Of all the questions I am asked each day, this is the most popular: “When will Final Cut Pro X be ready for professional use?”
Sigh… Right now! Final Cut Pro X is ready for professional use today. Editors have been making money with FCP X since the first week it shipped. But this is asking the wrong question.
A much better question is: “Why should I consider using Final Cut Pro X?” This blog is designed to help you answer that question, from my perspective as a trainer, editor, and businessman.
THE DAMAGE BEGAN AT THE LAUNCH
The Final Cut Pro X launch was not one of Apple’s best. In the launch, Apple introduced Final Cut Pro X, and killed the entire Final Cut Studio suite and Final Cut Server.
Normally, when new versions come out, old versions die. But, in this case, there were three missing elements:
The reaction was swift, bitter, and emotional; and instantly colored everyone’s perception of Final Cut Pro X.
So, in thinking about Final Cut Pro X today, you need to separate in your mind your reactions to the launch from your perception of the product.
Personally, I think the launch was terrible, but that FCP X is quite good.
IMPROVEMENTS BEGAN IMMEDIATELY
One of the promises Apple made at the launch of Final Cut Pro X was that they would be updating it rapidly. In fact, the software foundation of FCP X made these updates easier and faster to implement.
NOTE: One of the reasons Apple moved FCP X to the Mac App Store, at least initially, was that they wanted to take advantage of the upgrade mechanism built into the store.
In the year and a half since the launch, Apple released seven updates for Final Cut; a remarkable record for any company. All updates brought bug fixes, along with a variety of new features. (The following list of highlights comes from Wikipedia.)
By my very approximate count, Apple has added more than three dozen significant new features to Final Cut since it’s release. Final Cut Pro X is not the same product it was when it was released.
CAN I CONVERT MY FCP 7 PROJECTS?
Yes. However it takes a utility from Intelligent Assistance to do so.
The process is similar to moving an FCP 7 project into Adobe Premiere Pro CS6:
Just as with moving files between FCP 7, Premiere, or Avid (using the tools from Automatic Duck), some things won’t transfer to FCP X. Edits and media transfer almost perfectly. Some effects and retiming do not; check the Intelligent Assistance website for all the details.
NOTE: It could be argued that this conversion utility should have been available at launch. I would agree. However, these conversion utilities needed XML to work, which wasn’t available until later. The important thing is that conversion utilities are available now.
ISN’T FINAL CUT PRO X SIMPLY IMOVIE PRO?
Well, you can believe that if you want, in the same way that a Ferrari is simply a super-charged VW Beetle. They both have four wheels and an engine, but the results are totally different.
Just as you can not say that since a Ferrari and a Bug are both cars, therefore they must do the same thing, you can not say that because iMovie and Final Cut look similar, they must BE similar.
NOTE: By the way, have you compared the performance differences between iMovie and FCP X? My golly, iMovie is SLOW!!!
Yes, Final Cut Pro X imports iMovie events and projects. (On the other hand, with 50 million iMovie users out there, this was not a bad decision, as FCP 7 couldn’t import iMovie files at all.)
Yes, FCP X and iMovie have a similar look to the interface. (On the other hand, so do all the applications in the Adobe Creative Suite, or the applications in Final Cut Studio 3.)
Don’t judge the book by its cover. The question is not how it looks, but whether it allows you to get your work done.
ARE MY FAVORITE PLUG-INS AVAILABLE FOR FCP X?
Yes. In fact the development of FCP 7 plug-ins has essentially stopped.
This is for three main reasons:
Here are just some of the companies that have released new plug-ins for Final Cut Pro X:
And that is only a partial list. New plug-ins are announced every day.
One of the things I’m struck by is the number of new companies that are migrating to the platform and creating plug-ins for FCP X.
ISN’T IT BETTER TO BUY ADOBE PREMIERE PRO CS6?
Adobe Premiere Pro CS6 is a great application. It is fast, cross-platform, 64-bit, supports many GPUs and multiple processors and easily imports XML files from Final Cut Pro 7.
Adobe has done an amazing job bringing this application into the modern day. I enjoy editing on it and creating training for it. However, while there are some things that Premiere does better than FCP X, there are also some things that Final Cut Pro X does better than Premiere.
This gets to the crux of my argument: Buy the tool that best meets the needs of your project. (I’ll have more on that in a few paragraphs.)
SHOULD I BUY FINAL CUT PRO X WHEN I AM STILL ANGRY AT APPLE?
Well, that depends. This question moves the issue from picking the right software into areas of personal expression and politics. Only you know how to answer this question for yourself.
Final Cut Pro X is not essential to Apple’s revenues, that’s not why Apple developed it. They created it to set their direction for video editing in the future.
If you want to make a political statement, feel free. But don’t hide behind condemning the software when there are other reasons underlying your decision.
SO WHY SHOULD I CONSIDER FINAL CUT PRO X?
There’s only one reason to buy any software: because it can enable you to do things faster, better, or more simply than other software for the same, or similar, price.
WHAT IS FINAL CUT PRO X GOOD FOR?
Let’s back into this a bit, by looking at other software first.
If you are happy with your current FCP 7 system, you don’t need to upgrade. Keep on using FCP 7. However, that also means that you can’t upgrade your OS either, and can’t take advantage of future software or hardware improvements.
I would recommend editing all current Final Cut Pro 7 projects on Final Cut Pro 7. Stay with the system you know for an existing project, unless, for other reasons, you are forced to move.
Avid Media Composer with Isis is probably the best choice if you are doing feature films, reality shows with thousands of hours of media, or workgroup editing,
Adobe Premiere Pro CS6 also has many benefits:
However, Final Cut Pro X also excels in many areas:
The biggest weakness in FCP X, for me, is audio mixing. Here, FCP X is almost as bad as FCP 7, though with better audio filters. Currently, it is cumbersome to move projects out of FCP X into either Adobe Audition or ProTools for mixing.
THE INTERFACE IS A PLUS?
Yes, absolutely. However, not for the reasons you think. If you are a died-in-the-wool FCP 7 editor and just don’t want to learn something new, then move to Adobe Premiere Pro CS6.
Premiere has speed, power, and mimics the keyboard shortcuts and interface of Final Cut Pro 7. Adobe makes a very good product that is fast and fun to use.
However, with each passing day, FCP 7 editors are not increasing in number. New kids are tackling video for the first time.
Here, I think, FCP X has an advantage. I did a test this semester at the class I teach at USC in Los Angeles. I decided to teach FCP X to non-film students who just wanted to learn how to do video editing. I discovered that I could make them productive in about one-quarter the time it would have taken me in either FCP 7 or Premiere Pro CS6.
From a standing start and no prior knowledge, they were knowledgeably editing video and outputting in 90 minutes. It would take me far longer to achieve the same results with FCP 7 or Premiere.
In terms of interface, Final Cut Pro X is the wave of the future, because it appeals to people who are new to editing.
BE CAREFUL HOW YOU DEFINE YOURSELF
One of the byproducts of the “NLE Religious Wars,” earlier in this decade, was that we defined ourselves by the tools we used. We would say we were a “Final Cut editor,” or an “Avid editor.” Fist-fights would then ensue. (I plead guilty to supporting this dichotomy for many years, as I enjoyed poking fun at Avid editors.)
But, as the recession hit, I realized how misguided this was, because it costs us clients and money. We are not technologists, we are story-tellers who use technology.
Each of us is an editor who loves to tell stories using moving pictures. We hire a carpenter not because they own a particular brand of hammer, but because they can build us a house that looks beautiful.
We need to define ourselves by the results we create for our clients, not the tools we use to create them.
This is no longer a choice of “either/or.” We are awash in excellent editing tools from Apple, Adobe, Avid, and others. This is truly a time when there are no bad choices.
This is my point: we have choices. I choose to use Final Cut Pro X as one of my major editing tools.
When it comes to my business, I am very cautious. I will learn and train on anything, but when it comes to the systems my business needs to make money and pay the rent, I change slowly and carefully.
I need to see a clear benefit before adopting a new tool. With Final Cut Pro X I can improve my workflow, do more work in less time, and meet my standards for quality.
Final Cut Pro X allows me to make money, and keep clients happy, which is the essence of professional use.
As always, I am interested in what you think.
LARRY’S HANDS-ON TRAINING
In February and March, I’ve partnered with Video Symphony in Burbank, CA to teach a two-day class in Final Cut Pro X for professional editors. If you want to learn how to use this software to improve your business, check out this website.
Larry Jordan is a producer, director, editor, author, and Apple Certified Trainer with more than 35 year’s experience. Based in Los Angeles, he’s a member of the Directors Guild of America and the Producers Guild of America. Visit his website at www.larryjordan.biz.
67 Responses to Is Final Cut Pro X Ready For Professional Use?← Older Comments Newer Comments →
This was very informative for a guy considering a jump to Ten. It answered most of my questions. I just have two. How do you handle outputting to DVD if there is no interaction between Ten and DVD studio. Toast?
I’m running on 2008 2.8 gig quad core. If I’m going to an entire new FCP should I use this time to upgrade to a newer or faster computer and keep this one around for archive of older 7 projects? I read your article about the New I Mac’s…how is that working out for you? I’d rather not buy new monitors…And I hear rumors of a new tower. Thanks for keeping us all “up to date”.
Thanks for the kind words. Currently, the best authoring application is Adobe Encore. However, if you have DVD Studio Pro, you can use that as well; however, it won’t create Blu-ray Discs, while Encore can.
Never buy, or not buy, on rumors. Buy based on your needs and what’s shipping. The new iMac is working fine for me for the editing that I do, however, I’m principally creating short training videos, not features.
First, editing “a few simple projects” hardly counts more than getting one’s feet wet with the software. Second, testing more NLEs than another does not by itself produce better judgment. Third, FCPX has already successfully been used for prime time television, despite your assessment of the software. And finally, not all FCPX users are hobbyists, just as not all professionals prefer your software of choice. I have used both FCPX and Premiere CS6 for professional work, and they are both wonderful programs, albeit with different strengths and weaknesses. The section above, titled “Be Careful How You Define Yourself” has a few things to say about this, in case you missed that part of Larry’s article.
Gabriel, Christopher, and everyone else:
I am happy to encourage discussion, but do NOT encourage personal accusations. We haven’t reached that point, yet – I’m just issuing a caution. Explain your points of view as forcefully as you want – but be cautious where you point. I know we all don’t agree, which is why I’m always interested in learning why you hold the positions you do.
Frankly I dont get it.
I heard the negative hype surrounding FCPX. I heard everyones complaints.
Yet I was still intrigued.
As an editor I was growing tired of FCP7 dull grey interface. I know it sounds ridiculous, but I think it was starting to affect my creativity!
FCPX came along for me at just the right time. I bought it, and after wrapping my head around the new workflow methods, I fell in love!
I havent looked back since, and groan when I have to go back to FCP7!
I freelance for major networks, so theres no question that this had to be a professional product. and it is. one hundred percent.
Now I hear complaints about audio not being good enough, or that its too difficult to export for pro tools. Again I dont get it-
I often have to send my audio to a pro tools editor- X2Pro is awesome. It creates an AAF with whatever handles you want. You can also export your audio as “roles” which is an awesome backup.
I’m always urging my fellow editors to try FCPX. Most shake their heads, and the rest dismiss me- thats cool…One day they’ll understand!
Point taken Larry, and thank you for letting us expound on our reasons for liking or not liking FCP X. To answer Gabriel, yes I can tell from editing a few “simple projects” whether or not a software is better than another for editing. My “simple projects” always include multiple audio layers, video layers, titles, green screen, compositing, 3rd party plug-ins (of which I have also been a beta tester for Autodesk, Adobe, Boris FX) and I can tell how they perform (or don’t) by doing such projects.
FCP X is really not that complex or hard to learn. It is just a different interface, with different shortcuts. It reminds me of the consumer editing program Pinnacle 16 Ultimate. The basic editing blocks, or vocabulary, of any editing program are still the same. As has been stated, many pros will still use FCP X for simpler projects, and projects where they don’t have to collaborate with other professionals. And anyone who makes some money doing a video production can call themselves “a pro.” But that is beside the point I am making.
I know people who make money with Avid Studio, Pinnacle 16 Ultimate, Newtek Speed Edit, Vegas Studio, Nero Movie Maker, Toast 11, Windows Movie Maker, all “consumer” apps, aimed at consumer markets. Some even full length documentary programs. Many of these apps have 3rd party plug-ins that come standard with the software and certain features that surpass FCP X. They are also adding “pro features” all the time. In the broadcast world many people cut on Edius software, which again has its own merits and quirks, just like any other. I still would not recommend Edius software for most editors. Then we come to the high end Smoke, which is used by many post houses. Another workflow and feature set that you can learn if you want to go the node-based editing route. I would not recommend that complex program for most editors. If you use any editing software long enough, you can grow to rely on that workflow for your comfort zone and level.
If you had read my first post you will have noticed that I have had to switch gears and learn new features and interfaces all the time, due to necessity and EOLing of products. The best editing program I have ever used was Discreet Logic’s edit*. It was truly designed by and for editors, not just written by software engineers who rarely cared about or understood an editors workflow. I hated to have to go to the clunky FCP on Apple when Autodesk killed edit*, but at the time Apple had the least expensive route to HD production with the Targa hardware card. As another person noted, Apple has steadily been buying and killing off some very professional products for a long time. Larry’s (AND my) beloved program Live Type, Color, Soundtrack, DVD Studio Pro…
I have been around the block long enough to see the pattern and warning signs of when a company is consistently EOLing pro tools and apps. My main point is that Apple has lost its way and is mainly a phone company now. Read the financials. Most investors feel if they don’t hit a home run with the new iPhone, they are basically finished. Samsung and Android will eat their lunch. They really could care less about the pro market. The numbers they need to survive are miniscule there. And that is a sad fact. For that reason, and the fact that almost every post house uses After Effects, Photoshop, and Illustrator anyway, the smart choice is on Adobe at this time….
If I didn’t “embrace change” and “change with the times” then I would still be editing film on a Steenbeck, or cutting 2″ videotape with a microscope and a razor blade. I just think you need to read the tea leaves, and Adobe is the better investment in time, energy, and resources.
I agree with Christopher on a very specific point – I also edited with the Discreet Edit over ten years ago, and it was the best NLE I’ve ever used as well. A huge loss when it was EOL’ed. I’m still using 7 but switch to PPro CS6 for certain projects and am liking it save for a few issues that I suspect are more related to the Blackmagic device I’m using with it rather than the app itself (have no such issues when using 7). I won’t be going near X until they get the audio mixer issue resolved, as everything I do has to be sent to an audio sweetening house before finishing. But I’m certainly keeping an eye on it anyway. These days, you have to have all these NLE’s in your arsenal (Avid as well, of course), because what Apple did to us nearly two years ago has destroyed the universality of the business. It was wonderful for a few years to know just FCP legacy and only need to know that app to be accepted pretty much anywhere. Not true anymore. That’s why Larry offers training in both X and PPro – it’s no longer enough to concentrate on just one editing app.
Can X even do OMF yet? This is such a critical feature for final mix, and what my networks in the UK require. How can X be a pro app with out it?
I absolutely love FCPX 🙂
Use it every day, from day one!
Hi Larry, I really appreciate the time you take to review and create training for the products on your website. I’m not sure this is the right place to ask this but…here I go,
I have a question regarding the professional uptake of Final Cut X.
I teach indigenous Australian students in video production techniques. We are little behind the rest of the world here in the Outback. we are however, using Mac’s and FCP 7 and 6, nothing truly dies in the provinces. Which brings me to my question.
What is Industry using? or perhaps the question is, where is the industry going? In Australia it seems to me from anecdotal evidence that people are moving back to Avid or to Premier Pro. I have been looking for an industry survey but I can’t seem to find anything that makes sense.
Given that I’m working with a group of future film makers who will on occasion work with everything from overseas film crews to Television production crews, I’m at a loss as what to say. Also I have pressure from above to update our software to meet future needs….
I have been working in the video production industry for over 17 years, I cut my teeth on analogue edit suites and have adapted to digital tape and now to file based systems. I am not averse to change but I am finding it difficult to discern what the right choice for my students might be.
I appreciate that you get a lot of emails each day and that your time is precious, any advice would be greatly appreciated. Thanks for your time
What I’m seeing is that there is no trend – the industry feels in disarray to me. Avid, Adobe, and Apple are all solid choices, depending upon what you need to do. There is no current “market leader.” In fact, the very definition of “market” is rapidly changing.
Avid has solidified its position in feature films and high-end episodic television. Adobe Premiere is expanding into areas once owned by FCP 7. And FCP X is defining new markets and new editors, in a way that the other two packages are not.
My sense is that the industry will remain in upheaval for another year or so, then slowly settle into the “new normal.”
What’s your recommended workflow for importing Blackmagic Cinema Camera .dng files into FCP X?
Both FCP X and Premiere have problems playing DNG files natively. What I would do is convert them to ProRes using either Resolve or other software and use the ProRes files as “low-res” editing files. Then, convert back to DNG during the final color grade using Resolve.
Here’s a presentation I did at BVE specifically about the BMD Cinema Camera and it’s workflow:
Thanks Larry … that’s kinda what of thought too … have you tried the importing ‘images as stills and then making a compound clip’ method? … do you need to set the duration of each clip to 1/24th of a second before you import? … it’s a bit of a kluge I know.
Glad you made it back safely from rainy London … heard your BVE session were very well received.
I would NEVER do this – it would be a complete shambles!
Instead, use QuickTime 7 to convert the image sequence into a movie, then transcode to ProRes.