/hate it. It is a strange emotion, but strong, because I love/hate it a lot!

Thanks for helping sort this stuff out. It is very welcomed.

Norman

Norman Lang
Lang Productions
http://www.langproductions.com
Re: Article: The Magnetic Timeline -- Thoughts on Apple's New Paradigm
by David Battistella
Wonderful piece David. Thanks for sharing your experience and insights.

David

______________________________
The shortest answer is doing.
Lord Herbert
http://vimeo.com/battistella



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