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Author Interview: Lisa Brenneis and Michael Wohl

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Hot on the heels of the release of their new book, Final Cut Pro X Visual QuickStart Guide, expert authors, filmmakers and teachers Lisa Brenneis and Michael Wohl sat down with us to discuss Final Cut Pro and a few more things besides!
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Peachpit: Michael joined you for this edition of the book, Lisa. What additional insight does he bring to the book and how do your styles complement one other?

Lisa: When he was on the FCP development team at Apple, Mike Wohl was the first person ever to read the first edition of my Final Cut Pro QuickPro Guide. This was before FCP 1 was released and before my book was published. Those manuscript pages came back covered with coffee rings, lunch stains and priceless notes. He was beyond helpful, and obviously smart. We stayed in touch. Mike's FCP chops are top-drawer, he's a good writer and a skilled filmmaker as well, but I asked him to join me for this edition because he's very funny. I thought it would be fun.

Michael: Aw shucks. I just knew if I joined on, I’d get an endless supply of Ojai Pixie tangerines. No more incentive was required.

Peachpit: Fans of the book might notice that this new version is in Peachpit’s Visual QuickStart Guide series, rather than the Visual QuickPro series; why the change? And what’s the difference?

Lisa: FCP X is not an update of FCP 7; it's a total rewrite. Apple deliberately streamlined the program and removed many many features. As we were assembling the table of contents for this book, we realized the feature set was tight enough that we could do it as a Visual QuickStart. The Visual QuickStart series is aimed at a skilled but non-professional audience and so is FCP X. It just fit.

Peachpit: For the first time, the book is in full color; why is this important?

Lisa: FCP X's new interface is lounge-lizard dark--it looks great in color on the screen but looked like muddy water in black and white. We really needed to produce a full-color book; we're really happy with the results.

Michael: Because color is prettier. Duh. Seriously though, what she said. Believe me, if the book was in black and white, no one would have bought it.

Peachpit: How does your book stand out from other Final Cut Pro training resources?

Lisa: The Visual QuickStart series is designed to be a "compact reference guide." The information is organized to be easy to navigate; many readers start in the book's index and go straight to the bit of info they need. Instead of working your way through a tutorial, you just dive into the program and use the VQS to help you learn as you go.

I am completely a "learn as you go" type, so these books are actually perfect for me. If you want me to sit through a video tutorial, you'd best have some slammin' Prince live performance footage (or at least adorable kittens) to show me; otherwise I'm going to look up the info bit I need and go right back to the app.

Michael: It’s comprehensive, intuitively written, easy to navigate, contains great, clear examples, is well illustrated, and it’s funny.

Peachpit: Final Cut Pro X has certainly made a splash in the world of video editing; what do you see as the most important changes from previous versions of the software?

Lisa: The changes in this latest edition of Final Cut Pro include, well, everything. Power and performance gains, a completely redesigned editing interface that works differently, a different (and smaller) feature set, and different names for many features and functions.

Michael: FCP X really is a wholly different tool than the previous versions of Final Cut Pro. It excels at different aspects of the editing process, utilizes different workflows, and was built looking forward in fun and exciting ways. It’s best not to think of this as an incremental version of Final Cut Pro but really as a whole new paradigm in video editing.

Peachpit: What are some of the coolest new features of Final Cut Pro X?

Michael: for me, I think Auditions is the real standout feature. It allows you to work with multiple takes, multiple angles, or multiple ideas for a single shot simultaneously and sample or “audition” those differences on-the-fly in a fun and dynamic way. There are lots of cool interesting new aspects to the program, but that’s the one that stands out most for me. I think people are going to use it for much more than the designers could ever have imagined, and it will enable people to edit in new and exciting ways.

Lisa: Most editors want to focus on the show they're cutting; they don't want to think about the software they are using. As a long time FCP user, I have a strong attachment to the old familiar FCP 7, so any all-new version of FCP is going to have to overcome my reluctance. That said, the new tools for tagging, sorting and searching footage as you import it are stellar. I wish keyword search and favorite had been around when I was slogging through my last longform documentary.

Peachpit: It seems that Apple is making pro-level video editing tools accessible to a wider audience than ever before; what types of new user do you think will be attracted to FCP X?

Michael: I think the reality is that an ever increasing audience is seeking out editing capabilities that used to be limited to professional-level (read: expensive) tools. Face it: video is ubiquitous. It’s used on millions of web pages, for advertising, informing, educating and entertaining. It’s used by individual consumers capturing footage of their cats, kids, or local Occupy protest. Preschoolers are shooting video before they’re forming sentences, and I’ve even seen instances of wild encephalopods shooting video with no human intervention.

Sadly, all of these people (and non-vertebrates) are shooting too many hours, and they need to find a way to edit to make their gobs of content palatable to potential viewers. Apple is trying to capitalize on this trend by making features that used to be considered highly elite (such as secondary color correction, instant-play special effects, and data-rich media management to name a few) easy to use and available in this inexpensive piece of software.

Peachpit: What do you see as some of the most exciting new developments in video and editing?

Michael: I think the way video is getting incorporated into Apps to enhance and improve educational products is the cutting edge right now. It’s not necessarily about fancy trick editing or anything, but using well-placed and thoughtfully produced snippets of video into otherwise static forms, such as Cooking with Dorie, for example, are hinting at where video’s next big expansion is going to emerge.

Lisa: Well.....define "exciting". There are now enough different video formats in existence to provide each US citizen with their own personal video format. Is that exciting? I know it must keep Apple's FCP development team busy, trying to keep up with the pace of format change. Better them than me.

Peachpit: What video/film projects are you currently working on?

Lisa: It's December, so I'm shooting a new set of short web videos for our citrus and avocado business ( check it!). I'm also developing a documentary on what I call the "new 12th century economy"--North America is becoming a nation of farmers’ markets, swap meets, craft fairs, yard sales and eBay pros. A carnival of characters and some great life stories.

Michael: I’m currently working on a documentary project for the Synergos Institute, tracking the development of a massive five-year agricultural transformation experiment currently underway in Ethiopia, supported by the Gates Foundation, the UNDP, USAID and many other international aid agencies. New technologies, training programs, crop improvements and infrastructures are being implemented on a broad scale to improve food security, sustainability, and economic growth in one of the most challenging environments in the world. We’re going to be visiting twice a year for the next five years to see how well the program succeeds.

Peachpit: You are both incredibly passionate filmmakers, storytellers and teachers; where do you get your inspiration?

Lisa: YouTube, Hitchcock, Les Blank, Orson Welles, Michael Powell, my neighborhood, your neighborhood.

Michael: This may sound clichéd but I take tremendous inspiration from my students at the UCLA graduate school of theater film & TV. Their unbridled enthusiasm, passion, and willingness to sink years of their lives into often unbelievably difficult projects reminds me of what it takes to be a filmmaker: Never taking no for an answer, believing in the impossible, marching forward despite the odds…their dedication is my inspiration.

Peachpit: Do you have any future Peachpit books/videos in the works that you can tell us about?

Michael: I’m just about finished writing the Advanced Final Cut Pro X book for the Apple Pro Training Series.


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