Why I Love Final Cut Pro X (The minority report, despite the tar and feathering by my peers.)

NOTE: Since writing this post, I have found serious flaws in Final Cut Pro X. Please see the follow-up post “How FCP X Broke My Heart.”

Okay, first sentence; it’s not perfect. But something this revolutionary, never is. In the words of Morpheus, you need to “Free your mind.”


iMovie Pro...Not!

I should just say that I have been editing video as a profession since 1985 and I’ve worked on everything from old CMX tape editors to KEM flatbed film editors to most the NLEs out there, I’ve edited national PBS shows and I teach Final Cut Pro editing at the local community college.
The most important thing I ask of an NLE is that it be fast and be intuitive. On these two counts, I’ve found Final Cut Pro X to be both. I’ll also add the caveat that while I’ve only logged about 16 hours using the new app, I’ve been able to do some pretty amazing stuff in that 16 hours.
Before I get to all the complaints that editors are posting (and they are well documented, to say the least) I want us all to take a deep breath and look at the bright side of life, as it relates to video editing. FCP7 was getting old, editors have been flocking to Premiere because of 64bit architecture, and “native editing” which FCP7 didn’t do. Also for the five editors in the world that edit 4K on a regular basis, FCP7 didn’t handle that workflow , so you had to use proxies (boo hoo!) Well, ladies and gents, FCPX does do 64bit, “Native” editing and 4K. I’ll actually use that 4K editing for time lapses, so hooray for 4K! The 64 bit is nice and in case you haven’t noticed we’ve now got a whole new host of 64 bit effects, They alone are worth your $300 that you are crying about spending on a full-featured NLE. It’s even got “Looks” included. I do love Stu and Red Giant, but for the price of Red Giant Looks, I’ve got a whole NLE attached.

Titles and Text sucked in FCP7, They suck a whole lot less in FCPX, font previews is just one little thing that makes me edit faster, and everyone knows a fast editor is an employed editor. Oh yeah, those nice 64bit effects and transitions are rendering in background while I keep editing, I wonder if I’m going to miss the “render wander” hmm… no more billing for watching the render bar, no wonder some editors are upset.
Video editors hate making friggin’ slide shows. But almost every friggin’ project involves animating Joe the photographer’s wonderful stills into the project. At times I’ve contemplated (gag) going into iMovie just to use the Ken Burns effect. For the record, I hate iMovie and I would hate iMovie Pro, if that’s indeed what FCPX was (and it isn’t.) But if I can take a still sequence and Ken Burns it without having to key frame, that’s mo’ money in my pocket. Yet another FCPX feature that makes me a faster editor.
Once you get over the initial new GUI shock, FCPX turns out to be very intuitive. I was able to make some edits right away without even opening the Help menu, where all the documentation is stored, a far cry from the four volumes of dead tree manuals that came with FCP6. For me anyway, the trim window and the precision editor are far more intuitive than FCP7.  Slipping, sliding rippling, and extend edits are all a piece of cake. Also I have to mention how easy syncing is now. On FCP7 I have the Plural Eyes plug-in just to handle syncing dual system sound. I shoot with a DSLR, so most of the time I’m doing dual system sound. With FCP X it’s as easy as importing the sound clip and choosing “Synchronize Clip” from the Clip menu, that’s it ! It’s simple and just works.
I’ll have to say that initially I’m not a big fan of FCPX’s media management. You kinda have to get over the ideas of projects, sequences, and bins. And that’s sorta like saying you have to get over the idea of breakfast, lunch and dinner. And no “Save As” is just freaky. I’m thinking events are like projects used to be and projects are like sequences used to be. I’m still messing with this whole new paradigm, So I’m going to say that I need to mess with this more to judge it. But I will say this, there are those that are saying you can’t put footage on an external drive and that you can’t share projects and assets, That is just plain wrong. You can import clips to wherever you want, and FCPX can use them, it does give you the option to copy the clips to the same drive as your project file, but you can opt out if you wish. And you have menu options for sharing and copying assets and projects for another editor to use. It’s no Final Cut Server, but big post houses that are running FCP Server are going to stick with FCP7 as long as their slow moving corporate giant minds will allow.
That brings me to “native” editing. Why the hell do you want to edit h.264 on a SD card natively? Because you like to be slow? Okay, most of you are smart enough to transfer your cards to the hard drive where you can import them into the NLE for editing. But then you say “I’m editing H.264 natively” you may think you are, but for all those edits you’re making, the NLE has to transcode and make I frames and reconstruct the GOP structure, that’s just the way it is. So while FCPX will let you do that now, the smarter way to edit is to let FCPX turn all that long GOP crap into beautiful 422 I framed ProRes for you in the background while you edit away “natively” and when you export your project , you’ve got a nice archival quality ProRes copy of your program. You DO have an archival ProRes copy of every program that you create, don’t you?
If you are worried about output formats, spring $50 for the new compressor or use your old compressor on your exported master file. And if you need to go to tape, you really should already have AJA or Matrox or Black Magic hardware. DVD? You probably already have DVD Studio Pro and the DVD standard isn’t going anywhere soon, so upgrading DVDSP is pointless. Blu-ray? You can output to an external burner and you even have limited custom menu options available in Compressor.
At this point I should point you to the excellent David Pogue article where he talks to Apple product managers to dispel many of the myths about FCPX. You can read that article here: Pro editors weigh-in on Final Cut Pro X
Now, let me tell you what i hate/ dislike or need to have added to FCPX. I need AAF export or XML export to send projects to After Effects. I need round-tripping or multitrack export to Soundtrack Pro or (gag) OMF export to send audio to Poor Tools (SIC.) Multi-Cam would be nice, although I don’t use it much in FCP7. I need more numeric input options. There are a lot of the time where I’m editing “by the numbers”, so knowing where to type in time code numbers for ins, outs and durations would be great. You should be able to tag clips on import like the old “Log and Transfer.” I’ve found in the “Import from Devices” window that you can import partial clips from devices, but you can’t label them in that window before importing them.
Finally, I’m going to directly quote David Pogue as to the bottom line:
“Professional editors should (1) learn to tell what’s really missing from what’s just been moved around, (2) recognize that there’s no obligation to switch from the old program yet, (3) monitor the progress of FCP X and its ecosystem, and especially (4) be willing to consider that a radical new design may be unfamiliar, but may, in the long term, actually be better.”

3 thoughts on “Why I Love Final Cut Pro X (The minority report, despite the tar and feathering by my peers.)

  1. Peter Liddicoat

    I have been playing with it for a week and even competed in an editors challenge last week after using FCP X for eight hours. I absolutely love it. It grows in you. I have been with FCP fro 10 years and was waiting to evaluate FCPX before moving to PP.

  2. Jay Leonhart

    Final Cut Pro X has a lot of nice intuitive improvements, but has some mysteries that did not occur on Final Cut 7. But I like it a lot so far. It just requires some learning.

  3. jacqui

    I also started to fall in love with fcpx, very fast and creative. Maybe I just rushed into it without understanding where all the files are stored, and how, but my system became slower and slower. Had to finish the project, so recut in fcp7….have to eat….but will return to fcpx..I like it…will like it more when bugs are ironed out…can you iron a bug???

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