Is Apple's Final Cut Pro X first rate or a big mistake? An Academy Award-winning editor weighs in


Image Credit: A.M.P.A.S./ABC via Getty Images

Apple released their overhauled professional video-editing system, Final Cut Pro X, to the world last week, and the response on the blogosphere has been especially unkind. “I’m just shocked,” says one. “It’s incredibly bad.” Another calls the program, “A very souped up version of iMovie ’11 but with iMovie’s ability to “Export to FCP” removed.” Current ratings on the Mac App Store have the software sitting with a lackluster 2.5 stars.

People are frustrated that Final Cut Pro X is not fully compatible with Final Cut Pro 7 files, rendering older videos unusable by the new system. Many editors, who have built their entire careers upon older versions of Final Cut Pro, are concerned that they may be forced to adapt to a new Final Cut system that has less functionality. Though Pro X does have a few features that users are excited about — the 64-bit processing, the improved “Preview” function — the good has gotten utterly lost in a sea of enraged bloggers.

So before we picked up our pitchforks and joined the Apple torching mob, we sought some real answers from Kirk Baxter, Academy Award-winning editor of films like The Social Network, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, and the upcoming The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. Baxter (along with his editing partner Angus Wall) edited each of those films with Final Cut Pro, and he spoke with EW about his take on the new software. 

“There’s a little too much hating,” Baxter explained. “The guys from Apple came out and showed Angus Wall and myself [the program], and a lot of it I thought was absolutely amazing. It really, really was smart. It just seems they’ve basically put the software together for laptop users, which I understand — I’m sure every student in America is going to have one, just not the industrialzied world. It seems to be very clever and user friendly; it’s just not set up to be used professionally.”

Baxter was also clear about the problems with the editing platform: “It needs a few key things. In order for us to do a [David] Fincher film on it, you’ve got to be able to switch between multiple cameras, so with that right there, we can’t use it. Secondly, it only has one viewer monitor, and we use source material, select material, and then our edit material, so we use three monitors. You can kind of force yourself to change, but why? It might be better if you’re working on a laptop, but if you’ve got three monitors to work from, then it’s not better — it’s constricting.”

As far as the future is concerned, Baxter isn’t planning on switching to Pro X anytime soon. “I assume I’m going to be working on Final Cut 7 until they upgrade the new model to professional standards, and if they don’t do it, then I imagine all of us will end up aborting and finding a new platform to work on, but I honestly think their money is in laptop editing — there are just more of those people than professional editors — so I don’t think they’re sweating it…. I’d imagine people are going to stall on embracing it until it is of more professional use.”

Fortunately, it does appear that Apple is planning on adding many more features to Final Cut Pro X. The company released an FAQ yesterday to address the many concerns (and rants) coming their way, and it looks like the software is going to be adding numerous features over the coming months. Daniel Bérubé, founder of the Boston Final Cut Pro User Group, explained to EW that Final Cut Pro X is actually going to receive quite a progressive long term rollout, which will allow users to update their software periodically without having to buy an expensive new Final Cut program.

“Things are happening differently this time around,” Bérubé explained. “[Apple is] taking advantage of software they’ve built. They’ve got a new business model with Final Cut X in the Mac App Store, which I personally think is a marvelous idea… [Apple] will always be able to put incremental or major changes into [Final Cut], and people will immediately be able to download the latest app in the App Store… It’s just a different way.”

Bérubé also cautioned people not to criticize Apple too quickly: “This doesn’t mean that Final Cut 7 is no longer usable. You can use Final Cut Pro 7 for the next three or four years and have no problems with it. I think that anyone who thinks they have to switch to Final Cut Pro X, or switch to another [editing program] because of Final Cut Pro X without letting this process happen, probably should reevaluate their thinking.”

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Comments (34 total) Add your comment
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  • David

    “You can use Final Cut Pro 7 for the next three or four years and have no problems with it.”

    Sadly not true if you’re a professional editor. It’s been barely a week since the FCP X release and I’m already having major headaches editing with FCP 7. I need to add edit stations for a big job coming up and because Apple discontinued FCP 7, I cannot purchase the software for these new machines. Also, with the rapid pace of changing camera technology, will there be FCP 7 support for future cameras/codecs if it’s a defunct product? Doubtful. How will I explain that to a client in a year: “Sorry, I’m running a software platform that’s been discontinued for a year so I can’t work with your footage.” Running a business based on FCP 7 presents real risks now. Apple should have kept FCP 7 on the market until FCP X was up to snuff for professionals.

    • Jenn

      Will you switch to Avid?

    • Devin Faraci

      Stop crying and use Avid, dumbass. Your story sounds imaginary anyway. You’re probably an Adobe plant.

      • David

        I do use Avid but have made a significant investment in FCP. Either way, that’s not the point. I was correcting the statement that you can use FCP 7 for the next three to four years without problems. This simply isn’t true for professionals and we need the public debate about this to be accurate. The reality is that Apple has signaled a move towards the “edit on a laptop” market and away from the pro/broadcast market. We’ll see where FCP X is in a year, but it seems likely that pro FCP editors will need to migrate to a platform that is committed to the needs of professionals. What fuels a lot of the backlash is that many of us have invested 10+ years of time, money, workflow development, and training staff in FCP and are now looking at a very uncertain future for what we’ve invested in. For production companies that work job to job, facing an expensive and time-consuming overhaul of equipment and staff that doesn’t do anything for your productivity is not good for business. This is Apple’s right as a company to make a decision on where they think greater profits lie, and they are probably right. But the problems this is causing in the edit community are real, costly, and should not be dismissed.

      • Lydia Robertson

        Hi Devin,
        When you say stop crying and use AVID you seem to not realize that it isn’t as easy as that. Outside of Media Composer, AVID’s less capable laptop software for MAC and PC, the pro-level AVID software is ALL PC and requires the purchase of ALL system components from AVID itself. For me to rebuild my studio and “use AVID” is a silly ignorant statement. I already have AVID Media Composer (and Premier) on additional start up drives, and use them for particular projects for particular clients. I use AVID Symphony and AVID NEWS Cutter daily at NBC, BUT in my freelance capacity, in my freelance home studio, to get the functionality of Symphony at a reasonable price, I chose Final Cut Pro and Final Cut Server. I have invested, over the years, tens of thousands of dollars in maintaining and upgrading hardware purchases to support my freelance work. I have three workstations and mix boards and cards and a server none of which are AVID compatible beyond Media Composer and much of it won’t even work with that. I have to retool in to the order of tens of thousands of dollars AND be satisfied with clunkier, though capable software to switch to Pro level AVID.

        In my case it is not about re-learning a new tool. I am fully fluent in the various editing platforms and have been testing FCPX since the day it came out. I LIKE it, it is fun to use and very capable, in spite of multiple crashes, but it is not ready for pro level work yet. I have hope for the future, but AVID will have to move pretty fast to reinstate major features, especially Final Cut Server, to really be a pro level set up for my needs. For my upcoming feature I will probably advise the director to rent rooms in a major AVID based editing house rather than use my Final Cut setup because I will no longer have the ability to expand to meet the demand of such a big project both because AVID pulled the software AND had not made any statement yet as to what kind of server like capabilities it might add in the future.

        For personal family projects I L O V E the Final Cut Pro X.

      • Lydia Robertson

        correction of typo:

        “but AVID will have to move pretty”

        I meant APPLE

      • Lydia Robertson

        further typo correction:

        “AVID pulled the software AND had not made any statement ”

        APPLE pulled the software AND has not made any statement…

    • Daniel Bérubé

      David read my reply below, I stand by my belief professional editors can use it for the next 1 -2 years, unfortunately my words came out as 3-4 years. This interview happened pretty quickly and I probably should’ve called Grady back after realizing I added a couple of years to my thoughts. Edit on!

      • David

        Daniel, thanks for the clarification on your thinking. I absolutely agree that professional editors can use FCP 7 for the next few years, whether 1-2 years or even 3-4 years. But can we use it “and have no problems with it”. Absolutely not. Since I’ve read many comments from people saying “What’s the problem? Just stay on FCP 7″ I feel it’s important for the leaders and spokespeople for the edit community to admit that basing your business on a defunct platform, even for a year, will pose major problems.
        1. Can’t add edit stations. As detailed in my previous comment, this is a major problem, and is enough to cause us to abandon FCP 7 now for a platform where we can add stations at the pace of the business world, not a pace dictated by hoping you can win an eBay auction where a hard to find discontinued FCP 7 upgrade (retail $299) is going for $1000 if you can be fast enough to be the final bidder. Good luck!
        2. Will lose work as the industry abandons FCP. Right now, a new TV show or a new feature is much less likely to choose FCP 7 because who wants to start a long term project with a software you can’t buy, won’t be supported, and will have never have an upgrade that will read your 7 project file. Editors and post houses based on FCP 7 are going to start losing business fast.
        3. You never know when the next DSLR-like revolution will hit and suddenly every client will require that you edit with this new footage. I would like to already be up and running my business on software I know will support these future formats. Otherwise I’ll lose out competing for jobs. Things happen fast– this will certainly happen in the next 2 years. But it could also happen next month.

        These are not isolated or special case issues – they are true for any editor and post-production house working for broadcast, documentaries, and features. Yes, many of us will continue to edit on FCP 7 for a while because we have continuing projects already on there, or there will be some new projects that we can get away with using it. But to say that we can stay on a discontinued FCP 7 “no problem”, even for 1-2 years does not jive with the realities of the post production marketplace.

      • Carlos Storch

        I stand by my belief professional editors can use it for the next 1 -2 years, unfortunately my words came out as 3-4 years.

        Did I say 1-2 years? Sorry, I meant 1-2 months. Carry on.

  • Jenn

    “There are just more of those people than professional editors…”

    And thus “Editor” becomes the new “Writer.” With the technology in place, everybody’s going to think they can do it. Editing used to be a highly respected role in the process of making films. In five years it’ll all be cut-rate amateurs who know how to work the software. Just not well.

    • Devin Faraci

      That’s true already. And it’s true of web design, screenwriting, what have you. Everyone is a wannabe.

      • Carlos

        ‘Everyone is a wannabe’, yes, and everyone who picks up a sharpened pencil can call themselves an ‘artist’, that’s a right everybody has. Whether anyone wants to pay for what we do is a completely different matter. If you are a pro you will get the business, not by being elitist but by being good. There’s nothing wrong with everyone wanting to make a movie, it’s borne out of enthusiasm and greater software accessibility and it’s actually healthy.

      • Jenn

        I agree that an elitist attitude is nonsense if you don’t have the skill to back it up, but I do question whether producers will be able to actually recognize ability when someone else is willing to work for cheap.

    • Ray

      Jenn you are wright. I have been facing that now for several years. I like to refer to it as The MP3 factor. MP3s were originally created as a low quality pre-listening file to be emailed easily. Now people take as the norm.

      I think as time goes by clients and producers are going to become accustom to the lower standard of video quality and production that they get from the low ball editors and producers.

      I often bid with editors who want to charge the same amount for the whole project as I would charge per hour. $45-$65

  • MCS

    The removal of source windows etc. or the cutting back on windows is what is going to annoy me. Luckily I have the available facilities to just switch back to Avid, but I am disappointed that FCP just up and dumped professionals.

  • poop

    As for me, I have yet to give Final Cut Pro X a try, simply because I don’t have it. Why? To me it looks to be about the same as iMovie. If I wanted to use an editing software like iMovie, I would use iMovie, and save my $300 for something else.

  • Max

    I am a Final Cut Pro professional and Apple HAS taken away FCP 7. You can no longer buy it and they no longer support it. They have made that clear. Apple doesn’t owe me anything but they built an industry around FCP that I have been working in for 11 years and I feel like I have been fired, my factory is closed. So we as FCP professionals have a right to be more then a little upset. So Apple it’s time for a statement. Are you really abandoning the professional market you created.

  • PA

    I am a pro editor and I have built my career on Final Cut Pro. I am also an Apple stock holder. I just sold a bunch of my Apple shares yesterday. This does not bode well for Apple and I am losing my confidence in the company. At the very least, the directly responsible individual for this product does not care about pro editors.

    • Jon

      Oh boo hoo it an ex stockholder and we feel sorry for you. You all shut the hell up. Editing does not take a genius and anyonecan do it if u practice. iMovie is the best and glad to see new final cut look and function like it. Stop ya cryin bc u r an editing nerds. Guess war it’s 2011 and soon final cut will do all the editing itself and no editors needed ever

      • Jenn

        See, this is exactly what I’m talking about.

    • Smart Dude

      you should have kept the stock man. with a bunch of laptop editors buying imovie pro and all

  • Mike

    All in all I don’t think Apple is too concerned about a small group of professional editors. One conversation that I have had with several of my mac only friends, “Are you thinking about buying a PC.” Answers “as much as I hate the thought, if I go with PrPro I may go with a PC eventually”

    • John Galt

      A small group of pro editors sure is making a lot of noise. Unfortunately they have access to TV studios, and the press. Conan and this article are good examples.

  • Tdtv

    I am a reality tv editor in LA, been cutting for 6 years. I can say in my world of reality TV, companies are already dumping FCP (it was only about 10-15% of the market). I notice there was no mention of OMF, EDL, XML or telecine. If you want to know what that means, google it, because it’s TL:DNR, but rest assured, if an article on FCPX’s professional short comings doesn’t mention it, it ain’t talking about how it affects pros. It’s also a whole new program. ‘Sticking with’ FCP is no different from changing to Avid of Adobe in terms of cost for retraining and rebuilding hardware workflows. People are just going with companies that can’t afford to abandon their pro markets over those that can.

  • Scifan

    Thank you for covering this story. As someone who has trained in both Avid and FCP but has yet to buy my own equipment, it is good to have this information.

  • Per Hlom

    The thing that nobody’s talking about, which I find fascinating, is that Apple didn’t leave the Pro business because it didn’t make money. Apple left it because it didn’t make ENOUGH money. Doubtlessly, having the largest market share in pro editing, Apple made money. This therefore speaks of a greed that I can’t reconcile. Apple has become greedy, to the point of killing a money-making business because it only makes a puny so-and-so millions of dollars.

    I don’t like this new Apple. Pro workers helped float Apple when it was on the brink of collapse. Now Apple is more successful, and is turning its backs. We were best friends for as long as Apple believed they could get something from me. I agree that Apple has a right to do this. But it’s the beginning of the end when you kill off the people who got you to where you are. Apple now has BECOME the evil empire.




    • Bilal

      I have to agree with you there…I did feel utterly betrayed…especially since apple and pro res and fcp made my workflow so much easier, now I’m struggling to figure out what all I’m going to have to do this entire year to make sure I’m ready for my studio and clients demands next year. Makes me sad that apple upped and threw everything out of the window :(

  • Jamie

    Apple totally f* over these people and now look at the backlash. One thing companies have to forecast in todays world when doing releases is to take in mind how to deal with damage control. Look at Conan O’brien for example… since they did a spoof on FCP X there’s been a flurry of video parodies on FCPX/ APPLE.

    There’s the Apple get the “Social Network Treatment” which is Great and sad. The Hitler Parody which is funny as hell and one I even worked on while trying to learn Premiere Pro…

    Apple should heed the messages in the videos and start understanding that they should be listening to a core group not just turn a blind eye to them to satisfy the masses. Im not means a profesional but learning from one and taking advice from them helps not some 10 year old spitting out tutorials on youtube.

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