Apple’s Final Cut Pro is the leading video-editing program. It’s a $1,000 professional app. It was used to make “The Social Network,” “True Grit,” “Eat Pray Love” and thousands of student movies, independent films and TV shows. According to the research firm SCRI, it has 54 percent of the video-editing market, far more than its rivals from Adobe and Avid.

On Tuesday, Apple pulled a typical Apple move: it killed off the two-year-old Final Cut 7 at the peak of its popularity.

In its place, Apple now offers something called Final Cut Pro X (pronounced “10”). But don’t be misled by the name. It’s a new program, written from scratch. Apple says a fresh start was required to accommodate huge changes in the technological landscape.

Apple veterans may, at this point, be feeling some creepy déjà vu. You’ve seen this movie before. Didn’t Apple kill off iMovie, too, in 2008, and replace it with an all-new, less capable version that lacked dozens of important features? It took three years of upgrades before the new iMovie finally surpassed its predecessor in features and coherence.

Some professional editors are already insisting that Apple has made exactly the same mistake with Final Cut X; they pointed out various flaws with the program after an earlier version of this column was posted online on Wednesday. They say the new program is missing high-end features like the ability to edit multiple camera angles, to export to tape, to burn anything more than rudimentary DVDs and to work with EDL, XML and OMF files (used to exchange projects with other programs). You can use a second computer monitor, but you need new TV-output drivers to attach an external video monitor. You can’t change the settings of your exported QuickTime movies without the $50 Compressor program.

Apple admits that version X is a “foundational piece.” It says that it will restore some of these features over time, and that other companies are rapidly filling in the other holes.

For nonprofessionals, meanwhile, Final Cut is already tempting — especially because the price is $300, not $1,000. It’s the first Apple program that’s available only by download from the online Mac App Store, not on DVD. All of the programs formerly called Final Cut Studio have been rolled into Final Cut except Motion and Compressor, which are sold separately. Final Cut Express and DVD Studio Pro are gone.)

The new Final Cut has been radically redesigned. In fact, it looks and works a lot like iMovie, all dark gray, with “skimming” available; you run your cursor over a clip without pressing the mouse button to play it.

Once you’re past the shock of the new layout, the first thing you’ll notice is that Apple has left most of the old Final Cut’s greatest annoyances on the cutting-room floor.

First — and this is huge — there’s no more waiting to “render.” You no longer sit there, dead in the water, while the software computes the changes, locking up the program in the meantime, every time you add an effect or insert a piece of video that’s in a different format. Final Cut X renders in the background, so you can keep right on editing. You cannot, however, organize your files or delete clips during rendering.

Second, in the old Final Cut, it was all too easy to drag the audio and video of a clip out of sync accidently; little “-1” or “+10” indicators, showing how many frames off you were, were a chronic headache. But in the new Final Cut, “sync is holy,” as Apple puts it. Primary audio and video are always synced, and you can even lock other clips together so that they all move as one.

In fact, an ingenious feature called Compound Clips lets you collapse a stack of audio and video clips into a single, merged filmstrip on the timeline. You can adjust it, move it and apply effects as if it were a single unit, and then un-merge it anytime you like. Compound Clips make it simple to manage with a complicated composition without going quietly insane.

In the old Final Cut, if you dragged Clip A so that it overlapped part of Clip B, even briefly, you wound up chopping away the covered-up piece of Clip B. But now, the timeline sprouts enough new parallel “tracks” to keep both of the overlapping clips. Nothing gets chopped unless you do it yourself.

Source: David Pogue / NYTimes.com

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