First Look: Final Cut Pro 10.4 Update

Final Cut Pro 10.4

Today’s update of Final Cut Pro X to Final Cut Pro 10.4 brings a substantial number of features, despite a modest version number update from 10.3 to 10.4. For some programs, the number changes in this update would warrant a full version number change, so don’t let the version number fool you.

Final Cut Pro 10.4 has three “major” new features, and a number of updates and fixes. These changes are a new 360º VR editing, HDR workflows and “advanced color grading.”

We sat down with Apple at their press center in New York City to take the new Final Cut Pro for a spin, and the updates were impressive.

New Tools In Final Cut Pro 10.4

For the average Final Cut Pro user, the additional color-grading tools will have the biggest effect on daily workflow. While Final Cut Pro has been good at doing color grading, the tools have never been as sophisticated as those found in programs like Blackmagic Design’s DaVinci Resolve, which recently gained a host of nonlinear-editing tools to bring it more on par with tools like Final Cut Pro.

While the color-grading features aren’t the first on the list of new updates, they’re very impressive, and will greatly increase the number of tasks that can be completed within the Final Cut Pro application. For those used to more powerful color-grading tools, the new color wheels, curves and hue/saturation curves—all of which have keyboard shortcuts–will be very familiar and welcome. We watched as a bit of footage of a people walking through a forest was edited on the fly so that their colorful jackets were swapped with different colors, while the foliage remained untouched.

It’s also easy to apply color grading across clips, enabling quick moods to be established with the adjustment of colors. There’s also the ability to use custom 3D LUTs during editing as well.

High Dynamic Range workflows are now supported with Final Cut Pro 10.4, and HDR footage can be imported and graded, and footage can be output in Rec. 2020 HLG or Rec. 2020 PQ. A number of tools help grade and scale HDR footage, and HDR levels up to 10,000 nits are editable. Apple hooked the demo iMac up to an HDR display to show us HDR playback edited on the (non-HDR) iMac screen. Even though the consumer-level screen was less accurate than a true HDR monitor (which, naturally, can be connected to the iMac), it was still possible to make and see changes in footage on the display.

The final new feature is 360 VR support. Apple is making a big push to make VR and AR easily manageable on the Mac platform, and the new 360º footage support in Final Cut Pro 10.4 is both simple and fun to use. The application will work with VR headsets during editing, for real-time access to editing. Final Cut Pro 10.4 takes a 360 scene and makes it linear, allowing users to easily select the camera’s main center points. The footage we looked at was stitched from two RED camera systems and was gorgeous and immersive.

One issue with 360º footage is that the camera rig is visible when the viewer is looking down. Many editors deal with this by putting a logo or graphic over the rig, which is a solution but one that breaks the fourth wall and takes the viewer out of the scene. Apple has added a tool to Final Cut pro 10.4 that’s the video version of the Context Aware Fill in Photoshop, hiding the rig with a superimposition of the surrounding area. This overlay reacts to changes in brightness and color in the original footage, so if it’s replacing the rig with the surrounding grass but the camera moves and the grass is plunged into shade, the covering patch changes exposure right along with it. It’s a clever trick, and it will make for much better video.

Final Cut Pro 10.4 ships in conjunction with Motion 5.4, which can create immersive 360º titles, transitions, generators and more, and three can be used directly in Final Cut Pro 10.x

Other Changes In Final Cut Pro 10.4

Final Cut Pro 10.4 brings a number of other tweaks and workflow improvements, my favorite being the ability to import projects from iMovie for iOS. This will allow users to make quick cuts in the field on an iPad Pro and then import that into FCP. Apple has also added support for HEVC and Canon Cinema Raw Light.

In addition to the new version of Motion, a new version of Compressor is available, which supports all the new features of Final Cut Pro 10.4

Final Cut Pro 10.4 and the iMac Pro

Apple showed off Final Cut Pro running on the new iMac Pro, which goes on sale today, and the new Mac was able to work with 8K video in real time, without rendering. Many users won’t need this level of performance, but it’s amazing to see an “all-in-one” Mac ripping through 8K footage. With a base pice of $5,000 and extremely powerful custom-configured systems selling under $8,000, the combination of iMac Pro and Final Cut Pro is going to be a killer solution for high-end users.

Pricing and Upgrades for Final Cut Pro 10.4

For existing users of Final Cut Pro, Motion and Compressor, the new updates are free in the Mac App store. For new users, Final Cut Pro is $299.99, while both Motion and Compressor are $49.99 each.