This was the first project I edited on an M1 Mac and as much as I would have liked to patiently wait for a beast of a system sometime in 2021, deadlines and availability pushed me to the base M1 Macbook Air.
First, the finished video:
A Macbook Air recap for those who need it:
- 8-core M1 processor
- 7-core GPU (upgraded model and Macbook Pro have the 8-core GPU)
- 8GB RAM
- 256GB hard drive
- No fan
- Crazy fkn battery life
For comparison, the computer I'm coming from is a 2017 15-inch Macbook Pro. Quad-core, discrete graphics. While professionally employed, I used a mid-range iMac Pro and, no matter the system, I generally pride myself in bringing Final Cut Pro to its knees.
Spoiler alert: the base M1 Macbook Air was no exception.
Spoiler-spoiler: it still performed better than my current 2017 Macbook Pro.
The reason I'm constantly bringing Final Cut Pro to its knees -- even on powerful systems -- is because of all the graphics, titles, masking, and animation I routinely layer into every shot. In the example shot above, "Hate" and "Hope" appear and disappear from behind Uncle Sam.
This next shot started out as a speculative 'I wonder if I can pull this off ...'
The shot is split into multiple layers and each of these layers had to be finessed carefully.
- the ribbon is on 2 layers, a foreground and background
- Uncle Sam is masked on one layer
- the background is another layer
- Bonus layers for the lower 3rd and the camera zoom effect!
It's complex, to say the least, and one of the first instances where the M1 started buckling ... but the result is pretty slick! Love this shot.
To backup for just a second, the concept of this video is Uncle Sam giving a presser to deliver a message of hope to a divided nation. The visual concept is basically one long shot ... which is the exact opposite of my typical collaboration with Matt Horowitz.
Upshot: I flexed some of those slick writing skills on a bunch of fun lower 3rds!
(Call me, CNN!)
The end of the video features one long montage of headline events from 2020, summing up the basic premise of the video: this year has been a miserable fucking tightrope.
To bookend the video, I returned to the same composited sequence of televisions I used for the opener. Uncle Sam says peace out and—my favorite part—the smoke and fire clear from the dystopian TV right as we fade to black.
But really, how did the M1 perform in a base Macbook Air?
- in early edits, FCP background rendering genuinely felt like it happened in the background
- once heavy gfx & fx started layering, this didn’t last
- on my 2017 Macbook Pro, I generally turn off background rendering; even on the base M1 Air, I could leave it on (most of the time)
- I crashed FCP and Mac multiple times under the edit load
- still performed better than the iMac Pro I used last year
- plug-in compatibility varied
- LenoFX receives high marks
- plugin previews perform better than ever
- Motion VFX was middling. A go-to plugin wasn’t compatible and I lost motion tracking support
- Aside from a new $300 plugin, there doesn’t seem to be solid motion tracking support for m1 just yet
- 13-inch screen + iPad in sidecar works great for editing
- battery is great and under heavy workload, I’d ballpark 5+ hrs
- Prior to heavy gfx workload, Air sits comfortably on lap
- under heavy workload, it gets uncomfortably hot
- STILL better than 2017 Pro w/ discrete gfx
Tl;dr: even a base, fanless system puts last-gen pro systems to shame. It's not without flaws, but ... hot damn.
I’ve alway liked Final Cut Pro -- I was on board from the very beginning with FCPX -- because the canvas timeline represents a concept I feel pretty strongly about: working at the speed of creativity. As good as FCP may be, technology (and affordability) has always been a low ceiling in creative work.
Today, the M1 promises to move that technological ceiling much higher.
I can't wait to test drive 16GB and a fan!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Jordan Krumbine is a professional video editor, digital artist, and creative wizard currently quarantined in Kissimmee, Florida. When not producing content for the likes of Visit Orlando, Orlando Sentinel, or AAA National, Jordan is probably yelling at a stubbornly defective Macbook keyboard, tracking creative projects in Trello, and animating quirky videos with LEGO and other various toys.