Commentary: Crisis du Jour — What’s Happening to Final Cut?

Posted on by Larry

[ This article was first published in the March, 2010, issue of
Larry’s Final Cut Pro Newsletter. Click here to subscribe. ]

You know the drill. Someone at Apple coughs and suddenly the rumor mill is filled with frenzied statements that the doom of Final Cut Studio is at hand. “The Death of Final Cut” rumors have gotten to be as regular as spring floods or a plague of locusts.

Recently two new variations on this theme have appeared: “Apple hasn’t updated Final Cut in [fill in number of hours / minutes / seconds since last release] therefore Apple must be killing it!” — and — “Final Cut doesn’t support all the new features in Snow Leopard, therefore Apple must be killing it!”

Whisper this loudly in a worried tone at a crowded user group meeting and panic ensues.

People, get a grip.

Apple is in the midst – like many other large developers that start with the letter “A”– of a very thorny technical problem: in order for Final Cut Pro to take advantage of Snow Leopard features, it needs to be significantly rewritten. Not just a little; a lot.

I’ve been told that Adobe took several years to rewrite Photoshop to support the Intel chip. Years! Why? Because millions and millions and millions of lines of code needed to change.

The same problem exists with Final Cut Pro. It is a massive application, with tens of millions of lines of code needed to be changed. Apple needs to convert it from its old code (Carbon) to new code (Cocoa). And this doesn’t happen overnight. Not even over a long weekend.

As Philip Hodgetts wrote in a recent blog:

The rewrite [of Final Cut] to Cocoa, even assuming they don’t make fundamental changes [to the features of the software] is very time consuming and a lot of hard work to rewrite and test. That there is evidence in the current release of work already complete strongly suggests that the team is hard at work doing what’s necessary to bring Final Cut Pro into the modern Cocoa OS X code era. But don’t expect to see a converted release any time soon. There’s a lot of work that the QuickTime team [also] has to do to add functionality to the underlying QTKit API (The modern QuickTime API for programmers) that an updated Final Cut Pro needs. Right now there’s no support for QuickTime metadata in QTKit, for example.

This means that even without adding new features, Apple has a massive, multi-year, multi-million dollar project on its hands.

However, it is my hope that in addition to bringing Final Cut up to modern day specs, Apple also will take the time to add long-needed features to the application. I hope for improved stability, especially for longer projects involving thousands of clips, faster and more stable rendering using fetures in Snow Leopard, and a totally redesigned media manager providing better archiving options for tapeless media. Along with dozens of smaller tweaks that we’ve talked about endlessly in this newsletter.

Apple probably won’t add all the features that all of us want. In many cases, we don’t agree among ourselves on which features qualify as “most important.”

Personally, I have complete faith that Apple is currently working hard on improving Final Cut Pro (and Studio). I see NO evidence they are intending to let it die, or even lapse.

However, they are in the midst of a very large undertaking that will take a while longer to complete. For this reason, I don’t expect any significant new versions of Final Cut Pro until late this year at the earliest. More likely, first quarter next year.

Things may be quiet now at Apple. However, that doesn’t mean they are standing still. A delay is not the same as death. To me, silence means that Apple is working on it — but they have a very large amount of work to do.

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One Response to Commentary: Crisis du Jour — What’s Happening to Final Cut?

  1. It’s onerous to search out knowledgeable individuals on this topic, however you sound like you already know what you’re talking about! Thanks

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