SportsPost:NY: RadicalMedia Bucks Trend, Goes All in With Final Cut Pro X
During the summer of 2011, Apple rocked the professional-video-editing community when it released its Final Cut Pro X (FCPX) non-linear-editing software, marking a complete overhaul of its popular Final Cut 7 platform. By totally revamping the user interface (UI) and adopting a 64-bit infrastructure, Apple made many editors feel that they were being forced to relearn an entirely new system. During the first year of FCPX’s existence, there was no shortage of “iMovie Pro” swipes — referring to its overly simplified UI and seemingly consumer-oriented (rather than pro-oriented) workflow. Soon after, many editors and postproduction facilities began switching over to Adobe’s Premiere Pro or Avid’s Media Composer platforms.
However, the tide of opinion began to shift among many pros, following subsequent free updates to FCPX and third-party software solutions that added such features as multicam–editing capability; support for EDL, OMF, and XML; and the capability to import projects from FCP7.
Nonetheless, it remains difficult to find many post houses that have made a full transition to FCPX. RadicalMedia, however, represents one of the few that have done just that, adopting FCPX as a standard in its facility and making it the largest-seat install of FCPX in New York City to date. On Feb. 26, at SVG’s SportsPost:NY event, the company’s CTO, Evan Schechtman, provided attendees with an inside look at the decision-making logic that led RadicalMedia to choose FCPX.
“When Apple released a new version of Final Cut Pro, it was actually way overdue,” said Schechtman. “It was a delayed reaction to many changes that happened in the production side and infrastructure side of our business. For a lot of people using Final Cut 7, the lane they were in ended. But it’s the not the first time that a platform that people built businesses around reached end of life. The idea of end of life of a platform is not a new idea. We have all been through this before.”
Since FCP7 was no longer an option for RadicalMedia, with Apple discontinuing new licenses, Schechtman went to work in deciding whether the next generation of RadicalMedia’s facility would rely on FCPX, Premiere Pro, Avid Media Composer, or another platform. Instead of looking for a platform that allowed RadicalMedia to most closely maintain its current workflow, Schechtman was ready to “blow it up” and find the best possible option for a long-term future.
“When I took a look at what we were doing with FCP7, I realized that our workflow became a series of workarounds that we created to get the software to do what we wanted: workarounds, not workflow,” he said. “It was a daisy chain of a bunch of things that got to the endpoint you needed to get to. That simply was not efficient enough for me.”
Key to Schechtman’s thought process were three elements: obtaining the most powerful video engine possible, catering to the up-and-coming wave of editors and producers, and ensuring the maximum amount of interoperability with other systems and various formats and codecs. In addition, he saw the shift from CPU to GPU technology to drive the NLE systems as a major paradigm shift in the way postproduction houses operate.
“We are going through a major architectural shift in the technology of editing platforms,” says Schechtman. “What’s changing is, the CPU is irrelevant in modern systems, while the GPU is the key to moving faster. The GPU is extremely powerful for the visual horsepower that we are asking our systems to do, while the CPU has hit a wall. You name it, it’s better done on a GPU than a CPU.”
He also added, “Most of the young people we deal with coming up [in the ranks] have had more access to Premier and Final Cut than Avid. That is a fact that we absolutely took into account.”
Today, RadicalMedia’s workflow continues to rely on Avid and Adobe NLE systems in some cases but is built primarily on Final Cut Pro X. Other elements in the ecosystem include Blackmagic Design’s Da Vinci Resolve for color correction, Avid Pro Tools for audio work, and Autodesk Smoke for 3D visual effects, along with a variety of conversion tools and various tools in the Adobe Creative Cloud ecosystem.
“Final Cut X is like the RED camera body,” explained Schechtman. “RED is responsible for a platform and basic workflow with a very high-quality engine. What you strap onto that engine is up to you to turn it into the product that you need. This is a paradigm shift in technology-platform thinking. It cannot be all things to all people. Apple has said they will never be able to serve your specific needs fast enough, they are too big of a company, so they encourage you to support the third-party ecosystem.”
In searching for the most powerful basic platform, Schechtman also was encouraged by the fact that Apple is the only company in the NLE market able to build custom software written for its own specific operating system and its own specific video engine.
“If we wanted to just change lanes and be in another system that let us be as sloppy as we wanted to be because it was a comfortable workflow, we could have done that easily [with any NLE],” he said. “But, if we were going to disrupt the facility, I wanted to disrupt it for the fastest 64-bit engine possible. It will blow your mind how fast and capable it is.”
So how has it gone so far for Schechtman and company?
“We are in it deep now, and it’s gone quite well. My relationship with FCPX has been like a love affair in the middle of a riot,” he joked. “I think that, if social media didn’t exist when FCPX came out, I guarantee it would be installed in more machines. The majority of people that I speak to that talk down about it have never even used it before. A lot of the bad press prevented from people sitting down and giving it a serious [evaluation].”