Courtesy of Apple.

A mind-boggling number of words have been spilled around Apple’s Final Cut Pro X release. I won’t add to that editorializing here, but I will point to some information that I think can help you make sense of the new software, some of its promise, and some of the issues that are keeping editors from upgrading, at least for now.

Final Cut Pro X is effectively a new application, written from scratch. It does offer some significant improvements over its predecessor. There’s an open-ended, more flexible timeline, powerful automatic media handling features, and ground-up support for more modern technologies like Grand Central Dispatch, 64-bit computing, and OpenCL-based rendering. Carbon’s out; Cocoa’s in – and with it, so are the latest-and-greatest advanced APIs. In fact, the new Final Cut and Motion are a playground for the kinds of tech Apple visual geeks have eyed closely, with more modern QuickTime frameworks and GPU-native rendering an essential part of how this works. All of this can add up to the ability to work on complex projects without rendering. For that reason, without reviewing the product itself, I think it may be premature to assume Apple is trying to jettison the pro market – a market that is lucrative, influential, and essential to the Mac platform.

Any major change can jeopardize market share, particularly in a pro community. The criticisms from that community are now well-known, and can be divided into one of two categories: discomfort with the new editing interface, and frustration with missing features that are essential to at least some editors’ workflows. The discomfort with change may pass with time, if the software proves powerful and worth adaptation. As for missing features, though, some of these may simply need to be addressed in an update.

With so much to read, I highly recommend Gary Adcock’s review for Macworld. (Disclosure: I’m a Macworld contributor.) It seems to me to be a balanced review and an in-depth look at a variety of issues, and focuses on the tool itself rather than over-indulging in speculation about Apple’s motivations. (There’s a place for that in tech punditry, to be sure, but that means you can focus on the merits of the software itself without any additional baggage. It is, after all, a tool.)

I’m not prepared at this juncture to weigh in on what I personally think of the new Final Cut, but I do respect Gary’s opinion and perspective. He has a great blog, is heavily involved in the broadcast community, and is a real expert on how video tools translate to real-world workflows.

Gary nicely lines up some of the pros and — for the source of the controversy you may have read — cons. As with any new tool, considering those cons is wise before taking any leap.

Simplified interface and ease of use
Advanced media handling and organizational tools
Internet delivery via Podcast Producer, Facebook, Vimeo, and YouTube are embedded
Blu-ray disc format output added
App Store delivery allows faster bug fixes and feature upgrades
Transparent media management
Groundbreaking advancements in handling of media via metadata
Blazing speed

Does not open previous Final Cut Pro projects
No third-party support for hardware monitoring or software add-ons
Tape media can only be captured via Fire wire.
Defaults to media capture from camera
No support for import or export of content to other editors or other finishing systems
No mention of 3D or high-end workflow or deliverables anywhere in the documentation
Limited XML and no EDL support restricts usability with other non-Apple software applications
Final Cut Studio 3, Final Cut Express and Final Cut Server all discontinued with this release

Review: Final Cut Pro X []

The best round-up I’ve read of answers to the criticisms from the source comes from David Pogue at The New York Times talking to Apple directly. In that article, product managers respond directly to the issues; the answer is, very often, that features are slated to be restored in a future version (though that may or may not comes as a comfort in the short term).

Professional Video Editors Weigh In on Final Cut Pro X [Pogue's Posts]

Complaints have even led to reports that Apple is offering refunds, though unofficially and on a case-by-case basis:
Apple offers refunds to upset Final Cut Pro X users, but “rage-quitting” exodus grows [Boing Boing]

Note the byline on that last story – it’s from Apple enthusiast and video editor herself, Xeni Jardin.

If you do decide to take the leap — or if you want a walkthrough of the tool before committing — MacProVideo have a free, 45-minute tutorial (registration required). Michael Wohl, one of Final Cut Pro’s original designers, is the trainer – no word yet on what he thinks personally of the changes, though it sounds as though he’s generally positive. They’re also planning a series of tutorials which will be available for-fee:

Overview and Quick Start Guide
Media: Ingesting and Organizing
Editing in the Magnetic Timeline
Advanced Editing Techniques
Working with Audio
Titles, Effects and Compositing
Color Correction Techniques
Exporting and Sharing Your Work

Final Cut Pro X 101
Overview and Quick Start Guide

Also a great reference on the sound side of Final Cut Pro X (notably accompanied by the demise of Soundtrack Pro):
Final Cut Pro X for Audio Roundup [Designing Sound, an independent publication hosted by CDM]

Here’s a closing thought, not so much about Final Cut Pro X as the sorts of reactions it has raised. It’s clear to me that Apple is under far greater scrutiny — and held to a far greater standard — than its competitors. When Apple does something that users perceive as a misstep, the mythos around the company means they ascribe deep meaning to each decision. It’s a double-edged sword for the company, and must be both a joy and a curse for PR. It’s a mythos Apple themselves and Apple watchers alike have cultivated, so I don’t even know to whom you can ascribe credit/blame.

At the same time, as I’ve witnessed repeatedly covering creative tools, people are rightfully passionate about the software that’s essential to self-expression and, very often, livelihoods.

Oh, yeah, and people generally care more about video than audio. I don’t expect any other pro app but a video app — and from any other vendor than Apple — would inspire a Conan sketch.

I guess for the more obscure music and visual tools we cover, we’ll just have to do our own sketches, minus the pro comedy writers.

I welcome your thoughts on Final Cut Pro X (that may be asking for trouble, admittedly) – and I’m curious if anyone is yet using Motion 5 or Compressor, as well.

  • ex-fanboy

    irregardless of my name i still use macs everyday in my "real" job – as well as windows. i for one enjoyed using final cut over the years and use vegas on pcs. unfortunately i must say FC 10 is a step backwards, and the improvements have been available on competing products for awhile now (except the app store thing obviously).

    it's getting harder and harder to avoid the adobe monopoly, it's saddening. one thing is important to note and i agree with 100%: that apple is "under far greater scrutiny — and held to a far greater standard — than its competitors" is caused by apple's marketing concept and their users as well. maybe apple will fix everything with an update, that's not a sin you know. what is a sin is an apple rep telling me one week after buying 73 copies of final cut pro x for the agency where i work that i "don't need third party hardware monitoring, apple offers other solutions." and "you don't need to open older projects, you will be starting new projects that will be much better in final cut pro x." really now? *speechless*

  • ilan

    FCP X is a 1.0 software. Peter Terezakis once told me 'never buy 1.0 of anything. The pro editors are smart not to adopt it right away given the lack of essential workflow features that they are used to. Apple knew that this would happen.

    I like what Apple has done with FCP X. Not just from the up-to-date technologies, but also from a marketing point of view:

    - Reducing the price

    - Making it available on the app store

    By doing these two things they are effectively bringing a high end app to a broader public that probably was not aware that there was something better than iMovie available. This further levels the playing field and encourages pocket book minded people to buy the app instead of stealing it.

    I wish Adobe would copy Apple in this regard. Almost everyone I know does not buy the essential Adobe apps because they cannot afford to do so. Their profits would increase and they would maybe get a little more love from the countless amounts of people that currently hate them for forcing them to be criminals.

  • reset

    I am a visual artist and mac user since the 90's. For me, the myth has been over for some time now. This is not a problem of technology development but of wanting absolute control of the market.

    I find Mr. Jobs ever more arrogant and fascist.

  • Henry Lowengard

    Apple has "consumerized" some of their other utility apps, like Quicktime and iMovie  - so I keep the last old versions around. My biggest problem with Apple, in this respect, is claiming that these new apps should replace the old ones, and not having a good migration path for old format capabilities (like the old iMovie plugins…), and  media, or even to open up those old formats so third parties could make their own conversion software. It sounds like they really upgraded Final Cut Express, but haven't gotten to the full strength Final Cut yet.

  • Andy Murdock

    As an animator, I am constantly modifying and overwriting movies files that have already been imported into the Final Cut time line. In FCP7, I could easily modify and update movie files and have those changes appear in the timeline without the need to reimport and re-edit those clips, but FCPX seems to lose it's connection with any modified or overwritten file, making all the editing work I've done to these files worthless.

    Does anyone know of a way to reconnect to a modified or overwritten file? Because, this one single issue makes FCPX completely worthless to me.

  • prevolt

    There hasn't really been a substantial update to the OG Final Cut since Studio 2 four years ago. Those four years have seen HUGE sweeping changes in the video production and post worlds. So when I hear people saying "what's the big deal, just stick with the last version they released until FCP X gets fixed," they overlook that pros have already been waiting for signs of life at Apple for years, throughout Adobe and Avid's renaissance and all the breakthroughs in camera and workstation technology that we've seen come down the line since then.

    I was in an editors' meeting with the product managers for FCP Studio a little over a year ago, and they were nothing but smug, indifferent, even impatient with us. It was a room full of concerned professionals who came to offer feedback, only to see Apple dismiss most of it.

    It's experiences like that motivating the "rage quitters"–they're not leaving because of a single bad software release, but because it punctuates several years of watching their NLE gather dust as time passes it by, now with 1-2 years of disappointing future built in.

    And the apologist reviews on Apple's side completely miss the point. Just because someone can paraphrase a 2-sentence statement about why EDLs are important (for example) doesn't mean they understand the delicate balance and cooperation between all the different artists and technicians involved in getting something from concept to screen. Using a different field for the analogy–just because someone understands numbers doesn't mean they can leap to telling professional mathematicians how to work after reading a Wikipedia page and calling a product manager. Birthday and wedding videos are like Sudoku, whereas cutting a film for someone is more like high-energy particle physics.

    Apple puts the "Pro" right there in the name, so they should to answer to it. Instead they're just leading the charge to wear that word out.

  • prevolt

    Not to beat this topic to death, but this post from Ron Brinkmann is one of the most illuminating:

    "…the features that high end customers need are often very very unsexy. They don’t look particularly good in a demo. See, here’s the thing with how features happen at Apple to a great extent – product development is often driven by how well things can be demoed….

    …if you’re really a professional you shouldn’t want to be reliant on software from a company like Apple. Because your heart will be broken. Because they’re not reliant on you……once you’re ready to move up to the next level, find yourself a software provider whose life-blood flows only as long as they keep their professional customers happy. It only makes sense."

  • Valis

    prevolt, scripted Demos determining shipped features are nothing new in the tech industry, it's a byproduct of something we used to call Tradeshow-ism (or in Apple's case, Keynote-ism) where the Demos are created entirely to show your 'next generation' of whatever at an upcoming tradeshow and all development efforts go to quashing bugs that occur in the FULLY SCRIPTED demos that will be given. It gets so bad at times that you can have a completely fake UI mockup with the only parts you can even interact with being the commands/UI elements present in the demo.

    So I can see where FCX was being demoed internally and the wizz-bang bits that impressed management became the central focus of development.

    At the same time I think the reason for the ground up rewrite has to do with leveraging GPU/APU compute to bring realtime features to the video market. Apple isn't first here, Premiere CS5/5.5 with the 'mercury engine' (tied to higher end nvidia/fermi cards) enables one to edit in 4:4:4 on the gpu with your source footage *natively*. That means that AVCHD or Canon Mov/mp4 gets internally converted up from 4:2:0 to 4:4:4 right inside the gpu and if you stick to mercury compatible crossfades/effects you can color grade, adjust transitions, apply effects all entirely in realtime without having to render a single preview or transcode–and entirely without the loss that would occur if you were having to edit at the footage's internal resolution (4:2:0) or even the cheaper codecs on the market that tend to be 4:2:2 (like budget versions of cineon & matrox).

    So imo FCX is a reaction to this, and the Pro Apps team simply doesn't have the manpower to bring that architectural rewrite to feature parity with FC7 yet. So the mishandling here is entirely in Apple's marketing/PR imo. 3rd party asset management software will be available & in widespread use long before asset management, version control & client confidentiality are accounted for in FCX again, and the same goes for many other features (tape control, direct capture from tape, EDL handling etc).

    I'm not in any way 'defending' Apple here either, just stating what I see.

  • Valis

    Lastly if it wasn't apparent above, the advancement in workflow that gpu/apu compute offer to Premiere in CS5.x is big enough that you can do in 1-2 hours what would have taken half a day to a day before, and that's without even needing to ship footage over to a transcode server before you can get to work on it.

    Sadly I think Premiere has one of the *worst* workflows (well maybe next to Avid's) for an editing app, FCS3 & Vegas are much more pleasant apps to handle in that pricerange and all pale in comparison to Flint/Flame/Inferno (once the true high end–though that's disappearing more & more imo). So I'm only impressed by the speed at which a GTX285 or Quadro4000 can get work done for you in Premiere with little loss in quality in a modern DSLR/HD camcorder workflow. And I'm sure I'm not the only one…

  • prevolt

    hey Valis,

    you wouldn't be the same Valis who used to drop impossibly/exquisitely complicated works @ AOTM back when?

    random, I know.

    The demo feature phenomenon is nothing new, sure, but here they've devolved so far that it's worth calling out.  "Being a doctor is hard!! Let's make a Medical Wizard instead!!" or some other kind of lowbrow whatever.

    I'll take a little demo feature bias if it's coming from a specialized company who actually deserves to be making video software, because there are better-informed voices making those decisions.  

    I can't help but think Apple's newfound quality and color management rap is a belated response to the much-maligned gamma shifts and phantom issues that used plague some workflows (Hello TIFF sequences from Studio 3!!).  Although to be fair, I swore off using FCP for hired work based on "little things" like these, so I can't say how they left it with the last v7 updates.

    And while 3rd party software here with more coming soon, I don't like the sound of that this early on.  3rd party solutions are always expensive.  And the FCP team loves them.  Got a feature request they've ignored?  Now you can have it for a few hundred more dollars, though that ability may or may not update over time, and you will now have 2 or 3 or more companies to contact for support, who each might blame the other if something tanks.

    I keep liking Premiere, though for all its gains it has fundamental psychological issues it may never fix (where the hell is the "mark clip" button, just to begin).  I'm surprised you'd have issues with Avid's workflow.  Input, output, whatever, AMA's gotten way better in the last year and when you're in the Chair nobody looks out for you like they do, even though they drive me crazy.  They still win.  They have always won.  And now they're getting expensive again, and who's going to stop them.

  • Arvid Tomayko-Peters

    Andy Murdock posted: "but FCPX seems to lose it’s connection with any modified or overwritten file, making all the editing work I’ve done to these files worthless.Does anyone know of a way to reconnect to a modified or overwritten file? Because, this one single issue makes FCPX completely worthless to me."

    Does that mean that if I were to bounce a piece of music, then make a video based on it in FCPX, then make a change to the audio (like better mixing/mastering) and re-bounce, replacing the old file, that FCPX would not reconnect to that audio file properly (either automatically or manually)? That would make it near worthless to me, also!

  • lotech

    I'm with Ilan on this, its v1.0 of a completely modern editing platform based on Quicktime X. Ars Technica did a great breakdown on why Quicktime 7 needed to be scraped and rewritten with the future in mind. Read this page and understand that this is the new media backend of FCPx.
    Another point is for every other company its easier/cheaper to quick solve problems than deal with them honestly – think about Adobe and how Photoshop should have been rewritten in Cocoa years before they actually did – mainly cause of the pain in changing the codebase.

    They actually made a great video about it:

    There are some fundamental things every NLE (form iMovie to Avid) need to even work (media management + timeline + export) and with v1.0 of FCPx they have that. Everything from now on helps FCP get back in the big league. Have you seen how you can mouse over preview effects on footage in HD and in realtime? Good luck doing that in any other without them being written to honestly use all the cores/memory of a modern computer.

    In my opinion Apples biggest mistake was pulling FCP7 from sale. It should be available for another year so that professionals can still go buy a new Mac and legitimately still work with FCP. That or give it away free with every FCPx copy.

  • Juno

    I work in a teaching environment that needs to know well before time what will be happening in the next few years. Up to the announcement we were being encouraged by Apple to base a large scale file management upgrade on Final Cut Server. They then dropped it mid process, along with DVD Studio Pro and Soundtrack Pro and reset the licensing deal, and presented a new version of Final Cut that is unusable in a collaborate teaching.

    We can't just keep using the old version for training people for the years ahead, nor can we use software that isn't made for networked and group based production. But most of all we can't operate our business on surprise and stonewalling. I think most teaching colleges and universities are in the same position which means that the number of people being trained in FCP is going to plummet, accelerating the decline.

    We are not sure what the next step is, and it would be nice not to be mislead.

  • karl

    I'm liking motion. I guess as someone who uses after effects every day though. Is it worth me learning Motion, when I'm struggling to see what it can do that AE can't. It looks neater, even has midi integration, and costs less than £30. I've put it on my laptop as I don't have any adobe stuff on it, so we'll see if I make anything with it I guess.

  • arthur

    THe audio functions are essentially a toy.  Nothing even close to Soundtrack pro.  And you cannot move your files from within FCPx to another APP without re importing back into the session.  So there are no  non-destructive audio repairs outside of the limited native functions.  This is a huge step back from FCP 7.  All in all pretty much unusable outside of the amateur environment.