Final Cut X Pro on FAT32

Point of reference for anyone using FCPX in an environment where users may not be entirely tech savvy. You need  to format your hard drives to Mac OS Journaled or exFAT.

Final Cut Pro X will allow you to edit projects off of external drives formatted as FAT32. If you are only saving your project to the drive and not importing media, this shouldn’t be an issue.

What many users don’t understand is that FAT32 has a file size limitation of 4GBs.

Most project files are probably safe and can live on a drive like that without issue. But media files from HD cameras tend to be bigger, especially if FCPX is converting them to ProRes422.

Final Cut doesn’t know how to handle Fat32 drives (yet). It tries to copy the data over, but when the file is too big for the drive, it resorts to using an alias. When this happens, the original media disappears into the ether.

The distressing part is that there are currently no warnings, popups, or other feedback for the user. Commands simply do not do what you expect them to do. Leaving the user very confused as to why it isn’t working now when it was working before.

Rule of thumb: always copy project within Final Cut, don’t move it. That way, if things go wrong you can try again.

Easy Fix: To relink media files in a library if the media files still live in another library, just choose “relink” from the file menu and select the location as the other library. (You may want to use the “consolidate” command after the files are relinked so that everything lives on the same drive.)

Neat, even if it seems unsafe: It’s possible to continue to edit in FCPX while a project is copying from one drive to another. This might be one benefit of Apple choosing to auto-save and removing the “save” command from the menu.


Imagining Something Different

Over the past few weeks I have lamented the unnecessary requirement to sign up for accounts in order to use apps and the inconsiderate overuse of alerts and push notifications, specifically on iOS. Yet, these are arguably side effects of the fundamental problems that come with application development.

Most applications could be defined as a tool to do a specific thing in a specific way. (Talking mainly about non-game apps here.) This generalized concept is great. It allows for multiple applications which have similar outcomes, yet different processes. Thats why we have Mail.app, CloudMagic, Gmail, Mailbox, Mail+… etc. There’s almost always an app that works the way do.

I would classify this as First Tier Functionality. The fundamental design is what the app does, each app has a workflow that emphasizes a specific feature or option.

Most apps also have what I will call Second Tier Functionality. While the first tier dictates how you sort or respond to your email, the second tier would be the add-ons that help fill in the checkboxes on the features page. Social networking, cloud syncing, ability to export. All things that you could theoretically live without, but could offer some benefits to certain users.

The deeper problem is that these features are not always segregated in the mind of the application creator.

Case Study

Lets look at a case study. The Bible app from LifeChurch.tv, is one of the best Bible Reading apps in the app store, and rightly so. It offers a wide range of first and second tier features. Here’s a brief rundown:

First Tier Features:

  • Choose from hundreds of Bible Version in over 400 languages
  • Get access to many of the most popular versions of the Bible
  • Download versions for offline access
  • Listen to audio Bibles
  • Access devotional and reading plans
  • Search for passages
  • Highlight and write notes

Second Tier Features:

  • Connect with your friends
  • Track your friends progress as they read
  • Comment and share thoughts with contacts as you read
  • Share verses on social networks
  • Publish notes

Reading through the description and feature checklist on the app description everything mentioned falls into one of two categories: personal use and social use.

The fundamental difference here is that the social features are not required to find usefulness in the app. I’m not saying they aren’t useful, only that they are optional. They are certainly nice add-ons, but there will be a lot of people who probably won’t use them.

So where’s the problem?

The problem is that some apps nag users about secondary tier features. The Bible app will occasionally give me a push notification telling me that I should add my friends because that will make my experience better and more fun.

Now, there are two reasons why a user won’t use a feature. Either they don’t know about it or they don’t want to use it. If the user knows about a feature and has decided not to use it, a push notification telling them about it is akin to an unsolicited ad, showing up on the lock screen of your phone.

You can’t presume that everyone who uses an app will want to take advantage of everything the app has to offer. (Unless an app does exactly one thing, which… is not what we are talking about.) What fraction of the population uses every feature MS Word offers on a daily basis?

Dropbox is guilty of this as well. How many times do I have to tell it not to import my photos when I plug in my camera or not to upload my screenshots when I capture something on my computer? (Answer: more than once, which is too many times.)

This is a problem that plagues the technology industry. Apple, Google, Facebook, even Amazon. These companies are notorious for forcing new features on users or taking away useful ones without notice or explanations. Finder labels. Google Plus. Auto play video in timelines. Add-on items. Need I go on?

Developers need to be aware that not everyone who uses their app will use all the features. It seems like it should be common sense, but these things still crop up.

I get the sense that people in the tech world dream about a utopian future where all tech works seamlessly together and we all get to fly around the universe in the USS Enterprise. You know what Star Trek didn’t have? Pop-up alerts.

After Teleporting down to a planet:

You just transported to Omicron Ceti III, check in now to earn the “This Side of Paradise” Badge. Be sure to share with your friends!

In the middle of a space battle:

We noticed you haven’t posted an update in a while. Tell your friends what you are up to!

After being imprisoned by the Borg:

Check out what happened on your professional network!

 

(Side note. You could probably do a pretty good Star Trek Parody swapping out the tech from the 1960s with tech from the 2010s and come out with a decent comedy. Though it would be tedious to watch because they would never get anything done because they don’t have an IT department to fix the inevitable problems.)


No App is an Island

There’s a certain level of self-centeredness that goes into app development. This is natural, most apps solve a problem or fill a need, they usually have a single purpose or focus. This is normally good.

What’s not good is how often app developers appear to forget (or simply don’t care) about the greater user experience. Third party software is an interesting phenomena.

In the case of the iPhone, Apple takes great care to ensure that the user experience for the whole phone is pleasant. App developers also want their app to be a pleasant experience and keep users coming back to their app. They want their interface to be friendly and usable. Similarly, the user is looking for a “thing” that solves a “problem” that they have. Whether this problem is a better way to check email, a more fun way to connect with friends, or simply a way to pass time, they also want to have a pleasant experience.

It seems like everyone should be on the same page here. What’s the problem?

The problems is that when you’re focusing on a single aspect of the system, an individual app, its easy to loose sight of the other apps around it.

What do I mean by this?

If an app pops up a message asking the user to rate it, this in and of itself is an innocuous event. Yet, we know that Apple has sold over 500 Million iPhones and the App Store has sold over 50 Billion apps. The math is easy, that’s an average of 100 apps per user. So take an innocuous event and multiply it by 100. Not so innocuous anymore.

When thinking about what their app does, developers would be wise to think about what the users other apps will also do.

This extends beyond rating messages, though that’s one of the bigger ones. This extends to account creation and every other notification that an app might want to send out.

How many apps continue to give me notifications about features they have that I neither want or need? Answer: Too many.

Unfortunately, big picture thinking is often invisible to the end user, its easier to notice when things don’t work than noticing when they work well. Yet, it’s arguably this type of understanding which makes good apps truly great.

 

Further reading: Apple Can’t Ban “Rate This App” Dialogs


Help I Can’t Export From Final Cut X!

Everything plays fine, but when I go to export the options are all greyed out! What do I do!?!?

I’m guessing that one of the clips you are using (or one of the clips in your “event” [aka, "bin" for people in the industry]) has a little tiny camera icon in the bottom left hand corner of the thumbnail image. This is called a “Camera Clip.” At least, that’s what the error messages call these clips. (The clip in the picture here is offline, which is a separate problem, but it’s the only picture I have that contains the little camera icon in the corner.)

Apple does not talk about these. Larry Jordan has not encountered them.* I don’t know why they appear. I could not make one appear if I wanted to. But I know how to fix them.

What I can assertion is that a “camera clip” is a clip that is not properly imported into Final Cut X. The footage is still being linked to, it still plays back fine, but something about the footage is wrong. (Maybe it’s just not in ProRes yet. I don’t know.)

The most common fix I have found is that you need to “Reimport footage from camera.” which you can find in the File -> Import Menu.

Select the camera clips from your event/bin and choose the option from the drop down. (If you select an event and not a clip, it doesn’t seem to work. Make sure you select a clip before you choose reimport.)

Final Cut Pro X will begin the process of grabbing all the footage that it needs and performing the correct processes on it.

If anyone has information on why or how this happens, please let me know!

 

* In an email exchange last year with Larry Jordan he had this to say about my issue: “This behavior sounds like you either imported the clip from the camera without first copying the files to the hard disk – OR – you imported the files without copying them to the Event folder.” Since FCPX handles all of the importing and the clips were online and played fine, I’m not sure how this could actually happen, but it’s the most likely explanation I have heard so far, even if I can’t replicate it.


Your Phone is the Account

I don’t know what app developers are drinking these days, but I wish they would stop.

There’s a clear indication that most app developers come from a web background. Before you use a website you have to sign up for an account. This makes sense, because you could be anyone, anywhere, using any computer. You need a means to identify you, I get it.

When I’m using my phone though, there’s a 99.99% chance that I’m the person use my phone and a 0.01% chance that I’ve just been mugged. Part of this is Apple’s fault, because the first “apps” for iPhone had to be “web-apps” which is a fancy way of saying “useless.”

But that’s not the case anymore. People can program amazing and incredible applications that run on the little device in my pocket, but heaven forbid I actually have access to any of these features before creating a username and password! We really need to be sensitive about the shared phone situation where different users are using the same app on the same phone and need to log out after every use. /sarcasm

Recently I downloaded a free app called “Frontback.” It’s a camera app that takes a picture with both cameras  iPhone at the same time. It’s a fantastic concept… and it won’t let me use anything until I either create an account or log-in to facebook. Excuse me? You’re going to take a picture with my phone and put the resulting jpeg image in a a folder on my phone called “camera roll.” Which part of this process needs my email and a password?

“But Phil” you say in your condescending tone that implies I’m a little slow, “if you want access to the apps cloud services, you’ll need an account.”

No. No I don’t. I need to know if I’m this app is worth using and if it is, there are a dozen different more elegant ways to create a system that doesn’t involve me creating an account for an app on my phone.

There’s no excuse for this. There’s a 86% chance I’m only going to use the app once, creating a username and password is a barrier to entry. Even if I like the app, I have no good way to easily save this password into LastPass for future reference which means I’m probably going to have it reset if I ever re-download this app in the future. So why not tie the app to my phone? Why not tie it to my Apple account? Why not have a special identifier on my phone be synced to my iCloud account?

Let me use the app before I have to put all the work into creating an account. It’s bad enough I have to buy apps without having a trial, but now I have to also give out my email and come up with a password. Runkeeper let me try out the app before I created an account, why couldn’t Runtastic do the same thing?

A phone is the most personal computer you will ever use. It’s in your freaking pocket, it doesn’t get much more personal than that! Why are we basing our app design on the most anonymous and distributed system we have ever designed? This doesn’t make sense!

 

Addendum: I hope my position on creating unnecessary accounts is clear and mostly concise. But I wouldn’t doing my due diligence is I didn’t point out a few things I discovered while researching/writing this little rant.

Frontback has this to say in their FAQ:

Do I need an account to use Frontback?

Yes. Since we are a community based app, we ask that you create an account with us. After doing so, you’ll be able to join our community in viewing and sharing Frontbacks.

Which is fine, but there is no indication of this in the App Store, which feels a little “bait-and-switchy” to me. That said, the order in which they list the app’s features probably should have been a giveaway.

App Features

  • Explore and instantly connect with the Frontback community
  • Capture your best moments using both front and back cameras.

Thanks for clearing that up Frontback. Maybe next time put your app in the “Social Networks” category and not in the “Photo and Video” category.


If Buzzfeed tried to write a book

(It would look something like this…)

Jeff opened his garage door and you won’t believe what he saw!

His car.

He walked up to his Toyota Avalon which had 15 undocumented features that make this car awesome.

Jeff put the car in reverse and slowly backed out down the drive way. He thought back to the movie he saw last night. The one he had to watch twice, because it had 73 inside jokes he missed the first time through. He had also missed about half of the 24 references he didn’t know that he didn’t see.

As he pulled onto the street his thoughts slowly changed to work mode. There were a dozen signs he was in a dead end job, but also 82 reasons a bad job is better than unemployment.

The car stereo was hooked up to Jeff’s MP3 player, which was loaded with 15 unknown artists whose music will blow your mind.

Jeff only lived five minutes from work, but he still passed 13 product billboards every twenty-something hates to be reminded of.

Traffic was light, one of the 17 signs you live in a small midwestern town. Jeff was just glad he didn’t have to put up with 8 annoyances only New Yorkers will understand.

Jeff parked his car in the lot and went in to work. It was just another boring slow news day.

 

** Please don’t judge my writing ability based off this post. It was meant to be horrible in a way that only Buzzfeed can be horrible. If you’re from Buzzfeed, I’m sorry for making fun of you, but you’re really kinda asking for it because you are practically making fun of yourself by now and yes, while I may have some good ideas for your site I don’t really have any ambition to work for you so thanks in advance for not asking. :-) **