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Cutting My Latest Feature “Psychosynthesis” On FCP X – Still My Favorite Creative Editorial Tool

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.

And don’t forget to follow me on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter!

About Author

Noam Kroll is an award-winning Los Angeles based filmmaker, and the founder of the boutique production house, Creative Rebellion. His work can be seen at international film festivals, on network television, and in various publications across the globe. Follow Noam on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook for more content like this!

13 Comments

  • Goran Spoljaric
    November 15, 2019 at 4:18 am

    Greta post. Keen to read about your post process.

    Reply
    • Goran Spoljaric
      November 15, 2019 at 4:19 am

      “Great” I mean

      Reply
    • Noam Kroll
      November 22, 2019 at 9:38 pm

      Thanks a ton, Goran. More to come very soon.

      Reply
  • Cris Mertens
    November 15, 2019 at 7:45 am

    Are you me? The first couple of paragraphs stole the words right out of my mouth. I’ve used FCPX now to cut five features and numerous shorts / commercials – and it’s always delight to use. There are far less barriers between me and what I want to accomplish (unlike AVID) so editing is *much* faster – and that, of course, means I spend less time working and more time with my family 🙂

    Reply
    • Noam Kroll
      November 22, 2019 at 9:39 pm

      Haha! So glad to hear we’re on the same wavelength… Sometimes I feel like I’m the only one out there cutting long form on FCP X, but clearly there are others like yourself who get it too. Hope to see some of your work sometime.

      Reply
  • Tom Board
    November 17, 2019 at 7:16 pm

    I’m loving FCPX having made the switch from Premiere Pro about 9 months ago. As I’m interested in the Sigma fp as my next camera for YouTube projects (I current have a Panasonic GH4), I’d be curious to hear about your workflow in FCPX when working with Cinema DNG files from the Sigma fp. I also have an Atomos Ninja V, so I’m also curious how well this might mate with the Sigma fp.

    Reply
    • Noam Kroll
      November 22, 2019 at 9:41 pm

      Very cool to hear you made the switch, Tom. Anything you miss about premiere? I will definitely address the workflow question in an upcoming post about the Sigma FP – I’m working on it as we speak.

      Reply
  • Tom Board
    November 18, 2019 at 9:36 pm

    Just to add to my comment: I just saw a Cinema5D update that Sigma is working with Atomos on raw via HDMI. I think that answers my question! As soon as that’s available, I think this will be my next camera.

    Reply
  • jose
    December 3, 2019 at 6:44 pm

    Hello Noam!
    I can’t wait for the breakdown of your post workflow.
    I am currently using a ursa mini pro and getting Braw files. I would love to do all the editing on FCPX however, I am still figuring out a workflow.

    I would love to hear your thoughts.. it would be for narrative work mainly short films now.

    Thank you!

    Best,

    Jose

    Reply
    • Noam Kroll
      March 3, 2020 at 12:28 am

      Thanks Jose! It’s taken a while to put together, but the post breakdown is still in the works and coming soon.

      As for the Blackmagic, I’d consider shooting in Prores for some jobs – in many cases the difference in quality is unnoticeable, and it makes the workflow much simpler. That said, you could always transcode the files using DaVinci Resolve and then edit in FCP X!

      Reply
  • […] We shot the entire film in just 9 days and I edited it myself in the months following. I wrote a whole article on our choice to shoot in 2K on the Arri Alexa Classic here, and another post on my experience editing the film in FCP X here. […]

    Reply
  • Matt
    October 29, 2020 at 12:06 am

    Nice write up! To be honest, the thing that makes me not like FCP too much is its interface. I have no idea how you managed to even make it look more “classic” (viewer and monitor windows). Could you please tell me? Thanks!

    Reply

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