Final Cut Pro X: New Dog, Old Tricks

On the 21st June 2011, Apple released the latest, greatest incarnation of it’s Professional video software – Final Cut Pro X – promising a revolution in editing that was so exciting I even designed some T-shirts to mark the occasion! From the backlash on the interwebs though, it seemed that many professionals weren’t perhaps as enthusiastic as I was, in fact some of them were downright angry at what Apple had done with their beloved software. Everyone is entitled to their opinion, but I think far too much chatter has been about what’s missing in FCPX, rather than all the great stuff packed into the software that makes it easier to get the job done, and get it done better.

First things first, I wanted to clear something up – what ‘Pro’ means. Obviously it’s short for ‘Professional’, and according to the dictionary I have to hand, a professional person is someone who is engaged in a specified activity as one’s main paid occupation rather than as a pastime, and shows skill and competence. I’ve been using Final Cut Pro for around 6 years now, cutting DV, HDV and more recently dSLR footage as part of my job, so by definition that would make me a Professional, and as far as I’m concerned the claim that FCPX is not for Professionals is quite simply preposterous.

Of course, in many instances the moaning and anger is going to be justifiable, but too many people have been quick to slate Final Cut Pro X without looking beyond the initial stumbling blocks. Let’s not forget that (a) this is a complete ground-up re-write of the software – i.e. a v1.0 release (not a v10 upgrade as that “X” might have you believe); and (b) Final Cut isn’t the only editing software available – you have choices people.

It is true that there are features missing in Final Cut Pro X that many professional editors use (and some really need), but that doesn’t mean the software doesn’t work and work well – it just isn’t going to fit into every professional’s workflow right now. If, for example, you need to share your work with dedicated colourists or want to tweak your soundtrack in ProTools you’re up a gum tree, at least you are for now – until an Apple update or additional third-party support gets us all holding hands again singing cumbaya.

If on the other hand like me you mostly work in isolation, only occasionally sharing projects, exclusively cut DV, HDV or dSLR footage and output to Quicktime or for the web, then Final Cut Pro X is going to knock your socks off. I checked, and mine are gone. Seriously.

Having been on holiday for the couple of weeks after FCPX launched I’ve only just had the opportunity yesterday to cut a paid job using Apple’s revolutionary new software. At first glance the redesigned user interface does look a lot more like iMovie than Final Cut, and as a seasoned Pro v7 user it does initially seem like everything’s in the wrong place. Any misgivings are fairly short lived once you get used to where all the familiar old tools and adjustments settings are and get your head around some new keyboard shortcuts.

Honestly it only took me a few minutes to find my bearings, and I suspect most users – whether they be upgrading from iMovie or taking the leap of faith from FCP7 – would be in exactly the same boat. The dark theme is actually quite refreshing, and although for reasons best known only to myself I was editing on my MacBook Pro, I didn’t have any issues with the single-screen layout despite having only 15″ of real estate to play with.

What was immediately clear once I started getting creative and pulling selected clips onto the new trackless magnetic timeline, was that the software is super slick, and super quick. Personally I found the actual editing process far more efficient than Final Cut Pro 7 – skimming is a fantastic new feature, whilst traditional rolling, rippling and slipping of clips happens with a new fluidity and clip adjustments are a breeze. Perhaps most impressive was all the stuff happening in the background though – the software did a fine job sorting out the dodgy white balance and uneven audio levels in the HDV footage I’d been given to work with. Check the box to balance colour? Why, yes please.

When I first launched FCPX I have to admit I screamed a little inside – what have you done Apple? At the end of the day though, or more accurately by around lunchtime, I was left bemused considering the furore over its release just how quickly and easily I was able to adapt to the revolutionary new way of working, and cut together my first FCPX project.

So I see what you’ve done Apple – you’ve turned the world of editing on its head! Since you can’t teach an old dog new tricks, you decided to give us a whole new dog that performs the same old tricks much quicker, more efficiently and with better results.

The best thing is though, Apple taught this puppy a few extremely powerful new tricks too, and this is only the beginning….

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One thought on “Final Cut Pro X: New Dog, Old Tricks”

  1. I’m guessing that a combination of Apple’s big spending in the video editing market over the prior 15 years, remember Color was a $10k standalone, chickens have come home to roost. They bought their way in perhaps with only the aim of market share and boy did that work. FCP studio & Shake got to places Apple may have never intended or understood. So when a big rewrite occurs, their current vs future market goes under the microscope.
    They have decided to go for 80% of the market meaning less functionality carries over, but re-engineering and re-thinking hard the 80% core to deliver slick new tools at a market bursting low price. Their calculation is Adobe and Avid split the 20% left behind and FCPX hoovers-up new editors in the future, perhaps dSLR inclined. Software download means no printed manuals, my FCP Studio2 came with 4-5Kg of manuals and rarely get used so thats fine. Major hardware investment means no immediate FCPX for me, Studio bound behind my wall of manuals…for now.

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