FCP X Version Release Dates
The Definitive Multicam Workflow
Off the Tracks Documentary
If you haven’t heard, "Off the Tracks" is a documentary created by Bradley Olsen from Salt Lake City. He was nice enough to answer some of my questions. Here’s the trailer:
I first heard of this documentary when he was interviewed on the podcast, Final Cut Pro Radio with co-editor of the documentary Richard Taylor. Check out his podcast here. I was fortunate to get a little bit of Brad’s time to ask him a few questions I had. Like him, I was an early adopter of FCPX coming from years of using Final Cut “Legacy” since version 5. Like many, this was years of keyframes and plugins all thrown out the window overnight. I saw the benefits of what FCPX was offering and stayed with it since version 10.0.0 while fading out FCP 7. This is why I am interested in this documentary. FCP X seems to be the underdog of NLE market for many years, but with Apple recently announcing over 2 million visitors, it certainly has been a game changer for many.
What made you want to tell this story?
I've been using Final Cut Pro X since its release, and while I acknowledge it had its initial shortcomings I appreciated that there was the potential there. But a lot of people were immediately turned off by it. Not only did they ignore FCPX's development, many of them spread flat out lies. I personally interacted with many clients, producers, and fellow filmmakers who told me I must not be a professional if Final Cut was my tool of choice. As I interacted with the Final Cut community at NAB in 2016 I realized this was a story that I wanted to tell. So I went as big as I could with it.
Documentaries are always interesting to make as they sometimes take on a life of their own, did anything change during production that you'd like to talk about? Anything unexpected?
Initially I planned to interview everyone I could at the Creative Summit and base the entire project around that. Then, as I got further along, more people came out of the woodwork that weren't at the Creative Summit so I made a trip to LA. The biggest surprise for me was getting the opportunity to sit down Randy Ubillos, who created the original Final Cut Pro and was Chief Architect over X. Now even more stories are coming out from places like Europe. Eventually I'm going to have to call it good and finish my edit, but it's really fun to see the life this takes as the awareness about the project grows.
What cameras did you use? Any other technical aspects you'd like to discuss?
I primarily shot on a Blackmagic Cinema Camera, which is the camera I own. But I've also rented a Canon C300 MKII for some of the interviews and I have gathered footage from GoPros, GH4s, FS5s, and a bunch of other sources. It's a documentary so I've got to make all of those work together, but I don't find mixing formats to be overly complicated. Ultimately the whole thing will be finished in 1080p.
Your kickstarter campaign is off to a great start with being funded in 24 hours. Not only do you have the funding you need, but now you know the audience is there for this. Have you thought about what that means? Do you think you may have single handedly changed the narrative that plagued FCPX from the beginning?
(laughs) Well, I most certainly haven't 'single handedly changed the narrative'. There's a great community surrounding FCPX that have been actively working on that for years. I certainly hope my project will make a difference in setting the record straight about what FCPX really is.
The response to the Kickstarter and the trailer have exceeded my expectations. I think that bodes well for the documentary once it is released!
What did you learn through all of this?
Lots. I hope this doesn't come off as a motivational poster quote but so far this project has been a great experiment in proving to myself that it's worth taking risks on things you believe in. It's certainly not a comfortable thing to do. A lot of people will tell you it's probably not going to be worth it. But I don't know how anybody succeeds at something great without risking failure.
Anything else you'd like to add?
Just that I hope people check out offthetracksmovie.com and enjoy what we're putting together! We just announced a stretch goal on kickstarter and if we hit it we will make the extended Randy interview available to backers which goes into more detail of the creation of Final Cut. Thank you!
Thanks Bradley! I'm looking forward to seeing more on this. (I'm also secretly hoping you'll feature "Lights and Shadows" and "Lens Filters" in it too!)
Lights and Shadows Cheat Sheet
Lights and Shadows has a lot of control, but sometimes- it even leaves me with a bit of confusion as to which lights are on and I'm the one that created this! So, here is a "cheat sheet" with each light numbered correctly.
As you can see from this illustration, numbering the lights just gets in the way of the edit. There are already lots of controls, why create more clutter? Well, the downside is it can be pretty confusing after a bit of tweaking. After playing with this plugin for some time and using it on my own productions, I found myself turning on the lights in the order that I numbered them. Also, after a while of moving the lights around- I find its best to just turn the light on and off in the inspector if I do get confused.
And here is what it looks like with all the lights turned on when applied to a white solid generator.
I actually created the Light Bulbs first when I had the idea to place the Accent Lighting on a wall in some green-screen footage when I considered getting a cucoloris (Cookie) and thus, Lights and Shadows was born. Don't forget to get the extra pack of Cookie's that go along with this plugin so well!
I had so much fun making the cucoloris effect, and it really is fun to play with! The ability to choose your own in order to use the drop zone really opens up the creative control you need. I prefer images to tweak, but you can use video! Use with Blend modes and this plugin really opens up a lot of creativity! Just make sure that the video you use as a cookie works best if it has an alpha channel and if it is the same length or longer that the video you need to composite on.
One last thing, don't forget you can keyframe almost everything in Lights and Shadows! I can't wait to see what you are doing with this!
When Codecs Go Bad
What is a Codec?
Codec is short for Compression Decompression, which is the ability and workability for a computer to read and display data. There have been many video codecs created over the years. While Final Cut Pro can handle quite many codecs thrown at it, its native codec is ProRes. Final Cut so forward thinking its quite amazing. Upon ingesting from a camera card, it copies the original media (or re-wraps it if it's a format like AVCHD) into the FCP X Library. You can Optimize the media, which creates ProRes copies of the media. ProRes files are Apple's advanced codecs that are quite large in storage space, especially if you're shooting in 4K so be mindful of that! If you don't optimize, and you create MultiCam clips, by default it will optimize those clips too, unless you turn that off in Final Cut Preferences. With newer machines, I rarely optimize my media. However, Final Cut Pro X handles organizing all of these different files with ease.
The alternative is to use Proxy instead. ProRes Proxy files are a bit smaller than the media that was recorded and not just due to more compression, but also frame size. For instance, 4K media transcoded to ProRes Proxy has a HD frame size. If you're looking for even smaller Proxy files, be sure to check out the Uber Proxy workflow.
Couldn't I just copy the files directly from my card?
Another thing that is recommended is to create Camera Archives of your AVCHD media for backup purposes. Bit by bit, a Camera Archive is an exact copy of your camera's card in its original file structure. Just be sure to store this on a drive other than your library and its ingested media. A camera archive's purpose is simply to restore project files if a drive were to fail. This is another reason not to edit from your boot drive, the drive your operating system resides on. Final Cut Pro X automatically creates backups of your libraries minus the media of course. So- if you have your camera archives on a "rainy day" drive, and your edit drive fails, you will be able to open up your library from the Final Cut Backups folder and simply relink everything from the camera archives saving you hours of re-editing. I keep my backups folder in my home folder so that Time Machine will back this up as well. Final Cut Pro saves automatically so there’s no need to worry, as long as you have your media backed up of course. Copying the files directly from your memory card in the Finder is never recommended just to be safe. Aside from creating camera archives, I simply copy the libraries media to a backup drive manually after I've imported it into the library. You can see my full workflow by purchasing my workshop on workflow and organization. It is on sale for $29.
Camera Archives are great, but I have a hard drive full of mixed media.
Streamlining this workflow of ingesting and backup is not even the forward thinking part! Recently I had a project where I had about 2 terabytes of footage to incorporate into my corporate documentary. My company acquired this footage from an outside production house who does amazing work for our mutual client. As you could imagine, there were several cameras used complete with time-lapses and interviews from a project that spanned over the course of a few years. Skimming through the footage I noticed a lot of the footage simply would not work on my machine. In FCP X it was just black clips. I tried the usual troubleshooting, deleting FCP X preferences and such, and I almost considered that this particular footage was corrupted. Then I remembered, in the Finder you can "Get Info" by hitting Command I and the info window will tell you which codec it is. AVID! They must have ingested this media using Avid and tossed the original files. In order for my system to read it, I had to instal the Avid Codec. Once I did, everything was fine. Almost anyway...
An editor is part storyteller, technician, and psychiatrist
As any corporate editor will tell you, a project's deadline only means that about no less than 50 people will need to review the edit before breaking through to publishing. 50 people with very full calendars. If a corporate editor lived by the mantra "Never update in the middle of a project..." then there would be no updating, ever. In my case, I had my main computer go down after about 6 months of troubleshooting and replacing parts with Apple's awesome tech folks on the phone and at the Genius Bar. When I have computer issues, you know it's bad! It was finally repaired, but not before I purchased a new machine. I was nervous that the problem might have been software related so I did not restore from my Time Machine backup. Instead I restored everything myself by dragging all the files over manually. Luckily I keep a folder for all the misc software I use such as codecs, web browsers, Skype, Seed De-Flicker, etc. This saves a tremendous amount of time from having to hunt down each website and wait for all the downloading again.
I was up and running again and everything was running smoothly. I get a request for some changes in my corporate documentary so I dusted that drive off and plugged it in. I opened up that project and... Oh crap! Black clips? Again??? Oh, wait, I didn't install the UPDATED CODEC only the older one I had in my folder. So, I went back to Avid's site and downloaded the most recent version. Whew! Avid hasn’t gone bankrupt, yet, and I was good to go!
When I first got the footage it was a nightmare to figure out why the footage wouldn't play. The second time was just heart wrenching considering this project was costing upwards of $80K to produce and all the time I've spent cutting it. If the production company didn’t ingest their media with AVID’s codec, I would never have needed to download AVID’s proprietary codec. FCP X never transcodes the original media! If you transcode to ProRes Optimized and ProRez Proxy, you'll have 3 copies, optimized, proxy, and original media. FCP X elegantly switches between them by the flip of a switch. If I ever need this footage in the future, even if in another application or machine- I would still have the original media to access without any need to download more proprietary codecs.
Gary Leva's Films about Films
Narrated by Richard Dreyfuss, I found this to be really interesting. Gary Leva has some other great documentaries on his Vimeo page you should also check out, especially if you love history of cinema.
How does an Editor Think and Feel?
This video tries to explain the internal process editors go through when cutting. For me, the Editor shouldn't be completely submerged in the story. They should maintain an out of the box persona where the point of view is that of the target audience. Will the audience notice this cut? If so, does the cut remind them that they are watching a movie? If that is the case, try a different cut. The goal is to tell the story while using techniques that help the audience feel what it is they are supposed to feel. Also, it's ok to speak up when a director is wrong about an edit- they might just like your way better. In fact, sometimes you are hired simply because of your ability to see what the audience sees first, not just your ability to push pixels around.
DVD was created in 1995 and was instantly a success from VHS tape for home video. This was over 20 years ago! When Blockbuster video introduced DVD's for rent, consumers quickly obtained DVD players, usually as Christmas presents, and the market was exploding. Final Cut Pro with Compressor and DVD Studio Pro, along with many other software titles, were putting advanced capabilities of DVD authoring in the hands of many independent video producers, especially in the wedding videography industry.
Then something happened, High-definition flatscreen tv's became the norm. Consumers proved, with their wallets, that they wanted better looking images. In 2005 Apple introduced the ability to create HD video on a regular DVD using DVD Studio Pro. This wasn't popular because HD media required a lot more disc space than what the 4 (or 8) gigs allowed on a regular DVD. Furthermore, consumers were confused by the format war unfolding in front of them. HD video or Blu-Ray? Both had a screen resolution geared toward the 1920 X 1080 high-def flatscreen resolutions customers were watching them on. If someone walked into Walmart, they had a choice between HD DVD player and Blu-Ray player between 2006 and 2008, until Toshiba pulled out of the market as studios were moving more toward Blu-Ray since it had the capacity of up to 50 Gigs per disc. This meant less compression and better looking video.
This was the defining moment when DVD died- in 2008. DVD's only supported a resolution of 720 X 480 compared to the high-definition Blu-Ray which can yield 1920 X 1080 resolutions and higher. I still get questions today why their lower resolution DVD doesn’t look as good on their higher resolution tv. However, consumers' DVD players still worked. The demand was still strong for DVD's and not many were willing to purchase Blu-Ray players since, you know, DVD's were now the norm. The industry changed far faster than consumers could keep up with. I believe that Blu-Ray won this format war partially due to the PlayStation 3, which was released in 2006. However, although great for Gen X'ers and beyond, previous generations stayed with their DVD player. Not everyone of course, just the folks who still drive a Buick LeSabre from 1982 because, it's a great car that still works after all.
Other than Sony, Computer manufactures were slow to adopt Blu-Ray burners as well. Partially due to Sony's proprietary licensing structure and especially Apple who never has had a Blu-Ray in their machines. Instead- Apple made their computers thinner with more space for things like batteries and RAM by taking out the optical disc drive all together. Steve Jobs famously called Blu-Ray "a bag of hurt" even though Apple was an early investor in the technology. Sony made it just too pricey for Apple's customers to accept.
The hours upon hours it takes to create, burn, and test a Blu-Ray or DVD is only part of the problem. Consumers’ players had a 50/50 chance of not being compatible for either DVD or Blu-Ray. Some played the DVD- and some played DVD+ while newer models played both and not all could play dual layer DVD’s. If you're producing DVD's for a global audience, there's different region codes to look out for, which is even more confusing than just NTSC vs PAL. To add to the overall problems, optical media can get lost or damaged easily.
Today the resources for independent producers to burn Blu-Rays is very slim as software companies know that this is not the future. Apple replaced Final Cut Studio with Final Cut Pro X which can still create optical media, but not with highly customizable DVD menus like Adobe's Encore software can.
Oops- Encore is also no longer being supported by Adobe either. Sure, you could still download it if you get the Creative Cloud, but it may not run very well on your system running the latest software. Not only that, you'll need Photoshop to create the buttons for the Menus that require layers with special codes that tell Encore what to do. Of course you'll also need a Blu-Ray burner. If you do go this route, make sure to use Photoshop 6 with Encore as Creative Cloud isn't 100% compatible either.
So, the two biggest NLE companies that independent producers use, no longer supports a fully featured DVD (Blu-Ray) authoring software. As a content producer, I strongly urge my clients to not use optical media at all. Not all computers can play Blu-Ray, which is why they ask for DVDs still, 20 years later. Some think that they want it due to its ability to have copyright protection, but the truth is, if someone wants to copy it, they'll find a way. More often than not, they have forgotten USB drives can also be plugged into computers and just didn't know some TV sets as well. Will DVD ever just die already??
Enter online digital media for alternatives to DVD.
There are so many ways to offer your clients alternatives to optical media including USB's that have custom branding. However, the future is online. Here are only a few services that can help with better experiences than a DVD:
We all know about YouTube. Some of us think it's for cat videos and annoying talking fruit delivered up to a 4K resolution no less. Well, that is true, but as content creators, it needs another look. It is the second most used search engine in the world and it just happens to be owned by the first, Google. Not only is it completely free to use, it is possible to make money through their monetization models. If privacy is what you need, you can do that too. Embedding video in your website is easy also- just be sure to click "show more" and turn off "show suggested videos" before you copy the embed code.
Vimeo is not plagued with cat videos. Instead, it's what the "Pro's" use. Producers love the quality that it has, especially when every frame represents hours upon hours of work. The quality is great, but for me, it doesn't stream video very well, even on the strongest of networks. As a producer and digital media trainer, playback trumps compression. Perhaps their Plus ($59/yr) or Pro ($199/yr) versions offer better results?
Frame.IO offers a smooth collaboration platform for client review that allows timecode based note taking, streaming and downloading. They have integrated support for both Premiere and Final Cut Pro X. This is especially great for locations with slow internet speeds since you can turn on downloading abilities of your productions instead of just streaming. Their pricing starts at free and ranges to $150/month depending on your needs. 50 GB with 25 collaborators and unlimited projects at $25 is enough for me.
This is the equivalent of a DVD menu, only its online. If you do want a Blu-Ray (because it won't just die already) you can do that too. Benefits include:
-Easily export projects to DVD, Blu-ray and USB/offline formats
-Digitally Transfer Possession to your clients
-1 TB Storage Space (approximately 250 hours of HD video @ 10 mbps)
-Allow Downloading of Your Videos
-Share Your Media via URL or Embed Code
-Password Protect Media for PrivacyPricing is $49/Month or $495/Year for a little bit of savings.
Google Drive, iCloud, DropBox, We-Transfer and High-Tail are among the top services and the list continues to grow. One thing to note about DropBox however- although it can stream video, it will only stream up to 15 minutes of a finished piece. Whenever you send files across this way, with whatever service you choose, I suggest to zip the files first into one folder so there’s less interference for the user.
Brightcove gives the ability to embed video with custom branded players. Playback is great since their servers render out many renditions of your video for many different streaming platforms and bandwidths. Also- if you needed to swap the video, you can while maintaining back links to your video. No need to republish while maintaining security. This is an enterprise class system that is tailored specifically for your needs.
It's time to move away from DVD altogether. Your customers think they want it because that's all they knew for the past 20 years and it still resides in most computers. Even film festivals (like withoutabox) are starting to accept digital films online. For anyone concerned with the quality of their videos, only you can stop the DVD Zombie from coming back.
Editor's Health and Wellness
I noticed something recently- my computer is getting further away from me and I am stretching out my arms further to reach the keyboard. My back is hurting me but that’s just because of.. oh crap, I got fat. This happens to a lot of editors or anyone confined to a computer for long periods of time. To combat this, I started drinking a lot of water. Yes, it does help flush out toxins and all that other bad stuff. However, another reason is that I tend to work faster with more precision when I have to go to the bathroom. My mind is automatically telling me to hurry up and finish this thing so I can go relieve myself. I’m always looking for a “stopping point” before I leave my non-linear thought process. When I do get up to go, I get a little exercise as well. I do a stretch, walk to the kitchen to get more water, or even go for a walk outside, which I try to do about twice a day. Water does so much more for you than you realize inside and out. I came to this tip when I learned that native american indians would drink water the night before an early morning attack so that they would wake up before their enemy. It’s a biological timer and one you cannot snooze. So, every bathroom break means I’m refilling my glass before I head back into the edit room. Wash, Rinse, and Refill.
Then I learned that, in this industry, work can become an actual life-threatening thing. It can make you so tired that you can’t go to the gym “right now” and Starbucks is only a block away or the Keurig is in the kitchen. If you have a family, working long hours while drinking coffee and other bad work habits can cause stress on them as well. So how can you balance this all out? Well, that is exactly what Zack Arnold has set out to help you with on his website “Fitness in Post”. You should take some time to listen to his Podcasts as well. Another thing I have to mention is my success with products from Advocare. I went from drinking 3 - 4 cups of coffee a day, to drinking their Spark product and zero latte's. Spark still has some caffeine so that helped curve my caffeine headaches. However, it is full of vitamins and nutrients unlike other energy drinks you might find at the corner gas station. Spark, like Apple’s iPod, was just the beginning to a bigger line of products to help you get healthy, not just fit, no matter where you are at. They offer something called the 24 Day Challenge which comes with an App to help guide you through this new wellness process, including keeping tabs on how much water you drink a day (I love the animation when you add a glass of water!) Another product that has really helped me is their Omega-Plex product. This has greatly helped my dry eyes from moving edit points “a little to the left”. My friends and family are always confused and amazed to learn I no longer own a coffee maker. The baristas at my local Starbucks no longer know me by name. More importantly, I feel better. I have much more clarity for the editing jobs I do. I have much more energy to actually have a good time with my family at the end of the day. I’ve had such great results with Advocare products that I’ve asked my wife to become a distributor so we can get a discount.
Be careful with what performance products you put into your body. Do some research and figure out with your physician what could help you reach your goal before you start exercising and taking any type of products. No matter what you do to get healthy, think about why you want to be healthier. The more you think about why you want something, the faster you will get started doing it. My “Why” was to live long enough to walk my daughter down the isle at her wedding some day. Find your “why” and focus on what success looks like to you, then you can go farther than you ever imagined and blossom into something you never thought was possible.
What computer should I buy for video editing? (Hint: The best one!)
This question comes up a lot and it can be just as confusing as the famous "Which camera should I buy?" question. Purchasing a computer, like a camera, is an investment in your time as much as it is your workflow and personal preference. Here are some of my thoughts on purchasing a video editing machine.
First, Final Cut Pro X is an Apple product and can only run on Apple computers. Therefore, I will not be discussing the PC market. I'm not saying you should ignore PC's, I'm sure there are many benefits, I just don't enjoy the Windows environment and I moved away from using them long ago- so I can't speak to them.
Choosing which software to use is exactly like a chef who chooses their knives. Ask any chef and they will tell you that they prefer "X" brand of knives over another and each chef will tell you different answers. I have narrowed down two software choices to choose from if you are just starting out, Adobe’s Premiere Pro or Apple’s Final Cut Pro X. Premiere, which is very similar to Final Cut with many professional features, will have you paying monthly. Not only is the learning curve much steeper, you can only run it on two machines at a time. This means you will need to keep signing in and out if you are going from the office, laptop, and home office. With Final Cut Pro X, you can install it on as many machines as you own. Also, don't be fooled by your neighbor who says Final Cut Pro is for amateurs. Just because Apple's own website only shows the basic windows without all of the panes open, doesn't mean it's any less powerful of an NLE. It actually quite elegant and scaleable to what you need it to be. Also, hundreds of companies are developing apps and plugins for it making it much more versatile than the previous version of Final Cut ever was. If you think professionals in Hollywood don't use it, think again. Here's Light Iron's CEO Micheal Cioni discussing some of the workflow benefits of Final Cut Pro X that was used on the movie Focus and Whiskey Tango Foxtrot:
Whiskey Tango Workflow - Intro from Light Iron on Vimeo.
Other than the main two Non-Linear editors, every Apple computer comes with iMovie for free, which actually uses the same code as Final Cut Pro X. When it's time to move up it's extremely easy. In fact, I’ve had assistant editors cut footage in iMove and I finish it off in Final Cut Pro X. Avid’s Media Composer is still around and it is used mainly for reality tv and Hollywood productions. So, if you plan on living near L.A. Avid might be best for you to find work. I don’t recommend it since AVID just announced a $68 Million reduction in their company. They had a great run, but it’s time they either step up their game or move on to something else besides custom hardware.
I always ask my students to consider what will they be doing within about 3 years. For instance, let's say you’re a small business owner selling services or products and you decided that creating videos yourself is the best way to reach customers to hold their attention, while maintaining the highest return on investment and informing your customers. Saving on costs might be useful to you since, you know, you have a business to run. I would recommend getting some help with editing, at least at the beginning to get everything setup and running. Then, if video editing becomes too laborious, it's easy to find someone to help.
My next question for you to consider is about portability- unless you have a budget to purchase two machines, of course. Will you be traveling often and be able to edit during your down time in a hotel room or on the plane? Will you be editing at the office and at home? If not, does having a larger screen with faster processing matter to you? Let’s say you chose an iMac to edit at your office since you won’t be traveling and you will only be doing some light editing while doing other things like running your business. Well, FCP X uses all of your computer's RAM- I suggest to max that out when you order it online. If you're shopping in an Apple Store, you'll be sad to learn they only carry the higher-end machines online as a configure-to-order product. If you want to save a little money, go ahead and purchase the slower processor or smaller iMac screen. The RAM and the Graphics card can play a much bigger role. Again, if you have a large budget with some real computing needs, the Mac Pro is a monster. Just keep in mind you'll need a monitor or two as well. Here I don't recommend an Apple Cinema Display as it is not 4K capable like the 5K iMac. If you are a film maker or plan on shooting in 4K, then the Mac Pro is for you. I edit in HD and I use the 5K 27” iMac for all my corporate films, training videos, and short films that I create. I do plan on moving up to 4K, but the corporate world is just not there, yet. Perhaps in another two years or so.
Let me talk a bit more about that RAM. You may have a friend, who knows a guy, who knows another guy that tells you that Apple RAM is far too expensive. Well, when compared to other companies’ RAM, like Crucial, this is true. Apple RAM is a whole lot more expensive, by hundreds of dollars in some cases. The thing is that bad RAM can cause havoc on your machine. It could fry your logic board and have a hefty price tag to fix. AppleCare does not cover this repair if 3rd party RAM is used. So, if you save money upfront, know you are taking a gamble of having about an $800 repair bill, even with a machine covered under AppleCare. Also, replacing RAM on a laptop is not user installable, you are stuck with whatever you chose when you purchase the machine.
If you do need portability, the Retina Macbook Pro is the way to go. I would never suggest the 13” over the 15” when it comes to video editing to save costs. Get the 15” and max out that RAM and Graphics capabilities. Although I’ve seen people edit just fine on a Macbook Air (it’s so light and thin!) I still would not recommend it. If you are undecided on a desktop vs a laptop, I always say to go with the laptop since it is portable. I made the mistake of thinking I needed the power of a desktop and ended up lugging it around, a lot. To re-iterate, if you save costs upfront and go with a slower machine, you are not doing yourself any service as the time it takes you to crunch all those pixels is money flying out the window.
This portability question also pertains to people who choose to edit video full time. These folks need the fastest computer with the maxed out RAM and Graphics that they can afford. If you're just starting out as a video editor, go with the Retina laptop first. I am writing this on my 2012 Retina MacBook Pro and I still love using it. After almost 4 years, it still only takes 14 seconds to boot up because of the solid state drive built in, which has no moving parts. It has two Thunderbolt ports for my 7200rpm drives, an SD card reader built in for my memory cards, and it is nice and thin because it does not have a DVD drive. That’s right, no DVD drive. Why would you want to spend money on a nice HD camera only to produce DVD’s at a fraction of the resolution with 1000 x’s the headaches. Even iPhone video has better quality than a DVD. It would be much easier to sell your clients on not creating DVD’s than it would be to create them. The Retina screen is also nothing short of amazing. If you can't afford the high-end option, I recommend financing it with the 1st year interest free. After all, you are using this machine to make money and the faster it will work, the faster you can get paid. Keep in mind however, with a laptop you are giving up processing power for portability.
Also, when it comes to editing video, you will want to purchase at least 3 external drives so be sure to budget for that also. Editing on the same drive as the operating system is a big mistake and you could run into many issues, not just lack of mass storage needed for producing video. The first drive would be your media drive, where you actually edit from. The next drive will be a backup for your media drive and the last drive will be a back up for your computers internal hard drive. I use Apple’s Time Machine software to backup my machine which comes free as well.
As far as your choices of an internal drive, one thing to consider is Apple's Fusion drive. Introduced in late 2012, It has the capacity of an HDD with the speed of an SSD as its one drive with both built in. My experience with it in my iMac has been really great. Although I don't edit video from my internal drive, I do process my photos there. It has been a wonderful mix of storage and speed I need. Apple utilizes it's operating system to automatically move files and applications you use the most to the SSD part of the drive, for faster speed. I use the 3 terabyte fusion. My Time Machine drive is about 4 terabytes because Time Machine keeps incremental backups. The larger the drive, the further back in time I can go for any document that I had been working on. Don’t worry, once the drive fills up, it automatically deletes the older backups to make room for the latest backup.
Always keep an eye on your storage too. You'll want to make sure you have at least 20% of any hard drive free at all times. Only backup the files you want to keep because it's not a matter of if your drive will fail, it's a matter of when. Also, video requires bandwidth based on the quality and resolution the camera records video. When you start looking at hard drives to purchase, you will notice that you could save a lot of money, hundreds of dollars even, on a USB hard drive. Unless it’s a USB 3 drive, it just is not enough to keep up with the demands of reading and writing video. USB 3 is cheaper than Thunderbolt so check your bandwidth needs of the footage you will be using, and consider if you will be using multiple cameras for multi-cam editing. If you’re saving costs and pass on the faster and more expensive Solid State Drive, be sure to look for a drive with at least 7200 RPM. I always buy drives from HGST, previously Hitachi. Drives from G-technology use these, so I always recommend G-Drives.
Next up are services. The biggest being AppleCare that I mentioned earlier. “If Apple computers are so great, why would I need AppleCare?” I’ve heard this so many times. It is a very valid opinion too. I’ve had my G5 tower since 2007 and it still runs in 2016. It has never had a repair. On my iMac however, my logic board went out AND it happened just a month outside of my AppleCare coverage. Apple still covered it, mostly because I was having issues while still inside the protection plan, but it saved me about $850 for the repair and it cost only $169. It truly is a no brainer. Also, AppleCare gives you phone support as well. Otherwise, you could still call Apple, but they would charge you per phone call.
If you're one of the lucky few who lives near an Apple Store, another service for you to consider is Joint Venture. Apple will train you and your employees on computers, iPads, and iPhones to get them up to speed quickly. Also, if your machine were to go in for a repair, Apple will give you a loaner machine so you can keep your business running. This is yet another reason I love FCP X and its App Store. You could just sign in using the Apple ID you purchased it with and download it to be up and working the same day your computer goes in for the repair. In fact, unlike Adobe’s Premiere, you can install it on any machine you own, just like all the apps in the App Store. So, with a loaner laptop, you could be up and running in hours instead of waiting days for your repair. This is an amazing thing, especially if you are running a business based on deadlines.
To sum up, your machine could be the computer you will be using for the next 3 or more years. Cameras will require faster processing, especially since even prosumer cameras are all going 4K. If you upgrade your operating system you will also learn the harsh reality of what is known as software bloat. You may have even experience this when you update your iPhone and everything just starts to feel slower.
I always buy and recommend getting the highest-end model so that your investment will last you the longest. Plus, If you were to sell it to make back some cash, it would be much easier, especially if it is covered under AppleCare. Remember, you can always finance it, usually a year with no interest, if you don’t have the funds now.