The State of the Union of Final Cut Pro

Or one editor's take on the year after FCPX
Scott Simmons
By Scott Simmons 06.21.12


Here we are one year after the release of Final Cut Pro X so it’s time for the inevitable slew of FCPX one year later blog posts so I’ll add one more to the list … we are called The Editblog after all. Opinions on FCPX are still all over the map. Many people like it, some love it, a lot still hate it and there’s the group who have largely ignored it. In truth there are many things to like about FCPX, some certain features that I absolutely love but others that I hate and still wonder if the designers actually used the product outside of their own bubble. One thing this blog strives to be is totally honest about products we discuss and I hope we’ve been just that with Final Cut Pro X.

The SuperMeet heard around the world

I don’t think anyone came away from the first public showing at the NAB 2011 SuperMeet without both a feeling of optimism that we might be getting an amazing new NLE when FCP shipped but also a healthy dose of skepticism that it might not live up to the reality distortion field that's often presented around Apple products. The automated tools looked great and no editor in their right mind would turn those tools down if offered in their favorite NLE. Features like skimming and Auditions were things that looked like they could really make a big difference in ease of use and speed of editing.

This was part one of the SuperMeet presentation. Part 2 is here.

But anyone who wasn’t yelling their praises at the stage with wild abandon came away from that event with just as many questions as answers. What about the other applications in the Final Cut Studio? Exactly how would that magnetic timeline work in practice? Is going trackless really a better way to edit? And how “pro” will this new NLE be if it’s based off of iMovie? That last question has proven to often be a controversial idea and one that has generated much debate. My stance has always been (and still is) that even thought Final Cut Pro X and iMovie might not share a single line of code many of the features and design elements are very similar. Apple designers either based much of FCPX off of iMovie or the concept of FCPX has been around for many years and the “new” iMovie was based off of that. They are more than distant cousins … maybe half siblings.

The iMovie magnetic timeline from Scott Simmons on Vimeo.

iMovie was the original magnetic timeline.

There was much commentary on Apple’s FCP launch and even some of FCP’s biggest fans say to this day that Apple bungled the launch. Maybe but they launched FCP like any product: a keynote at a secretive event and then it popped up in the store later. While the biggest single mistake was showing the FCP7 timeline in FCPX (that implied a feature that wasn’t there) so much brouhaha could have been avoided if the product hadn’t used the Final Cut Pro name. Whether that’s a good thing or a bad thing is a matter of opinion.

The above TubeChop is that section of the SuperMeet keynote where Apple showed the FCP7 timeline in FCPX. Though the don't specifically say it, rewatching to today it still feels like it implies you can easily move a FCP timeline into FCP.

The weeks before the release

Those few weeks before the June 21, 2011 release of FCP were interesting ones here at the Editblog office. If you follow this NLE stuff you might remember a mysterious twitter figure named MortGoldman2 that began leaking FCP screenshots out over the net. That definitely stirred the pot and speculation ran wild about what features might (and might not) be in FCPX and the new Motion.

The Editblog was quiet when these leaks happened not because we didn’t have an opinion (we always have an opinion) but because we were sitting on the source of all those screenshots right on our hard drive. As we all know now those leaks came from some rather in-depth Ripple Training training materials that were improperly obtained (illegally?) by someone who may or may not have been MortGoldman2. (That training is still some of the best out there btw if you’re wanting to learn FCPX.) A private, anonymous conversation saw that material arrive in our in-box. I sat and watched the entire series but it didn’t take long to realize that FCP was going to be quite a bit more controversial than it seemed after the NAB presentation.

What to do? There I was sitting on what would have been the post-production blogging scoop of the century (and I’m sure it would have generated the traffic to match) but it was obvious the data wasn’t originally obtained in an ethical manner. And while a big scoop like that wouldn’t have harmed Apple in any way I wasn’t so sure about the small company that produced the tutorials. At the time I didn’t know the Ripple Training guys but you could bet that Apple wouldn’t be happy their training got leaked onto the internet. I’m actually quite surprised that someone else didn’t make the scoop as apparently the videos were more widely available than what it would seem from only seeing the twitter screenshots around the net.

Long story short, after further contemplation and a couple of conversations with various editors (not video editors but editors in the journalistic sense) we decided not publish an early Final Cut Pro X story based off of these leaked tutorials. I was torn about the decision. On the one hand it would have been quite the scoop as Apple controversy is always good for ratings and FCP was undoubtedly going to be controversial. On the other hand the Editblog wasn’t meant to be the Woodward and Bernstein of the post-production centric Internet. The Editblog is just an editor with an opinion and an Internet connection.

An actual offline conversation with Ripple Training really made the decision clear that posting the story might have done serious damage to their relationship with Apple and in turn their successful training business. There was no need for that. So I filed that few gigs of FCPX Quicktimes into a folder on my hard drive and ended up with nothing more than a bit of advanced knowledge about how to run the application. It was the right decision.

June 21, 2011

It was that morning when my first indication of FCP’s actual release came in the form of an email from Automatic Duck announcing the release of an Auto Duck module to move FCP audio into Pro Tools. By golly that did work but as irony would have it, the brains behind Automatic Duck would later lend their talents to Adobe and release all of their products for free (except for the FCPX one). Many things in post did indeed change for many of us with that one. OMF export would return later with X2Pro Audio Convert.

That day of June 21 was rather unproductive for me. While I wasn’t able to download and try FCPX for myself that morning (I had an edit that day but can’t remember if I was using FCP7 or Avid Media Composer) I was mostly distracted by the overwhelmingly angry waves of twitter comments under the #fcpx hash tag that day as people began to kick the tires and post reactions. I chose to forego the usual Kicking the Tires article and chose to answer some burning FCPX questions instead. But we would later kick the tires on both the 10.0.1 update as well as the big 10.0.3 update.

The updates have come along at a surprising pace and added some much needed features. I wrote an early FCPX review for Studio Daily and the conclusions weren’t so good with that initial release. But a later review of 10.0.3 showed a much improved product mainly because of the new and updated features that weren’t around when the application shipped. This quick addition of needed features to FCPX led to a lot of speculation that FCPX shipped before it was really ready. Maybe, maybe not. If 10.0.4 would have been the exact version of the application that shipped a year ago there might have been less controversy around the app itself but there would still have been controversy. And a lot of it.

Next Up: FCPX today and where does it go from here.

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