Introducing Final Cut Pro X

The dust has settled, and you’ve now probably read all the reviews on various filmmaking websites and blogs, as well as viewed the infamous Conan O’Brien sketch ( Apple’s Final Cut Pro X has been out for a couple of months, and in all of the years I’ve been covering production and postproduction tools and technology, I can’t think of a single product launch that has caused so much anger and confusion in the professional video community. It has become so bad that Apple even has issued refunds to a select group of pro users. Has Final Cut Pro X replaced New Coke as the most misguided product launch in history?

It’s often said that the best NLE system is the one you learned on. Final Cut Pro was first launched back in 1999, and the NLE system was immediately embraced by the indie film community. In 2005, Apple released Final Cut Studio, which consisted of Final Cut Pro, DVD Studio Pro, Motion, Soundtrack Pro and Compressor (Color wasn’t released until Studio 2). Professional filmmakers such as the Coen Brothers, David Fincher and legendary film-editor/sound-designer Walter Murch (Apocalypse Now, The English Patient) soon gave Final Cut Pro their seal of approval. It has since grown to control over 50% of the NLE market share, according to market research firm SCRI. Before the release of the iPhone and iPad, many in the creative field felt that Final Cut Pro was the crown jewel of Apple’s technology.

"For FCP X, Apple has redesigned and reimagined its flagship NLE from the ground up, which has forced editors to adapt to a whole new way of cutting—and thinking."

What’s In The Box Download?

Instead of multiple DVDs in a product box like previous versions of Final Cut Pro and Final Cut Studio, Apple has released FCP X as a digital download in its newly launched App store. At a price of only $299 for FCP X, Apple also offers individual downloads of Motion 5 and Compressor 4 for $49 each. The downloads are part of Apple’s ongoing strategy to eliminate DVD software for distribution. What’s great about buying through the App store is that you’re able to download the programs to multiple computers that you already own. Apple also will be able to release updates through the App store more efficiently and more frequently.

FCP X lets you create keywords that you can assign to various clip ranges.

Apple is no longer offering Color and Soundtrack Pro because, according to the company, they have built many of the programs’ features into FCP X. They also completely scrapped DVD Studio Pro for the same reason they’re offering FCP X as a digital download, although you can still burn a basic DVD without the advanced authoring of DVD Studio Pro. This is a smart move on Apple’s part, especially with the rise of streaming video online, although the elimination of Soundtrack Pro is a little trickier—more on that later.

Is Final Cut Pro X iMovie Pro?

Not too long ago, I was asked to cut together a short sequence for one of our websites. My iMac doesn’t have Final Cut Pro, only iMovie, which I’ve never used before. (How hard could it be?) Being an FCP user for the past 10 years, I quickly found out that iMovie isn’t intuitive at all because the standard three-point editing system has been completely thrown out the window.

For FCP X, Apple has redesigned and reimagined its flag-ship NLE from the ground up, which has forced editors to adapt to a whole new way of cutting—and thinking. The strongest criticism leveled against FCP X is that it’s no longer an NLE targeted toward professional users, and most will agree that FCP X isn’t an update of FCP 7, but more of a significant upgrade of iMovie. This is an extremely gutsy move on Apple’s part, but one the powerful media and technology company can probably afford.