Running up to the Final Cut Pro Supermeet at NAB, there were a lot of rumours about what Apple would show. One camp was convinced that Final Cut Pro would be transformed into an iMovie-like consumer application, and Apple would cede the professional markets to Adobe and Avid. The other camp hoped to see an ultra-modern version of FCP with the ability to ingest any video file, at any resolution, and cater more to the needs of feature film production.
So what happened? Apple unveiled a totally new application with the title “Final Cut Pro X”. Aside from the fact that the old FCP and the new FCPX are both video editors and share a name, very little is similar.
The new FCPX is rebuilt from the ground up as a 64-bit aware cocoa application with hooks into all the cutting-edge technology of MacOS X 10.6. Incorporating OpenCL and Grand Central Dispatch allow the new application to not only scale down to lower-end laptops, but also harness all the logical cores on the CPUs and GPUs of the new Mac Pros. The upside? No more render bars, and much faster performance!
They took a few cues from the latest incarnations of iMovie. The interface is decidely iMovie-like in the placement of UI elements, and there is no longer a clip and separate canvas view. Even though I learnt the traditional clip/comp/timeline way of working an editor, I always thought it sucked. This seems to be an improvement, but I withhold my judgement until I can use the application.
Organising your clips was always a pain in the arse. Automatic shot detection (ex: closeup, medium, and wide), and automatic video scrubbing of clips on mouseover both came from iMovie, and are welcome additions to the new app. The new keyword and search features also look quite promising, although I am curious how they handle missing and relinking media. In the past, Avid has been the gold standard in that area, and the sneak peek at the Supermeet was inconclusive as to Apple’s approach. Not everything is iMovie-derived however, as FCP retains its frame-accuracy, and introduces sample-accuracy on audio tracks. Many folk were worried that because the demo was so reliant on the mouse, that the keyboard jockies would be left out in the cold. During the demo, it was mentioned that everything is operable via the keyboard. That little, yet very important detail seems to have been overlooked by other blogs.
Some features we got to see will change the way we look at editing video. I actually clapped when I saw them demonstrate the elastic timeline. Instead of the old track-based timeline, new tracks are now created automatically any time there is a track collision. If you start dragging a clip near an existing clip in the timeline, the old clip will simply jump to a new track, so you can manage the conflict on your own, rather than corrupting the timeline. J and L cuts are also easily created according to what they mentioned, although we did not see this in the demo.
Another big change includes the ability to audition clips without affecting the timeline. Imagine you are editing a scene, you have a variety of clips you could insert at a particular point, and you want to see which clip feels best. It used to be that you performed some pretty scary timeline acrobatics (or even created a new project), and inserted clips one at a time. Double clicking now brings up a meta-timeline which allows you to rapidly try a variety of clips before settling on the one you want. You can always change your mind, and none of your choices will harm the real timeline. Final Cut Pro X also now offers a much better way to do precomps, aka. nested timelines. Normally these appear as a single track, but if you need to edit them, double clicking will cause the precomp to expand. There are other features that were shown, but it’s easier to show you the video.
So who was right? It’s too early to tell. The dog and pony show was quite impressive, but like any other professional app, you really need to use it for awhile before you can pass final judgement. I think the app shows great promise, but what little we saw at the Supermeet raises more questions than it answers. What of the other apps in the Final Cute Suite? What about migrating old projects? How extensive are the keyboard controls, really?
The new Final Cut Pro X will be available in June through the Mac App Store, for $299. The price has sparked controversy in the editing community. Many folks believe this price point will mean less work for editors, as clients will just attempt to do it themselves, (with the implication that they will fail horribly). Some people may indeed do that, but I say those people were never really your clients. The application is just a tool, and editing is an art, as well as a skill involving a lot of experience and talent. Those that have a budget understand that, and will still ring you up. The same thing happened in every other industry I can think of. Wrenches are cheap, as are shop manuals, but I still hire a mechanic to take care of my car.
Earlier: The Rebirth of Localtype