A lot of people have been asking for my take on FCP X. Here it is. If you want to know what they actually showed us, go find it on YouTube.
At the yearly FCPUG Supermeet at NAB, Apple took over the stage and presented a “sneak peek” of Final Cut Pro X – Apple’s newest version of its Final Cut Pro video editing software.
And by “took the stage,” I mean literally that: Apple apparently bumped all other speakers, and prohibited all non-Apple branding on the stage. I’m told they did this with almost no notice to show organizers or other sponsors/speakers.
Dick move? Kinda. But the editors in the room didn’t seem to care. After all, we were all there because we’re Final Cut editors; I’ve personally been using FCP since it debuted in 1999. So when we found out about the not-so-secret world announcement happening at our event, we were as excited as a tiger in a daycare.
I’m bad at similes.
Regardless, Apple took the stage, and showed us some stuff.
Yep, there’s that guy, showing some stuff.
The crowd went wild, people stood and cheered, I think maybe someone on a Rascal had a heart attack – basically, everyone fell to their knees and thanked Apple for blessing their lives with this thing called Final Cut Pro X.
I felt completely underwhelmed.
To be fair, there were some interesting new features shown, as well as a new interface that looks both slick and accessible. But that’s been covered elsewhere. I do think the new features are very interesting, and are in some respects a very fresh take on how we work with media. Magnetic Timeline looks promising, as does the Audition feature – though the editor next to me commented that Vegas has had a similar feature for a while.
I promptly made fun of him for using Vegas.
The metadata, both automated and manual, also looks like it could be useful. Need to find a single-person interview? Just go to the magically-generated One Person folder to see which of your clips are shots of single people. You can also add metadata to select portions of clips, making searching that much more precise.
But these things are all only potentially useful. In the entire presentation, I didn’t see a single thing that I could look forward to with confidence – I always found myself qualifying my enthusiasm with “…if it works properly” or “…if its logic isn’t stupid.” The features were presented in such broad strokes that it was hard to tell how they’ll actually play out in real-world post.
And that was really what I took away from Final Cut Pro X: broad strokes. Everything that was shown centered around broad, global changes: Magnetic Timeline, automated clip categorization and audio cleanup on import, even the baked-in Color functionality of Color Matching. Hell, they used a mouse for 99% of the demo itself.
And the Viewer window – is it gone? Who knows! Hope you don’t like Source-Record editing!
Editing, especially good editing, is about precision. The only precise, new tool shown was the ability to get sample-accurate with audio – a great feature, but a tiny drop in the bucket. From what was shown, it seemed like trying to mix audio with only a gain knob (I’m a sound designer, it’s a good analogy, shut up).
When I’ve discussed my feelings with others, they’ve been quick to refute my concerns with “It’s got to be in there!” or “I’m sure you’ll be able to do that.” OK – then why didn’t they show us? This presentation was to a room full of editors – show us the tools we’ll actually use, not the ones 10-year-olds will use to cut their DSLR opus for YouTube.
And that brings me to the most glaring omission of the presentation, at least in my mind: ingest. Both Premiere and Avid can, to some degree, natively edit the majority of codecs in use today. That means zero transcoding – I import it, and it immediately works. Our Apple overlords didn’t show any ingest at all. The closest they got was in mentioning background processing: they mentioned being able to work with media “while it’s being prepared for editing,” and then that it would be seamlessly swapped out.
What the hell does that even mean?
To me, it means a background transcode. That’s not native editing.
And what of the Studio? Here’s what: DVD Studio Pro is dead, and so is Motion. Compressor is still standalone, but comes with FCP X. Color is still a separate app, but a lot of the base functionality is baked into FCP X. Soundtrack’s video-centric features are merged into Logic, its base functionality is baked into FCP X, and Soundtrack dies.
Based on what, you may ask? Nothing. Well, maybe not nothing. Call it instinct. But Apple hates optical media (DVDSP’s last real update was in 2006), and nobody uses Motion. Better bet is to bake features into one app (BluRay encoding in Compressor, Motion-ish animation capabilities in FCP) and trim the fat.
So in June, we’ll get Final Cut Pro X. It will be $300 in the App Store. And you know what?
Everyone will buy it.
Editors will buy it because $300 is worth it for the compatibility and ProRes codec; amateurs will buy it because it’s the cheapest pro-(ish)-level app out there. Doesn’t matter if all of my worst fears are true, and it’s a sloppy mess of global automation and mouse-dragging. It’ll sell like crazy.
And I’ll buy it. Because damn, it’d sure be useful to auto-identify how many cats are in each of my shots.
That’s my take. I probably forgot some stuff. Comment and point it out in a snarky and self-righteous way.