Thoughts on Apple

Posted on by Larry

Commentary.jpgThis last weekend, just before the launch of the 10.2 upgrade to Final Cut Pro X, I was invited to a briefing by Apple covering the latest versions of Final Cut, Compressor and Motion. I am privileged to have these meetings and never take them for granted.

These press presentations are carefully crafted to convey specific themes and messages that the company wants to share with the world. This format is necessary for people who are new to following the company, or only follow it sporadically.

MY goal, however, is to jump right to the details; because I already know the company mission and products and I don’t really care who is using the product – I care about how all the REST of us can successfully use the product.

(Smile…) This makes for a very interesting meeting!

SOME BACKGROUND

The first thing you need to know is that the Final Cut team at Apple is really smart and cares a lot about their products, the process of editing and creating high quality results. My first direct contact with Apple was more than twenty years ago and in every meeting since I’ve been struck by their dedication and understanding of the market.

I can, and do, disagree publicly and behind-the-scenes with some of the choices they make, but I’ve never questioned their goal to do the very best they can.

The second thing you need to know is that there is a large team working on Final Cut. As software development goes, this is a large group.

A derogatory comment is often made that Final Cut pales in comparison to the iPhone. Heck, EVERYTHING pales in comparison to the iPhone. Every other corporation in the world would give up body parts to have a product success like an iPhone.

This complaint misses the bigger question: With a hit like the iPhone, why does anything ELSE at Apple exist? And the answer is that Apple feels it is necessary for the larger goals they are trying to achieve.

MUSING PHILOSOPHICAL

The reason behind this article, though, was a thought that occurred to me during the briefing: Apple’s core strength is the interface.

Computer-based video editing began long before Final Cut was released twelve years ago. But Apple made it accessible by simplifying the interface. There is no question that Final Cut revolutionized the process of video editing and exploded it into markets far beyond traditional broadcast; despite heavy and on-going competition from Avid, Adobe and a flock of PC-based software companies.

Story-telling didn’t change. Shooting film and video didn’t change. But the interface to how we stitch clips together was rethought and simplified.

Final Cut Pro X didn’t change story-telling, nor the technical process of stitching clips together. But it DID rethink the interface. Love it or hate it – and there are plenty of people on both sides of that issue – Apple did what it does best and simplified the interface.

Simplifying the interface is not the same as removing power or features. It is the process of making those features easier to use. (Look at the last two major upgrades from Adobe; both of them featured a cleaner, simpler interface. It is easier to find something in a clean room than in a messy one.)

I’ve known for a long time that it is easier to write long than a short. When you only have a few words, each word has to work harder.

NOTE: Ernest Hemingway is credited with the six word short story: “For Sale: Baby shoes. Never used.” The power of that simple story has stuck with me for years.

The same thing is true for interfaces. Creating a cluttered interface is easy, just look at any medical data entry form. Creating a clean, simple interface that is focused on accomplishing a task is really, really hard.

Apple needs – and has – a vibrant ecosystem of third-party developers creating innovative features for its products. But, the one thing a developer can’t do is change the Final Cut interface. Only Apple can do that.

But that entails a big risk. Years ago, back when Apple gave on-the-record interviews, the executive then in charge of the Final Cut team made a comment that I’ve never forgotten. When I asked why Apple had not made a particular change to Final Cut, he replied: “You change the interface at your peril.”

That comment stuck with me: Adding features is easy, changing how we interact with those features is fraught. The launch of Final Cut Pro X proved that. Yet changing the interface is essential if software is going to grow yet still remain useful.

In the 10.2 release of Final Cut are numerous interface changes, including:

None of these make headlines, but everyone of these makes editing and effects easier.

To me, this is the great strength of Apple: it is not afraid to tweak the interface, even if it runs the risk of making the rest of us feel uncomfortable until we learn the new system.

Adding flashy new features is fun; but can be done by anyone. Continuing to streamline and refine the interface is essential; and that can be done only by Apple.

SUMMARY

During our meetings, I’m constantly questioning why Apple chose to do something, or why they didn’t do more, or suggest features that are needed but not yet implemented. As the entire Final Cut team knows, my goal is to provide feedback from the field, offer suggestions to improve the product, or determine the status of fixing problems.

The fun part of this game is that Apple never answers “Why?”

That’s OK. My goal is to keep asking – and sharing what I learn with you.


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23 Responses to Thoughts on Apple

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  1. AlRobi says:

    I can, and do, disagree publicly and behind-the-scenes with some of the choices they make

    So if you get tied money wise do not talk about them, now my MacPro look like the biggest iPad in the world, thanks to Yosemite to make a computer work like an IOS product it is a shame, it is just the beginning they throw away an other Pro App APERTURE because this not work for a iphone or a iPad , they replace with an other Kiddy stuff PHOTOS.
    PS. Look for the new coming with Microsoft, the obsolete thinking of Apple direction will make Apple go downed like in time with Steve Jobs get push out with by the big connoisseur from Pepsi, remember almost bankrupt

  2. Dennis Csillag says:

    “Computer-based video editing began long before Final Cut was released twelve years ago.”

    It was actually 16 years ago. NAB ’99.

    • Larry says:

      Dennis:

      Gosh… Was 1999 actually 16 years ago? Whew.

      Thanks,

      Larry

      • Brad says:

        Actually, I first began using D-Vision non-linear editing system in college in 1995. The University loaded it onto a PC for its broadcasting students to use. Up until then, toasters had been my thing!

  3. Don Stafford says:

    Larry, you are right on! Apple does what Apple does best… simply and make products easier (and faster) to use. I started with Final Cut Express, then to Final Cut Pro 7. Once FCP X 10.0.6 was released, I switched, and have never looked back. I’m doing things in less that 1/2 the time… sometimes less than 1/4 of the time.
    On a side note, I’m sorry I didn’t get a chance to meet you in person last week at NAB. I learned a lot while there.

  4. Erik Keller says:

    I tested the new color correction in 10.2 and have to say that I really like it. Cascading corrections is a big plus for me (I won’t give up Resolve, though

    • Erik Keller says:

      Sorry for replying to myself, but the comment function dies when UTF-8 Emojis are used. Here is the rest of my comment that vanished on the way:

      IMHO: FCP X came a long way, and I love the fact that it allows me to get the edits done way faster than any other NLE I tested so far.

      my 2 cents,
      Erik

  5. Joachim Smith says:

    Well, Mr. AlRobi(or should that Ms?), I do disagree with your arguments, if they can be called that.

    First of all, we’re not discussing Aperture here, we’re talking about Final Cut Pro X. Aperture was dropped because it didn’t make any money for Apple, because RAW developers make for a crowded field and most pros (myself included) prefer working with Adobe Lightroom or C1 or NX.

    Now, I’ve edited professionally for some 45 years, starting out on Steenbecks, then AVID, then FCP, then Premiere Pro and finally, last year, I switched to FCP X.

    In brief, I love it. The interface was different, but I had been forewarned and with the help of Larry’s training, I managed to grasp the fundamentals in a short time. Simply speaking, the interface principles just appealed to me. And, even more important, I had fun!

    Sorry to confess it here, but once I got up to speed, I almost never felt the need to return to Larry’s excellent tutorials. I find FCP X more or less self instructing (and I’m approaching 70). I can’t count the number of times I’ve thought, “wouldn’t it be nice if…” and then tried it, and hey! presto – the devs had already thought ahead of me.

    I can do what I need with FCP X, and much faster and easier than with the more traditional pro programs that I’ve worked with.

    The only feature that I truly miss is an audio mixer complete with master fader and plug-in slots. I guess it’ll come eventually.

    Kind regards,

    Joachim

    • Steve Sweitzer says:

      Ditto. 40 years editing (started with 1/2″ reel to reel), looking back at 65, love FCPX once I got my head around a new way of editing.

  6. John says:

    Your insights are enjoyable to read. What I appreciate about Apple products is the quality of the user experience. Efficient software that’s easy to use, and elegant hardware that’s reliable helps to stimulate creativity and yield results when they’re needed. We all agree the products can be improved, but they get better with each release and the designers seem to be listening to the criticisms that point to solutions. Their success is measured by the size of the impact they’ve had on the industry.

  7. Leslie says:

    I switched to apple in 1999, starting with FCP2 I think. I immediately switched to FCPX and have never looked back. At first it was missing some key elements, but now they are there. It just makes editing for me faster and more pleasurable. I will test it this year with longer documentary and see if it works as well with shorter videos I have worked on.

  8. Juan Marquez says:

    XAVC L ???????? 🙁

  9. I made the switch to Premier Pro during the early days of Final Cut Pro X and have been quite pleased with it. I have a number of editor friends who swear by the newer versions of FCPX and tell me I really need to spend some time with it. I may, but as I told one of them, “I like FCPX, but I don’t trust his parents.”

    • A J Dimaculangan says:

      David,

      Your comment about not trusting the parents is interesting, especially in light of your passion for Adobe’s products. While I prefer FCPX for it’s forward looking approach to the editing paradigm, it is Adobe’s shift to a subscription model that causes my concern.

      As a small business owner having one more entity dipping their hand into my pocket on a monthly basis doesn’t make sense. Especially when I look to the future and foresee possibly accessing a project for a client and potentially not having access to it because my subscription expired. I started this business when the editing world was tape based. Imagine not being able to pull video from that 3/4″ tape because your subscription to Sony for the deck had expired. (Not really apples to apples but I think you can catch my drift.)

      There are enough market forces guiding my buying decisions. And yes, the drive for faster machines to handle software upgrades and faster data rates sells machines, at least I can maintain a older computer with FCP7 and an earlier version of After Effects on it for legacy projects without the fear of losing access because Adobe didn’t get their monthly share.

      — AJD

      • Frédéric says:

        I agree.
        I used FCP 7, then Premiere and I go back to fcp this year because of the subscription model. I have also find a photoshop like software with Pixelmator. I do not like subscription model. It is a lot of money for the editor with many marketing updates to rule the client.

  10. Daniel Brueggen says:

    FCPX has many great features though often I need to keyframe exposure. When doing multicam (6), I miss the button for occasional track based editing. When?

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