Ain't Nothing Like It In the World

Posted on by Larry


David Pogue, New York Times, has written an excellent followup article with Apple’s response to missing features in Final Cut Pro X.

Read it here:

– – –

Apple released Final Cut Pro X this morning at 5:30 AM LA time. You can read Apple’s announcement here —

You can visit Apple’s new webpage here:

In three words – speed, power, cutting-edge.

The first time I saw Final Cut Pro X, back in February, this quote from the title of Stephen Ambrose’s book on the transcontinental railroad flashed into my head.

Just as the transcontinental railroad permanently changed 19th century America – in a wide variety of ways – Final Cut Pro X has the same capability.

During the last several months, I’ve had extensive discussions with engineers and product managers at Apple, read virtually all the Help files and, more recently, been running the software itself.

I’m knee-deep in a long newsletter which will provide a lot more detail when it comes out next week (subscribe for your FREE issue here:, so here, in this blog, I just want to provide a bigger picture approach.

In every conversation I’ve had with Apple, each person stressed: “The easy thing would be to just create an incremental upgrade. But, we felt that while the current version of Final Cut held up well for the last ten years, it wasn’t ready for the next ten. We needed to design something from the ground up to take us into the next ten years.”

With this release, Apple made four significant changes in direction:

* For the first time, two different versions of FCP can coexist on the same system. I’ve been running FCP 7 and FCP X on the same system for months.
* Maxing out performance to take full advantage of current hardware
* Almost exclusive support for tapeless workflows
* Distribution via the App Store


To me, this is one of the highlights!

Installing FCP X does not remove FCP 7. So you can take your own sweet time deciding when to make the switch. And, in fact, you can use FCP 7 where it makes sense and FCP X when that is a better choice. For the first time ever, we can have two different versions of FCP on the same system at the same time, without partitioning hard disks and jumping through hoops.


Its no secret that Final Cut Pro took forever to accomplish some tasks. (I have it on good authority that many families were significantly augmented while waiting for the render bar to complete its measured progress.)

Plus, the 4 GB RAM limit caused projects to corrupt, files to mysteriously disappear and spawned a new breed of tech: the Final Cut guru, who, with an apparent laying on of the hands, could bring nearly dead projects back to life. (That last may be a dramatic overstatement, but I like the allusion.)

This new version flies. Whenever Final Cut needs to think, it does so seamlessly, in the background, with a little indicator that tells you how its doing and a complete dashboard for the curious who want to monitor their system.

It allows editing files natively, but prefers to convert them to ProRes – a decision that I agree with, for both performance and image quality reasons.

Once you edit with the magnetic timeline, you’ll never want to go back. And, while the concept of connected clips is a bit weird initially, the benefits these provide are so well-thought out and obvious that I stopped worrying about them after the first couple of days.

Nesting is improved. Audio filters are amazing and first-rate. There is much tighter integration with Motion and Compressor.

There are as many ways to edit in the new version as the old and more ways to trim. Trimming can even be in real-time or slow-motion. Old barriers such as clips in the Browser, still image sizes, clips in a project, and tracks have all fallen away.

The context-sensitive nature of the Viewer window, and the speed it responds, make me completely comfortable editing with only one image window.

The whole system is designed for speed.

And, when it comes to keyboard shortcuts, there are already hundreds in the system and the new process for creating shortcuts is just amazingly powerful – and easy to use.

NOTE: Remind me to mention how much I like the new audio meters – big, fat, large, readable, and adjustable.

Soundtrack Pro, DVD Studio Pro, and Color are not in this release. (LiveType was discontinued when FCP 7 came out.)

We all have our favorites, but I will miss Soundtrack Pro the most.

HOWEVER, keep in mind that if you own this software now, you’ll still be able to use it with FCP X. But it is no longer available.


Much ink has been wasted and many pixels have died in the flame debate that FCP X is just a larger form of iMovie.

Yes, they share a similar approach to the interface.

Yes, FCP X imports iMovie projects and media. No, it doesn’t import FCP 7 projects. Yes, Apple should figure out a way to provide an FCP 7 translator. It can’t be that hard.

However, think about this for a minute. iMovie has been out for, what, eight years with ZERO ability to upgrade to Final Cut? Doesn’t it make just a little bit of sense to provide an upgrade option for the millions of future editors out there?

Of course it does.

There’s such in increase in power stepping from iMovie – which I’ve never liked – up to FCP X, that it would be like moving from a bike to a motorcycle. Yes, they both have two wheels and a handlebar, but there’s a huge difference in power in the seat!


If tapeless media is your life, it will take you a week to stop giggling once you fire up FCP X.

However, FCP X has only limited support for tape. Tape ingest is from FireWire-attached devices, and streaming-only, no timecode controlled positioning of ingest or output to tape.

I’m reminded of the hand-wringing that occurred when Apple dropped floppy disks for optical media “back in the day,” now that Apple has decreed that tape is dead.

In this case, though, I side with the “tapists.” Apple controls the eco-system of the Mac. They don’t control the eco-system of Hollywood; then, again, I’m not sure anyone does. I have clients today that are using 3/4″ Umatic cassettes for sound design and music composition, and EDL lists are used daily for conforming major feature films. Both those formats were declared dead AGES ago!

While FCP X can ingest from a Firewire-attached deck, its output options to tape are limited to live streaming.

This lack of support for layback to video tape using RS-422 control protocol with timecode accuracy gives the perception that Apple is not meeting the needs of professional output. It remains to be seen if companies like AJA, Matrox, or Blackmagic Design will step into the breech. If they do, great. If not, this will cause many of us problems.

However, if you are shooting tapeless, this new software is designed for you. Easy ingest, background transcoding, background rendering, background analysis… Very cool. And, best of all, you can stop or cancel a background process at any time.

Plus, if you are someone that likes to organize their files, FCP X supports that. If you HATE organization, FCP X will organize your files for you. Now, we have a choice.


This is a real biggie, as Apple explained it to me. Because no physical media is involved (think packages in an Apple Store), Apple can push out updates faster and at much lower cost because they are using the App Store.

In the past, Apple used a 18 month, or so, cycle between updates. Now, Apple is telling me they are hoping to do an update once or twice a year.

This ability to respond faster to the market and deliver economical updates has already born fruit with the new low prices for Final Cut, Motion, and Compressor.

This gives me lots of hope for the future.


Writing software like this is not easy, not fast, and not cheap. Its taken Apple several years, dozens of millions of dollars, and an engineering crew big enough to fill a small cruise ship.

You don’t go to that effort to meet the needs of a market you aren’t interested in.

Apple tells me they are committed to quickly improving this version and building on it. They tell me they are committed to making changes quickly and bringing them to market. They tell me they are interested in hearing our reactions to the software.

I believe them and look forward to them fulfilling their promises.


Final Cut Pro X is very impressive, but it isn’t perfect. There are a variety of design decisions that I disagree with – and I’ve shared these many times with Apple.

There’s no multicam support.

The audio capabilities in FCP X are far superior to FCP 7 in terms of technical specs and filters. But a completely unintuitive method for adding audio cross-dissolves and lack of support for track-based audio mixing leaves me fondly missing the power of Soundtrack Pro.

The process of adding an audio cross-fade is dangerous, unintuitive and dumb.

Worse, there’s no native way to export a project to send it to either Soundtrack Pro or ProTools for sound mixing.

I’ve already mentioned there is no native ability to layback to tape using timecode control.

The autosave is great, but what we need is the ability to freeze specific project builds so that the client can review and approve a version and KNOW that if the project is opened in the future that nothing will be changed.

Preferences need to include the ability to use frames, not just hundredths of a second for all timing decisions.

A clip needs to remember the In and the Out when you deselect it.

There needs to be a way to remove a project from the Project List without having to resort to the Finder.

There needs to be a preference setting so that all new projects default to Stereo vs Surround.

There are others, and I’m sure you’ll have your own list.


Look, you and I both know you’re going to buy it regardless of what I say. So here’s my main point. I think that within the next 18 months virtually all of us will be running FCP X and wondering how we lived without it.

It’s that good.

Is it perfect? No.

Whether this is right for you depends upon what you are doing. Here’s a list to help you decide:

* If you are exclusively shooting tapeless and outputting to the web, this product was designed with you in mind. However, some vendors – Sony comes first to mind – need to update their drivers to work with FCP X. Be sure to check the Sony website for updates before moving to FCP X.

* If you are shooting tape and sending XDCAM SR tapes to the network, you should stay with FCP 7 and complain to Apple to add improved support for video-tape output.

* If you are shooting (H)DSLR cameras, you’ll love the automatic transcoding, auto-image correction, and blinding speed built into the new system.

* If you shoot on DV or HDV and export your files for the web, Final Cut Pro X can make your life a lot simpler.

* If you shoot tapeless and distribute your files on DVD, you can use FCP X for your edit, export your footage, compress on Compressor (either old or new) and use DVD Studio Pro to create your DVD.

* If you simply need to burn your project to either DVD or Blu-ray, the new Final Cut makes this easy. If you need to author a DVD, or Blu-ray, you’ll need to use either DVD Studio Pro or Adobe Encore.

* If you are working in iMovie, you should step up to the new version and put some power in your pictures.

* If you are doing projects with complex audio mixes, stay with FCP 7 until Apple gives us improved audio mixing and audio export support.

* If you live for speed and high image quality, you have a new love in your life.

* If you are in the middle of an FCP 7 project, you should stay there. Don’t even think about trying to port your project into the new system. Finish your project. FCP X will be here when you are done.

* If you are responsible for meeting incredibly tight deadlines, stay with your current system. Buy FCP X – learn it. See what you like and what you don’t. Then, as it makes sense to you, roll it into production.

In other words, consider that your job is telling stories with pictures. Final Cut Pro X is another tool in your toolkit that can help you with your story-telling. For some of us, its perfect now. For others, it needs to mature a bit.

But, when the credits roll, it isn’t the power of the tool, its the power of your story that makes people care.

I’ll have much more in my newsletter next week. In the meantime, let me know what you think.


P.S. I’ve spent the last six weeks creating training for Final Cut Pro X. 88 movies, over eleven hours of in-depth training. All ready, right now, for you to discover the power and capability of this new software. Visit:

214 Responses to Ain't Nothing Like It In the World

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  1. Alex says:

    One more thing,

    Larry, we obviously disagree that FCPX is a good product that meets any kind of professional needs. But we do agree that Apple has blown it. You are caught in the middle of this, but only because you seem to be one of the few people Apple listen to. And we make noise on yours and David Pogue’s page so that they are aware that what they’re doing is far from being ok. And also because no one was speaking for us. All we kept hearing after FCPX release is that we were just a bunch of pathetic nay-sayers afraid of change, despite our expertise and for pointing out that we were being robbed of our tools while we could not work with this new tool.

    So I just want to say that I’m sorry you’re being caught in the middle. It’s a position that comes with your job but it sucks. And I do appreciate that you’re giving us a platform to be heard and that you’re relaying our voice to Apple. And I’ve never had to use your product, but I have no doubt that they are of great quality and I appreciate the fact that you’ve help many people switching to the great platform that was FCP.

    So, thank you Larry. For all that you’ve done, and all that you keep doing.

    Have a good. And I hope you’re coming week will be better than the previous one.


    • Larry says:


      it is posts like yours that make this discussion worth having. I never have a problem with people who disagree with me as politely as you do.


  2. maxpromedia says:

    I think everyone is missing the point. Software always evolves or it dies. FCP7 was dying. You might have loved FCP7 because it does this and that (most of it you could live without the “pro” features but you are an uber edit geek, and get lost in having full godlike control) but the code for FCP was strangling the ability to use a modern OS, modern processors, modern IOs.

    I learned on Toaster and a SONY BVE900 and then moved on to Avid Media Composer and was there when FCP 1.0 came out and it was running on scsi G3 (which I still have). I’ve seen editing systems evolve. Be thankful that we aren’t stuck with just one choice.

    So Apple decides to revamp the look and feel of their editing software to fit a philosophy of easier computing makes a better life. Geez did you guys all gripe when the iPhone came out , no you ran out and bought one. Why ? The iPhone has very little customization, no pro uber geek features, it is a tool to be used to make life easier. Why not trust Apple long enough to try out FCPX and see if it makes your editing life easier. Apple looked at the demographics at what the average editor needs and built a product with some new innovations.

    So you cant print to tape who cares? Tape is dead you just don’t know it. If you don’t believe me I have some M2 and 3/4 Umatic decks you need to buy off of me. Apple is pushing these changes, you cant please everyone. And in some cases why should they?

    No Multicam, yeah that kinda sucks, and maybe there will be an update to fix that. Maybe a new product, maybe it couldn’t be done in the code at this stage.

    So you cant import previous FCP7 projects into FCPX. I guess you want to put a 99 engine in your 2011 Prius . Ever think that it is just a bad idea to mix the old with the new. If you think you need that then go back to Microsoft they cater to everything old to make everyone happy.

    Ideally they need a FCP7 update to export to FCPX, but more than likely that is like asking too much of FCPX to have to deal with the limitations of FCP7 code wise.

    Something to consider. all you old salty dogs, you live in the past you stay in the past. Time to stop whining and start looking into the future of media processing, pre, mid and post production workflows. Maybe you might see what Apple is looking at and how we all need to get there.

  3. Snow R. Shai says:

    Thanks for a great post.
    In my opinion, Apple should keep support for FCP7 in updates and sell unsold software suites.
    I believe that is the only wrong thing about this.
    Post Houses should take serious time with upgrading any software anyway, and until they take a breath, most of their problems will be solved. I agree that most of the missing functions will come back soon.

    I recently had to explain to a student what an EDL is.
    I have been using XMLs for quite a while, and hardly any EDLs anymore.
    I opened an EDL in a text file, to explain how is works.
    I was amazed that this crude way of communication is still so spread today.
    There has always been a price for progress. The panic is overwhelming, sometimes, unfortunately, entertaining.
    I’ll keep using FCP7 for a while, of course. No problem.
    Once the new Apple XML code is out, Audio zones and we get ext. monitoring, all very soon, some people might understand, how hasty their reactions were.

  4. Terry S. says:

    “Define Professional”

    The many editors, videographers, cinematographers, motionographers (motion graphics designers and artists), and visual effects artists who work in the entertainment industry are not the only professionals in the world. That group only makes up a small percentage of the Media Professionals in our world. So many more who use Final Cut Pro, Premiere, and AVID in the commercial, educational, and local broadcast sectors on a daily basis for their livelihood, are also PROFESSIONALS.

    I have been discussing this with Philip Hodgetts over the past few weeks leading up to Apple’s release of Final Cut Pro X, and I have to agree with his point.

    Quote: “It largely comes down to what is a professional editor. If you limit it to that niche that are doing movies and broadcast/cable TV then those people are probably not the target for Apple. However the other million plus professional editors working in lesser TV/cable, education, corporate and event videography will be well served by FCP X.”

    That was most of us in the room that night at Bally’s for the FCPUG Supermeet Sneak Peek of FCP X. That was where most of the cheers and screams of excitement were coming from. All of that was what Apple’s Final Cut Pro development team members heard aloud, confirming what they created in Final Cut Pro X was going to help the majority of the world’s Video Professionals – NOT HOLLYWOOD, NOT STUDIO CITY, NOT BURBANK (and any other entertainment sector of Southern California that I missed – lol). Apple made it very clear at the Supermeet that the foremost important client from the film sector was the Independent Film Maker, and most IFMs do not work in Hollywood. I have plenty of colleagues and friends (like you Larry) that do work in Hollywood and these comments are not in anyway to put them down, but to address that Apple will not cater to their needs, nor should they believe that they are the only professionals out there.

    Check out this blog posting of Philip Hodgetts, it just gets right to it, plain and simple.
    “What the heck is a “pro” anyway?”

    Take Care. Always a pleasure to read and hear your thoughts Larry.

  5. Andrew says:

    Hi Larry,

    many thanks for all your work, l have bought FCP X Motion 5 and Compressor 4 plus your tutorial, which is just fine.

    BUT a big but, apart from all the missing things from FCP X that have been mentioned, l find the playback of video on my 27″ Mac cinema display is soft, my screen ain’t soft.

    THa exact same clip plays in FCP7 as crisp as crisp can be, same clip into Premier Pro, crisp again, but play it back in FCPX when the play head is static the picture is crisp, when play back starts the picture goes soft. Am l missing something!! is there a control to control the output picture quality. If it is as it is then this is not acceptable in any shape or form.

    Please let me know if l have missed the obvious.


  6. Andrew says:

    Up date.

    Yes found the play back quality in preferences, so OK now.

    A BIG plus point for FCPX is that the colour l see on my cinema display monitor is the same as the exported video signal from FCP and PPr to my external broadcast monitor a first 🙂 as normally the video picture in the cinema playback window is not quite the same as on my external monitor.

    This is important.

    Working through your training.


  7. > * For the first time, two different versions of FCP can coexist on the same system. I’ve been running FCP 7 and FCP X on the same system for months.

    I was running FCP 6 – and tried to update it – and wound up with a separate FCP 7 installed. Now idea how or why. I seem to be able to run either with no apparently problems so far.

    > Yes, FCP X imports iMovie projects and media. No, it doesn’t import FCP 7 projects. Yes, Apple should figure out a way to provide an FCP 7 translator. It can’t be that hard.

    Not being able to import FCP 7 projects seems to be a major hiccup. Will FCP X allow import of FCP7 XML – and will it export XML like previous versions – perhaps with an updated DTD??

  8. Simon morton says:

    Hi Larry, totally agree with your comments. Everyone should just take a few breaths and wait a little.

    Anyway, have some great GREAT news from FCP 7 pros, thought I should share it, as it will cheer everyone up I think!

    I have made a short video about it;

    Kind regards,

    Simon Morton, Orange Eye ltd

  9. Mike Janowski says:

    I clicked on the link to Apple’s “response” (a/k/a, more marketing crap).

    I’d feel a whole lot better if they’d STOP saying they’ve “revolutionized” video editing. They haven’t…how can you revolutionize anything by making it incapable of doing things pro editors need to do? This is Orwellian double-speak of the first degree!

    As someone who routinely drags, drops and moves the clips in the timeline around with abandon, I’m having a hard time figuring out what’s so amazing about a “magnetic timeline”. Now maybe if they made the damn render files magnetic so they didn’t get lost from time to time, that’d qualify as revolutionary. But instead, they’re brilliant idea is to put the render files with the project file, instead of on the media drives where they belong. Gee, I can’t wait to see my system hard drive get clogged up with old render files (as nowhere have I read that they have incorporated a “smart” render system which trashed old, unused render files ala Media Composer).

    I’m glad to read they’re concentrating on metadata, and I’ve got no problem with converting everything to ProRes…but if I was a third-party developer I’d be damned if I’d develop anything for this no-frills, no features program, just to have the Theives from Cupertino come in and swipe my ideas in release dot-1…

    Finally, I’ve read (in David Pogue’s ramblings, and elsewhere in comments) that some are attributing the disdain for “X” as a resistance to the learning curve. This is complete BS…every day is a learning curve for the video pro. What many are resenting is that this program presents a learning curve with no payoff…once you figure out how to work the damn thing, and where Randy Ubilos and Co. have hidden all the stuff you usually use, you find out that all your work is for naught, that it doesn’t do half of the stuff you need it to do in your facility…and at least at this moment, Randy, Steve and the so-called “Wizards” don’t really give a damn.

  10. Ronald Henry says:

    So I get that not everything from FCP-7 comes with FCP-X, including a program I have come to love – Color. Does FCP-X include a color correction mode as part of the program, or are we left to seek elsewhere?

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