I’ve seen a lot of hatred toward Final Cut Pro X’s new magnetic timeline over the last nine days. I’m increasingly coming to believe it’s all a big misunderstanding.
Most of the resentment of the magnetic timeline, as far as I’ve seen, seems to revolve around how it handles clip collisions. In particular, a lot of people seem to be viewing the new timeline’s behavior as bumping clips to other tracks without asking them, and thus viewing FCP X as having tracks they can’t control. But that’s not quite right.
If we define a ‘track’ as a linear container for clips, that runs the full length of the sequence, Final Cut Pro has exactly one of these: the primary storyline. It’s the only place you can drop a clip in an empty sequence, and it’s the only vertical area of the sequence that’s visually demarcated. Even the primary storyline, however, is not quite the sort of track you might be used to:
The fundamental organizational principle of the magnetic timeline is not based around tracks, but around relationships between clips. When two clips collide, and FCP X moves one of them above or below the other, that moved clip isn’t being bumped to another track. There are no tracks. Rather, FCP X is simply overlapping those clips. Vertical stacking is just the way overlapping is presented. FCP X doesn’t have tracks the user can’t control. It has clip relationships the user can control, and it presents the relationships the user has defined using a standardized visual representation.
Looked at in this light, complaining that you can’t directly control what ‘track’ a clip is on in FCP X is like opening a raw text document in a text editor, and complaining that it automatically lays out each character in sequence, in a series of horizontal lines, instead of allowing you to position each character where you want it.
There’s nothing at all ‘unprofessional’ about FCP X’s approach here. In fact, using clip relationships rather than tracks as the fundamental organizational principle for a sequence is extremely powerful, and it’s clear that a huge amount of thought went into this design. But it’s very different, and a lot of people don’t seem to have made a serious attempt to understand it before deciding to hate it.