Why Should Final Cut Pro 7 Editors Consider Final Cut Pro X?

Posted on by Larry

Passions run high when we talk about the software upon which we base our business. Last week, I wrote an article examining why Final Cut Pro 7 editors should consider Adobe Premiere Pro CC. (Read it here.) I was fascinated by all the comments.

This week, I want to take the same approach and look at Final Cut Pro X.


Final Cut Pro 7 was released July 23, 2009, along with the rest of the Final Cut Studio (3) suite. FCP 7 was last updated in late 2010 to version 7.0.3. Since that time, a lot of technology has changed. Final Cut Pro 7 has not.

Final Cut Pro 7 was never designed for today’s operating systems. While it still runs on OS X 10.9 (Mavericks), many of its plug-ins do not. And no one expects FCP 7 to run on all future OS updates. This means that current FCP 7 editors are forced to make a choice:

  1. Keep running the software on current hardware, stop upgrading the operating system and don’t buy any new hardware.
  2. Migrate their projects to a different editing system and learn something new.

If you are in the middle of a big FCP 7 project using hardware and software that is working fine, then don’t switch. Finish the project. Worry about what to do only after the project is complete.

But, if you are ready to move on, this article can help you decide what to do.


Before we compare FCP X to FCP 7, I need to clear the air on three points that keep reappearing in my email.

1. “If I wait a bit longer, will Apple bring back Final Cut Pro 7?” No. Final Cut Pro 7 has run its course. Development is stopped. It is not coming back. Put a fork in it, it’s done.

2. “Apple made me really angry when FCP X was launched.” True, the launch was not one of Apple’s best. In fact, the initial release of FCP X was widely criticized. But don’t let the launch blind you to what Final Cut Pro X has become:

3. “Apple took the easy way out by creating iMovie Pro.” If Apple wanted to take the easy way out, it would have added a couple of small features to FCP 7, incremented the version number and called it a day. There are dozens of Apple staffers working on Final Cut Pro X every day – an investment of millions of dollars a year. Nobody does that for a “throw-away” product.

If you enjoy being angry at Apple, fine. But, if you enjoy getting work done on-time and on-budget, then you have some very interesting options.

NOTE: I just discovered that there is a Final Cut Pro X Ecosystem page in the Mac App Store. Take a look.


Back in the 1980’s I wrote business-grade software. It wasn’t great, but it put one of my kids through college. I learned then that good software represents a way of thinking; a philosophy about how a task should be done.

Final Cut Pro 7 and Final Cut Pro X are good examples of this. FCP 7 is built on the philosophy of “how editing has always been done.” Starting with editing between two rolls of film, morphing into multiple tape decks and expanding into the digital world. This is a solid, traditional, totally understandable point of view.

Final Cut Pro X took a different approach. Apple started by asking: “What does editing look like in an all-digital world?” Then followed by asking: “What do editors who grew up in the world of computers and digital media expect?” Final Cut Pro X grew out of exploring the answers to those questions.

This resulted in major changes to media management, the interface, and the process of editing. Apple’s view is that modern, digital video editing software should take advantage of the huge amounts of metadata available from cameras and audio devices and the power of computers to help users tag, filter, and sort media in ways they never could before.

Media management has become more robust, more flexible and supports far more devices than FCP 7. Apple has continued to refine this as FCP X continues to evolve.

And thinking of the interface – another major change – it shifted from a light-gray background to a dark-gray background; similar to iMovie… and DaVinci Resolve, Autodesk Smoke and Photoshop. Dark gray makes colors easier to see.


Every week, I build a one-hour show using Final Cut Pro 7. It’s a template I created five years ago for my podcast: Digital Production Buzz. It takes me ten minutes to update the sequence template; then an hour and a half to render and export the master file. To make it go faster, I make sure nothing else is running on the computer during the export. In fact, I have dedicated an older Mac Pro running OS X 10.6.8 just for this one weekly project.

NOTE: Final Cut Pro 7 only effectively used 1 processor and, with just a few exceptions didn’t support the GPU at all. Also, because it was only 32-bit enabled, FCP 7 would only access 4 GB of RAM, regardless of how much RAM was installed on your system.

Because FCP 7 was so slow, Final Cut Pro X is all about speed – blinding speed – and moving as much work to the background as possible so you can be doing creative work without waiting for something to finish.

Final Cut Pro X has a modern architecture built to take advantage of multiple CPUs, multiple cores, multiple GPUs and its support for 64-bit memory addressing means that FCP X can use all the RAM you can give it.

While FCP X is highly optimized for the new Mac Pro, including dual-GPU support throughout the graphics pipeline for real-time effects playback, rendering, video monitoring, and Optical Flow analysis, it also runs extremely well on all current MacBook Pros and iMacs.

One thing that continues to surprise me about the app is how fluid it is. I can be playing a sequence, while opening and closing other windows, zooming into and around the Timeline, all without dropping a frame on playback. It is enormously responsive; even on a two-year-old iMac.

To give you an idea of how cool this is, you can be importing clips, exporting a project, rendering effects and editing – all at the same time; even on an iMac.


Feeding the need for speed is most evident in the Timeline. Probably the biggest feature is the “Magnetic Timeline.” This replaces the concept of tracks (like FCP 7) with layers (like Photoshop). It also means that clips edited to the Timeline are “attracted” to each other; preventing unwanted gaps or one clip accidentally overwriting another. While this takes a bit to get used to, it totally removes the worry about where the playhead is positioned when editing clips to the Timeline.

I find editing using the Magnetic Timeline is amazingly fast. And, when you need a clip to move to a specific spot, the Position tool overrides the “magnetic” part of the Timeline so you can precisely position a clip.

Apple redefined “state-of-the-art” when it released multicam editing in FCP 5. Final Cut Pro X takes multicam editing to an entirely higher level. FCP 7 doesn’t even come close.

A new feature, called the “Timeline Index,” provides a fast way to see, search, jump to, or filter all clips, markers, roles and tags in the active project. It offers faster and more flexible find and selection features than Find in FCP 7. I also use the Timeline Index to quickly review all chapter markers in a project for the correct spelling.

Nests in FCP 7 have become compound clips in FCP X. Roles, which are new, allow us to tag video and audio elements to control what gets displayed or exported. (Think of creating a single project containing both English and Spanish voice-overs and titles. We can change a Role setting and export two files from the same project the same time: one English and one Spanish.)

NOTE: While FCP 7 allows multiple sequences to be displayed in the Timeline at one time, FCP X only allows one sequence (called a “project”) open in the Timeline at a time. However, you can quickly jump from one sequence to another using the Browser.


The database FCP X uses for tracking media allows more and better clip metadata, and better file organization.

Skimming allows us to review the audio or video contents of a clip, without first opening it in the Viewer. Skimming makes browsing clips far faster and easier than FCP 7.

Scratch disks have morphed. Now, we have Libraries. These are master “containers” which are similar to FCP 7’s project files. Libraries hold everything we work on during a project: media, work files and edits (called “sequences” in FCP 7, “projects” in FCP X). Libraries can either store media (“Managed Media”) or point to media stored in external folders (“External Media.”) The ability to consolidate media all in one place makes copying, moving, sharing, managing and archiving a lot easier. Media can be stored anywhere and that storage location can vary by project. (Storing media by project was a major hassle in FCP 7.)

And, like FCP 7, we can open multiple Libraries at the same time and work with media or projects stored in any open Library. Libraries can be opened or closed whenever we want.

Imported media can be organized by folder (Event), rating or keyword. (FCP 7 only supported organization by folder.) While keyword management is awkward when more than 30 keywords are used in a project, search speeds using rating or keywords are virtually instant.

Creating high-quality optimized (edit master) and proxy files can be done automatically on import. Rendering and transcoding run in the background and is optimized for ProRes 422 and ProRes 422 Proxy.

NOTE: An interesting behind-the-scenes feature is that media that is shared between FCP X, Compressor and/or Motion is ColorSync-managed during rendering.

Switching between original and proxy files in FCP 7 took 17 separate steps. (I know because the article I wrote explaining how to do it was my most popular article for almost 18 months.) Now, switching between camera native and proxy media is a radio button and the media switches instantly.

Final Cut Pro X provides native, real-time support for professional video codecs like ProRes 4444 XQ and Sony XAVC along with more common codecs such as H.264 and AVCHD. In fact, FCP X fully supports the entire ProRes family throughout import, editing, rendering, and export.

NOTE: For a full-list of FCP X supported cameras and codecs click here.


Waveform display in the Timeline is bigger, more accurate and more adjustable. We can also display reference waveforms, which are a “ghosted” image of what the audio would look like if it were normalized.

Audio elements of synced clips are no longer separate clips. It is impossible to accidentally knock audio out of sync. Working with multichannel audio is just as flexible as FCP 7, without the risk of knocking clips out of sync. Double-system audio can be synced automatically based on matching waveforms.

Audio fade transitions have been replaced by adjustable fade “dots,” with the ability to change the shape of the fade.

And all the great Logic/Soundtrack Pro plug-ins migrated to the latest version of Final Cut, with the ability to adjust the plug-in directly in its own interface within FCP X.

NOTE: FCP X also provides a variety of audio repair tools, though, truthfully, if I have problem audio, I’m moving it to Adobe Audition for repair and mixing. On the other hand, for audio newbies, the audio repair features in FCP X are easy to use.


Like FCP 7, FCP X enjoys massive support from a wide variety of 3rd-party developers, including all the companies you used in FCP 7. Plus, there are new effects and utilities that exceed what we could do in Final Cut 7.

The chroma-keyer in FCP 7 was a dog. Beyond useless; and I’m trying to be kind. The chroma-keyer in FCP X is amazing. The default settings create stunning keys.

Final Cut Pro X uses Motion as its graphics engine. In fact, all effects in FCP X are actually Motion projects saved in such a fashion that Final Cut can access them. Like FCP 7, we can create animated titles in Motion which can be opened in FCP X, retaining all animation, but allowing customized text and text formatting. But the integration of Motion with FCP X is much more extensive than in FCP 7. You can customize any parameter in a Motion template, then export those controls directly into Final Cut to create modifiable effects from a Motion template inside Final Cut.

Aside from the confusing decision to redesign the color wheel as a rectangle, which I find totally unintuitive and awkward, the color correction in FCP X is better:

Apple has also improved the display of all the video scopes, though I miss the small line for measuring specific values and percentage indicators on the Vectorscope.

NOTE: For truly powerful color correction, DaVinci Resolve imports FCP X XML files easily with a single mouse-click, without having to prep files for color grading.


To move projects from Final Cut 7 to Final Cut Pro X requires a separate, and very inexpensive, utility – 7toX from Intelligent Assistance – and three steps:

When transferring files using XML, all media and edits transfer perfectly. Dissolves and audio levels generally transfer fine. However, effects, titles, and color correction will not transfer properly.

NOTE: Because XML is required to move projects from FCP 7 to FCP X, it is critical that you export to XML any FCP 7 projects that you might want to transfer in the future. Without an XML version, or a working copy of FCP 7, you won’t be able to move any old projects to FCP X. (Or Premiere Pro or Avid, for that matter. All these apps require XML to transfer FCP 7 projects.)


Change is scary. Change which has the potential to affect our business is terrifying. But we live in an industry based on technology. Change is inevitable. The key is to accept that change is as part of life, plan for change, and keep learning so that when changes come, we are ready.

We won’t be able to stay with the past much longer. FCP X is fast. It is fluid. And it handles the technology so we can concentrate on editing.

As always, let me know what you think.

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73 Responses to Why Should Final Cut Pro 7 Editors Consider Final Cut Pro X?

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  1. Chris says:

    Ooh, with FCPX I’d be careful comparing an event to a folder!
    With earlier Final Cut versions, you could have folders in a folder (like a folder called Footage, containing folders called Scene One, Scene Two, etc.), but with FCPX, when you drag an Event on top of another Event, it behaves like iPhoto by merging the content into a single Event, which for me still remains a big organizing hurdle for the app. Events in iPhoto and iMovie make sense because most consumers are making home movies based on chronology, but for narrative work, where films are not shot in chronological sequence, the decision to not include folders (known as Bins in earlier FCP) is absurd. Of course there are folders in FCPX, but they can’t be used for clip management.

  2. LarryJ says:


    You are correct in that you can’t store an Event inside an Event.

    On the other hand, I’ve found that the easiest way to think of an Event is that it is a folder that holds stuff – even if you can’t store one Event in another.


  3. Ben Balser says:

    Just because a virtual container is called an “Event”, does not lock you into having to make them chronological items. I never do. I’ve done a feature with FCPX just fine. You can name the Event anything you like. Just like Favorite and Rejected tags, I don’t use them for those literal terms, I use them for several other reasons. I encourage my students to refer to them as Green and Red “Tags” at first, until they see there are many other uses for them.

    IF Events locked you into a chronological paradigm, you’d be correct, but they don’t. You can use them in any manner you see fit.

    You can make folders inside of an Event, too. I make a folder called Audio. Inside of that are all my keyword collections, analysis collections, and smart collations that are specific to audio files. I can make a folder inside of that folder. But folders are limited and awkward.

    Bins were very limited, very awkward, and have been replaced by “collections” (keyword, smart, analysis), which are based on metadata, so you don’t have to physically duplicate a clip in the Browser to put it in more than one Bin at a time.

    No, Events are NOT chronologically dependent containers. Scene 1, Scene 2 and Scene 3 are my Events. I’m not forced to have to fill up my “Scene 1” Event before filling up my “Scene 3” Event. Not at all.

    So, please read up more, and explore the full potential of FCPX media management, which is in fact far superior to FCP7. You’ll be very surprised at what you find.

  4. Ben Balser says:

    I’ll add this, as I put it this way to my own students. What is an “Event”? It is something that happens in a specific place at a specific time. When I’m on location shooting a fight scene, that’s an event. A wedding is an event. But the ceremony, reception, photo shoot, interviews, those are all separate events, also. Shooting a motion picture is an event, on a meta scale. Shooting each scene is an event, on a micro scale. Don’t get hung up on the terminology, look at the virtual properties of these things to fully understand them.

  5. macfawlty says:

    Good to know I’m not the only one having difficulty with the ‘Event’ metaphor. The whole program seems non-intuitive, in that uniquely Apple way. That said, it was created by folks smarter than I, from the ground up. Fresh and completely different. The user base is small (comp to Premiere and FCP7), but support is catching up and 3rd party development is really taking off.

    I’m still a bit torn between Premiere and FCPX, but determined to wrap my small brain around X moving forward.

    • LarryJ says:


      (smile…) “Non-intuitive” is such a relative term.

      Also, just to correct one statement you made – according to Apple, the installed base of FCP X is currently larger than the installed base of FCP 7.

      We can make informed guesses about the size of Premiere’s installed base, but Adobe has never broken it out. My best guess is that it is less than the installed base of FCP 7.


      • Marc says:

        Ron B. – You have said it all in your statement: “…doing the job for me, and my clients are happy with the work.” That’s all that matters. These NLE wars, hardware wars, OS wars that people wage are a pointless waste of time in the modern age of computers.

        I am a long time Avid Media Composer user who is considering switching to FCPX after watching my son use it now since it’s initial release. He loves it and his clients love his work. After all, it’s not the hardware or software that makes the cut, it’s the brain between our ears that make the ‘cut’.

        My desire for switching comes out of a growing frustration with Avid over their slow slow development cycle that always lags behind Apple’s OS upgrades and beginning with Media Composer 5 which they completely botched, I am not a big fan of ‘subscription’ style software purchasing, something they either have switched to or will shortly much like Adobe Premiere.

        I enjoy seeing my son create great videos on FCPX. The plug-ins and 3rd party support are fabulous and reasonably priced as well. Since I don’t edit in a multi-user environment with the need to share media over a LAN, FCPX is looking more like the kind of tool I could get used to going forward.

        I’ve been with Avid since 1992 and seen all the changes happen over the years while paying them hundreds of thousands of dollars along the way. Now it’s time to get work done the most efficient, economical way possible as the cost of living is way out of hand making it harder and harder to make a living.

        Good luck to you in all you do and remember to cut your heart out!!

  6. Ron B says:

    I’ve been on FCPX for a couple of years now and am perfectly happy with the switch, though I was a bit reluctant at the time. I did get my boss to pay for a 3-day FCPX 101 workshop, which I think really did ease the transition and was worth the expense. I’m a one-man, no-budget producer at a higher ed institution, and FCPX really suits my (lack of) budget and workflow. For me, it’s great, but I don’t know how it works for production houses with multiple editors/systems.

    Apple certainly did botch the launch and, I believe, lost a lot of dedicated and loyal users. I wonder if they regret how they handled that? Personally, I’m happy with the decision, though I do feel a bit like I’ve moved from the bigs down to AA ball. I think that’s mostly because of comments from discussions like this, where heavy-duty editing shops have posted about switching over to Premier. Oh well, doing the job for me, and my clients are happy with the work.

    • Charlie J says:

      Apparently they do regret what happened. Recently a guy I know, who is the founder of a small film production company, met with some Apple folks and they told him they did realize they lost a lot of pros, and want to get them back.
      He was one of the first to use Final Cut for feature films. They wanted him to move back to Apple and FCPX (they had moved to Avid) and offered him some equipment and other perks. He is going to move to FCPX for future films.

      • Ben Balser says:

        No one said Apple didn’t regret the bad roll out. I know for a fact that a couple of higher up execs got in trouble over it. But that was three years ago, ancient history. All NLE developers are courting pros and offering some incentives. That’s always been how big software works. When I was an IT Engineer, working for large software development companies, we courted lots of pros to get them to switch from competition. That’s just a given.

  7. Ben Balser says:

    Having taught FCP legacy since version 4, and having taught FCP X since day one, I’ll throw in what the feedback from students has been. Now, most of my students, even in FCPX classes, were working, experienced professionals. Going from 7 to X, or from Media Composer or PPro to X, 99% tell me X is much easier to learn, and they find operations faster to execute. The email I get after classes are over is more of the same. Most editors have cut their turnaround time significantly and don’t enjoy going back to legacy FCP or other NLEs. That is only from my personal experience as a trainer. I’m sure others will have different experiences, but in my view, X is faster and easier to organize and edit.

    As for numbers, and this is all approximations;
    All Adobe has ever said is that, a only few months after X was released, their sales increased 43%. Bear in mind that Apple has 53% “pro” market share (not surveying general users), and PPro had 18%. If 18% is increased by 42%, that gives PPro a 7.74% increase in market share, totaling 25.74% market share. They’ve never made market share statements since.

    If FCPX has surpassed FCP7’s “pro” 53%, and PPro only has slightly more than 25.74%, well, think that speaks for itself.

    Be aware, the “pro” market for selling an NLE is a drop in the bucket of the “total” market that is purchasing it. So that throws a huge monkey wrench into everything, also. But I think it is safe to say that FCPX is still outselling PPro. And I am indeed speculating and using numbers that may not reflect the full reality of things. But those are the only numbers we have to work with at this time.

  8. Peter says:


    Thanks for this.

    Like a lot of long time FCP editors I didn’t like the new version. I’m now a fan, or at least a fan of the latest few versions.
    Not only does it make better use of the hardware it does a better job, and takes less time to do it. That’s what matters to me.

    I’ve been using Final Cut since V1.2 and am a big fan. I’m even a bigger fan now.

    But here’s what I think happened.

    I think that Apple had pretty much decided to drop Final Cut, they disbanded the Final Cut team and moved them over to other projects. Then they decided to take it up again, (it’s hard to sell a new Mac Pro to someone who only need to type a letter). But the program teams they had for visual were the iMovie and Motion teams so they gave it to them. But iMovie and Motion are different ways of thinking about how to edit.

    That’s what I saw for the first versions of FCPX, a mix of iMovie and Motion.

    Then I saw them add tech and redesign and especially with the last few versions, they have an editing program that does what an editor needs to do with far less time and makes a better use of the machine.

    I loved the original FCP from the start, and saw Avid and Premiere follow it’s lead in structure and functions, not the other way around.

    They will do the same with FCPX because it really is going where things need to go.

  9. Phil Davison says:

    Hi there –
    Although I’ve been using FCPX since it came out there are still a couple of niggles that really irritate –
    1 – lack of a keyframable 8 point garbage matt. This was a go to tool for me back in the old FCP7 days, and there does not seem to be anything like it in FCPX.
    2 – To add reverb to audio you really need tracks. In the old FCP suite (or in the Adobe suite) you can open a project in Soundtrack Pro (or Audition) and add reverb. If you add reverb in FCP (or any other video programme) the reverb cuts off suddenly at the end of the clip on the timeline.
    When you couple this with needing to own Photoshop, the Adobe suite starts to beckon. I like FCPX and I’ve never really like Premiere, but I find I’m thinking about recommending that my work (higher education) shifts to the Adobe suite because of the integration between the elements of the suite. If you are going to have Photoshop as well as FCPX you might as well get the whole Adobe suite, and then the question comes as to whether FCPX is a luxury that you can do without.

    • Mike Janowski says:

      Phil-I don’t know X from Y from Z, still being one of those fogies using &…but…

      can’t you add an audio slug after the audio file you want to add an effect to; make those two clips a compound clip; and then add the reverb, etc, to the compound clip?

      Or did they forget to include the slug in X?

      • Phil Davison says:

        Yep, you can do that (and thanks for the reply 🙂 You can use the position tool to make a slug, and the compound clip idea works – I’ve just been doing exactly that today – but it’s pretty clumsy compared to working in a track based audio editor like Audition or Soundtrack Pro where you could apply a reverb to the entire track. I suppose one could argue that having to go to a different application to edit the audio is clumsy too, but fir serious audio editing I miss the close relationship with an audio application. I’ll need to look into using Audition.

        • Ben Balser says:

          In FCP7, we used to do the same thing for reverb. Most NLE’s work this way. Yes, you can go out to any audio app you want and do it, but making a Compound, adding a Gap, and reverb, only takes me about 3 seconds and two mouse clicks. Not sure what is so clumsy about that, compared to working “inside” other NLEs.

  10. Mike Janowski says:

    Hey, I’m going to the head of the class! This is something I always do in 7…yes, for a simple reverb effect on one track/word/sting, it always seemed clumsy to go to Soundtrack.

    I will say, though, after reading this article I’m actually looking forward to maybe playing with X…

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