Final Cut Pro X is not a pro-sumer application
I’ve been quiet about my take on Final Cut Pro X, mainly because I really don’t know what to say. I’m speechless. How could that happen? I mean how could Apple not have seen this? You really start wondering how could Apple balls1 this up? Maybe I should start by arguing what the problem is with Final Cut Pro X.
The problem with Final Cut Pro X
The problem with Final Cut Pro X is not the application itself. I share a lot of thoughts with Don McAllister about this. The application is fine.
As far as I can see, I can’t actually buy and use it, editing is really great. Apple has shown a lot of innovation in terms of editing, rendering, and workflows.
The problem is that existing Final Cut Pro 7 users have no way of directly upgrading to Final Cut Pro X. That is the number one reason I won’t be upgrading to Final Cut Pro X any time soon.
When a client calls and says “Do you remember the screencasts you made half a year ago? We need you to make a minor change. Could you do that, please?” I would have to produce that screencast again, hoping it’ll look the same as it did before, rather than just opening the old project, making that change, export, render, upload, done (…, send an invoice).
That’s really just a minor problem with Final Cut Pro X. They announced yesterday that there’s going to be a possibility for third-parties to use an API that, e.g. converts older projects to the new format. With Automatic Duck being Apple’s “official” partner. (They offer a cheap $500 exporter app that is not available on the Mac App Store.)
The real problem is that a lot of professionals needs aren’t met. Like the inability to have a control monitor attached where you can preview your work. (The FAQ actually says vendors are currently working on drivers for those systems. So you can say, it’s not possible yet, but it also means that studios can’t use the new toy right now.) There are a lot of other problems that I don’t want to go into detail here, but Jeffery Harrell has made an execellent statement on why broadcast professionals literally can’t use Final Cut Pro X. Some things he mentions and I think are important:
- Multi-cam editing: Not yet, but will be implemented.
- EDL, OMF, XML: Let me briefly explain why those professionals need these things. And it’s not a “need” like “it would be great if you could implement this”. It is more like “I need this or I can’t finish a project”. Open Music Format is a format that professional audio applications (Logic, Cubase, Pro Tools) can open so that a audio production studio can compose film music, add foley sounds, etc. Not being able to export an edit decision list is catastrophic. Any studio working with tapes can literally not use Final Cut if it doesn’t have it.
- No tracks: Professional studios basically settled one day that specific sound elements need to be on a specific track, e.g. music on tracks one and two. Not being able to exactly tell where Final Cut should put audio makes this standard become uncontrollable.
The studios out there aren’t new in the industry. 5, maybe 10, maybe 20 years ago a studio deliberately decided to go with a certain configuration of cameras, software and computer systems. In Germany “government” broadcasting studios like ARD, ZDF, WDR still use hardware from 1950’s. I Am Not Joking. Because these studios are paid by our government, or our taxes rather, these studios have to use all that old hardware, because there’s no money for all the newest and greatest (and they started their business in the 1920s). A lot of theses people work with Final Cut. And now Apple tells these broadcasting studios that they need to upgrade all of their hardware. And that is why Final Cut users complain. Apple forces updating their hardware systems down their throat. That is the terrible thing.
Apple also makes professional workflows obsolete. Like omitting OMF export. If you work with other studios … you can’t actually do that anymore. Wait for Automatic Duck to come up with a solution and hope for it to better be good.
Is Final Cut Pro X a pro-sumer application?
No, absolutely not. I don’t think Final Cut Pro X is an “improved” version of iMovie. Someone who hasn’t spent a lot of time editing video will still be overwhelmed with Final Cut Pro X. It is still a professional application. It’s just lacking features professionals need in order to work in their studio. Basically hardware, software, and other studios. Those features will eventually come, but at the moment studios have to wait. Just sit tight as I do. It is way too early to give an estimation how this is going to work out at the end. Maybe Apple decides to put a lot of work again into Final Cut and then say “Ok, scratch the third-party thing. We implemented those things by ourselves. Are you happy now?” That would be an Apple-esque thing to do, wouldn’t it?
Apple has changed a lot in Final Cut Pro X. They say they changed so much they weren’t able to make it “easy” to import Final Cut 7 projects. There are also a lot of influences from iMovie. I totally agree on that point, but that doesn’t mean Final Cut is a non-professional app. Just having learnt something from iMovie, like making editing easier and faster, doesn’t mean an application that offers these kind of functions to professionals makes it less professional. Nor makes the lack of missing features and app less professional. Software changes. Remember? This is a 1.0 of a new era of Final Cut. Apple invests a lot of thought and effort making the best experience for their customers. That’s why we all settled with Apple products in the first place. When we complain, they listen. And we have complained a lot, and loudly, these days. They heard us and for the time being they made the decision to put up an FAQ. A third-party will allow me to upgrade my projects to Pro X later. That’s fine. I’m not happy about it, but it’s something I can live with. It’s an option. An option that makes me less worried about whether I need to change to a different system entirely.