Our favourite NLE is ten years old today. We look back at its launch, the troubled early years and what the future might hold as Final Cut Pro goes into early adolescence.
It is hard to stress Final Cut Pro's impact on the industry before FCPX. Yes, there were large installed Avid houses who scoffed at the thought of a cheap NLE and lower chargeable rates, but apart from those, as FCP had made editing available to so many, it was everywhere.
We had all watched the bootleg preview of FCPX from NAB back in April 2011 and expected a lot. Apple had 'bought out' the LAFCPUG meeting and demoed the new app to editors who had queued up to get in.
The simplification of the timeline looked incredible when the same cuts were shown in FCP7 and FCPX side by side. We had skimming, live waveforms, the magnetic timeline and clips getting out of the way when things moved. Features that really did look like they were the basis of the next generation of non-linear editors.
All FCP7 fans had been looking for major speed increases, over the last few years we had spent a lot of time staring at that render bar. Mass transcoding files to one codec to avoid crashes even led to rap videos.
The new technology that Apple had wrapped into FCPX made it feel like this app couldn’t fail. It was going to be fast. Videomaker was convinced, they awarded the unreleased Final Cut Pro X 'Best Editing Software' at NAB.
But the cracks had already started to appear.
Rumours started to circulate that features were missing out of the new app, such as capture from tape. A hack of Ripple Training's servers didn't help when social media posts showed screen grabs of a very slimmed down list of preferences.
The comparisons between FCPX and iMovie started, (which to be fair the app hasn't shrugged off to this day) unfair now possibly, but the Rottweiler Scott Simmons immediately got his teeth into an iMove/FCP comparison video.
Apple's server's must have glowed hot on June 21st 2011 when FCPX 10.0 was finally released.
Editors across the globe downloaded the app and started to explore the new features. It was a big change and we think the majority of users were left a bit dumbstruck as their 'tool of choice' had been completely changed to the point that they had to relearn how to edit.
Features were missing, there was no broadcast output, no tape ingest, but these were dwarfed by the realisation that you couldn't open old FCP7 projects in FCPX.
Not strictly true, as Philip and Greg from Intelligent Assistance had been holed-up in the Apple skunk works developing an app that could take FCP7 XML and convert it into FCPXML that FCPX could read.
The launch was coupled with one of the most mindless marketing decisions Apple has ever made.
They killed Final Cut Pro 7
Overnight, FCP7 went from being the leading industry NLE, to an app that you couldn't buy and Apple didn't support. To paraphrase Steve Martin - The change from FCP7 to FCPX should have been a dissolve, not a cut. Unopened boxes of Final Cut Pro Studio 7 became like contraband as facilities scoured resellers for the last units.
Final Cut Pro X was attracting a lot of criticism, some of it very public and very embarrassing. In a lot of industry people's minds, it has never recovered.
I can't really judge how the Final Cut Pro team must have felt a few months after the launch, it must have been tough. But to their credit, they kept their heads down and carried on releasing updates, lots of them.
FCPX started to attract a following of editors who had ignored the barrage of negative social media and had actually tried it out. (FWIW I still encounter editors who are very vocal about their disdain of FCPX even though they have never used it!)
Users were attracted to its speed, the organisation tools, the ease with which they could upload to YouTube and Vimeo and more. Slowly Apple bought back features and added some reimagined new ones. Seven months on from its launch, the syncing of footage and the new multicam tools in 10.0.3 were revolutionary - no other NLE could touch it.
There was also the start of the huge FCP ecosystem. There were probably more FCPX tutorials on YouTube than all the other NLEs put together. The building of titles and effects in Motion led to the creation of a now super-saturated plugin market.
It seemed every six months we got a release that not only fixed bugs and fine tuned FCP for speed, but also came with new features, some aimed at regaining the pro market.
Those FCP7 editors who hadn't made the move to X, just carried on editing, it all still worked.
The brief of Adobe Premiere's new Product Manager was 'To eat Final Cut Pro's lunch'. It started with one of the most amazing pieces of software alchemy out there. They made Premiere's GUI dark, trying to shake off its rather Soviet inspired sparse light grey look. It was touted as the direct replacement for FCP7 for all those who didn't want to make the jump to FCPX.
Underneath its new appearance it had the same old clunky, crash inducing code and the Adobe engineers embarked on a long game of 'Whac-A-Mole' squashing bugs.
But it started to gain traction, even though it lacked essential editing tools like a Clip Mixer. To their credit, Adobe listened and added features as fast as they could, which in a way was a problem as some of them were not really that well executed.
FCPX was a source of inspiration, Skimming led to HoverScrub, Motion plugins led to the nightmare that is MOGRTS, the multicam tool could now do more than 4 angles. They were developing at a pace that was to outstrip Apple and in the industry's eyes, they had made FCP8.
Its biggest selling point though, was that it was available on a lot of users systems already. If you used Photoshop and/or After Effects, then you could get Premiere for free in the new Creative Cloud subscription. Going cross platform also helped build the user base.
Whilst all this was going on, Blackmagic whose wallet was bulging after selling so many I/O cards, had acquired da Vinci Systems. Grant Petty's mission was to provide colour correction tools to everyday video and film editors that had previously cost hundreds of thousands of Dollars.
He did a good job too and many productions were tripping over to Resolve for finishing as FCP users were rather underwhelmed by the basic Color Board.
But Grant had a bigger plan, NAB after NAB saw a new Resolve launched with evolving editing tools. We are now at the point where Resolve is perceived as an editor with advanced colour correction as opposed to a colour corrector with good editing tools!
The pace of Blackmagic's development of Resolve has been very fast, couple that with a free version that anybody can download and use - and you have the reason why Resolve is gaining support across the board, from broadcast TV to YouTubers; feature films to weddings.
Both Premiere and Resolve have learnt from Final Cut Pro, they have used the app for inspiration, but moved forward in the traditional 'two-up' source and record paradigm that editors are very comfortable with.
Oh, and during these ten years, Avid has just been Avid.
We got in early with an article about what we would like to see in Final Cut Pro over the next ten years, so we won't bore you with duplication.
Looking back over the ten years, we think Final Cut Pro's perception in the film and TV industry is still coloured by the rather disastrous launch. Thankfully, the person (above the FCP team) who was responsible for that colossal marketing misjudgement has left Apple.
Premiere and Resolve have silently and slowly mopped-up the editors who don't want to liberate themselves from tracks, bins and audio patching.
The way forward for Apple is two pronged, innovate and then communicate with users and potential users.
Firstly, Apple is positioned perfectly with the new M1+ machines to tune FCP for maximum performance that the other NLE companies will struggle to match. They also need to get their development mojo back now the transition to Apple Silicon is well under way. Surely a super-simple but very powerful collaborative workflow is just around the corner?
The last few releases seem to be a bit thin on the ground feature wise - will 10.6 be the large update we have been waiting for? (Dupe detection anyone?)
Secondly, Apple needs to shout more about how great Final Cut Pro is. Now, we are not suggesting a TV spot like Adobe's Premiere Pro commercial that probably only touched the NLE to match back up with the soundtrack. We are talking about getting back involved with the community.
Apple has axed its training program, its certification process, it doesn't officially appear anymore at NAB or IBC. Over the last few years, things have slightly changed, the Cupertino omertà lifted with the chance to question the Pro Apps team at the FCPX Creative Summit.
But, it's not enough!
Apple need to promote Final Cut Pro more. It's worth it, it sells Macs.
The amount of users wanting to produce video is growing day by day and FCP needs to be in front of them as they make a choice on how they are going to edit. FCP will always have the users who have upgraded from iMovie, but there are so many more who now see Premiere as the 'Pro solution' and thus the thing to aspire to.
This is well within Apple's power, they have a track (no pun intended) record of changing the way people think or completely revolutionising an industry with a product.
So, after a difficult birth and competition from its siblings, let's hope that Final Cut Pro grows into a popular teenager that everyone likes.
"the Cupertino omertà lifted "
Appeasing large network clients and individual users with feature requests, etc,. would require a huge zeitgeist shift that I do not believe will ever happen.
If the bean counters view the resource investment to become #1as not worth it. they have given up on the long game.
Resolve has so many new features they should be embarrassed. A company a fraction of their size is cranking out code faster than them.
Aside from the M1 chip, true innovation has become glacial there.
Rounding the corners on icons in Big Sur is not cutting it.
Well done, Peter. Well balanced and honest. Apple needs to pick up the pace for sure. How about some basic professional level audio tools? I've said I'm giving Apple until the end of this October, and if I'm not convinced they're serious, hello Resolve, my whole TV station will switch.
I've also been looking for other work opportunities, and overwhelmingly TV stations and production companies are demanding Adobe proficiency, not Fill Cut. Simple fact, can't be sweet talked away.
It has been hard to watch the slow down from Apple, but I am optimistic things will move forward. Most of here still make a living editing with FCP. I just hope they are listening and taking note from the people who really want to see our favorite NLE thrive. A little communication would go a long way. . .
Why do folks here continue to believe that Apple is focusing Final Cut Pro on anything other than the independent content creator market? If you produce independent content, especially for outlets like YouTube, what can't you currently do with FCP?
Look, I agree with all of the pro wishes. That's my market segment, too. But in the past 10 years I have never been asked to use FCP and if anything, been told not to use it for team compatibility reasons. I realize there are pockets of pro and enterprise users in the US and even more internationally. But in the pro and broadcast arena, it's an Avid/Adobe/BMD game. I really don't see Apple taking much segment of that back.
If you stop and think about it, FCP and Logic Pro hold similar positions. They are liked by independent creators (composers in the case of Logic) and used by many for pro work, but they aren't the dominant tool used by post-production pros. In that context, would new features, like a roles mixer or tracking really move the needle in huge numbers within the core market?
Conc. the NEXT 10 years… the M1silicon is not just about 'speed' - the (non)use of its AI parts are yet a bit… underwhelming.... yep, I know, you pros don't like automatisms, but for the 'masses' auto-keywording, auto-speech-to-text, auto-ducking, auto-selecting, auto-tracking, auto-wotever is the future. Especially, to differentiate from an 'amateur iMovie' or AP/daVinci...
Who said that AI features are not pro? Any pro would welcome those. But to call these apps "Pro Apps" officially, put the work "Pro" in the app names, well, I'd think it was for "Pro"fessionals. I mean, right?
Ben Balser wrote: But to call these apps "Pro Apps" officially, put the work "Pro" in the app names, well, I'd think it was for "Pro"fessionals. I mean, right?
I don't think Apple ever meant it that way. I think that when Apple labels something "pro" it merely means it's an advanced version of some other model - e.g. MacBook versus MacBook Pro. That's all irrespective of whether or not pros use it.
There is the other thought. Namely that the team has completed the intended feature roadmap and that FCP is largely complete. Sure, some ongoing refinements and additional features driven by market needs and changes, but not much more. If you use Avid Media Composer as an example, the feature set today is generally what existed by 2002 or so. Refinements came in terms of performance improvements, new resolutions and codecs, and so on. But operationally, the MC app has more or less been "locked" for two decades. Who's to say that FCP isn't in that same spot?
I don't think there's any question that Resolve is more feature-laden than FCP. But so what? Are these features appropriate for the type of creator who is making videos to show on YouTube (as a primary outlet) or do those features just get in the way? I'm not sure that because a competitor has more bells and whistles is a compelling argument for Apple to add more or similar features. It's simply not the game Apple plays. Not to mention, if the YouTube creator goes with Resolve on a Mac or FCP on a Mac, Apple still gets the hardware sale, which is all the really counts for them.
I think we simply use the tools that are best for each one of us.
I am a freelancer and use FC 90 % of the time because it works great for me even for color grading.
I also use AE when needed or Motion when needed. I also use animation software.
i can also assure you that, AE for example , has a lot of things that are not logical in the workflow or that some shortcut are simply not there.
I live with it and adapt.
I also downloaded Resolve but since I didn't need it it sleeps in my folder in a compressed state.
So can FC get better. Most certainly but I don't lose any sleep over this as it works for me fine.
I also noted many of the good points in this discussion.
My two freelancer cents.
Oliver whilst I entirely agree with your assessment of where FCP appears to be positioned, this product is named the same as its predecessor, which although initially very disruptive, was hugely respected and loved by the traditional Pro community.
You can't "un-think" the ideas of clip relationships, range-based Keywording and Role tags, and there is no reason why these refinements and innovations can't be used by any editor. Yet I can't even get a debate started on how powerful these features are, with my respected and esteemed editor colleagues.
What on earth happened? 10 years of trying to use this app in the Broadcast space, has left me exhausted, and labelled a crank. This is not right. Actually Media Composer has had more features updates in the last couple of years than FCP.
It would take very little to get FCP at least back to where it was in 2011.The video literacy debate remains relevant and so does the democratisation of editing. But just a bit of marketing from Apple and commitment to follow through on half a dozen basic feature requests, from an experienced cohort of editors, that know a thing or two about editing, would make this such a good NLE for all.
Every update, big or small, has moved the ball forward incrementally, but the real seismic shift occurred at the introduction of FCPX when they dispensed with tracks and went with the magnetic timeline and they jettisoned bins and went with keywording, roles and a meta-data based approach. Once you've used (and appreciated) FCPX's connected-clip based approach, any return to track-based editing seems slow and clunky. I have been using DaVinci Resolve, alongside FCPX since I ditched Apple Color ten years ago, for most of my color and finishing work, but I cannot bring myself to do a "creative" edit project in Resolve. It still feels awkward and earthbound.
FCPX is sui generis among NLEs so when I hear that Resolve is "running rings" around FCP with YouTubers, I have to laugh because although I think Resolve, Premiere and Avid are somewhat interchangeable, FCP stands alone for its style of editing and either you prefer that or you don't. Everything else (shared libraries, mixing tools, media management) can be improved with FCPX (I still haven't dropped the X) but the essential approach to editing is so different that the superiority or lack of certain features seem to be minor quibbles, relatively speaking.