They said it couldn’t be done: You can’t edit a major feature on Final Cut Pro.

The editors of Focus, starring Will Smith, use Final Cut Pro X’s advanced features to create a memorable scenes.

But you can. In 2002, Walter Murch used a version of Final Cut Pro (FCP3 and 4) to edit the film Cold Mountain, starring Nicole Kidman and Jude Law.

Most recently, editor Jan Kovac used different versions of FCPX 10.1.x for the Will Smith/Margot Robbie movie Focus. Kovac’s first assistant, Michael Matzdorff, was so impressed by the process that he wrote a book about it. The excellent, Final Cut Pro X: Pro Workflow: Proven Techniques from the First Studio Film to Use FCP X is now available on Kindle and iBooks and covers the FCPX workflow for Focus.

For the Edit
The book was written in collaboration with Brendan Boykin, who wrote the authorized Apple Pro Training Series for FCPX (on which DMA’s Final Cut Pro and Filmmaking classes are based).

It covers the workflow and process of working with FCPX on a big budget, high pressure major studio productions like Focus. I give it my highest recommendation.Matzdorff’s work is full of detailed recipes for the process of assembly through editing and collaborating with other software on a production as complex as this, with VFX shots, color grading and audio mixing.

It’s a wonderfully interesting read for anyone using FCP. The book is not a how to use Final Cut Pro book, as Matzdorff makes clear at the very beginning, but it does have a lot of great insights and details in the process, and what could be done with the application to bring the project to fruition.

From FCPX to the Audience
The dailies and cut versions were viewed by the studio and test audiences throughout the process at 2K resolution output directly from FCP, from the projects used in editorial. There was no conforming from an EDL cut list.

All this is possible, of course, because the original material was shot using Arri Alexa cameras and recorded using Light Iron recorders with careful backup and data wrangling throughout the on-location production process. FCP’s standard titling tools were also used to make the titles that appeared in the finished film. No added software needed.

Final Cut Pro X gives you professional dynamic tools for creating titles and effects (without spending a fortune), like those seen in Focus.

It’s All About Workflow
Just like the book points out, modern production isn’t about shooting and then editing and then adding sound and VFX: It’s about workflow. It’s a continuous process of media moving through stages through various hardware and software. And before you begin, whether on a giant major studio production or one with a more modest budget, every step of that workflow needs to be tested thoroughly.

In addition to the digital media workflow, you need to test metadata workflow, all the information about the media, the notes from script, director, camera, and sound. All of this has be preserved and attached to the media and updated as it changes.

FCPX loves metadata and has countless ways of collating and presenting it to the user. Because Focus was captured in the ProRes 4444 and RED RAW media formats, VFX could be created directly from the editor, reinserted and output for finishing without any conforming process.

The book provides a fascinating look into the intricate process of major motion picture post production.

Tom Wolsky is a lead instructor at Digital Media Academy and the author of numerous published books about Final Cut Pro. He has decades of professional television experience, including his years of work as an industry-respected producer for ABC News.

Whenever new users come to an application without getting any instruction, they often feel they can tinker around in the program and figure it out for themselves. Sometimes, this approach works. However, with an application like Final Cut Pro, which is more complex and considerably different from other editing applications, this can lead to problems.

Digital Media Academy’s hands-on, project-based courses help students understand advanced software (like Final Cut Pro) and how to get the most out of it.

Learning a New Application
Nothing beats real hands-on, live instruction for learning complex software, and I would strongly recommend it for everyone coming to FCPX, whether from iMovie or some other professional Non Linear Editing (NLE) system.

I recommend taking one of DMA’s Final Cut Pro courses at Stanford. I also recommend a good book or some online training. With good instruction, you’re less likely to commit one of these common mistakes when coming to FCP:

Mistake #1: Not Moving On From An Old Application

Don’t try to make FCPX work like another application. If you come from another application like Premiere or Avid or an older version of FCP, and try to make FCPX work as you’ve worked before, you’ll only become frustrated.

I’ve taught FCPX to hundreds of people; those who have the hardest time learning to use its speed, organization and agility are those who try to make it behave like the applications they’re used to. Still photographers who are coming to video, for example, who have never used another video-editing application, take to it quickly and easily.

Mistake #2: Using Optimization

When importing media assets from your camera, select the clips you want, open them and view the import dialogue. Right in the middle is the “Optimize Media” checkbox. Most users’ first reaction is, “Sure, I want my media optimized.” However, using this generates very large and often unnecessary high-data-rate files using the ProRes 422 codec.

Most recent computers can work with codecs like H.264 without optimization. Otherwise, you’re wasting a huge amount of drive space doing this. The corollary to this is to switch off the default Background Rendering in Preferences.

By default, whenever something needs to be rendered, FCP will start rendering it into huge ProRes files. Most of the time you don’t really need rendering for playback. Switch it off or soon your hard drive will likely be filled.

Mistake #3: Losing a Project

One of the nastiest traps is the Open in Timeline mistake. Here’s how editors typically make this mistake.

You’ve imported your footage from your camera. You’ve looked through it, and you’re ready to edit it. You make a new project, and a blank timeline opens with the black bar down the middle.

You find the shot you want to use first, and select that section and then right-click on it. There’s what you want: Open in Timeline, right? No, that’s not what you want: You’ve opened the clip container.

Be careful not to edit everything inside of a clip by avoiding “Open in Timeline.”

You then proceed to edit more shots into the first shot’s container. You close the application and then open it later. You open your project, and it’s now empty.

Turns out that you didn’t edit anything into the project; you edited everything into that first clip, which you now have to find.

Learning FCPX from the Pros
Final Cut Pro is a wonderful editing suite with many great features. Learning how to use Final Cut in a professional environment like Digital Media Academy has many benefits. Take a course from DMA to get the most of your Final Cut experience.

Tom Wolsky is a lead instructor at Digital Media Academy and the author of numerous published books about Final Cut Pro. He has decades of professional television experience, including his years of work as an industry-respected producer for ABC News.

Capturing the perfect image is tough. When your little brother isn’t photobombing your shot, then it is probably the sun (or lack of it) washing out the colors in your scene. Final Cut Pro offers built-in tools to help both new and experienced editors easily control color in their films.

In this How-To, you’ll discover the basics of color correction using waveforms and other professional techniques.

What You’ll Learn in this Video:

  • How to correct color in video using Final Cut Pro
  • How to use the Inspector
  • How to read wave forms
  • How to manually adjust color levels
  • How to manually adjust exposure
  • How to map individual samples to keyboard commands

Lights, Camera, Action!
Want to #CreateTheNext heart-pounding edit? Come to Digital Media Academy this summer and learn how to make movies working as part of a real film production team in DMA Studios or learn how to create Hollywood special effects using the same professional editing and special-effects techniques used in blockbuster films.

Filmmaking courses at Digital Media Academy places students in production teams simulating a real-world production environment. Using cutting-edge Canon cameras and top of the line Apple computers, students become independent filmmakers as they  plan, shoot and edit a film of their own.

Visit Digital Media Academy’s YouTube Channel for more How-To’s and helpful advice.

My name is Matthew Levie, and I’ll be teaching Documentary Filmmaking again this summer. I’m a professional editor, and feel free to browse my web site to see what I do.

Last year’s Documentary Filmmaking class was a fantastic experience for me as a teacher. The students included:

• a businesswoman from Boston,
• a sociologist from Japan,
• a teenager from France,
• a flight attendant from Miami,
• a scientist from Texas,
• and a teacher from South Carolina

Imagine what you could learn from a group like that!

Here’s a small snippet from the course. Since I’m an editor I can’t resist an example of phenomenal documentary editing. Have a look at the following clip, from the documentary Carrier, about the aircraft carrier USS Nimitz.

So first, one of the pilots introduces the idea that everybody on the carrier needs to do their job correctly, at the right time, for the carrier to function properly. And that sets off this montage of flight deck operations, set to—wait, can it be?—the “March of the Wooden Soldiers” from Tchaikovsky’s “The Nutcracker.”

Notice how similar motions are grouped together—there’s a beautiful series of circular motions, for instance. And at the end, somebody declares “it’s like a ballet.” Which makes perfect sense, since the filmmakers have already make that perfectly clear from a visual standpoint! But then they extend the metaphor to other areas of the ship, particularly the people feeding the ship and cleaning it up.

This is actually an important priority of the filmmakers: making the viewers understand that an aircraft carrier isn’t all about the planes and the flight deck, but that there are people greasing the cables and cleaning the toilets as well. And they’ve done a great job of conveying that visually at every opportunity.

Want more? Well, you’ll have to come to Stanford. Not a lot of people regret spending a week in Northern California, and I’m sure you’ll learn a tremendous amount and enjoy yourself as well!

Browse the Documentary Film class syllabus here.

Written by Artist / Designer Robert S. Lindsey : DMA Alumnus

WOW! I had an amazing and intense learning experience at DMA! From the moment that I stepped onto the Stanford campus I new that this event would change my life forever. Digital Media Academy gave me the ability to create my own website ( and portfolio. After returning for multiple years I have been able to design all my new art on my iMac that I bought through DMA for an amazing discounted price.I don’t wast any time or supplies when I am working on my art due to my expertise with Photoshop and Flash

Last summer I spent a week invested in learning Final Cut Pro and mastering my HD camera so that I can introduce streaming video onto my site with time-laps promos of my murals. This video technique has been a feature that my clients love. Clients can now see how I work, and my company has the professional, impressive edge that I need in this economy.

I actually spend most of my time in front of my Mac. If I am not designing… I am designing. I am also a partner in the very successful marketing and  design firm : We specialize in building and maintaing company identities and ongoing branding through various medias: web, print, interactive, promo, etc… Our ground breaking relationship plan is specifically designed and tailored to each client. I am signed up for After Effects courses this summer and we are sending a few of our designers to get some training with DMA’s Pro courses.

Robert Lindsey : Art and Design

Mark Spencer is a Bay Area video editor who literally wrote the book on Motion. He is the author of several works on the subject, such as Apple Pro Training Series: Motion Graphics and Effects in Final Cut Studio 2 and Apple Pro Training Series: Motion 3. “I am a big Motion fan,” he says. “And use it extensively for text treatments, animated elements and DVD menus.”

Putting Motion into Action
Mark is also an instructor at Digital Media Academy, where he teaches Motion training courses. Mark has also taught Final Cut Pro tech camps while at DMA.  

Mark’s website is an amazing resource for tips and inspiration in using Final Cut Studio.  

Mark gave us a Motion tip at the Macworld Expo in San Francisco where DMA teamed up with the John Lennon Educational Tour Bus to offer hands-on computer workshops. This video was shot on the John Lennon Education Tour Bus, and covers the topic “How to Use Motion to Create Background Elements.” Mark tackles the following topics:

  • Using the content library
  • Replicating shapes and images
  • Adding animation to pre-built shapes and images
  • Using the Transform tool on images
  • Setting the key frame

    Put Your Future into Motion
    This summer kids and teens will discover the world of video production at Digital Media Academy’s tech camp locations in US and Canada. DMA offers programs for all age levels and interest areas:

    For kids ages 8 to 12, DMA’s Adventures in Filmmaking & Special Effects camp gives them a great first taste of the moviemaking process. Students cover a wide range of topics, including post-production editing with Final Cut Pro®.

    Teens ages 13 to 17 will be thrilled with the cool FX they get to create in DMA’s Visual Effects for Filmmaking camp. This intro to visual effects covers both in-camera special effects, as well as green-screen techniques, layering, basic compositing, keyframing and more.

    And for the teen who can’t get enough film production, DMA’s Academy for Hollywood Visual Effects is packed with two weeks of digital filmmaking that touch upon all technical aspects of the production process.

    If you’re interested in studying film production this summer, DMA tech camps are the perfect place to watch your creativity soar.

    Learn more about DMA instructor Mark Spencer.

    Written by Seamus Harte of the John Lennon Bus

    Curious folks come up to me from time to time and ask, “Hey Seamus, remember when you stayed at a bed and breakfast in San Francisco and trained with DMA instructors for three weeks to get your certifications up to date with all the Apple Pro applications you use on board the John Lennon Educational Tour Bus?”, and I say, “Yes! How could I forget the best month of my life?” Then they ask, “So I was wondering…How did you possibly manage to stuff all that information in your head in such a short period of time?” And that is when I tell them…I used gFlash Pro.

    gFlash Pro is an iPhone application that allows you to create and review digital flash cards so you can study and quiz yourself wherever you are. It’s rocking a stellar four-star rating on the iTunes App Store. gFlash Pro allows you to create a Google spreadsheet using Google Documents and then access that information on your iPhone through gFlash Pro in the format of a flash card.

    So this is how I personally put that process to work:

    I created separate Google spreadsheets for each of the courses we took during the three-week period:

    FCP 300: Advanced Techniques in Final Cut Pro 6
    Logic 101: An Introduction to Logic Pro
    Logic 301: Advanced Techniques in Logic Pro
    Motion 101: A Comprehensive Study of Motion 3

    Within the individual spreadsheets, I input all of the review questions for each course. I input the question in column A and the answer in column B. I repeated this process until I had input all of the review questions for each course. I then shared the document with all gWhiz Mobile users, allowing it to be used by anyone that has access to gFlash Pro to brush up their knowledge of the programs.

    The instructors that worked with us from DMA (Digital Media Academy) were amazing. They took us deep into the programs and really showed us how to utilize the tools to their fullest potential. Having the ability to review all of these lessons in the palm of my hand is an amazing feature of the iPhone. I constantly quiz myself while I’m on the bus and moving from place to place to make sure I am always at the top of my Pro applications game.

    I’ve made my set of flash cards available for everyone to use on gFlash Pro. You can get gFlash on your iPhone by visiting the iTunes store and downloading the application. Once you have the application on your phone simply touch the icon “Download.” Once this is selected, you will be prompted to select the source you wish to download from. I have made my flash cards available from the gWhiz catalog, so select “Download” on that option.

    You can then select to study hundreds of different card sets. I have listed mine as below:

    DMA/LENNON BUS: Logic Pro Level 2
    DMA/LENNON BUS: Motion 101

    I hope this helps some of you brush up on your Apple Pro application user skills. Remember if you are getting ready to take a certification test these suckers will be your new best friend.

    There I am standing in front of the most beautiful high definition audio and visual setup money can buy. I have completely lost reality of where I am. I have totally forgotten what I am doing inside an electronics store. I am surrounded with the televisions, computers, cameras, gadgets and only the latest technology (at the best prices I’m told), but none of that matters to me now. I have completely lost touch with reality. I am completely transfixed with the 60″+ flat screen, crisp surround sound system with the super 1200 watt subwoofer, and the high definition blu-ray player in front of me. It seems nothing can suck me out of this odd technology trance I have been sucked into.

    High Definition Experience

    For a moment I feel as though I am a real pirate in the Caribbean on board with Captain Jack and the crew. I get kind of grossed out with Davy Jones squirming tentacles. Ewww. I never noticed his mouth moved like that when he talked! I have to turn away, but my eyes become glued to another 65″ flat plasma screen. Then I am suddenly on the back of a funny looking dragon flying down into a huge canyon. As silly as it sounds, I was momentarily scared. Then I stop and realize the 3d dragon looks…. fake. Lame. I turn to another huge LCD flat-screen to get pulled into an amazing live concert. Now this is great! The crowd is screaming. The music is pumping out of the awesome surround sound speakers, the lights are flashing. I feel like I am inside a Rock Band video game. I feel like I am on the front row at the concert…. and all of a sudden I realize how scratched and ugly Sting’s guitar is. Actually, the whole group looks really old. Look how much he is sweating. OK. That’s enough.

    Then, all of a sudden I am pulled out of my technology trance and out of the home video and audio department. I need to go find the Apple computers. Do they have those new 17″ MacBook Pro laptops yet?

    As I stroll back down the large aisles I begin to think about how quickly technology is moving. Can designers, digital artists, 3d animators, filmmakers, audio technicians, and creative programmers keep up? You better bring your best 3d models and animated characters if your viewers are going to be critiquing them on a ginormous flat screen TV with the highest of high definition disc players.

    Think about it. I was snapped out of the movie by thinking about how fake the 3d character looked in the movie. If the the movie had been on a low resolution, old-school setup, I might have been able to pass over the poorly rendered and animated polygons. I wouldn’t have noticed. I’m just saying…. 

    It’s time to flex your creative muscle at Digital Media Academy. Get in some of the computer courses this summer at any of the prestigious summer locations.

    Visit DMA in the North-Hall at Booth – 4528

    The John Lennon Educational Tour Bus is non profit multimedia studio dedicated to providing free opportunities to create original music, video and still photo projects. Short 45 minute courses will integrate Lennon Tour Bus produced content with hands-on learning experiences provided by Digital Media Academy. Topics to include Apple Final Cut Studio, Logic, Adobe After Effects, and more.

    The DMA courses will be offered throughout the expo January 6 – 9, 2009. Click here for the full course schedule.