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Apple Final Cut Pro X review

Verdict

Massive upheaval for existing users aside, this is an innovative editor with some impressive features. Lots of room for improvement, though

Review Date: 8 Jul 2011

Reviewed By: Ben Pitt

Price when reviewed: £150 (£180 inc VAT)

Overall Rating
3 stars out of 6

Features & Design
3 stars out of 6

Value for Money
5 stars out of 6

Ease of Use
4 stars out of 6

Apple is used to whipping its customers up into a frenzy, but it’s usually a less vitriolic response than the one it’s been getting for Final Cut Pro X. It’s such a radical departure from Final Cut Pro 7, we’re amazed it's billed as an update rather than a brand-new application.

It’s rewritten from scratch, ostensibly to move to 64-bit code, but the interface is unrecognisable and old projects aren’t compatible. Apple advises that existing users should keep version 7 installed alongside Final Cut Pro X.

In fact, some users should just stick with version 7 until further notice. Various features that professional editors depend on – multi-camera editing, tape import and export, EDL, XML and OMF support for transferring projects to other systems, and lots more besides – are notably absent. Apple has responded to criticisms by publishing an FAQ, which quells some complaints and makes vague promises about others, but ignores many and confirms that some issues will remain unresolved.

It all looks pretty disastrous for existing professional users. However, for consumers, amateur enthusiasts and business users who produce video by themselves on a single computer, it shows more promise, especially since it costs only a quarter of the price of the previous version. It’s available only from the Mac App Store, and, not surprisingly, there's no discounted upgrade price.

Consolidation

The six applications that made up Final Cut Studio 3 have been consolidated down to three. Final Cut Pro now incorporates some features from the defunct colour-grading and audio-editing applications. There's nothing to replace DVD Studio Pro, though. Final Cut Pro X can burn DVDs, Blu-rays and AVCHD discs, but authoring options are virtually non-existent.

The encoding utility, Compressor 4, and the compositing application, Motion 5, are available separately for £30 each. If £180 for Final Cut Pro seems remarkable, £30 for an application that’s a convincing rival for After Effects is extraordinary, especially since it’s made the transition to 64-bit relatively unscathed.

Apple Final Cut Pro X

A couple of Motion 4’s effects have disappeared but most changes to the interface are cosmetic. We were able to open files made in Motion 4, edit them further and send them to Final Cut Pro X. That last step took us a long time to figure out, though – the gap-riddled Help was, frankly, no help at all. Motion 5 and Final Cut Pro X use the same rendering engine, but Motion files can no longer be imported directly to the timeline. Instead, we had to save them as Generators, restart Final Cut so it spotted them, and only then could we import them to the timeline.

Motion 5 will feel familiar to existing users, but the same can’t be said for Final Cut Pro. It seems its developers were determined to find new ways of doing everything. The project management system reminds us of iOS applications, with all projects appearing in a list, regardless of where they’re stored on the disk. Virtual folders are available, and thumbnail strips provide a guide as to their contents. Media assets are stored in Events, and although this name is misleading and the system takes some getting used to, it's flexible enough.

Media can be subjected to various kinds of analysis on import, identifying stabilisation and rolling shutter problems, colour casts, how many people are in shots, and audio problems such as background noise. Keyword tags can be applied, not just to whole clips but also to ranges within them, and there’s ample scope to search, sort and flag up media for use or rejection.

Apple Final Cut Pro X

It's a good system, but we wonder how many one-person production teams shoot such vast amounts of material to need it. We’d rather Apple had concentrated more on format compatibility. The list of supported camera formats looks good on paper, but it refused raw MTS files from AVCHD cameras, instead only accepting footage taken directly from these cameras’ memory cards. That’s sensible practice, but to disallow any other practice is absurd.

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User comments

General commitment to the pro market

"Picking editing software from a company that’s on this trajectory seems risky."

I've been wondering about this since before FCPX. No matte screens, the demise of Xserve, Jobs' desire to do away with the filesystem. Can anyone working in a pro market rely on Apple not to pull the rug out from under them, in their pursuit of the consumer market? In fact I blogged about this the other week: http://wp.me/p2VtZ-2u

By SirRoderickSpode on 8 Jul 2011

@ SirRoderickSpode

I totally agree! That is why have completely ditch all my Apple products in favor of high end windows products! never been happier!
Also your blog posts were a good read!

By monotok on 9 Jul 2011

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