Issues with Final Cut Pro 7’s Share feature

The best way to work with Compressor is to create a QuickCluster with the Qmaster System Preferences pane. If you tick “Share” next to “Compressor” and assign one instance per core, then “Start Sharing”, you should be set. Note that you may be able to start more instances than that, but be wary. My 4-core machine has 8 virtual threads, yet I can max the machine out with 4 instances.

So, all is well, right? Well, the new Final Cut Pro 7 has a “Share” feature which lets you keep working while Compressor does its thing in the background. (In FCP 6, if you sent directly to Compressor you had to wait for it to finish before you could continue work.) The problem is that FCP 7 doesn’t let you send to a QuickCluster. (It tries, but fails. For me, and documented here too.) If you can’t send to a QuickCluster, most of a Mac Pro’s CPU power is sitting there unused: maybe 300% of the 800% (100% being one thread) is used. More CPU power (600%+) is used by QuickTime Player, for goodness’ sake.

The solution, then, is to do exactly what you’d do under FCP 6. Ignore “Share”. Don’t “Send to Compressor”. Just export a full resolution QuickTime movie and give that to Compressor yourself. You can continue working in FCP (just as you could in v6) and Compressor will use as much horsepower as you’ve got.

I’m a little mystified as to why Apple would cripple such an easy-to-use, obviously useful feature. Maybe the performance hit doesn’t hurt so much on an iMac or MBP, but waiting while a Mac Pro sits even partly idle is just painful. Let’s hope they add just a little sprinkling of Grand Central Dispatch multicore-goodness across the whole studio and make this all go away.

Surcharge Scams and Security

Virgin Blue charge $6/person/flight segment extra if you pay by credit or debit card. If you want to avoid it, you can try direct debit, but they won’t wait for you to do it on your own. They require additional software called POLi that will insert the airline’s details into your internet banking system. Let’s step through the issues:

1. It doesn’t work on anything other than Internet Explorer on PC. No support on Mac, on Firefox, on iPhone or any other phone.

2. It requires installation of extra software which is somehow going to supervise my internet banking session. This is an unacceptable security risk, especially with regard to internet banking. No way in hell is some unknown third party going to snoop on my family’s bank account in any way, even if they say they don’t store your password etc. etc.

3. Even if you have a PC and are willing to risk the security problems (or are unaware of them), if you don’t have all the required underlying software that POLi needs, you have to download and install 20MB+ of other software (.NET) and then restart your browser — and do the whole booking again.

Abysmal customer service and a general WTF feeling about the whole thing. I feel I just paid a $36 surcharge to maintain the security of my bank account and because I chose not to jump through several tedious, dangerous hoops.

Green Screen Tests

Hollywood Camera Work have kindly provided a series of free HD green screen plates, ideal to see if you really want to chase that future in compositing, to see how good you really are at keying, or to compare Final Cut’s keyer to Motion’s keyer, to AE’s keyer, etc. Nice stuff.

Motion or After Effects?

Short answer: Motion!

Sometimes I get a question about what Motion is like, from a user of After Effects. If that’s you, I refer you to this, which is not quite an After Effects vs Motion article.

A few of the listed negatives of Motion (linked parameters, depth of field, shadows, reflections) have just been rectified in the latest update (Motion 4, in Final Cut Studio 3) so there’s no excuse for not checking it out. Yes, After Effects has the users and the plug-in support, but if you use FCP, you’ve already got Motion. This is a little like the situation when InDesign started to come with Photoshop and Illustrator — it’s free, it’s at least as good as Quark, so why spend another $1000?

Motion integrates so well with Final Cut Pro I can’t recommend building, for example, lower thirds with After Effects. Save anything from Motion as a template and you can access it from Generators within FCP, change the text in FCP, play back in realtime and render on final export. No need to manage separate render files and there’s just a single file to change if the title template needs an update. Awesome.

While I freely admit I haven’t done anything serious with After Effects in years now, I can do in Motion everything I used to do in AE and a whole lot more (text effects, FCP integration, particles, replicator) besides. There are a few things I’d like in the latest AE (3D models, Flash vector output) but they aren’t essential to my workflow.

PLUG: Of course, if you’re an FCP editor who doesn’t have time to figure out how to use either program, just buy one of my templates from 🙂