A year ago, Apple made a bold move with the update of it’s industry shaking application Final Cut Pro, rewriting the code for their Non-Linear Editing system (NLE) from scratch. The initial reaction by many of the existing FCP users was, to put it mildly, outrage. In rewriting, Apple focused primarily on new and exciting features and streamlining the video editing process to their version of best practices. What many of the professional users, myself included, complained about was this: that Apple made the new FCP backwards compatible with the decidedly unprofessional iMovie, but not with its own legacy versions, thereby threatening to someday orphan all projects created with previous versions of Final Cut; that Apple made Final Cut the Devil’s Island of non-linear editors with no way to move projects into other editing systems or even complementary software like Pro Tools or After Effects, or to even view your timeline on a broadcast monitor; that while Apple included new and enhanced color correction and audio tools, they killed existing tools that had much deeper toolsets and had no intention to replace these, but expected
third party developers to fill in those gaps; and that Apple, by prematurely releasing FCP-X, an incomplete application that lacked essential features necessary to call it a professional application, had essentially abandoned the professional market for the growing number of pro-sumers.
One year and five updates later, Apple has answered a few of these concerns and third party developers have answered the call to put into place what should have been there upon Final Cut X’s initial release.
Things you can now do in Final Cut (that you could do in earlier versions) are view your footage on a Broadcast Monitor, relink your media manually, import layered Photoshop files, export XML files and
edit in a multicam setup.
Final Cut is currently the 17th top paid app in Apple’s App Store (interestingly, 3 spots below iMovie) and many professionals assert happiness with the new approach to editing and have found a way to utilize FCP-X into their workflow. We still use FCP 7 here, and my argument has been that FCP-X is an upgrade of iMovie, but let’s assume
that it is somehow related to the old Final Cut. Today, if you want to upgrade Final Cut Studio, a software suite that included the graphic effects package Motion, the Digital Audio Workstation Soundtrack Pro, the color corrector Color and the batch video processing tool Compressor, you can expect to invest $299 for Final Cut Pro itself, $49.99 for an updated version of Motion, and $49.99 for an updated version of Compressor. To try to restore the dropped functionality of Final Cut, you can expect to shell out the following:
X2Pro outputs FCP-X project audio in AAF files for use in Pro Tools – $99.99
7toX converts legacy Final Cut XML files to FCP-X projects – $9.99
ClipExporter for Final Cut Pro X batch exports clips as Quicktime
reference files for quick ingestion into other programs – $25.99
SendTo allows you to send your FCP-X timeline to Motion (and now to After Effects CS5) – $9.99
So, for $544.76, you get an updated version of Final Cut that still doesn’t do all that Final Cut Studio did. You do, however get the magnetic timeline, a 64 bit application, automatic syncing, automatic match color grading, and many other enhancements, so the worth of it totally depends on what you prize more: speed and ease of use, or
compatibility with other tools and with itself.
The absurd upshot of all this is that the end product has not changed. Video is merely a series of still images, played back at a certain frame rate, often synced to an audio track. Somewhere in the finishing stages, Apple has converted Final Cut’s magic, magnetic, trackless timelines to this linear file format. Yet they can’t seem to figure out how to generate an EDL, the most basic description of an editing timeline that has been an industry standard for more than 20 years.
Many would argue that EDL’s are obsolete, but this is the point: Apple does not want to give people options. They do not want to give customers what they want or need. They want to create a new need and can do it only by trying to change the landscape, making non-adopters look like dinosaurs. What the media calls the Reality Distortion Field.
Nonetheless, there are many people cutting video professionally with FCP-X and love it, although I suspect that Final Cut IS their workflow. My guess is that these are people who work alone, who need to work fast and who have no need, knowledge or interest in advanced features in audio or color correcting.
For our part, unless Apple experiences a Dallas moment and one day releases FCP-8 and declares the last year was just a dream, we will be moving on to another NLE.