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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17 Comments

  1. Christophe Delaunay April 22, 2015 at 10:34 AM #

    Pat,

    Even if I totally understand your point, I’m also finding that this update is all-in-all an improvement for color correction work in FCPX.

    That said, I wish like you that Apple had set a bypassed color corrector in the clip attributes by default. So as a workaround, here is my workaround for now. I hit command+A to select all the clips in the timeline, then I double click the color corrector effect in the effects browser: that puts a neutral color correction in every single clip, ready to be used.

    I’ve already told it on Twitter, but I thought it could be useful for some here too. 😉

    • Patrick Inhofer April 22, 2015 at 10:53 AM #

      Christophe – this is a solid work-around… if you already have color correction on your mind 🙂 And I know you do! Thanks for commenting.

  2. Carey Dissmore April 22, 2015 at 1:22 PM #

    Patrick,
    I don’t think you could be any more clear that you are not criticizing the toolset, but rather it’s placement within the UI in terms of discoverability, and on that point I wholeheartedly agree.

    Longer version: As someone who is frequently in a position to observe or instruct new users, or even old users who aren’t quite so aggressive in pursuing their knowledge of the tools they use, I can confirm your thinking that this is indeed a demotion of color from the default UI.

  3. Daniel April 24, 2015 at 4:56 AM #

    Thanks for your article. Apple seems to show an absolute disregard for the consumers. With no explanation they take out color correction and we are left having to do a search on google to figure out where it disappeared to. I don’t totally understand their mindset. If you are going to take the time to improve your product, why not communicate to your consumers of the changes that have been made.

  4. Louis Kreusel April 26, 2015 at 1:00 AM #

    What bothers me now is that I used to paste color grades and the pasted grade would completely replace the old grade if there was one. Now I have the extra step of deleting whatever grade is already there. Seems small but really slows down my workflow. Is there a way around this? I’d like to with a single operation paste a grade and “overwrite” whatever grades are already on a clip.

    • Patrick Inhofer April 26, 2015 at 9:38 AM #

      An ‘Overwrite or Append’ option would be terrific. I’d definitely send in that feature request.

  5. Bob April 29, 2015 at 10:22 PM #

    Hi. When I try to paste color attributes from clip to clip = it’s no longer on the Paste Attributes list. Any idea where to find it? It.s, uh, kind of important 🙂

    Thanks, Bob

    • Patrick Inhofer April 29, 2015 at 10:25 PM #

      Bob – Look for the command ‘Paste Effects’. That’ll let you selectively paste the layers you want – including the color correction layers.

  6. Philip May 12, 2015 at 3:11 PM #

    While I agree with your point that having the words “Color Correction” appear in the inspector tab serve as a small reminder to beginner editors that color correction exists, I don’t think that the removal of those words will hinder an editors performance. Perhaps yes, Apple could put in some kind of “Add Color Correction” button at the top of the effects tab as a shortcut, but I believe having it as an “effect” and not some stand-alone and separate process makes so much more sense.

    As an effect, you can now determine the order of processing for color correction layers among other effects you apply. This was not possible before. The color correction process would happen completely separate from your effects that you apply and you could not determine the order of operation. So if you wanted to layer a noise reduction effect, then a blur effect, then a color correction layer, then a grain effect back on top, you couldn’t set that order previously. Now you can.

    You can now copy and paste just a single color correction grade over to other clips instead of copying over and replacing the entire color panel. So if you wanted to take a pass at balancing two different camera angles with a primary grade, then go back and move to secondary grades, you couldn’t distinguish which color correction layer you want to copy. You either replace everything, or you do manual secondary grades for every individual shot.

    Does all of this mean that Apple has “demoted” the idea of color in the UI slightly? Perhaps. And would keeping the words “Color Correction” in the inspector tab be what helps someone understand the importance of color correction in story telling? Less likely in my opinion, but again perhaps. I do believe that the changes to move to an “effect” based color correction workflow vs a separate process are in fact important updates though.

  7. Ian May 29, 2015 at 3:51 PM #

    Found your article while googling to find out where the HELL the color controls went!
    as a casual user who’s just getting into serious color correction this “update” is rather disheartening.

  8. smashbro June 2, 2015 at 12:55 PM #

    Thank you for this article. I hate how they moved it. But the rest of the updates I like but it could have been better if they didn’t move it!

  9. Suzie Park June 25, 2015 at 11:24 PM #

    Thank you, thank you! I thought I was losing my mind. I am one to often adjust exposure and color in my projects and having it just disappear made me think, “What did I do? How do I get it back?” Phew. You article saved my ass and lots of hair-pulling.

    • Patrick Inhofer June 26, 2015 at 9:48 AM #

      Suzie,

      I’m glad this article helped you keep your sanity 🙂

    • David December 17, 2015 at 2:53 AM #

      So totally agree! If Apple is going to make FCPX a true ProAp perhaps they should allow the user to customize the inspector so that those of us who really have to know what is happening with color (or other modifiers) can place them as prominent. I had held out on the update until recently and have been so disappointed. Perhaps Apple should add Nodes… like Nuke or Shake.

  10. Tangier Clarke November 11, 2015 at 10:23 PM #

    I agree with this perspective. I too was sad to see it go the same way I miss being able to play a project in the project browser in early version of FCP X. Though I’ve gotten over that one and realized there may have been to much of a burden on the memory allocation. Color should be front and center at least to the extent that it was before as you mention in your article. On top of that I wish Color Finale would be bought and baked in FCP X; particularly now that Premiere Pro CC has Lumetri and yet I favor FCP X as an NLE over PPCC (except for a few features) – no shame.

  11. George Pariseau December 20, 2015 at 12:27 AM #

    After delaying my OSX and FCP X since 10.1.x (I think).. I started panicking when looking for the color in the inspector, thank you for being easily “Googled”.

    I didn’t realize how often I DON’T use FCPX until this and how unlikely I will keep using it if Apple keeps doing stuff like this.

  12. Garry Clarkson April 15, 2016 at 10:36 AM #

    Just had same today. The very easy quick correct when shooting canon c log and having the colour board up immediately. One click and a base correction is done. When you are up against the clock and can’t pay a grader but you have handed log footage to an editor for a wedding job (they dont’ want complicated grad gin but a quick fix). I wouldn’t have shot it on c-log if I had known as I am using 10.1 and the company uses 10.2.

    Colour balance is NOT an effect. In the same way as levels in the audio board (again immediately ‘seeable’ isn’t an effect like echo or reverb). Awful decision by Apple this. I’m becoming Premiere IBP)

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