In Defense of Apple's Final Cut Pro X

In Defense of Apple's Final Cut Pro X

With the upcoming release of “Off the Tracks,” a documentary that chronicles the seismic shift that Final Cut Pro X introduced to the video industry in 2011, there been some chatter, even here on Fstoppers, about the video editing software’s place in history. I don’t have any qualms about its place in history: Simply put, it deserved better than what it got, which was heaps of shame, blame, and ultimately denial.

Part of the response was Apple’s fault. In its initial version the software was somewhat incomplete (no multicam editing off the bat was a big one, but came in an update six months later), and there was no way users could migrate their existing projects over to the new version.

This shift in software and the different paths that Adobe and Apple took with Premiere Pro and Final Cut Pro X essentially mirrors what the big two camera companies did in the 1980s, although with very different results.

Consider Adobe’s Premiere Pro the software equivalent of the Nikon F-mount – it has changed, for sure, but fundamentally the guts of the software and the way it works haven’t. This is great for backwards compatibility and keeps in place a familiar interface that people know and love, but it doesn’t push the envelope for fear of alienating core users.

When Apple introduced Final Cut Pro X, it was like the same shift Canon users had going from the FD mount to the electronic EF mount in 1987. It was a bitter pill to swallow, that all of your lenses suddenly wouldn’t work with the new generation of cameras, but it was ultimately the right decision.

What Made It Better

There were a lot of new features that made FCPX a better editor than the competition at the time. For instance, the Magnetic Timeline all but eliminated the flash frame/black frame problem that was so easy to miss in earlier non-linear editors. Clips just automatically flowed together and you didn’t have to rely on inserting slugs and arranging clips in odd ways.

Speaking of arranging clips in odd ways, without the track-based system, J-cuts and L-cuts became much simpler, with just a double click of a clip and a drag to where you wanted audio or video to come in or out.

Syncing audio became easier with automated syncing tools – the closest equivalent at the time was using a plugin called PluralEyes for Adobe Premiere Pro.

There was also speed improvements that background rendering brought to the party, and I’ve never had to worry about setting my capture scratch ever again.

A lot of the editing paradigms that were present in Final Cut Pro 7 (and are still around to an extent in Premiere Pro) existed because they were rooted in tape-based workflows of old. What Apple did with Final Cut Pro X was finally acknowledge that these conventions were no longer necessary in the digital age, where people were using phones and file-based video cameras.

Finally, one major factor is price: I paid $299 in September 2012 for Final Cut Pro X, and I haven’t had to pay a cent since. If I had paid the monthly fee, even at the educator rate that I get as a professor, I’d be out $1140.

While We're Talking About Education…

I used to be big on Premiere Pro (and it’s still a great piece of software). I’ve trained other educators on it at workshops, and I used it to edit my videos when I was PC-only. I’ve been shooting video since 2006 learned to edit on Avid Xpress Pro while working for Gannett. I advocated for Premiere Pro when the school I worked at wanted to switch systems after Final Cut Pro 7 was retired. But they switched to Final Cut Pro X, and I was forced to learn an entirely new platform. I tried to wing it the first time, and my sequence looked like this:

This first timeline I ever created in Final Cut Pro X was so bad, I had to take a picture of how disorganized it all looked. It was mostly my fault, since I had no idea what I was doing.

This first timeline I ever created in Final Cut Pro X was so bad, I had to take a picture of how disorganized it all looked. It was mostly my fault, since I had no idea what I was doing.

It wasn’t pretty or efficient. But that was because I was thinking about the old-school way of editing, trying to use Final Cut Pro X as if it were Final Cut Pro 7 and there was the fatal error. Once I took a proper workshop from someone who knew what they were doing (Curt Chandler, of Penn State, by the way), things got much better, and my timelines started looking like the featured image above. The value of proper training can’t be understated, and that goes for any software. I felt better about it, but it wasn't until I was teaching students the new software that it dawned on me: this wasn't just a different way of doing things, it was better.

For my students entering the video editing world for the first time as young journalists, this made much more sense to them. Projects came out better and faster. I realized that this was because they didn't have the baggage that seasoned editors had when it came to non-linear editing software. They had less to unlearn than I did.

Looking to the Future

There are some signs that Apple is doubling down on Final Cut Pro X. The next frontier is 360 video, and while Adobe has rudimentary support for this new medium with a VR viewer built in, Final Cut Pro X seemingly has none. But Apple quietly hired the maker of an excellent 360 plugin for Final Cut Pro X (and Premiere Pro), and then made his tools, the Dashwood 360VR Toolbox, free. While that likely signals the end for those tools (witness Google and Nik software), hiring Tim Dashwood can only mean that 360 tools will make their way into FCPX natively. One can hope, anyway.

Pros who are just entering the industry should give Final Cut Pro X a fair shake. While you’ll hear a lot of people who felt burned by the switch complain loudly about the software (for quite valid reasons), if you have no history and no projects under your belt, it only makes sense to approach software with an open mind. Perhaps if you’re a hardcore Hollywood movie editor, it won’t work for you, but I can attest from experience that if you’re a student, an independent filmmaker, or a journalist, there’s no reason not to give it a try if you’re starting from scratch. It’s not the same software it was when it launched after all of these years of updates.

What's your video editor of choice? What do you think of Final Cut Pro X? Sound off in the comments below.

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32 Comments

Michael Comeau's picture

One big positive you left out: FCPX flies on Apple hardware.

It's way faster and uses much less battery life than Premier Pro.

On a separate note, Premier users should root for FCPX to keep getting better, because competition benefits everyone.

Thanks for this. My history is I started editing in Premiere CS3 in 2008, never used Final Cut Classic. When FCPX came out I gave it a try and I liked it however it was a bit buggy and it's performance was slower than Premiere on the same iMac. However when 10.0.3 came out with it's multicam capabilities I gave FCPX another go, since most everything I shot at the time was multicam. I was blown away at how easy, fast, and efficient FCPX multicam was. It was at this point I made the switch and haven't looked back.

I 'got' the magnetic timeline right away and loved it. I also love skimming in FCPX and how it can be used in many more ways than hover scrub can in Premiere, faster too, IMO.

Ultimately after using Premiere for years I found I edit much faster in FCPX and with less headaches. So I did come from a track based NLE mindset to FCPX and just got it, loved it. This is not the case for everyone however as you said it may just take patients, proper education/training, and the ability to let go of how one might have thought editing should be done, at least in a track based NLE.

I'm quite active on Twitter in following the #FCPX hashtag so if anyone has questions reach out. I help where I can however there are many other FCPX users smarter than I willing to help where they can.

This software is still somewhat controversial, with people on one side not giving FCPX the time of day or wittingly calling it FCX, or those who will quite vocally "defend" FCPX and attack anyone speaking ill of the software and those who switch away from it. I'll admit I did that at first too however have since learned that it really doesn't get anyone anywhere and ultimately it really doesn't matter what tool you use, as long as you're creating. Content is King.

Anonymous's picture

Great article, well over do on F Stoppers.

Leigh Miller's picture

No problems at all with FCPx..it's fast, stable and powerful. Tailor made for MAC platforms. My rendering times barely give me enough space to go pour a glass of Bourbon and walk back for 5 min or less footage.

Didn't like FCPX at first - went through the same process, my first few projects I was using my old track based habits and still learning. Once I was able to shift my thinking around the process, and figure out bunch of keyboard shortcuts - I have been super happy with FCPX and would not want to go back. My current editing project in the latest Premiere Pro has solidified my appreciation for the power and speed inherent in FCPX.

My projects in FCPX are all multicam, native XAVC, 4k and they playback more smoothly than the 1080 project I am doing in PP (2017 CC) now.

But it is a major shift in the process of how you cut - Learned the keystrokes and was able to cut in FCPX in about a day and a half - but it took a much longer time to really lose my track -based thinking and start taking advantage of the program.

ILL FLIX's picture

Great article, i was taught on FC6 i believe, it's too far back to remember, but it was home, after the FCX release i felt it was too much like iMovie to take it serious so i went over to Premiere and never looked back. But, after watching a few colleges use it and hearing about various updates, i'm willing to give it another chance.. Cross My Fingers

Spy Black's picture

Today FCPX is a fully capable editor. But Apple's initial castration of it killed all the momentum FCP7 had gained. Stopped it dead in it's tracks. Editors went back to Avid, and Adobe saw a wounded animal and killed it's market penetration, and made their own in the process. It's all history now. Apple users will always have it to throw around, but FCPX will never return back to where it was going with FCP7. Not only does Premiere have all the traction now, it also works on two platforms. No contest.

FCPX may not have the same market type per-say however it's already made more money and has more users in less time than it took Final Cut Pro 1-7 to get.

So while yes many old FCP users may have moved to something else many more new editors have come onboard.

To say FCPX will never return to where Final Cut Pro Classic was going is not entirely true when it took FCPX 6 years to hit 2 million users and it took Final Cut Pro Classic 9 years to hit 1 million. Tho it is true that most (not all) high end post-houses that were using Final Cut Classic have moved on and don't consider FCPX an option, so in that case the "never return back..." argument can be made, and that's fine.

The landscape has certainly changed however and so has the definition of professional video editor. Video production is just so much more accessible these days and it's great to have choices.

Spy Black's picture

Yes, your correct that FCP now has the potential to do that on the Apple platform, but I meant exactly as you said the most high end post houses have moved on and are not going back, especially when both Premiere and Avid run on multiple platforms. Apple's castration of FCP gave Avid the time it needed to re-lock on to the high end, and Premiere snapped up the rest.

Spy,

Not sure what exactly "traction" means to you.

Apple announced 2 Million paid seats for FCP X two months ago at NAB - that it's now way past FCP Legacy adoption - and the pace of adoption is accelerating.

I have software developer friends who market very popular products and they've told me there are now more working X editors around the world than Premiere and AVID combined.

You may still feel X is dismissable on your radar. But what will you do if it turns out your radar was faulty?

Good luck with that strategy.

Spy Black's picture

Yes, you always hear stuff like that, but the truth is Premiere rules the roost now, as well as Avid locking on to the top end, and it's Apple's own fault. I'm sure there's plenty of satisfied FCP users out there, and why not? It's a perfectly capable app. But FCP only runs on one platform, and that is always going to be a problem for it. Apple makes FCP for Apple users only because it doesn't see it as a cash cow. By contrast, look at iTunes. Apple knew long ago, long before the advent of the iPhone, that iTunes had to be cross-platform, because it's a huge cash cow, so it supports the app on Windows because Apple knew people weren't gong to dump their PCs for a Mac just to have iTunes. Unless Apple does the same for FCP, it's never going to have the traction Premiere and Avid have in their markets, because people aren't going to dump their PCs just to have FCP.

I know it's essentially proprietary software, but FCP X's utilization of Mac os and hardware is nuts.

I was cutting a project last night with 3 different camera source (4k,1080@120 and 60p) and somehow my 5 year old Air handled it flawlessly.

Wasim Ahmad's picture

I hear you - I have been cutting 4K 360 video from my 4-year-old MacBook Air regularly on Final Cut Pro X. I'm amazed that it works.

Greetings. Just curious about a point I have and since the author offers / suggests for everyone to sound off on what their favorite video of choice is, as well as their opinion of FCPX.

I think FCPX is a fine piece of software. It sort of seems like the 'papa' to iMovie. Perhaps FCPX was born out of iMovie to some extent. I have it installed but to be honest have not used it extensively enough to call myself a specialist or professional with FCPX. Basic level familiarity for now. Alternatively....

Alternatively, I wonder what people think about Blackmagic's Davinci Resolve? I also have this installed. Points that attracted me to Davinci Resolve:
* Cross platform: Windows, Mac, Linux (not limited to only Macs)
* NLE function: Previously a color gradation application only, it has bloomed into a fully functional robust, professional video editor as well.
* Audio Edit: Latest release (v14 beta) now incorporates an audio edit module which consists of Fairlight audio support, up to 1000 channels mixing in real time as part of the total production package.
* Performance: Starting with v14, still in beta, the performance of Davinci Resolve has improved by a claimed multiple factor of up to 10X over v12.5x
" The new high performance playback engine, which is up to 10x faster, makes playback instantaneous and trimming more responsive than ever, even for processor intensive formats such as H.264 and RAW."

* Free: No subscription-based, forever recurring fees, software rental-based model as is the case with Adobe.

https://www.blackmagicdesign.com/products/davinciresolve

Siimilar to Apple's business model being the sale of hardware and 'giving' away software, Blackmagic Design is similar. They sell highend professional video edit production equipment and thus (I presume) make Davinci Resolve available for free for personal use. There is a paid Resolve Studio version ($1,000) but the basic version I understand is more then enough to cover 98% of video edit needs for the average person.

Any constructive thoughts on this matter are appreciated.

In terms of price with the release of v14 Blackmagic Design reduced the paid price down to $299. This matches FCPX pricing however no word yet on whether or not BMD will charge for future upgrades, which FCPX since day one has not.

I've been looking at moving from FCP since seeing Resolve 14 and spoke to Blackmagic in the UK and they assured me that the licensing for the Studio edition is based on a USB stick (you can move it between as many Macs/PCs that you have, just one at a time) that will work with all future versions. They can't predict the future but they don't intend to move at this time and the current USB stick for 12.5 will work with the upcoming version 14.

Spy Black's picture

You are exactly the reason why this article and recent ones like this exist. Because Resolve poses a bigger threat than Premiere to FCP. As a matter of fact, if Resolve delivers on a reliable program (which it has yet to fully be), even Adobe has reason to worry. But FCP is far more vulnerable to Resolve than Premiere is at this time. That's why you see all this FCP chatter on the internet.

My observation has been that more Premiere users are switching to Resolve because it's track based and you don't have to rent it like Adobe.

Source being mostly Twitter but also speaking to people personally offline and while I was at NAB.

Either way we have another disrupter ;)

Spy Black's picture

Yes I think Resolve is making a dent in both Premiere and FCP users. The only reason for "more" Premiere users switching over is simply because there are far more Premiere users than FCP users. No doubt however that FCP is more vulnerable to Resolve than Premiere, simply because of the numbers.

See I'd have to disagree on that. If you like how FCPX works, magnetic timeline, skimming, keywording, favourites etc. then Resolve doesn't really offer any improvements on those.

However if you like tracked based editing but prefer to pay for your NLE rather than rent then moving from Premiere to Resolve makes more sense, IMO.

Again this is my observation of many FCPX and Premiere people I'm connected with online and offline. I just haven't heard nearly as many FCPX users considering Resolve as I have Premiere users, at this time.

Spy Black's picture

Well you're always going to have dedicated users, of any app, but following up this very thread you see an FCP user moving towards Resolve, so it's not just a Premiere thing. As I said, there's far more Premiere users than FCP users, so you'll hear more of that from them, but you wouldn't hear all this FCP chatter on the internet if everything was hunky dory. ;-)

I've been looking at Resolve Jerry and I'm VERY impressed so far. Version 14 is incredible and I've even bought the panel (cheaper micro panel) for grading and for the first time in my life I'm fixing what I would have had to bin before footage and matching footage from multiple cameras with ease. Early days but worth watching some YouTube clips and having a go.

I LOVE fcpx again. I was happy for the remake when it came out but had to abandon it because of certain missing features. I'm happy to say it's fantastic now FOR ME. I love it.

I've used FCP for many years but my fears of Apple moving further and further away from Pros (canning Aperture, selling me a MacBook Pro for £3,000 thats slower than my 2 year old previous model, you get the picture) have made me rethink. I've spend the last few weeks looking at Resolve 14 and I have to say, I'm blown away. The colour correction on it is incredible and WAY ahead of FCP. At this point the only thing I'm missing is the vast community of plugins for FCP that I've spend thousands on over the years. I'll need a few weeks to keep looking but because at the moment I'm still on Mac hardware, Premiere just isn't an option for me because the export of Premiere projects on a Mac are terrible.

Wasim Ahmad's picture

How is Resolve with 360 video?

Studio 403's picture

Thank all for your comments. I use iMovie fate simple stuff I do. I am thinking of buying Final Cut Pro for 2 reasons, One is learning and added creativity and two, I don like like Adobe's "renting" option. Like to adivsed on resources where I can learn how to be effective is using this software? Any suggestions for a 71 year old guy....with a thirst for creativity?

Head over to Ripple Training to start, also check out Izzy Video.

NOTE: If you find any other tutorials online try to find ones that are using FCPX 10.3 or at the very least 10.1 since the way the software functioned in the beginning was quite different as to how it functions now.

Wasim Ahmad's picture

Yeah, they completely changed the file structure of projects from when it first came out. I like the new way better with the libraries but they should have had that from the beginning - that was hard to explain to students.

I've been a Avid Media Composer editor on the Mac for 20 years and in 2011 when Apple came out with FCPX I was almost ready to jump to FCP. Then they came out with X and it stopped me cold. It addressed issues that don't exist for editors...like gaps in the timeline or sync. Good editors control all that. It assumed audio and video go together...they don't. It made some initial mistakes. Media storage and something called events...I never worked on a film event in my life. It treated a mature industry like idiots and that's why it's not doing as well as it could. It's best attributes are that it works well with the OS. For singular editors it has it's uses but almost all those uses are covered almost as well or better in Premiere (which I use as well). Adobe Media Encoder is so much better than Compressor there's no comparison. Recently I was handed a documentary project that had 70 hours of footage in 4k. I have a MacPro trashcan and I set to work. FCPX crawled as did Premiere and Avid too with the native camera files H264. But..Premiere doesn't have it's own codec...it was out. FCP has ProRes but Avid has DNxHR...huge difference in working with 4k media. Multiple streams of 4k media with effects, CC and titles...without rendering.

A couple of benefits, for comparison sake ;), that I feel Compressor has over AME is that it does output better quality h.264 files and it has a history panel. The history panel really made a job I had to redo months later so simple because I just went to the panel, selected the appropriate clips, and hit Reuse... then went and got lunch;)

One thing I do miss from AME however is Watch Folders, which to my knowledge Compressor does not support at this time.