If you plan on seeing Focus starring Will Smith and Margot Robbie this weekend, you will be watching the first major studio film edited entirely with Final Cut Pro X.
Originally criticized as “iMovie Pro” for its incredibly simplistic interface and feature set, Final Cut Pro X has managed to start wooing Hollywood filmmakers by slowly adding back missed tools along with new ones. Now the directors behind Focus think it’s the future of movie editing.
The making of Focus, a story about a veteran con artist (Smith) taking a novice (Robbie) under his wing, would make a great Apple ad. Everything from post production to on-site editing to viewing dailies on set was done with Apple hardware.
In interviews with USA Today and Apple, the film’s two directors, Glenn Ficarra and John Requa, said that speed was one of the main reasons they went with Final Cut over popular editors like Adobe Premiere and Avid.
They got “a lot of eye rolling and sympathetic prayers,” but they said that the industry’s bad attitude towards Final Cut is based on “old information.”
Mac Pros were used on set with a system called Light Iron that pulled takes from the camera with metadata into Final Cut. With Light Iron’s iPad app, the crew would watch takes on set without having to dump them onto a computer.
The way Final Cut handles metadata, or how clips are tagged and ordered, was one of its main selling points. From Requa talking to Apple:
“I was able to say, ‘I need Will’s side in this take,’” he says. “And because even his improvisations were specially tagged, we were able to filter and come out with it. The upshot was just infinite searchability. We could change direction so fast and do multiple iterations. Sometimes while we were editing we felt as if we were actually rewriting the movie.”
The two directors also benefited from Final Cut’s Magnetic Timeline feature, which lets you move clips around without throwing off the whole timeline of footage. It made editing “three times faster,” said Ficarra.
A fun little easter egg is that the opening credits were made entirely with Final Cut’s standard text tool, “which is extremely rare for a high-production feature film.”
A much more in-depth look at the production process is on Apple’s website.
Apple’s purpose in highlighting the making of Focus is clear: Final Cut Pro X is a tool for pros and aspiring Steven Spielbergs alike. The Focus team used software and plugins available to anyone who purchases Final Cut in the Mac App Store.
“There’s no mysterious industry tool or process anymore,” said Sam Mestman, one of the film’s chief workflow architects. “So anything the big guys are doing, you can do too.”