Wednesday, July 6th, 2011

Final Cut Pro no more


I’ve used Final Cut Pro for almost a decade. Last week, I stopped.

Like many people who make their living with Apple’s iconic video editing program, I was first shocked and then disappointed with Final Cut Pro X, Apple’s audacious move to bring more semi-prosumers into it’s fold.

Many pros complained about a number of problems with FCP X, not the least of which is the inability to import old Final Cut Pro 7 files into the new program. You also can’t spit out to tape very easily (not a big deal for me) or export to ProTools (ditto).

But even though a lot of high-end pro concerns don’t affect me, I’m with them on two other topics. The new, single-viewer interface owes a lot to iMovie, and to me that’s a non-starter. I could just be stuck in my ways, as I’ve edited both linear and non-linear video since the mid-90s, but I think the new interface is terrible. It does allow for a few things to get done faster, like putting together a-roll in an interview, but it feels imprecise and amateur.

I also don’t like the use of “events” to organize footage. Final Cut Pro has gone from a bin metaphor to events based on date and the metadata both you and the program assign to your clips. But despite the theoretical ease of such a system, in practice it ends up in a bloated, confusing mess that slows me down.

So I’m done with Final Cut. Apple may yet update the program into something useful, but they haven’t yet, and I need something right now, not a year from now. Also, despite Apple’s promises fundamentally this new iteration of Final Cut Pro isn’t aimed at me. I need pro-level tools, and Apple is betting the future is on the web and with lower-end content. They may very well be right, and I completely agree that the web is the medium of choice for video in future, but Final Cut Pro X won’t be an effective way for me to output that work.

So I’m moving to Adobe Premiere Pro. I use Premiere Pro at work anyway, and the transition from FCP 7 to PPro has been almost invisible. Premiere has its quirks, but it’s fast, stable, the interface is instantly recognizable to a Final Cut editor, and it’s fully integrated with After Effects.

Plus, I’m no longer tied to Apple for hardware. Before, a Mac was the only game in town for a Final Cut user. Now I can buy a PC tower running Windows 7 and packed with the CS5 Production bundle and a 3D app or two, all for half the price of a similarly equipped Mac Pro. It’s hard to argue with that.

I’ll still experiment and play around with Final Cut Pro X, but it’ll be a pastime not a way to make a living. And as someone who has used the program for the last 10 years, there’s a certain amount of sadness to parting ways with what was an awesome, enabling set of tools. But Apple has left me little choice.

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.

3 Responses to “ Final Cut Pro no more ”

Bruce Campbell says:

Have you seen the petition to either get Apple to either return the functionality that they’ve prosumed away or to sell off the source code to someone who WANTS to build tools for professionals? There were over 3,000 signatures on it a couple of weeks ago.

Mark Cockram says:

Sounds like a pretty fair assessment, as a complete novice who has only ever used iMovie, there might be more in FCPX for me.

As an experienced user, would you say it would be better long term for a newbie, such as me, to dive straight in with Premiere or take baby steps with a middle of the road effort like FCPX?.

Very interesting article.

Warren says:

Bruce: I saw that petition. It will accomplish nothing, I’m sure. Apple has a plan (much like the Cylons) and no amount of pleading to them will have them change that plan, even if it’s giving up FCP7.

Mark: I’d go with FCP X if I were you. It’s not a bad program per se, and it does offer an iMovie-like experience with more powerful tools. It may be all you ever need. If you need more, the other programs will be there, and they’ll probably steal the good ideas from FCP X anyway.

Post a Comment