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My thoughts on Final Cut Pro X

Apple just gave a sneak preview of Final Cut Pro X at the NAB Supermeet. I wasn't there so thanks to everyone who tweeted and posted photos of the event.

There's a lot to like - 64-bit Cocoa rewrite, OpenCL and Grand Central Dispatch support, color management to prevent gamma shifts, no rendering or transcoding, native support for DSLRs and many more features. You can read the full list here.

Apple only talked about new features so there was no mention of existing features that had made it into the new version. Consequently the presentation left more questions than it answered - what about XML, EDLs, tape workflows, scopes, DVD output? We won't find that out until the release.

There is an emphasis on automation in the new version - it can automatically detect audio hum and remove it, and the magnetic timeline can simplify L- and J-cuts by automatically moving clips to a new layer to prevent clip collisions. I think this is great, as anything that makes me a faster editor makes me a better editor, however I can see a lot of cases where this would be unwanted and I hope it can be disabled when necessary.

My favorite features are the 64-bit rewrite, the lack of rendering, the new keyframe editor and Plural Eyes-style audio syncing.

The feature I'm most unsure about is dynamic tracks. Tracks will appear and disappear as you move clips around and new tracks will be added when you use the magnetic timeline. This could cause organizational problems if you always put music on tracks 8-9 for instance, and it would be a nightmare if you need to output a multi-channel show. Apple sought professional feedback so I assume this issue was brought up and that they have a solution for it.

There was no mention of other apps in the suite. Final Cut Pro X will be sold in June via the App Store so this means it will be a self-contained app. There is no way to sell a group of apps via the store, however it would still be possible to sell them separately like iWork. It also means there is no way of upgrading if you own an old version of Final Cut Pro, however the $299 price point is the same as the FCP 6 to FCP 7 upgrade cost.

What about my top 5 developer requests? Number 1 looks to be done; I'm not sure about any of the others.

Although I haven't tried the new version, I'm cautiously optimistic. There are a lot of features designed for speeding things up and that's always a good thing. It's also clear that Apple isn't trying to do everything, so it leaves a lot of gaps for third-party developers like myself to fill. As it is an App Store app, it won't overwrite the old version of Final Cut Studio so you can still go back if anything is missing.

The new version would be great for a lot of my smaller projects for the web but I don't yet know how well it would translate to larger projects where I need Cinema Tools, tape ingest / output and DVD creation. That's something I'll only find out when it's released.

P.S. Anyone else prefer the old icon to the new one?

Update: "Today was just a sneak peak of Final Cut Pro, stay tuned," an Apple representative told The Loop. This implies that there may be additional apps available separately.

Posted by Jon Chappell on Apr 13 2011 to Apple, Final Cut Studio, Analysis