Final Cut Pro X: A potted history

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Rebuilt from the ground up to meet the needs of today’s creative editors, Final Cut Pro breaks free from the restrictions of old-fashioned timeline tracks.” [1]


So goes the claim on Apple’s website. Final Cut Pro is a generation of software that revolutionized the workings of the post production industry. Presented in the early 2000s as a cheaper, snazzier alternative to the industry staple – Avid Media Composer, the popularity of this editing software seemed to know no bounds. Its seventh incarnation (aptly named Final Cut Pro 7) has been named the number one non-linear editing system of choice by over 2000 editing professionals. [2]


2011 FCP X Release


So what exactly went wrong for Apple in the fateful summer of 2011 when they released their latest version of the software, Final Cut Pro X? For a decade FCP had dominated the professional market, earning an excellent reputation and a band of extremely loyal followers. It seemed nothing could derail its success.


The problems date back to the software’s first unveiling at the Final Cut Pro User Group Supermeet in April 2011. Boards and blogs became awash with fearful rumours and speculation when it was revealed that the software was not, as was originally assumed, simply an update of the original generation, but an entirely new generation all together. [3]


Final Cut Pro 7 Interface (Top)

Final Cut Pro X Interface (Bottom)

Is final cut pro x better than FCP 7?

Original Features - Or lack of...


Final Cut Pro X (so called to distinguish itself from its predecessor 7 by skipping out numbers 8 and 9) had an entirely new interface and missed several key features integral to a professional edit. While greatly reduced in price (only a third of the price of its former versions), the launch of the software revealed that there was:


  • No support for EDL
  • No XML import or OMF export
  • No multicam editing space
  • A locked workspace arrangement
  • No ability to scroll through the timeline
  • No compatibility with FCP 7 projects
  • No chapter markers [4]
  • No replacement software for Soundtrack Pro, DVD Studio Pro and Color


And this is by no means an exhaustive list.


Maturing with Age


The initial reaction for the professional community was shock and outrage. Many people who had invested large amounts of money in Apple software and FCP stations felt betrayed. Some defended the company’s move, assuming there must be something we had yet to understand, while others (usually Avid and Premiere users) looked on bemused. The question that flitted around most forums and blogospheres was “Why?".


“Why did Apple take something so good, so popular, and transform it into something almost unrecognisable?”


Since the launch in June 2011, Apple has done a lot to improve FCP X. Numerous updates have been released to fix bugs and add on features that were missing. They also added support for retina displays, audio channel editing and support between FCP 7 and X. In total, over 30 new significant features have been added. As one reviewer stated, “Final Cut Pro X is not the same product it was when it was released.” [5]


The question still remains, however: why release a product that, for all intents and purposes, appears to be half baked? I’m in two minds about this.


From what I’ve seen on forums, many people have started to react more favourably to the software. Those of the view that FCP X is actually a viable program for professional editing argue that change is necessary, and that bad reviews are usually the result of people balking at the unfamiliar interface and interactive user experience. In their opinion, the software might not have been completely ready for professional use at its launch date, but it’s more than capable of handling any type of project now.


Others, who still regard the software as a bit of joke, believe that FCP X was intended for the “pro-sumer” market – people who aren’t necessarily industry professionals, but still require good editing software for their work – journalists, bloggers and the marketing and advertising community. In their eyes, FCP X was never intended for the professional editor. Their feeling of betrayal is only too palpable.


Apple have defended the case for FCP X from many sides.  They reason that FCP X was intended to take advantage of new Mac hardware and that there is a new generation of editors that require a faster, more modern editing software. All this may be true, but the fact remains that FCP X is rated as the second to bottom NLE system used by professionals – with only 2% admitting to using the software.


Whatever your opinion is, we must accept that Final Cut Pro will never be the same. Maybe we need a new way of looking at editing – technology never stays still for long, so why shouldn’t an editing system move swiftly with the times?


On the other hand, why rewrite a hit? There’s no denying that Apple might have missed its target if most of their customers are pointedly using the older generation of its software, and if the new generation requires over 30 updates to get it to a reasonable standard, I would argue you’re better off with reliable Avid or the Swiss Army Knife-esque Creative Cloud Suite.



Get your Final Cut Pro jollies on. Check out this skit from Conan on FCP X:












Still can’t make up your mind? Do not fret! We cater for both Final Cut Pro and Avid users here at Online Post Production. Find out more about our services or get in touch.




Tags: Final Cut Pro, Post Production Software, Software Review, Tools and tips
Category: Post Production Software

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14 May 2016 10:35
Have you joined the campaign? Let's club together and make some noise for #MPSAwarenessDay!
13 May 2016 12:15