Did Color Get Demoted in FCP X Update 10.2?

Have you even been eating with your family at the holiday dinner table—and had the discussion turn to politics?

Most families tend to trend similar in their political orientation but you always have an outlier sibling, cousin or uncle. There’s always someone at the table ready to get offended even when you don’t think they should be.

Now, imagine eating at such a family gathering and you’ve got a comment to make that you know will tweak someone at the table. And as you’re ready to speak out loud, for a few hundred milliseconds you ask yourself:

Should I say it? Or not?

I had one of those ‘Should I? Shouldn’t I?’ moments this weekend writing about my NAB 2015 first impressions

It was about some thoughts I had regarding the FCP X 10.2 update and it didn’t take me long to decide, yes—I’m going to say it.

Why? Because I believe strongly in this opinion and I want it to be heard. Here’s the precise quote from my Sunday Newsletter article (reposted on this blog) that tweaked a few people:

Apple released Final Cut Pro X 10.2 and they reversed almost 10 years of color emphasis

The Color layer is now gone. You have to hunt for it as an effect or in a somewhat obscure pull-down menu.

I. Am. Sad.

It didn’t take long for the pushback to start. Mostly in emails. Often from professionals whom I respect and have had many dealings with. They all tended to say precisely the same thing as this comment from a reader here on the Tao:

Apple have not de-emphasized the importance of color grading – quite the contrary. As with previous releases, simply pressing Command-6 will bring you into the colorboard. After applying adjustments to the clip, the adjustment is listed in the inspector. This requires no more keystrokes than in previous releases, and there is no need to dig into the effects browser to apply the correction . . .

Also, the addition of multiple scope displays, the ability to save combinations of effects as presets and improved masking capability suggest that apple have placed a strong emphasis on color.

Everything the commenter said is true—except for the first line (it’s emphasis is mine). In this article I’m going to prove, to those willing to listen, that the FCP X 10.2 update has de-emphasized color in the FCP X workflow. And yes…

I. Am. Sad. (still)

First, let’s start with what I’m NOT saying

I am NOT saying the color correction feature set got worse in FCP X 10.2. In fact, a reading of my article shows that I sang the praises of the decision to make the Color Board an Effect layer that can be re-ordered. This is a huge upgrade. We can now build actual color pipelines, deciding when and where Effects happen in context of color manipulations. That’s terrific and removed a huge color pipeline liability.

But that’s a feature enhancement.

Along the same lines, I love the new scopes. On my outboard set of Scopebox scopes I have 10 scopes set up, because my eyes flick around depending what problem I’m solving and it’s way easier than the constant point-and-clicking to change scope views.

But that’s a feature enhancement.

FCP X 10.2 has quite a few very welcomed feature enhancements that specifically benefit anyone doing color grading. But just like I have a few concerns about what I saw with Resolve 12, I have concerns with FCP X 10.2.

I’m bothered that the redesigned User Interface removed the Color Board from direct view

It’s a concern about design philosophy, not a question if the tool itself got better (it did). To further explain, let’s let FCP X do the talking for us. Notice in this split screen, I’ve got the Inspector Before and After the 10.2. Update. Does the Color workflow gain or lose prominence in this UI redesign?

The FCP X Inspector before and after the 10.2 Update

On the left, the Inspector before the 10.2 update. On the right, after. Notice how ‘Color’ is missing?

Before the 10.2 update, a casual user would be forced to consider the color of the shot every time they went to resize, crop or add an effect. Color, as an important editorial decision, was integrated into the Inspector and it couldn’t be passively ignored. After the 10.2 update, the casual user is free to never ever think about color—or wonder: What is so important about this tool that it’s given such prominence?

The ‘color correction uninitiated’ are never given the cue that maybe they should do some research and figure out what they don’t know.

At NAB 2015, a perfect UI design contrast is what happened with Premiere Pro CC 2015

The Premiere Pro preview Adobe showed at NAB is a UI redesign that emphasizes Color—its redesign puts color where it belongs, as a key tool to enhance editorial decisions and storytelling.

First, let’s look where all prior versions of Premiere put the Color Correction tools:

Premiere Pro CC 2014 buried the Color Correction tools

In versions prior to CC 2015, notice how Premiere buries the color correction tools in the Effect palette?

In prior versions of Premiere, the User Interface relegated color correction to a filter no more important than Noise & Grain. It’s an add-on, not a key storytelling tool. What did Adobe change in the Premiere Pro CC 2015 preview? (click on the image for a full-size view)

The Premiere Pro CC 2015 Color Workspace

Notice the Workspace bar that gives visual weight to Color on par with Audio and Editing?
(click on image for full size, opens in new window)

Adobe made Color a central workspace in a running toolbar at the top of the interface. Of course, this interface may change for the final release—but I love their thought process here! A new or casual user is forced to actively ignore the Color workspace. More likely, they’ll at least explore the tools and maybe run a Google search to figure out why it’s given such prominence.

As a ‘color correction evangelist’, I couldn’t be happier!

Let’s switch back to FCP X 10.2 and see where the renamed Color Board is buried

The Final Cut X 10.2 Effects List

Similar to prior versions of Premiere Pro, the renamed Color Board is buried in a list of many ‘color effects’.

Yup. It’s buried in a long running list of other effects. The only sense you have that the Color Correction filter is different than the others is its ‘rainbow’ look. Otherwise, it’s one filter buried within many filters.

But wait, the Color Board has a dedicated keyboard shortcut and a pull-down menu—it’s just as fast as before

I know. And I knew that before I wrote my NAB 2015 recap article. But as someone who’s been teaching color correction for almost a decade—keyboard shortcuts are only learned by a small percentage of end users… and then they only learn those shortcuts they use daily. I’m not worried about those users who already know the shortcut.

I’m worried about all those users who will now assume color isn’t that important to storytelling since Apple decided to bury the interface.

Besides – FCP X screams to be driven by a mouse, not keyboard shortcuts. Although – I do have to comment that FCP X has more commands ready to be assigned to keyboard shortcuts than almost any app I’ve ever seen. It’s a keyboard shortcut powerhouse, should you choose to avail yourself. But…

Only those editors already attuned to color as a storytelling tool are likely to go hunting for the shortcut

And I do remember a pull-down menu that added the Color Board located in the Inspector. But as I was pulling screenshots for this article, I went on a click-fest trying to find that Color Board pull-down somewhere, anywhere—and I can’t find it for the life of me (if you know where to find it, please let me know in the Comments).

So, if this UI redesign doesn’t feel like a de-emphasis of Color then I don’t know what other design decisions you would make if you actually set about to intentionally de-emphasize Color. (And no! I don’t think that was Apple’s active intention.)

Frankly, the only people I’m really talking to here are the folks in Cupertino (and the people who influence them)

I hope to see them soon at FMC’s FCPX Creative Summit in June! Sure, I’m sure the Mother Ship would probably prefer I do this privately—but I’m writing about trends I saw at NAB 2015 and while the trend for most apps is a more forward-facing color workflow, this counter-trend with FCP X 10.2 couldn’t go unremarked upon.

This criticism comes from a place of love for the craft of color correction

The Tao of Color was founded to help end the scourge of terrible, uncrafted images on television and Indie films. I wasn’t happy when Apple Color was discontinued but I loved how FCP X kept the Color Board in every editors view. In earlier versions of FCP X you were at least forced to consider what you were missing by not touching the Color Board.

FCP X 10.2 makes it easier to forget about color. It makes it easier to not consider the dramatic impact that thoughtful color correction can have on your finished timeline. The new user can edit in FCP X for months and never stumble upon the Color Board.

Despite the slew of color correction feature enhancements, it’s this broader thought that I took away from the latest FCP X 10.2 update.

Luckily, as Apple has proven time and again, no User Interface is ever locked down

I encourage them to find a way to keep Color in the frontal lobe of the editor while maintaining it’s new flexibility in the Effects layer stack. I won’t advocate how they do it. I just encourage them to find a way.

– pat

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