Monday, 27 June 2011

Final Cut Pro X = iMovie Pro?

Final Cut Pro X

I've had a couple of hours to play with FCPX and I am amazed, both at the performance improvements and at the missing features.

Firstly let me state that I was not a big fan of FCP 7. I found the UI to be old fashioned and needlessly complicated, hanging on to the editing methodology first used by Avid. Having come from a Lightworks background I was comfortable in a more flexible environment, which is one of the reasons I use Sony Vegas.

I bought Final Cut Studio a few years ago and learnt how to use FCP, just to see if the grass really was greener on the other side, but I was never very comfortable working with it. Having said that I understand how for many editors FCP allowed them to break free from the limitations of Avid and at a far lower cost. Like all Apple products FCP commands a fierce loyalty from it's users.

There had been rumours that FCP was being dropped by Apple, but then we were told to expect "something awesome". The sneak peek at NAB created quite a storm and raised more questions than it answered, but now we have the chance to see for ourselves (provided you've got $299 to spare)

My first impression of FCPX was "WOW!" This is no clunky Avid clone, this is a genuinely new product, written from scratch with the aim of making the editors job as easy as possible. I found the responsiveness of the UI when "skimming" clips to be amazing, and previewing effects was a dream. But I ran into some issues that I think anyone could have trouble with, even if they don't have an FCP background.

Firstly, I found FCPX to be very picky about media. I have a collection of different media formats that I used to test media import and I was disappointed in the results. FCPX would not import any flavour of mpeg2 files. Not .mpg, .m2v or .mts. It would also not import AVCHD files. Worse than that, some of the files it did import just showed up as red tiles with a yellow exclamation mark, with no explanation of what went wrong. Some others just showed a solid green tile, again with no explanation.

Secondly, Editing in the "magnetic timeline" was interesting but frustrating, how do I stop things rippling if I don't want them to? (disclaimer: I have not RTFM) I also spent far too long trying to get a picture on one layer to fade in over a picture on another layer, without success. If I tried to drag a transition to the start of the clip, FCPX insisted on putting it on the nearest transition on the layer below. (yes I know, there are no "layers")

I found the lack of "save as" unnerving. I always work on projects incrementally and sometimes end up with dozens of versions. The only way I could see to do this in FCPX was to keep duplicating my project.

The preset effects and transitions are good, but of course the preset is never quite what you want. Getting under the hood seemed tricky. I wanted to add a drop shadow to a text effect, only to find it was already being used to create the reflection.

Of course the biggest issue from an FCP users point of view is the lack of options to collaborate with others. The only import option is from iMovie. There is no XML, OMF or AAF import. Not even an EDL. Likewise there is no way to export your project to another system like ProTools or smoke.

iMovie 11 - Look Familiar?

I'm not quite sure what happened at Apple. This was obviously developed by the same team that did iMovie 11 but it has a lot more power than iMovie. So should it have been iMovie Pro? It certainly isn't FCP 8, it is a completely different animal and expecting FCP users to adopt this in their existing workflows is a non starter.

I'll keep playing with it to see if it grows on me, but I understand the pain of all the FCP editors who were promised something awesome only to have their hopes cruelly dashed.


  1. :)