Life after Final Cut Pro

April 7, 2008

Sometime good things come to an end

I’ve made up my mind (final reason) to phase out all Apple products from my production pipeline: OS X, Final Cut Express and GarageBand (FCE 2.0.2 is now unusable, GarageBand 1.1 very close to unusable under Leopard).

I was thinking of investing in the Final Cut Studio package and new Apple hardware, but I really dislike Leopard, I dislike the way Apple treats its decade long customers, how they cheated me by selling me a buggy product like Leopard and made me loose valuable time (and money) by making me figure out on my own that Leopard never was ready for prime time on the PPC. This was most dishonest… Before that Apple had sold me a very noise iMac G5 – since bitten by Leopard I like to call it “my little Hoover” (Apple: ever tried sound editing…?).

That’s just it, folks! This is a goodbye from a platform I loved and promoted passionately (just ask any of my friends) over the course of many many years – I even made a bet with one of my best friends when things looked really bad for Apple in the mid-90’s. My friend said Apple would not make it, I was sure they would get their mainstream success sooner or later. My friend now ows me an apple, a McIntosh to be precise… Well, next time I see him I let him know that he may keep the wager – I have no more interest in it.

This was not an easy decision, but looking back Leopard was really the final reason. I had thought about alternatives for quite a while, but Ubuntu seemed not ready and I wanted to wait and see what Apple offers with Leopard: I was hoping it would be awesome and give me a good excuse to stick with the Apple ecosystem, the polished interface, its easy of use…

You can’t always get what you want

I let the Rolling Stones say this one for me:

You can’t always get what you want
But if you try sometimes you just might find
You get what you need

I wanted OS X and FCP but what I need is Ubuntu and a set of free and open-source apps that will allow me to replace the Final Cut Pro product line step by step over the coming months, possibly years: I am aware that today there is no finished open-source solution to FCP (we were introduced to Cinelerra at the TOSMI training last spring and unfortunately I was not convinced by what I saw, but I will have another look at it within the next couple of months).

What I plan to do now:

• document all free and open-source alternatives that seem attractive for high-end film- and video editing

• research, describe (write tutorials) and link to workflows and solutions in regards to open-source non-linear video editing and help bringing it to the mainstream

• help designing and developing (by giving feedback, discussing, bug testing) a free and open-source NLE of my choice

• discuss the possibility (and usefulness?!) of setting up a non-profit fund where film- and video editors worldwide can (if they wish anonymously) donate money to speed up the development of a fully featured, open-source alternative to Final Cut Pro

The last point will be a long term project, right now I’d say that the best existing open-source solutions seem about three to five years away from being able to compete on a feature-by-feature basis with FCP. But: I believe it is possible to start phasing out FCP of your production pipeline right now – read on for more!

“In the middle of difficulty lies opportunity”

… is my favourite Albert Einstein quote. So what opportunities brings me the fact that I am getting rid of Apple in favour of a free and open-source non-linear editing solution…?

cheaper, more customisable and expandable hardware (ever bought RAM from Apple…?)

a free and open-source operating system (I’ll probably go for Ubuntu) that is being developed and tested in all possible openness (so it’s less likely to have a wild leopard bite you in the neck when you just don’t expect it)

a wide range of high end free and open-source audio, video and 3D applications that can be customised in ways that closed-source commercial products like Apple’s Final Cut Pro just can’t be due to their closed-source nature

• the certainty that all my investments (bug reports, how-tos, donations, …) end up in a product that will always be available free of charge for me, for others and for future generations

total independence from a multinational corporation like Apple that currently can decrease my productivity by selling me buggy software while being totally dishonest about possible shortcomings of their product

support of an emerging Linux PC hardware market that brings cool design and usability to the former “beige boxes” world – this will further help with the adoption of Linux and speed up the process of frustrated Apple users like me migrating to the free software world

• Apple will have to try much harder to satisfy its user base and start innovating (instead of decorating) – competition is good for users on both sides

• I will be forced to learn new software and will have to solve problems along the way – perfect for improving my skills, deepening my knowledge

A start

Last summer the offline editing for my Blender made 3D animation Visual Machine no. 1 was done with Final Cut Express and it was onlined with the Blender NLE. Once I’ve got my PC hardware together and the latest Ubuntu is installed and configured, I’ll try using Kino for offline editing. I’ll keep testing workflows involving the Blender NLE (for onlining, possibly also for the actual editing). There are a couple of limitations you have to work around when doing this, but as I learn more about them I’ll be able to develop strategies and tools to overcome those limitations – one idea is to use (Python) scripts for automating certain cumbersome workflows – once tested those scripts could be shared in a handy library with the free software editing community and will allow:

• a highly optimised workflow within a particular app like Blender that currently might lack certain non-linear editing features

• the creation of a user friendly trans-apps workflow e.g. for combining the best of Kino with the best of Blender to have one package (incl. documentation) that can be distributed and promoted to e.g. Final Cut Pro users

I have done a bit of research already over the last two years while working on the P2P Audiovisual Guide and when collecting links for my remixlinks project. Now I have to figure out the whole thing in all its details, make tests, find solutions that work for me. But since my main project currently is a 3D animation and after that another one is already waiting, I will have to make this switch from the Apple to the Linux world in a series of smaller steps. Maybe by the end of the year I’ll have a first (set of) workflow(s) that I successfully tested and can recommend for production use – or maybe I will just be surprised by finding out what others already have in place and things will go much faster…?


I never really thought I’d come to this, but Apple messed up things with Leopard in an extreme kind of way (it’s not quite as bad as Vista seems to be, but for sure it feels like a Vista light) – and since Apple is not willing to listen (final reason) I have now come to the conclusion that it would be limiting or even foolish (and at least lazy) – to further rely on Apple when it comes to non-linear video editing.

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