David Pogue, New York Times, has written an excellent followup article with Apple’s response to missing features in Final Cut Pro X.
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Apple released Final Cut Pro X this morning at 5:30 AM LA time. You can read Apple’s announcement here — http://www.apple.com/pr/library/2011/06/21fcp.html
You can visit Apple’s new webpage here: http://www.apple.com/finalcutpro/
In three words – speed, power, cutting-edge.
The first time I saw Final Cut Pro X, back in February, this quote from the title of Stephen Ambrose’s book on the transcontinental railroad flashed into my head.
Just as the transcontinental railroad permanently changed 19th century America – in a wide variety of ways – Final Cut Pro X has the same capability.
During the last several months, I’ve had extensive discussions with engineers and product managers at Apple, read virtually all the Help files and, more recently, been running the software itself.
I’m knee-deep in a long newsletter which will provide a lot more detail when it comes out next week (subscribe for your FREE issue here: larryjordan.biz/newsletter), so here, in this blog, I just want to provide a bigger picture approach.
In every conversation I’ve had with Apple, each person stressed: “The easy thing would be to just create an incremental upgrade. But, we felt that while the current version of Final Cut held up well for the last ten years, it wasn’t ready for the next ten. We needed to design something from the ground up to take us into the next ten years.”
With this release, Apple made four significant changes in direction:
* For the first time, two different versions of FCP can coexist on the same system. I’ve been running FCP 7 and FCP X on the same system for months.
* Maxing out performance to take full advantage of current hardware
* Almost exclusive support for tapeless workflows
* Distribution via the App Store
FINAL CUT PRO 7 IS NOT DEAD
To me, this is one of the highlights!
Installing FCP X does not remove FCP 7. So you can take your own sweet time deciding when to make the switch. And, in fact, you can use FCP 7 where it makes sense and FCP X when that is a better choice. For the first time ever, we can have two different versions of FCP on the same system at the same time, without partitioning hard disks and jumping through hoops.
Its no secret that Final Cut Pro took forever to accomplish some tasks. (I have it on good authority that many families were significantly augmented while waiting for the render bar to complete its measured progress.)
Plus, the 4 GB RAM limit caused projects to corrupt, files to mysteriously disappear and spawned a new breed of tech: the Final Cut guru, who, with an apparent laying on of the hands, could bring nearly dead projects back to life. (That last may be a dramatic overstatement, but I like the allusion.)
This new version flies. Whenever Final Cut needs to think, it does so seamlessly, in the background, with a little indicator that tells you how its doing and a complete dashboard for the curious who want to monitor their system.
It allows editing files natively, but prefers to convert them to ProRes – a decision that I agree with, for both performance and image quality reasons.
Once you edit with the magnetic timeline, you’ll never want to go back. And, while the concept of connected clips is a bit weird initially, the benefits these provide are so well-thought out and obvious that I stopped worrying about them after the first couple of days.
Nesting is improved. Audio filters are amazing and first-rate. There is much tighter integration with Motion and Compressor.
There are as many ways to edit in the new version as the old and more ways to trim. Trimming can even be in real-time or slow-motion. Old barriers such as clips in the Browser, still image sizes, clips in a project, and tracks have all fallen away.
The context-sensitive nature of the Viewer window, and the speed it responds, make me completely comfortable editing with only one image window.
The whole system is designed for speed.
And, when it comes to keyboard shortcuts, there are already hundreds in the system and the new process for creating shortcuts is just amazingly powerful – and easy to use.
NOTE: Remind me to mention how much I like the new audio meters – big, fat, large, readable, and adjustable.
SOME OLD FRIENDS DIDN’T MAKE IT
Soundtrack Pro, DVD Studio Pro, and Color are not in this release. (LiveType was discontinued when FCP 7 came out.)
We all have our favorites, but I will miss Soundtrack Pro the most.
HOWEVER, keep in mind that if you own this software now, you’ll still be able to use it with FCP X. But it is no longer available.
DEALING WITH THE IMOVIE MONKEY
Much ink has been wasted and many pixels have died in the flame debate that FCP X is just a larger form of iMovie.
Yes, they share a similar approach to the interface.
Yes, FCP X imports iMovie projects and media. No, it doesn’t import FCP 7 projects. Yes, Apple should figure out a way to provide an FCP 7 translator. It can’t be that hard.
However, think about this for a minute. iMovie has been out for, what, eight years with ZERO ability to upgrade to Final Cut? Doesn’t it make just a little bit of sense to provide an upgrade option for the millions of future editors out there?
Of course it does.
There’s such in increase in power stepping from iMovie – which I’ve never liked – up to FCP X, that it would be like moving from a bike to a motorcycle. Yes, they both have two wheels and a handlebar, but there’s a huge difference in power in the seat!
APPLE IS MOVING TO TAPELESS
If tapeless media is your life, it will take you a week to stop giggling once you fire up FCP X.
However, FCP X has only limited support for tape. Tape ingest is from FireWire-attached devices, and streaming-only, no timecode controlled positioning of ingest or output to tape.
I’m reminded of the hand-wringing that occurred when Apple dropped floppy disks for optical media “back in the day,” now that Apple has decreed that tape is dead.
In this case, though, I side with the “tapists.” Apple controls the eco-system of the Mac. They don’t control the eco-system of Hollywood; then, again, I’m not sure anyone does. I have clients today that are using 3/4″ Umatic cassettes for sound design and music composition, and EDL lists are used daily for conforming major feature films. Both those formats were declared dead AGES ago!
While FCP X can ingest from a Firewire-attached deck, its output options to tape are limited to live streaming.
This lack of support for layback to video tape using RS-422 control protocol with timecode accuracy gives the perception that Apple is not meeting the needs of professional output. It remains to be seen if companies like AJA, Matrox, or Blackmagic Design will step into the breech. If they do, great. If not, this will cause many of us problems.
However, if you are shooting tapeless, this new software is designed for you. Easy ingest, background transcoding, background rendering, background analysis… Very cool. And, best of all, you can stop or cancel a background process at any time.
Plus, if you are someone that likes to organize their files, FCP X supports that. If you HATE organization, FCP X will organize your files for you. Now, we have a choice.
DISTRIBUTION VIA THE APP STORE
This is a real biggie, as Apple explained it to me. Because no physical media is involved (think packages in an Apple Store), Apple can push out updates faster and at much lower cost because they are using the App Store.
In the past, Apple used a 18 month, or so, cycle between updates. Now, Apple is telling me they are hoping to do an update once or twice a year.
This ability to respond faster to the market and deliver economical updates has already born fruit with the new low prices for Final Cut, Motion, and Compressor.
This gives me lots of hope for the future.
MONKEY #2: APPLE DOESN’T CARE ABOUT THE PRO MARKET
Writing software like this is not easy, not fast, and not cheap. Its taken Apple several years, dozens of millions of dollars, and an engineering crew big enough to fill a small cruise ship.
You don’t go to that effort to meet the needs of a market you aren’t interested in.
Apple tells me they are committed to quickly improving this version and building on it. They tell me they are committed to making changes quickly and bringing them to market. They tell me they are interested in hearing our reactions to the software.
I believe them and look forward to them fulfilling their promises.
THINGS I DON’T LIKE
Final Cut Pro X is very impressive, but it isn’t perfect. There are a variety of design decisions that I disagree with – and I’ve shared these many times with Apple.
There’s no multicam support.
The audio capabilities in FCP X are far superior to FCP 7 in terms of technical specs and filters. But a completely unintuitive method for adding audio cross-dissolves and lack of support for track-based audio mixing leaves me fondly missing the power of Soundtrack Pro.
The process of adding an audio cross-fade is dangerous, unintuitive and dumb.
Worse, there’s no native way to export a project to send it to either Soundtrack Pro or ProTools for sound mixing.
I’ve already mentioned there is no native ability to layback to tape using timecode control.
The autosave is great, but what we need is the ability to freeze specific project builds so that the client can review and approve a version and KNOW that if the project is opened in the future that nothing will be changed.
Preferences need to include the ability to use frames, not just hundredths of a second for all timing decisions.
A clip needs to remember the In and the Out when you deselect it.
There needs to be a way to remove a project from the Project List without having to resort to the Finder.
There needs to be a preference setting so that all new projects default to Stereo vs Surround.
There are others, and I’m sure you’ll have your own list.
SHOULD YOU BUY IT?
Look, you and I both know you’re going to buy it regardless of what I say. So here’s my main point. I think that within the next 18 months virtually all of us will be running FCP X and wondering how we lived without it.
It’s that good.
Is it perfect? No.
Whether this is right for you depends upon what you are doing. Here’s a list to help you decide:
* If you are exclusively shooting tapeless and outputting to the web, this product was designed with you in mind. However, some vendors – Sony comes first to mind – need to update their drivers to work with FCP X. Be sure to check the Sony website for updates before moving to FCP X.
* If you are shooting tape and sending XDCAM SR tapes to the network, you should stay with FCP 7 and complain to Apple to add improved support for video-tape output.
* If you are shooting (H)DSLR cameras, you’ll love the automatic transcoding, auto-image correction, and blinding speed built into the new system.
* If you shoot on DV or HDV and export your files for the web, Final Cut Pro X can make your life a lot simpler.
* If you shoot tapeless and distribute your files on DVD, you can use FCP X for your edit, export your footage, compress on Compressor (either old or new) and use DVD Studio Pro to create your DVD.
* If you simply need to burn your project to either DVD or Blu-ray, the new Final Cut makes this easy. If you need to author a DVD, or Blu-ray, you’ll need to use either DVD Studio Pro or Adobe Encore.
* If you are working in iMovie, you should step up to the new version and put some power in your pictures.
* If you are doing projects with complex audio mixes, stay with FCP 7 until Apple gives us improved audio mixing and audio export support.
* If you live for speed and high image quality, you have a new love in your life.
* If you are in the middle of an FCP 7 project, you should stay there. Don’t even think about trying to port your project into the new system. Finish your project. FCP X will be here when you are done.
* If you are responsible for meeting incredibly tight deadlines, stay with your current system. Buy FCP X – learn it. See what you like and what you don’t. Then, as it makes sense to you, roll it into production.
In other words, consider that your job is telling stories with pictures. Final Cut Pro X is another tool in your toolkit that can help you with your story-telling. For some of us, its perfect now. For others, it needs to mature a bit.
But, when the credits roll, it isn’t the power of the tool, its the power of your story that makes people care.
I’ll have much more in my newsletter next week. In the meantime, let me know what you think.
P.S. I’ve spent the last six weeks creating training for Final Cut Pro X. 88 movies, over eleven hours of in-depth training. All ready, right now, for you to discover the power and capability of this new software. Visit: larryjordan.biz/fcpx