So yesterday was met with the news that Final Cut Pro X was finally available and like someone waiting outside the famous PT Barnum museum in New York City, I plunked down my $299 to download the software and ensure that the information I had gotten over the past few months was correct. I was wrong. It was worse.
We joked at NAB that this was "iMovie Pro" and doggone it if that isn't what this turned out to be. A very souped up version of iMovie '11 but with iMovie's ability to "Export to FCP" removed. The basic operation is identical. Apple just added a few new features and rolled in some color tools and sound tools. But who cares about the actual operation of the editing interface, give me a couple of days and I'll by flying through the interface. That's not the problem. The problem is the insular thinking that Apple seems to have taken with this application. In fact, I just wrote a review on the App Store (where FCPX is hovering between 2.5 and 3 stars) and it sums up the major features that are missing or will cause us issues if we tried to implement this app moving forward. As I'm sure you won't see this review quoted anywhere in the Apple marketing blitz and it's always possible it won't even be posted on their site, here it is in its entirety…
Posted June 22, 2011 by Walter Biscardi - Rating: One Star (would have been a half star if I could)
Built from the ground up to be completely self contained, one editor, one machine. Cannot even talk to other Apple pro software.
Cannot open previous Final Cut Pro projects. period. We have 10 years worth of projects that cannot be opened.
Cannot collaborate with other editors. You can't simply hand off a project file to another editor who has the same media like you could with previous versions of FCP. All of your project organization is now globally contained in the application rather than in your project file. You would literally have to give that other editor your computer to open your project with all of your organization.
There is no way to customize the organization of the project media. "Events" are nice for home movies, home photos and such, but organzation is clunky at best for a professional video editing environment, whether that's working in your home or in a facility.
Media keeps wanting to copy itself to the local drive. We have over 60TB of media in our facility, we could not possibly copy that much to a local computer.
No directory structure when media is offline. When media is offline you simply get a red screen with an exclamation point. There is no "Reconnect Media" function or any other function that will tell you where the media is supposed to be. With previous versions you were presented the original media path. Since this is based on iMovie, it expects that everything lives internally.
Multicam tool, which was one of the best in the industry, completely eliminated.
OMF and XML export and import completely eliminated. There is no way to send projects to Apple's own software from within Final Cut Pro.
Color Correction tool is mediocre at best. Apple Color, which was a $25,000 piece of software when Apple purchased it, seems to have been eliminated and replaced with dots and presets. I've used a lot of color correction tools as part of my work and what Apple has presented is one of the worst I've seen from a supposed professional tool.
Cannot assign audio tracks. The Trackless editing makes things faster initially but we send all our audio out for ProTools mixing. As such we need to assign audio to tracks. Narration to Track 1 and 2. Interviews to Tracks 3 - 6 and so on. So our audio engineers knows exactly what's on which track.
No true video output. According to an AJA Video Systems PDF on using their Kona cards with FCPX what you see on your external display is a "preview" version of your video. Not a true video signal that you can use for color correction or confidence viewing in front of a client. Simply cannnot have a professional video editing application without true video output.
No support for Capture from Tape (outside of Firewire) or Edit to Tape. We capture from and edit to tape just about every day. HDV is really not a format we use very much but if we did, well then we were perfectly set up in FCPX.
All in all the worst product launch I've ever seen from Apple or pretty much any software manufacturer. Instead of a nice suite of applications that worked well together (FCP, Color, Motion, SoundTrack Pro, DVD Studio Pro) you now have one big app that really doesn't do all that much well. It completely ignores the 11 years of existence by giving you zero options to open older projects. We called it iMovie Pro when it was debuted back in April and quite honestly, that's what it is. When you open the application and the first thing you see is "Import iMovie Events" and then you select File > Import and the two of the four options are "iMovie" there's no denying that this application was built on iMovie's consumer foundation rather than FCP's professional foundation. There are some neat features included and there's no denying the interface itself is nice to look at.
But I get the sense that Apple just didn't want to take the time to re-write all of the features that made this a solid professional application and dominated the post production market. Why, I'm not sure, but we will be moving our shop away from FCPX over the next month or so. As I noted in a blog entry back in April, Apple really dropped the ball on this one. Living in their insular world in Cupertino they have come up with what they think a professional editor requires to get the job done. In my 20 year professional experience, they missed the mark by a wide margin.
If you are a one man band or never have the need to collaborate with anyone else or ever open any of your old FCP projects, then this is for you. Especially if you have never used a non linear editing system before. Otherwise, you'd be best to either steer clear of this application, or download it to use for your home movies and private projects. Steve Jobs was wrong. This is not "awesome." Not even close.
End of the review.
In fact I forgot to mention the fact that layered Photoshop file support is gone. All photoshop files appear as a flattened image. In our shop we build multi layered graphics for name supers for example. I'll have 12 layers of names and the 13th layer is the backdrop. So I create one graphic for 12 supers. Now I'd have to create 12 graphics.
Just the fact that we can't open old FCP projects alone would be enough for me to stop, but add up everything I've mentioned (and more) there is just no way that any amount of fancy new tools built inside a stand alone app that traps you in said stand alone app is going to make it in our workflow. It's easier to move the projects into Avid or Adobe Premiere than it is to move them into the new Final Cut Pro.
Let's just forget the word "professional" for the moment. You're an upstart filmmaker who has this installed on your iMac at home cutting your latest project. You gave the media to a buddy of yours who has offered to help on his laptop. So you send the Project file over to him and guess what? He'll see your timeline but all that organization you did with the smart folders, keyword folders, etc.... are gone. All he sees is a huge "Event" with all your media just laid out there. Whereas if you were both working in Final Cut Pro 7 or earlier, when you handed him the Project file, all of your organization (bins, sequences, etc…) would all be there.
So far the only people I've seen with positive reviews of the application are those who were in the beta test program, application developers or those who do not make a living as a video editor. I simply will not "cut Apple some slack because it's a 1.0 release." That's complete BS. In 1999 when Final Cut Pro first came out it was the new kid on the block. So what if it didn't have certain features, it saved you from having to buy a $100,000 Avid or $30,000 Media 100. It's 2011 and Final Cut Pro is (was) the broadcast standard editing tool. Apple has had at least two years to completely redevelop the software from the ground up. To have left out so many of the features that were already in Final Cut Pro 7 and say 'well it's a 1.0 release and it will grow as we move along' is just completely self serving. In other words, the developers at Apple, who do NOT make a living as a video editor, decided that they would completely re-invent video editing based on their preconceived notion of what a video editor does. If it's not right the first time, we'll just develop more features, on our own timeline without telling anyone what we're doing, until we get it right. It's just painfully obvious this is a consumer product first and a professional application second. If that's Apple's goal, that's perfectly fine because the consumer market FAR exceeds the professional market. Just tell us so we can move on instead of waiting out this two year game of "what will they do."
For now, and it's sad for me to say this, I'm done with the game. This was the product that completely built my company starting in 2000 / 2001 and now it's time for me to say goodbye. As I tell everyone else, if the tool isn't working for you, then find a tool that does. Fortunately we have Adobe Premiere which has made incredible strides of late and already supports our AJA Kona boards. We also hear that Avid is on a path that will open up the cards soon as well.
So it's been a good 10 year ride and if the application does truly get to a point where we can use it again, we could always bring it back. But for now let me just say, Goodbye Final Cut Pro and Thanks for all the Fish.