Tag Archives: final cut express

First Flight: Final Cut Express (Part 3)

The aforementioned render looked good! My little demo contains side-by-side video, synced perfectly.

Already I’ve done one thing that’s impossible in iMovie: combine two video clips in the same frame. I can slap a “talking head” video box over an otherwise bland tourist panorama, or when I’m doing a drive-and-talk I can slide in a subtle little corner thing showing you what I’m talking about…on and on.

Good, good. Let’s go for Two Impossible Things before suppertime: multiple text items, placed in an arbitrary fashion. I want to identify the cameras responsible for each side of the screen.

Another example of something that’s pretty much dead-simple, but first I had to look something up. No obvious “add titles” tool or button or thingamawhassit anywhere in Final Cut’s UI.

Ah. Okay, once again it’s a tool that I can’t figure out until I go away and Google or check the manual, but once I have the answer, it makes sense. Text tools are in an “Effects” tab inside your project window. The project window contains video files, sound files, other sources of content…it sort of figures that as something that generates content, it’d be in there.

(A little button with a text icon in it. Visible. Anywhere. Y’know, Apple, that would have made sense, too…)

Okey-doke. Easy as get-out. Move the playhead to the spot where the title should appear, click the “Text” item, which you’ll obviously find in the “Text” folder inside the “Video Generators” folder inside the “Effects” tab. Drag it into the preview viewer, just as you would a video clip that you’re preparing for insertion.

Click on the viewer’s “Video” tab and you see that the tool has automatically placed the text where you told it to. I used the plain “Text” generator, which assumes you just want to splat it in the middle of the frame. Simple business to just drag it to the lower-center of the “Kodak Zi6” half of the screen.

Repeat for the Mino. Huh? The text has disappeared.

Ah, simple: looking in the timeline reveals that the “Flip Mino” layer is behind the video layer when it ought to be out in front. Drag, fixed.

Hmm. The “preview” I see here looks…ragged. Is it just giving me a quick render for position? It’ll look fine in the end product, right?

Need to render this out. I read comic books, return, and find that it all looks good.

Now I’ll export this as a Quicktime.

Once again I spot a holdover confusion from iMovie. I can export the movie as a Quicktime. Or I can export it, “Using Quicktime.” Two separate menu items, same apparent function. This needs to be made more clear.

The standard QT exporter is more familiar to me, so that’s what I go with (“Using Quicktime”). I select 720p settings, click the right buttons and…

Blimey! This will be ready in minutes? I know it’s just a 90 second clip, but “burninig” a ten-minute 720p project with these same H.264 settings in iMovie was almost an overnight endeavor.

Annnd we’re done. Open it in Quicktime Player annnnd…it’s crap:

It’s taken the original 16:9 aspect ratio, letterboxed it to 4:3, then converted THAT to 16:9 HD aspect ratio by squashing it.

Fut the wuck?

Oh, and it’s downsampled it from 720p to standard-definition, too.

Le Sigh.

Now I have a brand-new worry. I didn’t see an opportunity to tell Final Cut “Look, Skeezix: I’m doing HIGH-DEF editing. AYTCH-DEE.” I thought it had gotten the message when I started importing HD clips. Must I now worry that all of my content has been converted to this crummy state? Must I begin ALLLLLL over again?

Okay, I’m just going to export this into “YouTube”-ish dynamics (3:2, standard definition).

Good. In the sense that “I intended to do this and easily got Final Cut Express to do what I wanted it to do.”

But now I can’t go back to my “real” editing project until I figure out why this is in standard def, and successfully export an HD clip in 16:9 aspect ratio. Damn and blast.

I’ve just looked in the “Properties” window for this sequence and yes, Final Cut seems to think it should be 720×480. Why? I know I never made that choice. And now that I see that it’s wrong, I don’t see any spot in which I can say “1280×720, bonehead! Get it RIGHT!”

I seem to have found it, inside “Easy Setup.” Yeah, right…”easy”:

Okay, I’m willing to score this one as an Apple failure. I’m apt to use this app to edit all kinds of things. Is Apple seriously thinking that I’ll have to edit EVERYTHING at maximum 1080p definition — even the crappy little VHS videos I’m transferring in — just to retain the ability to edit ANYTHING in HD?

Is Apple seriously saying that the crummy consumer-grade iMovie ’08 is smart enough to think “Oh, he’s importing HD video…I should edit it as HD, then. Or at minimum, ASK” but Final Cut Express is just a cod-slapping moron?

Rrgh. This bit is needlessly complicated.

Now I don’t know if I can even use any of the stuff I’ve already put together in the “real” project. I’m looking through the UI and the manual, but I can’t find any place to say “See this existing project? With all of the HD clips? AYTCH-F***ING-DEE. RIGHT F***ING NOW.”


Okay. Dinner. I really need a break from this. What an idiotic thing to be dealing with.

First Flight: Final Cut Express (part 1)

iMovie has been acting all passive-agressive on me recently. Take my most recent video, for example. All was skittles and beer for the first half of the project, and then iMovie decided “I bet if I make all of the clips Andy’s carefully built so far vanish, forcing him to repeatedly redraw the window before he can continue to make edits, he’ll eventually get frustrated and knock off for the night. And then I can play Warcraft until tomorrow morning.”

Many of you folks have jobs. I’m sure you recognize this sort of attitude in your co-workers.

It sort of nudged me to finally move on to Final Cut Express. I do try not to request software or hardware from a manufacturer unless I have a specific review or column in mind, but the Final Cut family is indeed an important creative tool and I suppose as an internationally-beloved technology pundit, I have a certain responsibility to have a nonzero level of knowledge about the app.

It arrived Wednesday. I installed it Thursday. And today…I’m taking it for its first test drive. I’ll be making notes as I try to edit a little three-minute video.

Okay. I’ve launched and I’m already confused. iMovie ’08 (and its predecessors) had a user interface that made its workflow plain to the ignorant observer. I see lots of windows and buttons and sliders and scrubbers and viewers and now I’m so confused that I don’t know whether I want to vote for Obama or Captain Kirk in next purple’s football election.

Staring at it for five minutes didn’t help.

Neither did randomly pushing buttons.

Okay. This isn’t a slam against Final Cut. This app is not promoted or sold as consumer software. It’s sold as prtofessional software. On that basis, it’s not unreasonable that they expect the user to do some larnin’ before doing any editin’.

I open the PDF manual in Preview and start reading. Okay. I’m understanding this.

Retire to the TV room to read some more. Start watching “The Office” on DVR. Get bored with reading. Google for “Final Cut Tutorial” and immediately encounter Apple’s online videos.

MAR-velous. Exactly what I wanted to see. I get to look over someone’s shoulder as they import clips and cut something together. I still have to learn, but now I see the path ahead of me. I watch ’em all, splitting my attention between the TV and the nice, middle-class-sounding man in the computer.

Back at it. Okay, I’m going to import my video files (MP4s, copied to my hard drive from the Mino HD and the Zi6) using Final Cut’s “Log And Transfer” tool.

The tutorial made it look so easy. The tool shows you all of your video clips. One by one, you can import or reject them, select the in and out points (where you want the clip to start and end in your project), describe the clips, etc.).

Awesome…but it doesn’t want to open any of the Quicktimes I have on my hard drive. No matter what I drag or how I point to something. Hmph. I gather that this tool only works with a camera connected via USB or Firewire. I suppose there’s some sort of logical reason why I can’t use it to process a folder full of MP4s but dammit, from here it seems like a silly and arbitrary distinction.

Okey-doke. I’ll just use “Import Files” from the “File” menu. Cool, it works just as it does in iMovie.

And the tutorial gave me the lay of the land. Viewer on the left is the element that I’m working with at the moment; it’s a video clip, so I can use the viewer to look at the video, decide where the clip should start and end, etc. Viewer on the right is the “live feed,” so to speak. It shows me how my various edits and choices are affecting the final product.

Which is a nice step forward from iMovie. Gives you a distinction between the final product and the elements that make up the final product. In iMovie there’s never a sense of “I’m not ready to build my movie yet but I just want to prepare some of the footage I shot so it’s all clear in my head when I sit down again tomorrow.”

Before I edit, I must organize. I create a separate “bin” in the project window for the clips from each camera.

I also add the intro voice-over I recorded in Quicktime Pro. I love QTP for tasks like this. It’s fast, it’s simple, it stays out of your way, it doesn’t hog system resources.

Oh. Final Cut has a built-in voice-over tool. Ah. Well, maybe I’ll try that later. I’ve got the QTP version just the way I like it. Waste not, want not.

I open the tool just to get a look at it. Hmm. I wish it didn’t drop a window over the viewer that was the exact same style and dimensions. I click the “close” button and am relieved to find that the viewer was right behind it all the time. In situations like this though I worry that the app used the old window as a container and now I’ll have to figure out how to re-open it and put it back where it was.

Whoops, I haven’t had breakfast yet and my stomach is growling. But I want to play a little bit more. I double-click the first video file. It opens in the viewer. I use the same simple controls I use in Quicktime Pro: I watch the video play and tap the “i” key (“in”) to mark the point where I’d like the clip to start. Tap “o” (“out”) to mark the end.

Huh? I’m having a Whiskey Tango Foxtrot moment: the audio is slightly out of sync. I open the same clip in QT Pro. Nope, it’s in sync. Huh, again? Final Cut wants my attention: it’s saying it can’t auto-save the project until I save it.

I thought I already had. Okay, fine, save it…huh? Now it’s created a second tab in my clips browser with the same name as what I saved the project under the first time…!

Okay, screw this. Breakfast. More later.