Almost a year ago I began production on my upcoming feature film Psychosynthesis, which will be premiering in the coming months. I have some very exciting news on that front coming soon, but today I want to talk about my post process.
Like my previous feature, I edited this film myself using FCP X. While I’m also proficient in Premiere, Resolve and to a lesser extent Avid, I’ve always felt most comfortable in FCP X. It’s more intuitive to me, and allows for more creative flexibility.
Many of the fundamental tools that editors initially rejected in FCP X (like the magnetic timeline), have become my favorite parts of the software. The workspace feels so flexible, which makes it easier to experiment with new ideas or rearrange sequences on the fly.
For finishing houses or online editors, FCP X may lack the rigidity and legacy toolset that is required. But for creative storytellers – it provides so much value.
At its core FCP X is designed to get out of your way. Everything about it from its minimalistic interface to its ability to seamlessly offline/online your media makes more time for creative work.
Meta-data driven tools like the keyword tagger and audio roles make it so easy to keep your project organized at each stage.
I took all this into account when making the decision to edit on FCP X, but still proceeded with caution… No software is perfect, and every project comes with its own unique challenges – technical, workflow or otherwise.
Thankfully our project was pretty simple from a technical perspective. The entire film was shot single camera with minimal coverage on my Arri Alexa in ProRes 422 HQ. This meant our file sizes were fairly small (compared to RAW) and we wouldn’t need to do any transcoding to a proxy format.
Still, feature film project files (on any NLE) can become really bloated, even under optimal circumstances. After months and months of editing, projects can become incredibly complex, containing dozens of edits that each have thousands of unique cuts.
This is when editing software really shows what it’s made of. Any old editing system can perform well for a 30 second commercial spot, or even a ten minute short film. But feature length projects with timelines that evolve into this are a different story –
Almost every editing software I’ve ever used on a long form project has struggled at a point. Projects become painfully slow to open and sluggish to operate. In some cases (often in Premiere pro) I’ve had projects simply not open, or freeze regularly for no apparent reason.
There’s always a solution or workaround for these issues, but all the troubleshooting drains your creative time and energy.
I’m happy to say though (knock wood), that nearly a year into this edit on FCP X, having gone through almost 20 cuts and full color/audio passes, it’s still running beautifully.
The project takes longer to open now as there’s so much more data to load, but once inside I can move at lightning speed, even on my 6 year old Mac Pro trashcan.
Over the months, I truly put this edit through the ringer.
Not only did I cut the picture in FCP X, but also simultaneously handled a lot of the finishing work. This was done in part due to our budgetary constraints.
Not everything was done in FCP X – I did send the picture lock to Resolve for color, and sent out the dialogue track to be professionally edited and mixed… But 95% of the work happened inside Final Cut.
All the sound design, effects, backgrounds, etc. were completed in FCP X, along with a rough dialogue edit and music mix. Same for the first several color passes (for rough cuts/private screeners), and some of the final visual effects work – primarily screen replacements.
In theory, you could do virtually everything in FCP X and never have to leave the software. But when you need a more specialized tool, the workflow is easy.
Just as I can edit fastest in FCP X, I can color fastest in DaVinci Resolve. I’ve been tempted in the past to edit entire projects on Resolve, but the workflow between FCP X and DaVinci is so seamless that there’s no real need to.
Complex edits, compound clips, and virtually anything else that lives in my Final Cut timeline transfers over seamlessly to Resolve. The round tripping is even easier once the color work is complete.
Sending audio out for post is easy too. This was always an area of concern for many filmmakers, but I’ve sent so many FCP X projects to Pro Tools without issue that I don’t even think twice about it. Like usual, I simply used X2PRO to output an AAF file from my .fcpxml.
Currently, I’m in the very final stages of finishing before mastering the movie later this month. Once it’s fully complete, I’m going to release a full breakdown of my entire post-production workflow.
I’ll outline how the FCP X project was organized, backed up and shared, while also detailing the color, sound and VFX workflows. If there’s anything you’d like addressed in this post, please let me know in the comments.
For now though, I just wanted to share these thoughts for those of you on the fence about FCP X. I would never say that any one tool is right for everyone, but if you are a creative editor who hasn’t yet given it a chance I would highly suggest that you consider it.
While the launch of FCP X was obviously problematic for many reasons, I’m surprised that all these years later so few filmmakers are wiling to give it a second look. Having now cut multiple features and other long form projects on it, I can say with certainty that it’s the most reliable NLE I’ve used.
In the countless months I’ve been editing this project, I’ve had it crash all of of two times. And in both cases, I lost absolutely nothing – FCP X saves your project every time you click your mouse or press a key.
All in all it made for a creative process that really allowed me to have fun (most of the time at least)… And reinforced my belief in it as a creative tool.
Are you currently using FCP X? Let me know why or why not in the comments below.