Friday, September 09, 2011

Sep '11 report - moving on with Lightworks

The September meet and another year begins for the wefcpug, and the only thing we can say for certain is that this will be another year of changes and innovation. To begin with a report. Phil demo'd both FCP X and Lightworks on the same machine, a MacPro tower.

Admittedly the Lightworks demo was courtesy of BootCamp and Windows7 (and thus slightly disadvantaged in terms of system access). A fuller write-up will be along shortly when I've finished another project or so, on both systems.

But in brief, the subjective results I presented:

> FCP X is fast, powerful, easy to use and well suited to self-contained file-based workflows. Compressed long-GOP camera formats are no longer a problem - conversion to ProRes (in FCP newspeak 'optimised' formats) takes place in the background and doesn't delay editing. Much better handling than classic FCP 7.

> The 'magnetic' timeline is very useful for certain edits (and editors) - especially when working with cutaway (or B-roll) shots that aren't inserted into the main video track, but left floating (with their audio tracks) to delay decisions. FCP X promises to remove the danger of overwriting clips that aren't seen in the timeline window and will preserve sync at all cost. (But it has done away with out-of-sync indicators).

I'm less impressed by the interface, which is too crowded and inflexible. Other current negatives are, of course, the lack of integration with video hardware (eg Matrox) and audio fader panels, (and for that matter the lack of audio tracks in the conventional sense), inability to export OMFs natively, though I can probably live without EDLs now, and lack of tape support (excepting dumb 'capture now' through firewire).

I think the main disappointment I have is with the inflexible, gloomy interface.

I came to Lightworks without expecting much. It's a beta release of an open source version of a 20 year old product. Furthermore, it's running in a slightly crippled version because I don't have a native Windows machine any more, hence it's on a BootCamp drive sitting atop Windows7. Just tweaking the hardware to work properly (NOT the fault of Lightworks, requiring a bit more compatibility between BootCamp and W7 - now fixed by updates) took a couple of days. But, as I said at the meeting, what I found was surprisingly easy to work with, and a good intuitive piece of editing software.

In total contrast to FCP X, you can't get a more minimal desktop than Lightworks: it's just about blank. You populate it with clips and assemblies, which you fit into racks when you feel like it. You can be as tidy or as messy as you like - have as many clip 'tiles' in view as you need: and for that matter any clip can become an assembly - ideal for adding auxiliary or replacement audio tracks. 

Input on my setup is Firewire, with the ability to log and capture.   Setting up the deck control was quick and easy - the dialogues had obviously been written by people with TV engineering experience - and offered the surprise option of capture into MXF files. I really like the edit/trimming methods which are intuitive and fast to operate.

I could go on, and I will in the fuller document - but it's obvious that I am very impressed by Lightworks. Just 10 minutes was enough to convince me that this is software I can work with: best of all, I found myself thinking more about pictures and sound than about menu options or keyboard shortcuts.

So, where does the future lie? Jason mentioned on Monday that there was the promise of a statement from Lightworks this week, and it's here . There's the promise of a port of the beta version to Mac and Linux this year, with a launch of the commercial Lightworks (windows) in November. This offers free and paid options, the paid version giving access to pro codecs. And there's Matrox support too.

In the meantime, we must surely soon see an update to FCP X to bring it up to pro level. So, watch this space (and I haven't even mentioned the A's: Avid and Adobe).