Ronny Courtens: Why Final Cut Pro X is HUGE in Europe

May 23, 2018

Final Cut Pro X may not have found much adoption in Hollywood. However, it is huge is Europe. Ronny Courtens has helped integrate FCPX workflows for companies like VGTV, Hangman Studios, Trim Editing, Swiss National Television, the BBC and many more.

In his presentation, Ronny explains why FCPX is the perfect fit for projects like La Peste, Danni Lowinski, and The Silent Child. According to Ronny, it's all about performance, stability, organization, search-ability, and realtime editing in the timeline.


- Thank you. Hello there. So my name is Ronny. I live in Belgium. And I've been working in the film and television industry for over 40 years now. And these are some of the companies I had the pleasure of working with in these 40 years. Either as a editor, producer, or post-production manager. I managed two major post houses in Brussels and in Paris. In these 40 years I've gone through lots of changes. Workflow changes, technology evolutions. So I had to adapt a lot. When Final Cut X came out, 2011, I was a fan. Immediate fan from the start. But I only started using it in 2012. One year later at a little sports event in London called the Olympic and Paralympic Games where we did amazing things with it. You know, Olympic Games they get live feeds and it's covered. But the Paralympic Games you have to send your own teams out. You have to go to the venues, record footage. And you combine it with the livestreams you get and then you have to spit out edits fast for your news organization. We did that and I was so surprised by the speed and the stability of Final Cut Pro X. 


That was 10.0.5. So we didn't have libraries. We didn't have multicam yet I think. And yet we managed to cover the Paralympics, easily, better than we ever did because I've done Olympic games, I don't know how many times in my life. So, I started to really promote Final Cut Pro X right in case studies on helping people for a couple years. You know, solve issues, helping them better understand how to work with the applications. And in the end I also started doing presentations like FCPX Tour we did some all over Europe and I was really surprised that there was so much negativity in the beginning but in the end when doing these presentations, people came to me and I learned so many new people who use Final Cut Pro X that I didn't know of. And I've been retired from the post-production scene for a couple of years, but I still work with these guys here. Amazing things from LumaForge, I represented for Europe, Africa, and the Middle East and in the end of the presentation you'll see why I love working with those people here. So, on to our topic. Why is Final Cut Pro X so hot in Europe? And it is hot in Europe. You would be amazed how many people use it. We don't know them all the time. I discover them, every time we do a presentation there's people coming up to me saying, "I use Final Cut X and on amazing things." And why it is. I've already covered one thing which makes Final Cut very attractive for let's say broadcast and television people like I am and that's speed and stability. That is what we need, speed and reliability. Because that's what we need when work against deadlines. When we do broadcasts, when we do news and sports and I'll give a few examples talking about news. We all know that BBC has adopted Final Cut Pro X. They have a couple hundred seeds and quite often there. 


They don't talk about it a lot because they can't but we see tweets from the people who train the editors and who say they are so amazed about the versatility of this application and about the speed they're getting. And actually more and more people within the BBC are having a look at Final Cut Pro X now also other divisions than news and sports. BBC Factual has started porting over all these big documentary series over to Final Cut Pro X and more are coming I can guarantee you. In France, a company I've worked for, the biggest broadcast company in France TF1 has adopted Final Cut Pro X. They tested every possible . I think the last two ones were between Premiere and Final Cut. And they finally went for Final Cut, there it is. But also other companies like tvn24. It's the biggest broadcast corporation in Eastern Europe. 


They have a 106 seeds. Fully operational for Final Cut. There's a national television in Poland and TV2 in Norway. Talking about Norway don't forget online broadcasts becoming more and more important more than linear and this is one of the best examples of successful online operation. It's VGTV. We know these guys. Pleasure to work with them. They are a video spinoff of the largest newspaper in Norway called VG so they wanted TV, VGTV and what they do, they have several online channels and they have a linear 24/7 news channel. They have the sports like the football rights for Norway which they do with Discovery. They deliver content to Eurosport. It's incredible. And this whole operation, 70 people is run on Final Cut Pro X for content creation. So, they run Final Cut Pro X connected to their custom-made MAM. And this whole operation is run by no less than eight LumaForge servers that take care of Ingest editing stations and the playout. So this is a huge operation based on Final Cut Pro X, and it's the new way of bringing broadcast news online. And while we talk about sports, well, some of the really high-profile sport events are covered with Final Cut Pro X. My friend Peter here edits the Tour de France and another friend from France, they edit the 24 hours of Le Mans. Y


ou see, my assistant Anoushka, the 24 hours we would have in the van for the European Le Mans series, streams are coming in from broadcast vans. Multiple streams to edit live in just going fast. And they edit them live. They combine them with pictures that come from cameras all over the tracks, interviews, BTS, spit it out while the rate is going, they go on-air on Youtube, whatever online, and by the end of the day, they have a 50-minute program. All on Final Cut Pro X, eight people working on a jellyfish server that sits somewhere in the van. This is speed and this needs to be reliable because you can't afford any mistakes. Either you do it or you're done. 


You know, you can't have them start over again. And that's why these people use Final Cut Pro X. Now, not only this. One of the early adopters in Europe of Final Cut Pro X was Metronome Productions. Known these guys for years. Actually, it was a full Avid house. They have around 200 people and they do 300 hours of production every year. And through Avid and then a couple of people that have gone through to know started editing the programs in Final Cut. On the second floor somewhere on a Macbook Pro. And they proved management that they did it so much faster than the traditional Avid workflows that were used. And they kept doing it. Once, twice, three times. I was there and went over there and this evolved. The management saw this. And perhaps in contrast to Hollywood, in Europe you're very sensitive to the words cost efficiency. Because budgets are shrinking everywhere, you have to be competitive, and if you can go to management and I went to the management said, listen, this is so much more efficient. Management believe it. They gave you responsibility to rely on a max of two people that really started this up and in three to four years' time they ported their complete operation over from Avid to Final Cut 300 hours of content each year that they do. And now they have 60 seats. They started with three little Macbook Pros that you have a complete organization collaborating with 60 people on Final Cut Pro X for their contact. 


Same friend of mine, BlazHoffwski, won a television in Holland, Micha Blazer. A big fan of Final Cut. And they produce some of the most popular television programs in Holland. They run 10 stations on the LumaForge server and also, very early adopter, Oliver Holtkamp, from Schnittchen and Köln in Germany. He produces most of the content for national broadcast. Very, quite complex timelines. They run on 2013 Mac Pros. Big operation, good operation. Early adopter of Final Cut and they're certainly still working on it and still evolving. David López in Spain. Now this is a very special thing. David, he is the editor for Salvados, and Salvados is one of the most popular programs in Spain with millions of viewers. Every week, they produce a 53-minute program made of interviews based on what has happened that week so it's very close to deadlines. They get multicam interviews with BTS, with all kinds of footage, they have to produce this 53-minute high-level program going on air on Sundays and this program has already received 3 Iris Awards, which are like the Emmy's for Spanish television all done on Final Cut Pro X. Seven editors. And they've even built a complete new facility around it which I'm going to see in a couple of weeks in Barcelona.


James Tonkin, one of the most respected UK producers and directors. He tours with every all the name and fame you can imagine in music. Rolling Stones, ACDC, Beyonce, Robbie Williams, you name them. U2. He has worked with them. So he goes on tour with them. So he records the tours live on cameras, and they spit out while the actual concert is going on, they spit out BTS, they spit out interviews for the fans who watch it online. Now when they come back to the studio in London, then they create these long two to three hour documentaries about the tour, about going through this tour. When I was there, he was finishing this guy's tour. It was a concert in Pompeii with 16 cameras cut on Final Cut Pro X all the way. 6K to 5K. David Gilmour from Pink Loyd. One of my heroes. And he was there while I was in London. So this is amazing, what Final Cut can do against stringent deadlines, music, sports, news, all because of the speed and the stability of this application. Because it's tied to the OS, it's optimized for the hardware, it's stable, you can rely on it, and that is a must for people who work under stringent deadlines. Besides this, related to it, is also that the test a lot of, offers a lot of real-time performance, especially on complex compositions with graphics, or multicam. That's interesting for heavy post-production. 


One of the first clients we have for LumaForge in Europe, Swiss National Television. Now, they have been using Final Cut Pro X since 2013 I think, yes. And they run 10 stations and they do 800 hours of content each year using Final Cut Pro X. They handle complex multicams, they add titles, subtitling, they work with Motion, they have these templates that they create that all their editors can change while they edit, you know, the integration for Motion with the Final Cut interface is amazing if you know how to use it. And what's more, we have completely integrated their Final Cut setup with the existing television infrastructure which is a must when you want to work in broadcast. You have these old systems and you have new workflows coming in you have to integrate so we put up a LumaForge server there. We integrated their setup with other broadcast vans coming in with studios dumping media to the server and they continue to edit. Very fast. And if you like timelines, now here's a timeline. This is Siskonpeti. I met the guy in Finland, Jesse Jokula, and this is him presenting the Final Cut X tour in Finland. And this is a factual comedy. So it's based on documents, but it's comedy. It has one of the best comedy and sketch program awards. Nominated for best comedy show. Jesse Jokula does everything.


Has always worked with Final Cut Pro X from the start and he also does huge documentaries with lots of graphics. As I said, look at these compositions. All these keys above each other. This plays real time on the traditional iMac. Nothing special it does. So the real time performance of Final Cut Pro X makes it suited for productions like these and that's what we like, but the third thing I want to talk about, organizing and searching functionality. Which makes it great. The way you can organize your clips, with keywords, with favorites, with rejects, makes it ideal for complex productions that involve lots of media, like narrative movies, television series, see that's Knut Hake from Germany. Early adopter of Final Cut Pro X. He edits the famous Danni Lowinski that has been sold everywhere around the world. Best comedy program in Germany. And since then, he has been very busy, and all this has been done on Final Cut X. Feature films, television series. Another person who's really known within our community is Ben Mercer from Finland. One of the first things he did was Rebellion. That's a 20-million dollar series. He cut for Irish national television. RTE One the Sundance channel and Netflix. Cut in Final Cut Pro X, there were two, he, Ben and his assistant, and he was so amazed by the organizational structure of Final Cut Pro X. The way you can easily find your content and he said it's the only application that I trust for these kind of productions because it allows me to find the forest through the trees. 


Okay, since then, he has been working on a major European feature film, and look at that, 80 days of shooting, a production team of 120 people, 500 hours of footage shot with these cameras. And Ben edited and he won the Finish Academy Award for best editing with this production and he said it sold everywhere. It's a big World War II production. So here we go to Spain. This is a Spanish Academy-award winning editor, Jose M.G. Moyano. Using Final Cut Pro X for the first time, El Hombre De Las Mil Caras. The particular thing is that they shot in 90 different locations in Europe and Asia. The DIT loaded up ProRes proxy files to editorial in Sevilla in Spain. So he could already start working on it while waiting for the high-res media, but those who are giving feedback to the guys in the different locations about the continuity, does it work? So they got they got instant feedback. They get it with Google Drive, so that feature film won a lot of awards and nominations, and they used it on one of the biggest European productions that has been produced lately, La Peste, 12.3 million dollar television series. Look at that. 400 people crew, 200 actors, 2000 extras. These are shots from the series. Shot 130 locations, 9 months of editing, 10 months of VFX. The same team that did Smoke and Mirrors did this because they're so happy about the way Final Cut works. This is the flagship original media productions from the largest TV provider in Spain. The editorial team was five people. This production when they launch it in January, beat every viewing record in Spain. It beat Game of Thrones. It became the most viewed and popular television series. Immediately it got budget for a new series that will start in 2019. So, there we are. Speed and stability, real time performance, unique organizing and searching functionality. But there's one thing more. 


Last thing I want to talk about is this. This is the editing setup for an Oscar-winning movie, believe it or not. The Silent Child. Compelling story. Was written by a British actress who has never written a script before, directed by her fiancee, Chris Overton, who had never directed anything before. Edited by Emily, who had never edited a feature film before, and she had to learn Final Cut Pro X while being edit on the scene. So, all creative, talented, creative people. They did it for no budget at all. They won every possible prize you can imagine. On Film festivals, got nominated, and won an Oscar. Which brings me to my final point. Final Cut Pro X relieves the barriers. You don't need a 70,000 core, hyperthreaded, watercooled, ugly PC to run Final Cut Pro X. It runs on regular software. And houses your creativity. It really relieves the barriers, the technical barriers, from you so you can really work on it. And that is the same thing why I work for LumaForge. They, Final Cut has succeeded in making editing fun again, for me. I was bored with it. Completely. I was bored with Avid, with Final Cut 7. They made it fun again. They stimulated the creativity again.  


And that's what LumaForge has done with another very boring thing, which is shared storage. Nothing is as ugly as shares storage. They made it accessible to everyone. People can use it easily. You don't have to think about the technology. It's just behind you. You're just gonna work. And that is why, in the last year that I will work before I finally retire, I will keep promoting Final Cut Pro X and LumaForge, because I love companies that make my life easy and I love to support startup companies. Thank you.