You’d think that Final Cut Pro X (FCPX) was a pox-ridden kitten-killing monster, the way some editors and filmmakers go to great and painful lengths to avoid it. It isn’t, but the fear, uncertainty, and doubt (FUD) associated with Apple’s non-linear editing app clings like stink on pig shit, even over four years after launch. Let’s dive in and mix some more metaphors as we examine why…
Granted, the public bungling of the FCPX launch (April 2011) left a bad taste in the mouths of video pros everywhere, thanks to a premature release (oh, like missing some basic FCP7 features) and the immediate killing off of FCP7. If Apple had launched FCPX as a modern “technology preview” app, alongside FCP7 as an option or companion, or even given it a different name, I doubt the Apple NLE world today would see so much avoidance and abandonment to alternate solutions.
Now, I’ve been using Final Cut Pro since version 1.2.5 came out (with such sophisticated features as 16:9 support and the ability to make reference movies). In retrospect, it wasn’t all that much for $999, but it was a hell of a lot more than anything else for the money (Video Toaster, anyone?) and it was on your own G3/G4 computer. People were excited and eager to get their hands on it and use it on their projects, in spite of the fact that Apple’s market share was something like 2.8% and didn’t have any fancy iPods or iPhones (yet).
Editors really started to take notice about four years after launch when Walter Murch cut Cold Mountain on FCP 3(!) and widespread use of FCP really seemed to take off and grow at a rapid pace amongst filmmakers of all types. Until April 2011, that is, when it screeched to a panicked halt.
It is interesting to see that four+ years after FCPX’s launch, we might well be at a new “Cold Mountain moment,” with both Focus and Whiskey Tango Foxtrot being two higher-profile Hollywood films cut in FCPX. Yet the lack of excitement and the daily grumbling and repeating of falsities on social media and outright dismissal in conversation baffles my mind. Why is this the case?
To me, it seems to come down to hurt feelings of abandonment, perception, and inertia. And too much silence on Apple’s part.
Abandonment. Yes, it was shocking to see Apple end-of-life FCP7. Yes, they handled it very poorly. Yes, dear Steve was dying from cancer, even. But Apple’s never been one to lightly pussy-foot around technological advancement. People cried out when they removed the floppy disk. They cried out when they removed the CD-ROM. And they cried out when they removed a microscopic keypad from a new phone. But guess what? We needed to do those things. Do you miss floppies? Or ZIP disks? CDs? Or even Blackberries? I don’t. Sure, sometimes Apple takes a big swing and misses, but honestly, what other company has such an influential record? Yet for this NLE, that track record appears to mean nothing.
Perception. This is probably the area that irks me the most. Some examples you may have heard: “It looks like iMovie, it can’t be pro.” Or how about, “It doesn’t have bins, how could we possibly use it?!” Or “Well, I do a lot of work with This Other Software and it doesn’t link up.” And I know that somehow the crazy affordable $299 price tag makes people subconsciously value FCPX less (a one-time charge, mind you, saving you $2700 over Creative Cloud*). If it looks simple and is affordable, clearly it can’t be professional and powerful. Maybe we should just go back to quills and ink pots, clearly these new fangled ballpoint pens are too simple and affordable.
Inertia. “The industry has moved on to Premiere Pro.” Well, the personal computing world used to be almost 100% Windows, yet here you are on a Mac. So, clearly, you used to be a trailblazer compared to the industry. Yeah, change is hard. And if you’ve been editing for a few years, you’ve got a library of legacy projects to consider. Guess what? Even four+ years after death, FCP7 will still open and run just fine, right along side FCPX. Your legacy projects can still be accessed when you need them (probably less than you think), or you could even migrate them over with a $10 app (7toX) or the free and crazy powerful DaVinci Resolve.
Silence. In the past couple years, with Apple largely remaining publicly silent (but still putting out over 18 updates for free), various third-party sources have stepped in and spread the good word about FCPX. The website FCP.CO has been posting great articles, news, and has active forums. Chris Fenwick put out an average of two podcasts per week during 2014 and into 2015 with his amazing FCPX Grill show. There are well over 300+ video tips and tricks relating to FCPX, Motion (Apple’s pretty powerful motion graphics app), and more, at MacBreak Studio. And Alex4d has published quite a few useful free plugins (Grow-Shrink is a must-have) for FCPX. So, sure, Apple could and should make more noise about how great their NLE is, but a bit like the App Store, the FCPX ecosystem is a (very) robust place for others to shine.
I’m running FCPX on a new Mac Pro, with Thunderbolt 2 RAIDs, hooked to two Dell UltraSharp PremiereColor monitors. I mainly shoot AVCHD (Sony) in both HD and 4k resolution. Is my system fast? Yes. Quite. Does it crash? Very rarely. Is it fun to use? Heck, yes! I’m eager to be working on projects and I’m able to ingest, cut, and deliver videos faster than ever before. It stays out of my way and doesn’t make me do stupid workarounds. The metadata and keywording and skimming and magnetic timeline and realtime playback are a wonder. Did I mention it is fast? Exporting is a breeze. And there is so much power to make custom content when every plugin is a Motion project that can be modified (True fact. Motion lets you make plugins for FCPX). I haven’t worried and haven’t looked back and believe that for my business, FCPX makes perfect sense.
If you haven’t tried FCPX yet (well, thanks for reading this far, I guess), go grab the free trial download from Apple and then enjoy this complimentary FCPX training course from Ripple Training.
(thanks to FCP.co for the collection and community)
* Can you really compare pricing? Well, I’m an Adobe Cloud subscriber (have been since it was introduced because I do use Photoshop, InDesign, and Illustrator quite a bit) so I feel I can. You can spend another $100 on Motion and Compressor (I’d say they are vital), bringing your cost up to $400. Some choice plugins like Hawaiki Keyer (green/blue screen, $49), Slice X (masks/tracking, $99), iZotope RX5 (advanced audio repair, $99/$349), and NeatVideo (noise reduction, $99), not to mention all the great templates and plugins from MotionVFX, and you’d still be $1700 richer than the cloud. And you rarely have to leave your NLE, making you more productive.