There’s an interesting documentary in the works if you’re a video editor. With an obvious pun for the title, "Off the Tracks" interviews professional editors, trainers, and application developers to dig into why Apple made such a shift, when their existing app suite was already successful. I’ll provide some background, but also some editorial commentary below, as I feel like this documentary has potential to either be very interesting or completely pointless.
If you’ve only gotten into video editing in the last 4-5 years, you might not have ever had the chance to work with Final Cut Pro 7, despite there being many legacy editing stations that had Apple’s award-winning video editing software. Here’s a very brief recap of what happened:
For about ten years Apple developed and supported Final Cut Pro, going through seven versions and releasing a number of supporting applications for motion graphics, DVD authoring, audio editing, text graphics, color, and more. Many video editors built their workflows, and ultimately their business, around the use of these tools.
In 2011 Apple decided to reinvent Final Cut Pro with the release of Final Cut X, which was drastically different. Along with this new software, the old apps would no longer be supported. This drew a lot of harsh feedback from existing users, and many editors, myself included, finally switched to a different platform.
This documentary looks to get answers to why they made such a big change.
With all that said, here are my thoughts on this trailer (I haven’t seen the completed film, so I’ll be speculating on some points. Definitely watch the trailer above before reading this.)
At about 0:40 Steve Martin, who funny enough did my FCX training when it first came out, puts it perfectly:
Apple didn’t help themselves by saying ‘We’re no longer supporting FCP7, we’re doing a hard cut from FCP7 to FCX,’ and they probably should have done a dissolve.
At the time this happened, I was not only using FCP7 as the primary hub of all of my editing work as a freelance editor, but I was also teaching classes at a media arts college, which also revolved around FCP7 and its suite of supporting applications. So to say that much of my work depended on these apps would be completely accurate. I took a three-day intensive course and couldn't figure it out, and FCP7 was perfectly serving my needs at that time. I continued to edit on 7 for the next 3-4 years, and eventually switched to Premiere when I started to get into 4K.
I won’t bore you with my reasons for why I thought the app shift was a terrible move (spoiler alert: it was) because that's not the point of this article. My reasoning for the article is to step back and ask why a documentary needed to be made about this subject.
Part of me feels like it’s opening an old wound that has long since healed; Those of us that were major FCP7 users have moved on. It’s almost as if someone you loved left you for no reason, and you had to adjust and figure out how to move on without them, eventually finding a new love (her name is Adobe) and making it work. But now, six years later, they send you a Facebook message wanting to explain why they left and how they've changed for the better. What’s the point? It sucked for a bit, but we’ve both moved on and become different people so why go there?
That’s what I’m scared that this documentary will be — some sort of reconciliation letter aimed at the old FCP7 users to say, “Hey, remember the good times? Well we should still be friends and hang out sometime!” Or even worse, it could be a lineup of acclaimed editors who have used FCX on a big-budget movie and are singing its praises. Good for them, but it's unnecessary. If a tool works for you, great, but we don’t need to see a film about it. It could easily turn into a glorified, fanboy-filled promotional video trying to make a case explaining why FCX is awesome.
I honestly hope it doesn’t do any of the aforementioned.
What would actually be compelling to hear about is Apple’s strategic plans before FCX was even an idea. Maybe examine what kind of research and trends they noticed in the market that led them to want to make changes. We don’t always hear about what goes on deep within the core of Apple, so that would truly be interesting. If you've been an editor on any level of Apple software, there are likely some familiar faces, so that's good, but I wish Walter Murch were included in the interviews. His views on editing theory and perhaps how storytelling can be enhanced or hindered by software would be of much interest to me.
In the trailer, there are a number of audio bites that I totally agree with, but also some that I 100 percent disagree with, so it’s bound to rile some folks up, myself included.
I suppose it's a passion for storytelling that is the basis for the emotion people show towards software favoritism, because when the software changes, it can affect their ability to tell a story efficiently and with style. Some people love FCX because it's a tool that serves a purpose for whatever editing task they have, and same goes for users of Premiere or other apps. Editing a music video, to night newscasts, to documentary films, to sizzle reels are all different and can have different workflows, not to mention the editors in front of those systems having their own styles and workflows.
Speaking of editing, the trailer itself is edited well but I have to say that with the way it ends, it feels more like a product promotional video than a thoughtful documentary. Personally, I’m hoping the film is more like the latter.
What do you think? Are you interested and excited for this film? Cautiously optimistic? Or does it seem so far off the tracks that even its magnetism won’t keep it in sync with viewers? Does anyone else keep a working copy of FCP7 on their system for legacy projects?