Final Cut Pro X – digesting the pandemic of outrage

In case you missed it (which is hard to believe considering the noise on the internet) Apple released the long awaited successor to their professional video editing suite Final Cut Pro Studio this week. Final Cut Pro X was announced at NAB back in April to an eager user-base, and despite only seeing a few screenshots and an hour long demo of the top level features, expectation was colossal. It is now available in the App Store for the paltry sum of $299.

Final Cut Pro X has a bold new User Interface

After NAB everyone interested in FCPx had a pretty good understanding of these top level features; the magnetic timeline, the one-click colour correction, the background rendering and ingest, the Auditioning feature, the multi-format timeline and the Precision Editor for trimming clips. And of course the drastically renovated User Interface built around a solid metadata foundation. This was not your father’s FCP.
FCPx uses Grand Central Dispatch to make the most of your multi-core computer, allowing it to do more, faster. You can now ingest in the background, and FCP will balance colours, stabilise video, clean up audio and identify shot types while you get on with editing. Constant background rendering uses all available processors, so that final rendering should be a thing of the past.

And yet, with all the excitement about what FCP was going to offer, there were more questions about what was left out of the presentation, about what we didn’t know about the new product. Many dyed-in-the-wool editors had little good to say about the X version, apparently writing it off as iMovie Pro even before the product had shipped. But the rest of us were reassured that the best was yet to come, not to dismiss the product prematurely, that all the questions would be answered in good time and we would not be disappointed.

This was Final Cup Pro after all. The little NLE that Apple brought us in 1999 that was slowly adopted by pro editors in Hollywood, indie filmmakers worldwide and individual video producers. Before Final Cut, Apple had no ProApps division. It was in Final Cut Pro that Apple finally found itself some credibility as a serious post-production company, challenging Avid for the title of Best NLE. Apple wasted no breath using Walter Murch to promote the fact that FCP was used to cut Cold Mountain So with that heritage, we trusted Apple to not let us down. That this entirely new, re-written from the ground up app, despite it’s unfamiliar looks, would be everything we had come to know and love about FCP7 and much much more.

The cold light of day

And here we are in late June, the release of FCPx 1.0 finally behind us. Installed versions finally in the hands of users getting a good work out. Questions finally being answered. Or were they? Not from Apple, as the release came with very little fanfare. No big announcement. Just a new page on the website and a press release. Word was spread organically over the internet and social networks. And quite quickly it was obvious the word was not good.

The high-end video post guys were proven correct, in that the features they were concerned would not be included, were indeed not included. There is no tape ingest or output, so laying off for TV broadcast is impossible. XML, EDL and OMF import/export are absent so large facilities where many editors, colourists and finishers share files and work on projects collaboratively are left out in the cold. FCPx is unable to even open project files from previous versions of FCP, so anyone anywhere who has used Final Cut will have to keep a legacy Mac around just in case an old project gets woken from the grave, as clients are wont to do sometimes.

Absent is any native RED support, which Adobe has worked hard to provide in PremierPro. Also absent is any means of displaying output on an external broadcast monitor, an impossible omission to comprehend in a professional NLE. The way it handles media requires hard drive storage to be local which causes all manner of problems for RAID systems.

One disgruntled editor on the Yahoo! Group put it this way:

FCP X is unusable by editors at the highest level as you can’t even send an XML or an EDL to a high level online tool like Flame / Symphony / Smoke / Scratch or Baselight etc etc.

So FCP X is not usable at the high end as an online tool for assembling shots from other tools (as no XML import) and it can’t be used as an offline tool for cutting and then finish in an online suite (no XML or AAF export).

So it’s an isolated dead end purely useful to solo editors who finish inside FCP X and don’t need a broadcast monitor or output to broadcast devices.

And another says:

11 years of FCP, thousands invested in third party plug-in effects, all flushed down the toilet. We produce broadcast content not just YouTube videos.

Other concerns I’ve heard include lack of Multicam, XSAN, tape transport controls, plug-ins, FXplug support. And the biscuit-taker happens to be that Apple in it’s infinite wisdom has taken Final Cut Studio off the shelf and out of circulation, encouraging it’s resellers to return any old stock. Look for deals on eBay, you may not see FCP7 anywhere else again. By vowing not to support FCP7 Apple has instantly alienated a large percentage of those users unable or unwilling to move to the new paradigm immediately. Given time, and given a couple of updates cycles to FCPx to add the missing features, those FCP7 stalwarts would eventually likely follow along. Why anyone would having been treated in this manner it’s hard to imagine. It would be very easy for Avid to pick up a slew of new users in that circumstance.

The most troubling thing about erasing FCP7 from existence is the End Of Life of some very useful Final Cut Studio programs. While Motion and Compressor get new versions on the App Store, Soundtrack and DVD Studio Pro will not get a reprieve. I have found Soundtrack quite useful over the last year and have come to depend on it as my most trusted audio multitracker. And while DVD’s are not as popular as they were at one time, it’s still necessary to output a disk for a client review, for a show reel, or for certain projects. Adobe Encore to the rescue here.

So, where does that leave me?

I’d like to create a separate boot drive with Snow Leopard as a sandbox to install FCPx so I can play with the app and see just how good or bad it is, if it fits with my workflow. It’s entirely likely someone like myself could really benefit from FCPx. It would require a new drive (more expense) and a separate instal of all the other apps that support an NLE, like Photoshop, Illustrator etc. Yet all of this is moot as there is not a demo version available, a huge oversight by my reckoning. In Apples world, you either like it or lump it. If the program does not or will not run on your system then get out your checkbook once again and UPGRADE.

And it is this kind of strong-arm sales and marketing tactic that can only serve to lose Apple so much respect and credibility with it’s users. The very people that helped revive it’s flagging sales and credibility. Apple expects everyone to upgrade to the new app, but inevitably this requires updating every other component in the workstation. The processor and graphics requirements of FCPx mean all but the most recent MacPro’s and MacBookPro’s are able to run it out of the box. I’m unsure about iMacs at this stage but it would not surprise me if they were supported considering the target market. My early 8-core MacPro will need a graphics card upgrade if I want to play. Not to mention the software is only available through the App Store, which means Snow Leopard. Upgrading an OS is no trivial matter either, and usually requires updates and upgrades to drivers and app’s throughout the system. And busy working professionals are loath to make these kinds of upgrades mid-stream, that’s productivity disaster.

I heard one reseller complaining vociferously how the App Store will likely cannibalise the sales of turnkey system builders and resellers of Apple hardware and software. It was these people that built the support network for professional editors when Apple needed them, training, plug-in development, 3rd-party hardware

Apple has decided in one fell swoop that it no longer needs anyone. Look at the dearth of plug-ins at release and you can readily see that Apple talked to almost no one in the community about coming up with plugs that support this package. The lack of XML at release of a supposedly professional package shows they don’t think that playing nice with other packages (Resolve anyone?) is required. The negative reaction to how 3rd party equipment works with FCPX (the Kona paper released yesterday) makes everyone wonder about how Apple values their allied hardware manufacturers.

The new app was written from the ground up, so its all new code, nothing was carried over from FCP7. As such the bulk of the disgruntled sentiment comes from what was left out that once was in, that we were expecting an UPGRADE, not a back-to-thebeginning 1.0 product. There is a feeling that the high-end users that built up the Final Cut name and reputation have been completely ignored with this release. These users and studios have invested monumental amounts of cash building workflows around FCP and simply cannot abandon them overnight. Many are expecting to continue running FCP7 unsupported for years to come, if necessary. Reminiscent of how a lot of Mac OS9 systems were kept around long after OSX just for legacy Avid Media Composer systems.

It is possible to keep your install of FCP7 and install FCPx over it. The best of both worlds is never a bad option. However, even Apple recognises the pitfalls of doing this and has some strict guidelines for anybody wishing to do so.

Looking ahead, it has to get better

Apple has clearly put all it’s eggs into the tapeless, disk-less, all-digital cloud-based ecosystem. While it’s important to embrace the future, and where the bulk of video content is getting created today, it’s pretty harsh to ostracise the past so singularly. With support for GoPro, Vimeo, YouTube and Facebook, Apple has shown where it’s allegiance lies, yet it offers these without native support for RED or Alexa footage, two very high-end tapeless solutions. AJA was quick to announce some support for FCPx that allows use of an external monitor, but only for preview purposes, no print-to-tape yet. And that’s an additional expense again to do what was possible out of the box with FCP7.

The handful of users who have installed it, played with it and have good reports really are impressed. They do say the things FCPx promises to do well it does extremely well. I love the look of the new UI, and the core features sound impressive. I can’t wait to have a play with it. It’s just unfortunate that there is no demo to evaluate like almost every other pro app. I’ll have to wait until my workload permits and plunk down the cash and hope for the best. It’s important to remember this is a 1.0 release, updates will likely come thick and fast as holes in the feature set get filled. And in a year or so this will all have been a silly storm in a teacup.

It’s unfortunate Apple feels the need to be so intractable and exclusive. The whole episode leaves me a bit cold and the soft veneer of our favourite computer company is wearing very very thin. As one Yahoo! Group member puts it, this burst the bubble of enthusiasm and anticipation that was created in Vegas.

Have you played with FCPx yet? What are your first opinions? Will you be using it in production soon, or will you hold off for updates? Please leave a comment below and share your thoughts.

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8 Responses to “Final Cut Pro X – digesting the pandemic of outrage”

  1. Richard says:

    I’m using Final Cut Pro X¬†and really like it. It has some amazing, trailblazing features. Remember people are much more motivated to complain versus saying something positive. I will still be using FCP7 for my main projects and will wait for the needed updates to FCPX. I use FCP professionally 40 hours every week. I’m sure FCPX will be used on more and more of my projects over the next year.

  2. I think this is the best and most unbiased writing I’ve read on the subject of FCPX since it’s launch.

    As you know I bought It straight way and have enjoyed playing with it everyday since. I’ve never been a FCP guy I used it in uni during the first year (as that what was being taught for one project) and edited one 20 minute short film in it. I’ve always preferred premiere and use that (mainly in work) for editing. CS4

  3. ScottieB says:

    Great post, Adam! I have more to say but no time – will add more later, but wanted to say nice job!!!

  4. I think this is the best and most unbiased writing I’ve read on the subject of FCPX since it’s launch.

    As you know I bought It straight way and have enjoyed playing with it everyday since. I’ve never been a FCP guy I used it for a 20 minute short film once, but have been a premiere guy before and after that. I use premiere primarily in work, I edit blue screen footage a lot, ship it over to after effects for the keying and all the usual stuff including rendering. For the most part it works well as a workflow. But filming with dslr footage with separate audio on short-form projects there’s always annoyance there – having to capture elsewhere, having to sync footage with the new secondary audio both of which has now been alleviated in fcpx. A lot of people have been saying they don’t care about the editor, but I think a lot of they’re updates have really spoken to me, ‘yes that’s an issue that I have’, ‘I have that too’ and have come up with solutions for those and many others. I appreciate the fact that they are trying a different approach to the handling/ organisation of files and editing in the new timeline which is very different and almost thoughtful to the way you edit. It is fast too, one of the main reasons I could never use 7.0 was that it was so slow, I tried it again a couple of months back and after an hour I went back to premiere.

    In my mind though all editing products are all the same, there’s really not that much depth to them or difference between them, but upon seeing the demo of fcpx i though wow, that’s new, exciting and I want that. It definitely has it’s concerns regarding it’s limited outputs, particularly the broadcast ones, which I really hope will come and would be dumbfounded if they didn’t as they’ve often had videos of the Coen’s, Fincher championing Final Cut for a while and cutting them clean off would come as a shock (and yet not totally unbelievably). I think a lot of apple’s thinking is directed towards the iTunes store. I originally hoped the iPad (from rumors) would have a little dvd player to enjoy films on the road – but of course why would they do that?, it would make no sense, they want you to buy and watch films from the iTunes store, DVDs = no money for apple.

    I feel bad for the outcasting of DVDStudio Pro I had to use it in work recently for a commercial dvd project when Encore couldn’t do it – Encore has issues with playing on each and every dvd player, especially with buttons not being visible on certain ones. DVDSP is (was) much more dense with features and compatibility.

    All in all I think it’s good of them to stir the pot a bit as editing software updates are usually just an addition of file compatibility or an addition of outputs with one or two little features here and there but fundamentally it’s still the same day-in-day out editor as before which is the same as the others. FCPX is different, both good and bad. For me at least it seems like it’s come too early, I’m sure in apple-land there is no tv, cinemas, dvds there’s just itunes. It seems like a software that is 5-10 years to early for us when perhaps there are no dvd’s but I’m not going to even go there.

    At the end of the day it’s cheap, fast and a new approach and I definitely think a step forward. I, as with most, will be eagerly anticipation to see what exactly they do for the first update – or even comment about it. But damn even motion is dare I say, decent nowadays.

    I’m hoping to edit my film using it, which will take a few years and probably v11 will be out by then so will see how it develops.

  5. ScottieB says:

    I’m disappointed, but not even slightly surprised. As far as I’m concerned the writing has been on the wall since at least 2005, probably before that. Around that time I ponied up the dough for my own truly professional system for the first time ever – a then-current, mid-range, filled with ram and with upgraded GPU Power Mac G5 to run Final Cut Pro. (I learned to non-linear edit in the late 90s on Premiere 4.2 and then 5.1)

    DVD burning was huge at that time, and here is where I ran into my first interesting run-in with apple’s support. Until that point, Apple support had been amazing for me. I usually purchased applecare plans and always got great service. But by 2005 Apple was shifting big time to being an entertainment company – the ipod was huge. Anyway the DVD player taht came with my G5 was capable of burning and reading both DVD+R and DVD-R discs, though the specs only mentioned DVD-R. Since DVD+R was much easier to find at good prices (Sam’s Club) I used mostly those and had hundreds of them burned.

    One day there was a firmware update for my dvd burner, so as I usually do I upgraded (it was “recommended” by Apple after all in Software Update). So after the firmware update, my drive can no longer read or write the hundreds of DVD+R disks I have (no this was not mentioned in the update notes)! A call to Applecare and the guy tells me “well the specs never mentioned DVD+R so this update just brought it back to spec and therefore we can’t help you.” I went on a bit of a tirade at that point about how much money I spent and how I was a PRO customer and needed PRO service especially if I paid for applecare, and how does it make ANY sense for an UPDATE to take features away – regardless of the specs, the thing worked, and now it doesn’t!

    I tried one more call a week later after cooling off (a little) but got nowhere and figured I was SOL. Until about 2 weeks later when I got a call from a tier 2 or 3 tech person who assured me it was all a big mistake and they actually did replace the drive… but not until I made a stink and had to wait. And that initial response STILL pisses me off.

    ANyway a few more calls over the next few years and lots of useless “help” and I actually gave up on Applecare.

    Then, a few years ago, the NLE world was itching for some new stuff. Premiere now in CS4 or so was no longer a joke, Avid was reasonably affordable… and Apple… killed Shake. And then released Final Cut Studio 3 with FCP 7 which was at best a .5 update in full upgrade disguise – oh and it was 2 years late!

    So last year -2010, at NAB, I was convinced to switch BACK to premiere. 64 bit, native DSLR, native RED… AND the easiest round trip to/from After Effects yet. No brainer. This was over a year ago – I’ve been using Premiere ever since.

    So to me, this whole thing is old news, even though it’s new again. I wish I could say I was surprised, and I will admit to holding out some hope (HOW could they POSSIBLY kill XML support and backward compatibility – nah it will be there even if they didn’t say so – Larry Jordan agrees!) after this year’s NAB, but man…. this may be my last straw with Apple actually. If no Final Cut, I don’t see the need for a Mac Pro – my dollar will go further building my own system, and Windows doesn’t really bother me like it does others… Mac doesn’t care about PROs anymore. It’s too much work, and to be a “good” pro vendor, you have to be FAR more open than Apple has EVER been, and they seem to get more secretive as time goes on, not less so. This is referring to “Pro” in the sense I always took it to mean – people at the top of the field getting paid for their work – making a living from their computer and software… Apple still cares about putting the WORD “Pro” on things to jack up prices and hit the right marketing points, of course.

    All that said, I get the recent anger and noise – if Apple was going to do what they did here, they should have been more straightforward about their timeline and game plan. Why not ANSWER those questions we all had after NAB? Would have softened the blow at least if we’d known “there isn’t time to have multi-cam and backward compatibility in there for launch, but we promise it will be there.” Thing is, the stuff they left out is HUGE — if they really are working on it, why be so secretive?? It does feel kinda like a scam.

    Ok, this is too long. I need my own blog. Short version – Yes FCPX is a letdown… but IMO the writing’s been on the wall… I’m surprised people are so surprised. Move to Premiere and be happy. I really don’t understand why the brand name matters that much…

  6. ScottieB says:

    Oh forgot to add – if you do make the switch to Adobe, Audition is a better application than Soundtrack Pro.

  7. influxx says:

    Really. I have been doing audio on the Mac for many years, mostly in Cubase and Reason. Just recently started using Soundtrack Pro for my podcast production. I have found it a very nice little app, although it is plagued with the typical Apple Pro Apps bugginess that has never been addressed.

    I’d like to look at Audition. What areas does it excel over Soundtrack?

  8. Suzan Kurelko says:

    Fantastic design and style, ultimately came across the place for awesome designed textures

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