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Final Cut Pro X takes Los Angeles into the future with SciFi movie The Sphere

sphere headline box

User stories of Final Cut Pro X in action always get the most hits on FCP.co. So when Nick Militello contacted us with the information that his DSLR short ScFi thriller 'The Sphere' made the most of FCPX, we had to know more.

First of all, let's take a look at the movie, we would recommend you go full screen for this one!

 

 

Pretty cool eh? We will let Nick take up the story...

We started filming in April of 2010 and began the editing process in FCP 7.  When FCPX came out in July of 2011, we started slowly porting over the cut with 7toX.  It wasn't perfect, but it got most of the cut into X. It was definitely a game changer for us.

Sphere shoot

 

Since we were shooting the car chase scenes gorilla style, we had to keep the cameras running constantly.  So when the road was clear for a second, we could do what ever move was needed. That obviously presented a huge amount of footage to sort through in post. When we started the edit in FCP 7, it became an organizational nightmare.  We were having to make so many sub clips and copying of clips to make sure we have everything put into proper bins.  We needed to have bins of "good turn", "good swerve" etc.  But when it came time to search, I felt either we were missing items or something that was both a good turn and good swerve were not labeled properly.

With this amount of footage it was turning into a huge headache because unlike a traditional edit with take 1, take 2, we had just miles of footage and in a 10 minute clip, we only need to pull 2 seconds out. This is where I think FCPX really shines. With dual 27-inch Cinema Displays, you can have one monitor detected as your Event Browser and the other displaying the Project. Having the Event Browser dedicated to one monitor made it really easy to scan the 12 minute segments and Favorite the perfect little 1 sec nugget and most importantly give it multiple keyword names that could overlap for different parts of the same clip.
 
Sphere greenscreen
 
 
I recently had to open up FCP 7 for an archive project, and its funny how I really can't live without event browser and media organization in FCPX.  The other huge help was compound clips, and auditioning compound clips.  In the past, I would make copies of my sequences, but with X, I made each scene a compound clip, then if I wanted to try something different I would create an audition of the compound clip. I really like the way that this kept the whole project really organized.

I feel FCPX really works best when you take the time to go through the event browser and keyword your clips.  This made editing so much easier.  You would be looking for a "cu" "low" "fast" "city" "turn" and there is was.  I just don't feel I would have been able to find those moments so quickly in any other software.

Sphere-car-chase 

Once we had a rough cut done, that's when the head scratching commenced.  Because video files in FCPX event folders really can't be altered with a new time stamp, we had to figure out a way to get the cut out and into our workflow.  Our software path was FCPX to Compressor to Boujou (motion tracking) to Cinema 4D to After Effects to FCPX to Davinci to FCPX.
 
Clip Exporter was really the key to all of that. Here's how it worked:
 
I would take the XML out of FCPX and use Clip Exporter to generate Quicktime ref movies so no other piece of software could do the timestamp.  Then I would use Compressor to make a .tga sequence for motion tracking in Boujou.  From there, we built the models in Cinema 4D and animated the ships throughout the sequences.
 
We were constantly going back and forth between C4D and FCPX to make sure our scenes felt right, which, no matter which editing system you use, it can challenging; you have to watch a cut that consists of a grey scale ship flying by, then a green screen close up of the actor, then a black title card acting as a placeholder for a CGI shot that hasn't been started yet, then another green screen shot, then an almost complete plate of the latest CGI shot.  Despite the difficulties of this, it does make for an exciting process. You have to go with your gut knowing that the cut is going to feel right once you put it all together.  And for this movie, we really only had one shot at doing final renders for 140 or so VFX shots.
 
sphere ship
 
 
Once we had 3D locked, I borrowed 15 Mac servers, ranging from Mac Pro towers to Mac Minis to complete the 85 day render process.  During that process we commissioned a few other artists from around the world, mainly through Elance.com, to take care of 30 or so 140 visual effects shots.
 
I then used After Effects for compositing then back to FCPX and finally to DaVinci for coloring.
 
This was one of most intense processes I have ever been through.  I was really happy with the way FCPX fit into the post production workflow.  Though out the entire process I was really happy with FCPX, it just feels right.  I feel like it gave me the power to really try a bunch of different things out without having to rip up my timeline.  It was an essential part of our process due to the fact that we had such a small budget and we had to shoot a lot of footage on many different days to get all of the shots.  I am really looking forward to the future of FCPX. 
 
Many thanks to Nick and congratulations on an amazing piece of work.
You can find out more about the movie including production stills, behind the scenes photos and storyboards at The Sphere.
 
 

Written by
Top BloggerThought Leader

I am the Editor-in-Chief of FCP.co and have run the website since its inception ten years ago.

I have also worked as a broadcast and corporate editor for over 30 years, starting on one inch tape, working through many formats, right up to today's NLEs.

Under the name Idustrial Revolution, I have written and sold plugins for Final Cut Pro for 13 years.

I was made a Freeman of Lichfield through The Worshipful Company of Smiths (established 1601). Though I haven't yet tried to herd a flock of sheep through the city centre!

Current Editing

great house giveaway 2020

2020 has been busy, the beginning of the year was finishing off a new property series (cut on FCP) for Channel 4 called The Great House Giveaway. I also designed and built the majority of the graphics as Motion templates. It has been a great success and the shows grabbed more viewers in the 4pm weekday slot than any previous strand. It has been recommissioned by C4 for 60 episodes, including prime-time versions and five themed programmes. The shows have also been nominated for a 2021 BAFTA.

Tour de france 2020
Although both were postponed to later in the year, I worked again on ITV's coverage of the Tour de France and La Vuelta. 2020 was my 25th year of editing the TdF and my 20th year as lead editor. The Tour was the first broadcast show to adopt FCPX working for multiple editors on shared storage.

 

BBC snooker the crucible

BBC's Snooker has played a big part in my life, I've been editing tournament coverage since 1997. I'm proud to be part of a very creative team that has pioneered many new ideas and workflows that are now industry standard in sports' production. This is currently an Adobe Premiere edit.

amazon kindle BF

Covid cancelled some of the regular corporate events that I edit such as trade shows & events. I was lucky however to edit, from home, on projects for Amazon Kindle, Amazon Black Friday, Mastercard and very proud to have helped local charitable trust Kendall & Wall secure lottery funding.

As for software, my weapon of choice is Final Cut Pro and Motion, but I also have a good knowledge and broadcast credits with Adobe Premiere Pro, MOGRT design and Photoshop.

Plugin Design & Development

I'm the creative force behind Idustrial Revolution, one of the oldest Final Cut Pro plugin developers. It hosts a range of commercial and free plugins on the site. One free plugin was downloaded over a thousand times within 24 hours of release.

I also take on custom work, whether it is adapting an existing plugin for a special use or designing new plugins for clients from scratch. Having a good knowledge of editing allows me to build-in flexibility and more importantly, usability.

FCP.co

Now in its 10th year and 4th redesign, running FCP.co has given me knowledge on how to run a large CMS- you are currently reading my bio from the database! Although it sounds corny, I am pretty well up on social media trends & techniques, especially in the video sector. The recent Covid restrictions has enabled live FCP.co shows online. This involves managing a Zoom Webinar through Restream.io to YouTube and Facebook. 

The Future

I'm always open to new ideas and opportunities, so please get in touch at editor (at) fcp.co. I've judged film competitions, presented workflow techniques to international audiences and come up with ideas for TV shows and software programs!

 

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