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Top 5 developer requests for the next Final Cut Pro

Lots of people have been posting wish lists for the next version of Final Cut Pro with such features as 64-bit support, OpenCL, etc. One thing I haven't seen is a wishlist from a developer's perspective, so here's mine.

I've included a description of the feature, how likely I reckon it is to be implemented and what we could do with it if it was.

1. Store settings in preference lists (plists)

Apple introduced a standardized format for preference files in Mac OS X that allows applications to easily read and write from them. Final Cut Pro, which dates back to the days of OS 9, uses a proprietary binary format that only Apple knows how to read from and write to. It is also the reason why Final Cut Pro preferences get corrupted so easily.

What we could do with it: You could choose to backup only certain settings in Preference Manager instead of the entire file. Path Manager could modify and sync Final Cut Pro scratch disks.

Likelihood: Certain. If they've rewritten FCP, there is no reason why they would not use the standardized OS X preference system.

2. Make the FCP project file format more open

There is currently no method of reading from or writing to Final Cut Pro project files. The workaround is to export an XML copy from Final Cut Pro. The downsides to this are that Final Cut Pro has to be running, exporting to XML is slow and it locks up FCP so the user can't continue working.

There are several solutions to this problem - Apple could keep the format the same and release detailed specifications, they could create an API for reading and writing or they could convert the Final Cut Pro project format to XML (perhaps with binary and plain-text options like Maya). I don't really mind which method they choose as long as a solution arrives.

What we could do with it: FCP Versioner would be faster and would no longer lock up Final Cut Pro when exporting to XML. Pro Media Tools would be much faster and would not require FCP to be installed in order to read an FCP project file.

Likelihood: 50/50. I'm sure Apple will make big changes to the file format but we'll have to see if these are developer-friendly.

3. Add a playback and timecode API

The only way to get timecode from a Final Cut Pro project is to setup a fake MIDI device to receive the information. The downside to this method is that it is not very user-friendly - the user must specifically setup the device as a control surface in FCP and must have the audio mixing window open at all times.

A playback and timecode API would allow developers to control the Final Cut Pro timeline and receive timecode without any intervention on the user's part.

What we could do with it: Final Cut Pro syncing for Cut Notes with no complex setup for the user.

Likelihood: Ordinarily I would think this was unlikely but there are rumors that there will be an official iPad control app for Final Cut Pro. If this rumor is true, I highly doubt that Apple is using the user-unfriendly method of setting it up as a MIDI control surface.

4. Programmatically initiating exports

With Apple Events, developers can send commands directly to Final Cut Pro for such tasks as saving a project or highlighting a clip in a bin. There is no way to automatically export a sequence to a QuickTime movie without user intervention.

What I'd like is a command that exports all or part of a sequence to a file the developer specifies along with the ability to specify export settings such as the codec, if it is self-contained, whether or not it should contain markers, etc.

What we could do with it: This would be incredibly useful for a super-secret future product...

Likelihood: Unlikely.

5. Adding interface items

All third-party applications have to be launched separately and there is currently no way to integrate a third-party application with Final Cut Pro. What I would like is the ability to add interface buttons or menu items to send data to third-party applications in the background. The applications could then send data back without the user leaving Final Cut Pro.

What we could do with it: Lots of things, including adding buttons to manually initiate FCP Versioner backups from within FCP, a "Send to Edit Detector" command that cuts up a clip on your timeline at each edit point, an "Add Quick Bin" menu item, and more.

Likelihood: It's a long shot.

I hope at the very least that 1 and 2 are implemented in the new FCP. I guess we'll find out tomorrow. Do any other developers have requests?

Posted by Jon Chappell on Apr 11 2011 to Analysis, Apple, Final Cut Studio