Despite the headline, I’ve always thought that Final Cut Pro X was cool. It still is, and it’s still my favorite non-linear video editor. That said, industry inertia has always pushed me to use Adobe’s bloated Premiere Pro, but Apple’s new Macs using their own silicon in the form of the M1 processor may have just given the industry to come back to an old favorite.
In listening to Apple singing the praises of the new M1 chip, my ears really perked up at a couple of points during the keynote on Tuesday, particularly when Senior Vice President of Software Engineering Craig Federighi talked about a “unified memory architecture” that boosted raw video editing performance as well as helping Final Cut Pro X render video up to six times faster. The MacBook Pro is even shown later in the video playing back 8K ProRes footage in DaVinci Resolve, not to mention the demonstration that seemed to show seamless color grading of 6K video. It’s enough to make one really question their allegiances, however forced.
It’s hard to understand how things translate from one system to another. For instance, what does 8-core mean compared to say, a four-core Intel Core i7 processor? What does integrated graphics even mean anymore when it’s all built into a system-on-chip? I can see that the “Neural Engine” helps with machine learning, which according to Apple, would help a task such as smart conform in Final Cut Pro X, but what’s an equivalent on the Intel side? It’s hard to understand what’s under the hood, but I hope that it’s because this is as radical a rethinking of CPU technology as Final Cut Pro X was to non-linear editing almost a decade ago.
And that’s really the core (pun intended) of why Final Cut Pro fell out of favor with video editors in the first place. Its interface was so radically different from anything that was out there in 2011, with most other platforms building on tape-to-tape editing conventions, as editors such as Adobe Premiere Pro still do today. Final Cut Pro X rebuilt video editing workflows from the ground up, assuming an all-digital capture and editing process. It rankled many editors at the time, who fled to Premiere’s more familiar interface, and that trend has stuck. In higher education, I noticed the same shift, with top schools switching from Final Cut 7 to Adobe Premiere Pro once Final Cut Pro X was launched.
Certainly, a performance boost of several orders of magnitude would be something that could make recalcitrant video editors sit up and take notice. Being able to smoothly edit 8K video on a sub-$2,000 laptop is something to certainly write home about. I’m still waiting on a machine that can smoothly edit 11K 360 video out of the box, and so maybe the M1 chip is the heralding of a new generation of machines that will be able to do just that. It’s not inconceivable that Apple would build in some backdoors to goose its video software to outperform the competition.
Video editors, what’s your take on the M1 chip? Would faster performance persuade you to make the leap back to Apple? Leave your thoughts in the comments below.