The release of Apple Final Cut Pro X is the story of the year for video professionals. While excitement was high after the product announcement during the National Association of Broadcasters show in Las Vegas, the response to the actual product has been heavily negative.
Apple radically redesigned Final Cut for this release, offering a new interface and features that greatly speed editing. It also broke from the past by not supporting Final Cut 7 projects and removing some essential features, like multi-camera editing.
With all the controversy, it’s hard to see whether or not FCPX is suited for professional use. To help us decide, we’ve called in two industry heavyweights, Larry Jordan and Jan Ozer, to battle it out.
“I think that Final Cut X is precisely targeted to people who are delivering videos online, and while the term professional covers a wide gamut of individuals, the people that can benefit the most from Final Cut X are those who are being paid to deliver video to the Web,” says Jordan, who has already produced 11 hours of online FCPX training.
In other words, it is for professional use, but not for all professionals. While it’s great for online use, don’t try to use it for event videography or Hollywood filmmaking.
“This first release of Final Cut X is clearly targeted to the professionals that are creating Web video, as opposed to the professionals who are creating Hollywood blockbusters,” Jordan adds.
“I think it’s a cool consumer program,” says Ozer. “I’m not saying that as a high-and-mighty pro guy that charges for his work. You can make movies with it because you can make movies with anything, but in terms of professional work, it’s just not there.”
Ozer points out the lack of multicamera editing, the poor DVD support, and the lack of Blu-ray that make FCPX unsuitable for pros.
“That doesn’t mean you can’t create great movies on it, but this is the first misstep that Apple has made in the whole market. Look at its overall rating in the App Store – it’s awful.”
“Even small interface changes can draw great passion,” notes Jordan. “Interface changes cause bar fights and to say that you really like or dislike an interface doesn’t mean that it’s really good for really bad for everybody.”
The changes here were so great that Jordan is still taking them in.
“It’s still too early for me to say I really love or really hate the interface. It’s like using ice skates. The first time you get up on ice skates you fall off. It’s early enough in the learning process that I’m still learning how to ice stake,” he adds.
While Jordan isn’t that much for the new interface, Ozer isn’t that much against it.
“For me as an experienced editor, it’s much ado about nothing. It’s definitely easier to use than Final Cut 7, but the most relevant comparison is to Premiere Elements, which is also easy to use, but fully featured and cheaper” says Ozer.
FCPX’s missing features are a huge problem, concedes Jordan. He can’t use FCPX to edit his video podcasts because he needs multicamera support, and he can’t use it to edit his audio podcasts because he needs multitrack audio.
“Apple has said that they’re working on multicamera for the next major release,” Jordan notes.
He understands why people are furious that they can’t import their Final Cut 7 projects into FCPX, and thinks that Apple should have kept the older editor around and offered a project conversion utility.
“I think it would have been better if Apple had thought through the impact of instantly obsoleting all their existing Final Cut 7 projects,” Jordan says.
“I can’t do my work without multicam,” says Ozer. “For me, the type of stuff that I do, I can’t do my work without multicam. Maybe they’re visionary and they’re looking down the road three or four years when DVD isn’t important anymore.
For now, for event videographers, it’s important.”
Ozer also knocks the program’s inability to import Final Cut 7 projects and guesses that the developers who created Final Cut Pro X have never done multicamera editing.
FCPX is simply a much faster program, with its speed improvements and background rendering, and that’s something that Jordan appreciates.
“A lot of the mind-numbing minutiae of editing video is gone, and I think for a lot of editors that’s a good thing,” he says.
He also likes the ability to customize keyboard shortcuts and the wider format support.
Not everyone likes what Apple has added to FCPX.
“The magnetic timeline is a solution looking for a problem,” Ozer says, adding that he’s never had a problem with keeping elements in sync. He did, however, applaud the color correction tools and audio integration.
“I think there’s good stuff in there,” Ozer says. Adobe Premiere Elements had background rendering three versions ago, though, he says.
“Final Cut X shows a lot of potential for people creating Web-based video. It still has a lot of growing to do. It still has a lot of growing pains to live through. But it’s positioned for the future and as Web professionals we need to keep our eye on it,” says Jordan.
“The features gaps go beyond subjective opinions. This isn’t Jan Ozer saying this tool sucks – this is an uproar in the professional video editing market. Have you ever heard of any product that couldn’t load projects from previous versions? That’s crazy! But because it’s Apple, some people are willing to give them the benefit of the doubt,” says Ozer. “If this program was by any other software vendor, we wouldn’t be talking about it right now. It’s just nothing special at all.”