Has Apple dumbed down FCP X or is this a step up?
Apple just introduced a new version of Final Cut at the Final Cut Pro Supermeet during NAB 2011 in Las Vegas, Nevada. Touted as “revolutionary as the first version” from 1999, Apple introduced the new Final Cut Pro X saying that every major broadcaster and film maker nowadays relies on FCP for their video editing needs.
Basing on live updates coming from attendees at NAB 2011, Final Cut Pro X has been built from scratch, and it’s entirely 64-bit. It’s based on technologies like Cocoa, Core Animation, Open CL, Grand Central Dispatch and it focuses on image quality. It features a resolution independent timeline up to 4K for scalable rendering — in fact, it appears the old render dialog is gone entirely as the app uses the available CPU to keep files always rendered. FCP X allows you to edit while you’re importing thanks to its new engine, and it’s also got automatic media and people detection on import, as well as image stabilization.
Apple is promoting the new FCP X as a complete and total rebuild. Smart collections look very similar to iMovie, and overall there is a feeling Apple has borrowed some UI elements from the iLife application to make the general design more accessible, even for professionals. For instance, Apple has brought “single keystroke nesting” to Final Cut Pro — a new functionality that allows you to group chunks of media into a single clip in the timeline. The “inline precision editor” allows you to make edits by revealing media with an iOS-like menu.
It’s possible that the GUI is more user friendly and the functionality has improved but based on the comments and features presented today the jury is still out as to whether or not FCP will be going head to head with the competition. This means that ease of use may or may not improve functionality but instead lowers the playing field for all the non-editors out there. I am all in favor of making editing easier but the roll-out today suggests a beta experience that does little to assist the professional editor in cutting a long form project. Feels like a step backward on the time/space continuum and I always get a little queasy when the word iMovie is mentioned in the same breath as Final Cut.
Upon watching the demonstration in full, I got the impression there were some shills in the audience shouting their appreciation for the new features.
Now that calmer minds prevail let’s look at the upside. Instant nesting with a single keystroke. Easy keyword features. Better sync and collision options. Automatic color grading, stabilization and background rendering. Excellent use of the 64 bit engine. But all of this suggests Apple is more interested in the young editor cutting short form trailers than the longform editor trying to cut a feature, nevermind the hapless assistant who must keep it together. Much of the work that FCP is trying to achieve is normally the work of the assistant but they pre-suppose that the editor is working solo. Pity that editor if they don’t have a second pair of hands to help him or her. I’m all in favor of having the machine do the work. I’m ready as an Apple Certified Trainer to go back to school and re-learn how to cut faster and easier. What I loved about FCP is that copy and paste makes it easy to move stuff around. Apple has made it even “easier”, but again requires a new mindset i.e it takes more thought and fewer keystrokes to achieve the same thing. If this is the future than I am in. But it begs the question: who is the target audience for this product? Surely not the Hollywood narrative professional. Instead the trailer/bumper/extreme sports crowd may find these new features useful. For improved storytelling techniques, the jury is still out.