Apple updated its professional video editing software Final Cut Pro X on Tuesday, injecting the platform with some significant improvements to enhance the editing experience. But even with the new changes and upgrades, has Apple finally satisfied those professionals frustrated with the software?
Apple's tagline for Final Cut Pro X was, Everything just changed in post. The software lived up to the advertising when it released in June 2011, but despite the program being $700 cheaper than Final Cut Pro 7, professional users didn't take to the new radical design changes.
This is Apple's worst release in history, said one angry e-mailer. Apple has absolutely no clue what professionals need. There are so many missing high-end features that we need, it should be called iMovie Pro.
Upset users rallied behind comedian Conan O'Brien, who made his distaste for Final Cut Pro X very public, openly bashing the software on his late-night talk show.
Apple just released a new version of their famous editing software, Final Cut Pro, but apparently it's so different from the last version of Final Cut, video and film editors all over Hollywood are having a very hard time adjusting to it, O'Brien said. Our editors here at Conan are some of the best in the business. They actually like the new software; in fact, they prepared this video statement voicing their support for the new Final Cut Pro.
Conan's clip, which featured interviews with the show's post-production editors, was very poorly-edited together, with clips being either too long and too short. The color balance was also off and the voices weren't properly synched with the mouths.
Unfortunately, problems with Final Cut Pro X extended far beyond the editing features. Movie projects built on Final Cut Pro 7 were not compatible with Final Cut Pro X, and the only way for users to keep FCP 7 and FCP X was to partition their hard drive, install another version of Mac OS X on the other account, and then reboot the computer every time they wanted to switch from one program to the other.
Even worse, Apple took a big risk and removed FCP 7 from its product list, halting both production and retail of the product. Professional editors had no other choice but to learn the new system on FCP X, or leave the Apple platform entirely and edit on Avid or Adobe Premiere Pro. To save face, Apple offered refunds on Final Cut Pro X for those customers unsatisfied with the product, even though the iTunes Terms and Conditions explicitly state that all sales are final.
What's New in Final Cut Pro 10.0.3?
Version 10.0.3 of Final Cut Pro addresses many of the issues raised by editors. The update includes support for multiple cameras, external broadcast monitoring, and chroma-key controls, but most importantly, Apple addressed the missing upgrade solution from FCP 7 to FCP X. The company endorsed a third-party plugin called 7toX, built by Intelligent Assistance, which will allow users to update and finish their older projects on Final Cut Pro X. The app costs $9.99.
They've done a really fantastic job of preserving the fidelity of one XML format to another, said Richard Townhill, Apple's senior director of applications marketing. We mentioned when we released Final Cut Pro X that because of the magnetic timeline and the visual effects stack that it would be impossible to do perfect project import from old versions. But what [the developer] has done is used the the XML as a translation between the two applications.
Multicam editing also makes a welcome return to Final Cut Pro, which automatically syncs up to 64 angles of video and photos in any format from any camera, using time code and audio waveforms for excellent accuracy.
When we introduced Final Cut Pro X last June, we talked about it being a foundation for Apple's professional post-production roadmap for the next ten years, Townhill said. We rewrote the application with a 64-bit engine and introduced a couple of really innovative new features, the magnetic timeline being one and content auto-analysis being another. We promised at that time that we would release new features faster, at a pace that you haven't seen previously. We also improved on the way they'd been implemented in the past.
If you're a professional on a mulitcam shoot, most of the time you spend making sure your cameras have the same timecode. But sometimes that's not always done perfectly, and in many cases you're supplementing your cameras with stuff that doesn't have timecode on it, like digital SLRs.
Final Cut Pro X also added support for a beta feature called Broadcast Monitoring, which will allow Macs to connect to a broadcast monitor via PCIe card or a Thunderbolt device, as soon as hardware vendors make drivers available. Townhill assures that the drivers are soon to be arriving, which will ensure that any MacBook Pro, Mac Pro, or iMac can output to a broadcast monitor for live viewing.
The 10.0.3 update also includes support for media re-linking, importing layered Adobe Photoshop files directly into the project, and advanced Chroma keys with color sampling, light wrap and edge quality control for effortless green screen editing.
We wanted to incorporate everything you need to make a perfect key inside Final Cut itself, Townhill said. We now have industry-leading chroma-keying built into the NLE.
Apple also added advanced XML 1.1 support for better plug-in compatibility, so plugins like GenArts Sapphire and Red Giant's Magic Bullet can give your film different feels and textures.
If you want to take your production and make it look like the Matrix or Band of Brothers, those tools allow you to do exactly that, Townhill said. And you can use them in ways that you've never been able to use plugins inside of Final Cut before.
Is It Worth The Purchase?
For years, Apple's Final Cut Pro software used to cost more than $1,000. But even with the price tag under $300, is Final Cut Pro X worth the purchase, even with the new upgrades?
Many editors believe Final Cut Pro X is worth a try, even though the platform is still missing a few important features such as the ability to create chapter menus on DVDs, which was possible on Final Cut Pro 7. Another repercussion of FCP X's trackless design is the inability to organize various audio tracks. There is a $200 utility you can buy called Automatic Duck Pro Export to help manage audio tracks as they're exported to ProTools, but Apple said it would restore this feature in Final Cut Pro X. So far, Apple has not followed up on that promise; there's still no simple way to assign tracks.
The 10.0.3 update is free for users who already own Final Cut Pro X, but Apple also offers a free 30-day trial for Final Cut Pro X, giving users a test drive of all of the features before they make a purchase decision. The entire platform is available for direct download from the online Mac App Store for $299.99. The recommended plugin 7toX, which allows users to transfer files from FCP 7 to FCP X, retails for $9.99 on the Mac App Store.
For the less ambitious moviemaker, or for those just looking to start out, Apple's iMovie is an excellent video editing tool with a simple user interface and decent audio and visual effects. iMovie '11 is available for download from the Mac App Store for $14.99.
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