Monday, April 18th, 2011

Apple’s new Final Cut Pro X: excitement and terror


So Apple rolled out Final Cut Pro X last week at NAB. The software is a complete (and necessary) rewrite of the venerable non linear editor, with great features like a magnetic timeline (so your sound and picture don’t go out of sync without you telling them to do so), automatic cleaning up of sound and one click color matching.

But there are also quite a few unanswered questions about FCP X. A lot of them have to do with tape based workflows and matching back to film, neither of which are particularly pressing issues for me. But one change does give me the willies something serious: the apparent lack of a Viewer.

“Traditional” (if there is such a thing) NLEs operate on the same paradigm as an old A-B tape based editing system. YOu set you in and out points on a source monitor, set an in and/or out point on a timeline, and edit. I’ve been using this system for literally decades, ever since I sat down at NAIT in front of two 3/4 VTR decks and made pictures come together with a mechanical “clunk” sound eevery time I made an edit.

But FCP X has a filmstrip instead of a viewer, and this might be a huge dealbreaker for me. Maybe it’s just that I’m old and grouchy, but for me scrubbing through a film strip just isn’t the same as having that source video right in front of me. I can see where they’re going with the metaphor, and it time I might even accept it, but for right now the thought of using a filmstrip to comb through video and then fix things via the timeline seems like a backwards way to work. It might actually be a better way to tell a story, but it’ll take me a while to wrap my head around the concept and embrace it.

But on a meta level I can totally see why Apple has made the changes they have in FCP X. The “pro” market for TV and film is important but fundamentally tiny compared to the exploding amount of content being crafted for the web, mobile and streaming video. My current job, as a digital media editor, means I deliver videos on a weekly basis to a specific niche audience but with production values if not equalling television than certainly approaching it in terms of quality and presentation. That’s just one example of many of people creating professional video that never, ever goes onto a television screen. This trend will not only continue, it will accelerate, and that’s where I think Apple is aiming the new, cheap and ultimately more adaptable Final Cut Pro X.

I just hope I can come along for the ride without too many bumps.

Warren Frey is a journalist, freelance writer, podcaster, video producer, and all-around media consultant currently based in Vancouver, Canada. His written work has appeared in such publications as Metro Vancouver, the Westender, Mac | Life and the Japan Times.

One Response to “ Apple’s new Final Cut Pro X: excitement and terror ”

bob says:

For me, the preview looked as if Apple took some of the features that I enjoyed in Sony Vegas and inserted them into FCP X. I agree that the lack of a dedicated viewer is the reason why programs such as iMovie are not good for editing.

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