The Magnet Timeline -- Thoughts on Apple's New Paradigm

Creatvie Cow by David Lawrence

With its June 21 release of Final Cut Pro X, Apple shocked the entire post-production industry. FCPX discards not only its own eleven-year history of development, but also decades of industry standards in both language and interface conventions for non-linear editing systems.

I set out to understand just exactly what Apple had done to a tool that, for many of us, is the cornerstone of our livelihoods. The changes in FCPX are broad, deep and many. This article will focus on just one aspect of these changes -- the main NLE editing interface an editor uses for the bulk of their work -- the timeline.

Apple's new "magnetic timeline" is very different than anything that has come before it. Apple's strength as a market leader means that their new timeline paradigm will receive widespread attention and use. A user interface reflects the assumptions, priorities and values of its designer. How does the philosophy behind a tool's design determine how we're able to work? What does "better" mean in the context of usability?

I feel it's essential to examine these kinds of questions and try to understand Apple's changes with informed criticality as we decide whether to adopt or reject their new approach. Many of the missing parts in FCPX can and will be fixed with plug-ins and updates. But if Apple's fundamental design assumptions about editorial workflow don't work for you, it won't matter. You'll eventually switch to something else.

Disclaimer - What follows is my opinion only. I have no special inside knowledge or connections with Apple. I'm just calling it the way I see it, having thought about NLEs for a long time. read more...

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