Is Apple's Final Cut Pro X first rate or a big mistake? An Academy Award-winning editor weighs in
Apple released their overhauled professional video-editing system, Final Cut Pro X, to the world last week, and the response on the blogosphere has been especially unkind. “I’m just shocked,” says one. “It’s incredibly bad.” Another calls the program, “A very souped up version of iMovie ’11 but with iMovie’s ability to “Export to FCP” removed.” Current ratings on the Mac App Store have the software sitting with a lackluster 2.5 stars.
People are frustrated that Final Cut Pro X is not fully compatible with Final Cut Pro 7 files, rendering older videos unusable by the new system. Many editors, who have built their entire careers upon older versions of Final Cut Pro, are concerned that they may be forced to adapt to a new Final Cut system that has less functionality. Though Pro X does have a few features that users are excited about — the 64-bit processing, the improved “Preview” function — the good has gotten utterly lost in a sea of enraged bloggers.
So before we picked up our pitchforks and joined the Apple torching mob, we sought some real answers from Kirk Baxter, Academy Award-winning editor of films like The Social Network, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, and the upcoming The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. Baxter (along with his editing partner Angus Wall) edited each of those films with Final Cut Pro, and he spoke with EW about his take on the new software.
“There’s a little too much hating,” Baxter explained. “The guys from Apple came out and showed Angus Wall and myself [the program], and a lot of it I thought was absolutely amazing. It really, really was smart. It just seems they’ve basically put the software together for laptop users, which I understand — I’m sure every student in America is going to have one, just not the industrialzied world. It seems to be very clever and user friendly; it’s just not set up to be used professionally.”
Baxter was also clear about the problems with the editing platform: “It needs a few key things. In order for us to do a [David] Fincher film on it, you’ve got to be able to switch between multiple cameras, so with that right there, we can’t use it. Secondly, it only has one viewer monitor, and we use source material, select material, and then our edit material, so we use three monitors. You can kind of force yourself to change, but why? It might be better if you’re working on a laptop, but if you’ve got three monitors to work from, then it’s not better — it’s constricting.”
As far as the future is concerned, Baxter isn’t planning on switching to Pro X anytime soon. “I assume I’m going to be working on Final Cut 7 until they upgrade the new model to professional standards, and if they don’t do it, then I imagine all of us will end up aborting and finding a new platform to work on, but I honestly think their money is in laptop editing — there are just more of those people than professional editors — so I don’t think they’re sweating it…. I’d imagine people are going to stall on embracing it until it is of more professional use.”
Fortunately, it does appear that Apple is planning on adding many more features to Final Cut Pro X. The company released an FAQ yesterday to address the many concerns (and rants) coming their way, and it looks like the software is going to be adding numerous features over the coming months. Daniel Bérubé, founder of the Boston Final Cut Pro User Group, explained to EW that Final Cut Pro X is actually going to receive quite a progressive long term rollout, which will allow users to update their software periodically without having to buy an expensive new Final Cut program.
“Things are happening differently this time around,” Bérubé explained. “[Apple is] taking advantage of software they’ve built. They’ve got a new business model with Final Cut X in the Mac App Store, which I personally think is a marvelous idea… [Apple] will always be able to put incremental or major changes into [Final Cut], and people will immediately be able to download the latest app in the App Store… It’s just a different way.”
Bérubé also cautioned people not to criticize Apple too quickly: “This doesn’t mean that Final Cut 7 is no longer usable. You can use Final Cut Pro 7 for the next three or four years and have no problems with it. I think that anyone who thinks they have to switch to Final Cut Pro X, or switch to another [editing program] because of Final Cut Pro X without letting this process happen, probably should reevaluate their thinking.”