Who is Final Cut Pro X Really For?

I could start this blog article, like most of the blog articles I've read so far about FCP X, by bitching about the features that are not there, how the UI is completely different, how I can't use a professional monitor to color correct my sequence, how I can't edit multi-cam, how I can't export an EDL or OMF file, plus the many other missing features.

Is Final Cut Pro X as good as or better then FCP 7 for professional broadcast editors? Indeed it's not. Final Cut Pro 7 is a mature NLE that has everything (well, almost everything) a broadcast and feature film editor requires.

So why did Apple pretty much create the app from scratch, with a new UI and stripped away many of the features professional broadcasters need? Because I think Apple is no longer going after broadcast editors. The fact that you can't ingest tape media or output to tape, export EDL, OMF or AAF, monitor your video on an external monitor, or the many other features a professional broadcast editor needs leads me to believe that Apple's market and focus has changed.

So why call it Final Cut Pro? And who are these "Pro's" Apple is going after, if not feature filmmakers and broadcasters? Well, I propose there is another set of filmmaking professionals not in broadcast. Those of us working day in and day out in new media. I include myself in this group since I don't do broadcast or feature film, but tons of web videos. Those of us creating podcasts, web, iPad and iPhone videos, we are professionals too, but with a different set of requirements than broadcasters have.

Do I color correct my video on a 2nd computer screen and not a professional monitor? Yes. Why? Because I output for the Web, not for TV or theater. Is color correcting on a $3000 professional monitor essential to my workflow? Nope, my clients are very happy (and pay me good money) with what I deliver to them, edited inside FCP 7, color corrected inside FCP 7 and finished inside FCP 7.

I shoot tapeless and deliver digital files, not tape. My clients would not know what to do with a tape if I delivered it to them, because they publish the videos directly to the web, or their Intranet, or play it in their meetings on their laptops.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not minimizing the importance of broadcast editors and feature filmmakers (I love TV and the movies!). I think it's an important market (a portion of my audience on my website, FilmmakingWebinars.com, is made up of broadcast and feature filmmakers), however, I think Apple is going after quantity, and I believe (and I don't have stats to back this up, but a good hunch), that there are many more (and will be many more in the near future) new media filmmakers then there are traditional broadcast and feature filmmakers.

What I will complain about is how Apple handled this transition. I was at the SuperMeet when they announced the new FCP X NLE, and everything they said was geared towards broadcast and feature filmmakers. They had quotes from famous filmmakers of how much they loved the new app and how it was going to change everything they do for the better.

I think that broadcast and feature film editors were lead to believe something different then what was actually delivered to them. For me, the new media filmmaker, I like FCP X. Is it radically different? Yes, but it has many of the features I basically use in FCP 7 for what I do.

Don't get me wrong, I still want many more features that are missing, including multi-cam editing, better support for plugins that I currently use, the ability to edit my audio in Soundtrack Pro (is that app dead?) but the features that broadcast and feature film editors are complaining about (and they have very valid reasons to do so), don't affect me at all.

So if Final Cut Pro X (in its current form) is no longer geared towards broadcast editors, what are the choices for them? Well, I hope that Apple, in the near future, incorporates those features that broadcast editors need so that we can all use this great application, since we really can learn from each other.

There is another alternative, a "Broadcast Version" of FCP X perhaps? Who knows? Probably not. Then of course, the other alternative is to look at Adobe Premiere Pro or Avid (or even Sony Vegas?). But that may not be a great alternative for those of you that have invested so much time, money and infrastructure in this NLE.

Just to clarify something, I want you to know that I completely feel for the many of you that have invested so many years in Final Cut Pro, have defended Apple when there were better NLE alternatives, have invested thousands of dollars in building your FCP suites and then Apple does a complete switch on you. If I was in that position, I would be very very pissed off now, so I completely feel for all of you and I hope things change quickly for the better.

So am I wrong? Did I have too much wine tonight while writing this article? Tell me what you think (good or bad!)

11 Responses to “Who is Final Cut Pro X Really For?”

  1. Craig Shamwell

    No you have not had too much wine or bong hits for that matter! I have to admit, after seeing the videos of the new features included in FCPX, I am excited to use it myself. We have FCP7 on our main machine, but we use IMovie to produce and get paid for quite a few projects that are not intended for Broadcast. But IMovie has options to output at high quality and in some cases we will produce a short commercial and then drop it in FCP7 and then print to tape. (which is what I intend to do with “X”) If “X” is really IMovie on steroids I will uninstall IMovie and only use “X”.
    You are right on so many levels in that there are Professionals who produce videos that never see a broadcast house. And with a lot of the issues so many are bitching about soon to be addressed in the upcoming months, this program will definately speed up production. Quick question, can the old version of Compressor work with “X”?
    But I think the most important aspect to all of this goes to your point of how Apple handled this transition. It is as bad as it gets when it comes to bad marketing that teeters on “Bait and Switch” tactics. All of this could have been avoided by giving this program a brand new name and never implying that it was going to be the “new” Final Cut Pro….cause its not! It would be like Toyota saying “see the new Camry” only for all to discover it only has two wheels! A Camry is a car, not a motorcycle. A name like IEdit Pro would be a good name. Its not IMovie for sure, and it surely isn’t Final Cut Pro when previous projects form Final Cut Pro are unusable.
    But one thing is for sure, FCP “X” will probably end up being the best NLE $299 can buy!!
    Very well written article…one of the 2 best I have read so far!!!

  2. Thanks for this perspective. I work primarily in broadcast with some web work as well, and I’ve set up my workflow for broadcast gradually over the years. I think you’re right that this was primarily a business decision to abandon the previous versions of FCP for the more lucrative pro-sumer and interactive video markets. Thing is that you really need those tools (Color and Soundtrack) that they’ve left out for high-end looking work, or at least the option of interoperating between other apps that will do the same thing.

    One of the things that really bugs me about this is the lack of options. There is so much less control over this version than in previous versions. I guess it’s because this really is just a big jump for iMovie, with the Final Cut brand slapped on it.

  3. Mike Mulliner GBFTE

    Without OMF and EDL export, the new app is completely useless for anything where you’re going to use a proper dubbing editor and mixer. If I understand correctly, the new “trackless’ arrangement will make it impossible to export anything to an outside facility, and it’s difficult to see how Apple are going to address this problem in upgrades.
    Is anyone actually being forced to switch to FCP X? If FCP7 works today, it will continue to work tomorrow and the next day. Why not just carry on with what we already have? If Apple really are concerned about the Broadcast and Feature film market, they’ll take the hint.
    It would be interesting to know Walter Murch’s opinion.

  4. Marcelo Lewin

    @Mike Mulliner – The problem with sticking with FCP 7 (for the long term) is no further support, updates, etc. If you are a post house, wanting to support future media types and there is no support for them, it would be hard to invest more money info FCP 7. But, IMHO, I think they will be updating FCP X with most of the FCP 7 features in the near future. So use FCP 7 now (for the next 6 months) and track the changes on FCP X and switch over when it’s what you want.

  5. Tony Anastasi

    Fcpx – Chroma key in real time – that’s massive and very welcomed.. But it’s lacking a lot of fine tuning controls.. Making it less then ideal.. But I saw
    A screen shot of Motion x with more control ..

    Still feeling my way through the rest of the app.. I’ve gotten hdmi output to a tv so I can test output upto a point .. But can’t move panels to the other monitor which is grr

  6. David Lombardi

    One of the biggest issues that those who don’t understand the shocked horror by professionals at the new FCPX is the investment loss.

    Facilities don’t just invest in a piece of software and build an entire workflow and facility around it because it’s good today… they do it because it’s believe that it will still be good tomorrow. FCP7 wasn’t just a $1000 app, It was a keystone in editing facilities that may have invested hundred of thousands of dollars in all the gear that supported a work flow centered around this app. All done with the confidence that as new technologies come out that FCP would be upgraded and take advantage of them and they would still be competitive.

    64bit… FCP7 doesn’t have it. And in the year 2011, not having a 64bit app that deals with multiple clips simultaneously that can be over 1GB each is already way behind the curve. So yes, editors can still use FCP7, but while AVID, Premiere, and any other “PRO” apps take advantage of 64bit, Cuda, and any other new technology that makes them faster… pro editors will be stuck with their slower software that has no hope of being updated.

    Every pro editor in the industry was hoping for a FCP upgrade that kept them competitive. One that let them know that the $100,000 investment in their FCP pipeline was still going to be worth while instead they received a notice that their livelihood and their facilities now have no future path… that they need to retool. Every single one of them knows… KNOWS that they have to switch to another application and adapt all of their support hardware, software, and workflow to whatever that new editing software is. Obviously the previous investment isn’t completely lost by any means. But switching editing software at an edit house… not a simple thing.

    All the pro features that are missing aren’t a simple “oops” update fix. Some may be, but most are core. Even if Apple came out with a press release today claiming they were going to add all of these things back… nobody with an experience with software companies expects to see them for a year or more.

  7. Ok, maybe I am being romantic but:
    I don’t believe Apple will just drop all the trust(and money) that the professional community put on them and FCP without a proper explanation before releasing the new version. Those were the people that made not only FCP but also APPLE hardware so well known and respected by the media and consumers. That would be so not ethical!
    I think they are re-starting the FCP from level one, the new media filmmakers Marcelo mentions and will have everything else we love about FCP 7 in a higher level to be attached to it. The ones that only need the basic of FCP will have it and the pros will start from there.
    Like most people, I wish they would handle things differently instead of playing games but that game could be towards other software developers not necessarily the editors. Does any of you think it would be possible for them to have a meeting with the thousands of FCP trainers, show their whole game and intentions and ask them to keep it as a secret?

  8. Finally someone stated a comment about FCPX like you did. I totally agree with you. In fact I had the same thought, most because I work just like you, with videos for internet and intranets.
    I also feel sorry for those who have invested amounts of money on their studios thinking around FCP7. But for me and many others who also have invested money and our time learning and buying plugins and sets of filters for FCP7, even if we are not working for broadcast of the feature film industry, we have a lot to loose. There is only one thing that was not a waste; the possibility of having a better understanding about video/film editing, learning and working with an application like FCS in a Mac. Having this knowledge, it will be a piece of cake to work in a new Graphic Interface as FCPX.
    But of course, I like many others Pros will be anxiously waiting for the updates to have the possibility (if we need so) of some day working for the Hollywood Industry … lol

  9. I think the app should have been called imovie pro. I think if you can import old imovie projects into it then that’s the platform. I think the ROI on FCP just wasn’t good enough for apple. But hey wanted to use the caché of the the name Final Cut Pro. That’s the only thing that had value to them about the old program. They should have sold the rights the FCP7 platform to a software company willing to carry it to 64 bit in spite of the smaller ROI. That would have been the fair thing to do to the people who have invested more money in their hardware and software per person than any other group of individuals on the planet.

  10. I have been workin with Final Cut Pro since preview version 1.0. FCP was always a reliable, hardworking, multi-featured NLE. For me the bottom line is what many have said… Final Cut Pro X is not Final Cut Pro but more iMovie Pro, at least that’s what it looks and feels like. I downloaded the trial version to really give it a whirl. I found it to have some fun ideas but overall it just did not feel like a pro NLE. Mixing audio I found to be frustrating and klunky. And I am still trying to figure out exactly the best way to do a simple match cut without having a browser and viewer window.There is so much to say but, to me, the bottom line is that there is no reason to try and reinvent the professional editorial workflow which is part of what Apple seems to have done. There was a reason bins were called bins and people worked on Projects not Events. Although the output engine and image quality are lovely I just don’t see using this for anything other than simple editing but certainly nothing multi-layered and feature length. I would love it if Apple would simply rename this program to iMovie Pro and make a real Final Cut Studio built for 64bit. I think this would best serve both communities. For now I will stick with FCP7 Studio 3 but in the future Adobe is looking pretty great to move to.

  11. 1. I think Apple is out of it’s fucking mind, changing something so drastically that was not broken. Sure, FCP7 didn’t have everything but they essentially took away my machine gun, handed me a squirt gun and said “hey, it’s even better!”

    2. I no longer trust Apple and I’d quit FCP7 and switch to Avid or Premiere tomorrow if my current workflow and livelihood weren’t dependent on me not wasting my time retooling my entire set-up and relearning a new program.

    3. I have a hard time believing they asked any pro editors what they thought about the switch and am utterly disgusted that they’d alienate so many of us loyal (and trusting) users.

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