I spent a little time working with Color over the weekend and can’t say I’m as impressed as I thought I would be.
I feel as if a fabulously wealthy friend just bought me a brand new top-of-the-line bulldozer for my birthday. Gee, it’s super nice… but where am I going to put it? It’s too slow, too powerful, not the right vehicle for the daily LA commute.
Color certainly has a lot of cool features and awesome power, but many problems, primarily the workflow. It’s possible that Colorista/Automatic Duck or Color Finesse is better integrated with Final Cut Pro at this point than Color. The complaints all over the net are growing. Many people were not very happy with Final Touch when it was $5000 – $25000.
The acquisition people at Apple are in an enviable position in the industry, with a bankroll most of the rest of the industry put together could not match. I don’t think they paid much, my speculation is that Silicon Color became a little strapped and/or just didn’t have the resources to finish developing a completely stable and solid solution and made Apple an offer they couldn’t refuse. The marketing power of being able to say “A $25000 app- now included for free!” was too compelling to pass up.
Yet if I was in charge at Apple I probably wouldn’t have bought Color. I would have tried to divert or hire resources to rewrite and fix the obvious problems with the FCP color corrector- work in smooth, floating point, 10- or 12-bit color space; multiple instances with no quality loss; no color contamination of pure blacks or whites, and keyframeable, motion tracking, feathered Power Windows (vignettes) to restrict correction to a certain area. Okay, curves would be nice too. The new filter would need direct access to raw frames and be able to process and preview in new spaces outside the existing FCP filter image pipeline, so some major internal surgery would have been required- which I’m sure Apple was highly reluctant to do- they are still working on FXplug for heaven’s sake! It’s way easier to export/import media. My new proposed filter would also tap directly (bypassing FXplug) into Core Image and Core Video (OpenGL) with monitor-calibrated, full frame rate real-time preview, but accurately. While we’re wishing, I would also like it to make me breakfast and clean my house 🙂
I think Apple realizes they rushed this one out the door for NAB, so it’s obvious we’ll see major changes in Color in the coming months. Bug fixes, improvements- It might even get the interface makeover within the year.
Probably the easiest round-trip for now would be one where the editor can specify certain FCP tracks as “color correction tracks” and others not (and put titles, graphics and animations on the “not” tracks). Then FCP renders all color correction tracks out to a file on disk (stripping out transitions) to bring into Color as a long continuous media strip, but using an XML file to know where the cuts are to separate clips for individual color grading.
In the long run, for me to “buy into” using Color in most of my work, Apple has to find a way to integrate it with other filters so you can see the results of your work in conjunction with other processing you might be doing to the clips- especially keying/compositing, but other filters as well- so you can instantly enable/disable or tweak color grading and the other filters for a clip just like you can now.
In an ideal world color grading could be applied like a filter, like it is now with the FCP 3-Way, on a clip-for-clip basis, where any individual clip can be easily and independently (and repeatedly) tweaked, but also capable of using stored “looks”, so that when a look is altered, those render files would be deleted and the new look settings would propagate to all the clips with that look applied.
All that being said for a :30 or :60 I would definitely duplicate my timeline and hop right into Color today (I’m just not doing broadcast spots anymore).
But for longform projects I still think other color grading apps, strangely, have a market with professional FCP users.
That’s my first impression, in a month or two, with the 1.1 or 1.2 release, I might be changing my tune substantially, stay tuned!
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