Archive for June, 2011

Further developments in the rollout of Final Cut Pro X

June 28th, 2011
By



ThinkTech Hawaii

This will supplement my exuberant article about Final Cut Pro X last week.

Since then, there’s actually been a fair amount of bad news about X. The first and most influential was an article in the New York Times right after the rollout, scoring X as deficient in multiple ways, mostly in the lack of functions included in Final Cut Pro 7 but cut out in X.

The article gave various workarounds for these deficiencies, but that wasn’t nearly enough for the professional editors. Why should they need workarounds in a new product when they didn’t need workarounds in the old one? That’s not progress - it’s seems like just the opposite.

Many professional editors have come to rely on Final Cut Pro 7, more than Avid or Premiere. When you use a program for your everyday work, you really get invested, not only in the cost of acquisition, but in learning it. You know all its tricks and foibles and develop a relationship with it. As long as the provider keeps it reasonably current, and doesn't mess things up, you’re not likely to give it up. Some professionals are now talking about giving it up.

The non-professionals, however, haven’t gotten nearly as aggravated about X. They are willing to put up with the loss of some of these functions because they haven’t used them and wouldn’t use them anyway. They use the baseline functions, and those work well enough for their needs.

The complaints aren’t about bugs – Apply fully intended the offending changes. So the question is why did Apple drop the old functionality? Some things were out of use so dropping them was justified. But other things were in general use so it’s hard to figure why Apple dropped them. All Apple had to do was ask the professionals and it could have avoided the current backlash. Now they risk losing them.

Sure, some heads will roll at Apple. But couldn’t this have been avoided? Why would Apple cut out its professional users? There no clear answer, except perhaps that the whole company may see itself as having moved away from professional software like FCP and into consumer products like the iPhone and iPad, where the big money is. Even so, it’s not smart to run your steady followers down.

There are those that say Apple just wanted to roll out something fast, intending to fix it later, but that also doesn’t seem smart when you consider that they’ve set it up so you can’t run X and FCP 7 at the same time and when they simultaneously announced they would be dropping FCP 7 all together. Maybe they want to force us into X, but why do that if X isn’t really ready?

Larry Jordan, popular video software instructor, first on Lynda.com and now in his own name, is ordinarily loyal to Apple. In his newsletter this week, he called Apple out. Jordan has created a training series for X. He released it for $99 the same day X came out. Whether X is good or not so good, and that won’t be settled for a while, Jordan’s training is pretty good and he’s going to make lots of money on it, if he hasn’t already, now one week after the rollout.

Remember X uses 64 bit and for me that’s the dispositive point. Before, we had to wait for hours to render a project, now you don’t’ have to render and you can output a file in minutes. That in itself is worth the price of eggs. And that’s not the only thing – the more I learn about X the more I like it, even though some of the changes take getting used to. I think many people, even some of the professionals, will do come around, and with a little patience they’ll get their missing functions back too. A rocky start, but soon enough it could be the world’s favorite.

All in all, Apple took a huge and long-term black eye on this rollout. That could certainly have been avoided. Its reputation is now tarnished, and to make it up Apple had better work overtime on the fix. But at least part of what I said last week is still true: we're in a new place for video editing. This product may not have covered all the bases, but it’s clearly the new way for NLE. For me, I’ve decided to get into X now, use it and hope for an early update. I still think I’m right.

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Tuesday was a really big day for Apple's Final Cut Pro

June 21st, 2011
By



ThinkTech Hawaii

I don’t have much time to write this blog because I just downloaded Final Cut Pro X and I need to kick the tires and learn it as soon as possible to find out about its new power. It came out early yesterday, Tuesday, June 21, 2011, and boy I think this is going to change things good, for me, for ThinkTech and for making video in general. Leave it to Apple for dramatic rollouts.

Let me give you some of the obvious features, and you’ll see why I’m so excited. They’ve focused on improved image quality, organization and an improved editing timeline, all really important.

A big feature is that FCP X supports 4K resolution and 64 bits, and addresses more than the conventional 4 gigs of RAM, and that’s what makes it so fast. Now you can max out the RAM in your machine and for the first time get some real benefit from it. Lots of people are going to be buying lots of memory soon. FCP X uses elements of iMovie as well as the old FCP, and this ought to take FCP to the top of the class.

It renders quietly in the background and you don’t have to sit there for hours watching the progress bar render before you can get back to your editing - what an emancipation. There’s also a “magnetic” timeline so you can move clips on the timeline without having them come apart. There’s a new “people detection” function to make workflow easier, and a new audio cleanup and syncing to make the audio a lot easier.

The color correction is more powerful, and instant – another big blessing. And FCP X has automatic stabilization that takes place while you’re importing your clips – in fact, you can edit your clips even before importing is finished. There are also “smart collections” so you can group your resources for better organization. That’s just the beginning. This will level the playing field for sure - every amateur can soon become a pro.

You don’t have to wait for a box and disc to install, like Final Cut Pro Studio 3. You just go to the Apple Store and download a 1.3 gigabyte download. It takes half an hour to download and install and presto you’re ready to go. We’re talking clever and easy here, the best way to get software going on your machine. The cost is $299 plus Hawaii GET and you can install it on more than one machine. Even without a discount, that makes it a super-bargain, considering that FCP Studio 3, even with the academic discount, was twice that much for one machine.

The interface is completely redesigned, darker and different. Apple says they wrote FCP X from the ground up, all new code. That means there’ll be a learning curve with new menu choices and functions. The only help right now is Apple Help. That’s pretty thin, except that online software instructor Larry Jordan (of Lynda.com fame) has already set up a video seminar series – he’s apparently been working on it for a while. You can also see some new out-of-the-box features commentaries on youtube.com.

FCP X is not part of a studio and it sounds like FCP X comes by itself. It can live on your Apple alongside FCP Studio 3, although you can’t run X and the old FCP at the same time. Also, you need a relatively new display card – FCP X won’t install on your machine if you have an old display card. The problem is that Apple doesn’t carry upgrade display cards that will work with pre-2009 machines. That could be a pain.

All of this happened Tuesday. That made is a special day for Final Cut, for Apple and for us. Things will be different, cheaper and better. That’s the way to go, Apple. Watch APPL, watch it rise, yet still again. So much so that FCP X, with all these great features, costs less than even one (1) share of Apple stock.

Ok, got to go. Got to kick the tires and find out how to use it. So many functions, so little time.

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Hawaii seems to have a problem with Big Projects

June 15th, 2011
By



ThinkTech Hawaii

Big Wind has been in the news lately. Most recently, the Mayor of Maui called for more “transparency” from the PUC on the project. That sounds admirable, but transparency doesn’t always mean transparency; sometimes it just means opposition no matter what. As we all know, environmental arguments are often advanced as a cover for NIMBYism, the wolf in sheep's clothing.

Yes, we'd like to maintain our standard of living, but we can’t have it both ways. If we want the luxury of NIMBYism, we may have to give up our standard of living. If we want progress and QOL, we may have to ease up on the NIMBYism.

Does the public understand the dichotomy? Big Projects have been whipping boys in an arena where interested parties play sport to a court of public opinion. So in large part the public is educated by dint of unrestrained advocacy, where the best man doesn’t always win. Few developers can run that kind of gauntlet.

When the public is uninformed, decisions affecting Big Projects become more political and erratic and less scientific and consistent. Over the years, we lose confidence in government and its ability to get the job done and we come to expect less from it. If we interfere inappropriately, government locks up and so does the project. This can be avoided if the public is properly informed, the law is respected, and the players are dedicated to or at least mindful of the greater good.

By definition, NIMBYs aren’t working for the greater good or the welfare of the larger community, but only self-interest – “I want mine and I don’t care if you get yours.” Seeking an ongoing public "discussion and debate" on Big Projects, they know you can’t reach consensus shouting, and that while a good shout may be therapeutic it also delays any project until the project fails. The longer it takes to come to rest, the less likely the project will succeed.

Big Wind, including the undersea cable, is mission critical. We’re not going to be able to replace fossil fuel with rooftop solar and PV. Even with solar and PV going gangbusters, by themselves, they won't be able to replace fossil fuel in Hawaii any time soon. We can’t power the state and keep the lights on relying on them alone.

We need big sources of proven renewables to replace fossil fuel. For now, wind is one of those sources – we already have hundreds of megawatts in place, and the Big Wind project will provide another 400MW for a statewide grid. It’ll take us a long way and when we get storage in place it might be the best solution for a while, especially if local investors would finally spring to finance the wind development companies.

If we could come to agreement on biodiesel, geothermal or OTEC, then these could complement Big Wind. The point is that Big Wind can power the grid soon. In any event, we should let our officials do the job they were elected, appointed and hired to do. The ultimate decisions on clean energy choices must be left to DBEDT and the PUC. If we hassle them, things will lock up. A perpetual argument about everything doesn't help anyone and it certainly doesn't let us meet our goals.

Oil will go up to stupendous levels in the next five years. If our big source development gets stuck in endless “transparency,” we’ll fail our goals and we’ll have to pay the full freight of those oil increases, first in our cost of living, and then in the demise of jet plane tourism as we know it. Is anyone listening?

No one wants a windmill is his backyard, but clean energy for the state should trump that. And everyone likes whales, berries and environmental impact statements in general, but an affordable statewide transportation system should trump trumped-up environmentalism. The SuperFerry experience was a complete train wreck. It was destructive long-term, and we still don’t know how much we hurt ourselves. Remarkably, even a bill for a “study” of a new ferry quietly failed in the 2011 legislature.

Babel doesn’t seem appropriate while Rome is burning. Sure, Democracy is tumultuous, but we also need an economy. While our anti-progress industry has been in a growth period, Big Projects are stuck. We need a countervailing Progress Alliance, but we don’t have one and we’re suffering in the imbalance. With clear collective thinking, we need to be able to discern the difference between a bad project, a good project and a mission critical project.

All that considered, it’s certainly worth the effort to examine why Big Projects get stuck. And that’s what we’re doing on Thursday, June 23rd. The Hawaii Venture Capital Association and ThinkTech are teaming up with Pacific New Media to present a panel program called “Big Projects in Hawaii – why are they stuck?”

We’ll cover five Big Projects, although there are certainly others, to find out what makes a bad project, a good project and a mission critical project, and what factors affect the likelihood that those projects will be stuck or get off the ground. We want to examine the dynamic and see if we can’t find solutions too. Of course, we should resist the notion that Big Projects are simply impossible in Hawaii, and just give them up.

These are the five projects we will discuss: Big Wind, Rail, the Ferry, the Biotech Campus at Kakaako and the Airport Upgrade. Arguably, many if not most of these projects are mission critical and should have our undivided attention. Our speakers are blue ribbon – energy attorney Gerry Sumida on Big Wind, former Governor Ben Cayetano on Rail, Representative Joe Souki on the Ferry, HCDA’s Tony Ching on the Biotech Campus, and DOT’s Jadine Urasaki on the Airport Upgrade.

You can sign up at hvca.org or thinktechhawaii.com. See you there.

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