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Developer features I will miss from Final Cut Pro 7

I'm currently working on a feature film that will be my last Final Cut Pro 7 project. I'd just finished implementing a custom solution to automatically log and sort clips as they are brought in, when it suddenly occurred to me that a lot of what I was doing would not be possible in the future with a competing NLE (at least not on the Mac; Sony Vegas has great scripting capabilities).

Here is a summary of things we can do with FCP 7 that is impossible or less smooth with its replacements:

(Note: we don't develop effects plugins so this post does not delve into plugin-related differences between the apps. But it's a post I'd be glad to link to if someone else writes it.)

Controlling the NLE

Developers can use Apple Events to perform such tasks as programmatically saving and loading projects, highlighting items in a bin and searching. None of the competing apps are able to do this.

We can also communicate with Final Cut Pro over MIDI, which we put to good use in Cut Notes, but Premiere and FCPX unfortunately lack this feature.

XML Interchange

It is important to be able to easily get data in and out of the editing application. There is mixed support for this among competing apps. Avid has XML output via FilmScribe but this is not as fully-featured as FCP XML and I have found the FilmScribe app to be unreliable. FCPX XML exports do not include all of the information within the project or event. Premiere gets full marks for including FCP 7 XML interchange support.

Avid does get some bonus points for being able to import and export marker lists though, which none of the others can (it's even better than FCP 7 which was limited to export only). Some people would say this feature is unnecessary if you have XML input, however it's very useful for applications that don't need or cannot access the underlying project, such as our own Cut Notes app.

Manipulation of project data

Probably the most useful feature is the ability to change data within the project. You can add new clips, batch modify metadata and sort clips into bins. It's very powerful and you can specify various options when importing a clip or bin such as only adding clips that do not currently exist or making copies of existing clips.

More importantly, it can be done on the fly without needing to close the project or modify any files on disk. Quick Bins, FCP Versioner and several of our other apps make use of this feature.

Avid doesn't support this at all and Final Cut Pro X and Adobe Premiere only support this via manual XML import / export.

Premiere wins extra marks for basing its project file format on XML but it then loses most of them by not documenting the project file format nor encouraging development of it.

These are all great features that we're putting to good use in our apps and it's a shame to lose them. We've developed workarounds for most of them but these often require additional manual work by the user, which we're keen to avoid.

Apple created third-party developer ecosystems with FCP 7 and FCPX that simply don't exist with other NLEs (and FCPX's developer features still need some more work, as noted above). We're putting this post out to encourage NLE manufacturers to increase their focus on third party developer-friendly features. Fostering third-party development helps end users, developers and the manufacturers themselves. Everyone wins.

Posted by Jon Chappell on Mar 26 2012 to Analysis, Avid, Adobe