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Initial take on Final Cut Pro X

Its been a crazy time since the launch of FCPX last week - a regular supernova in the twitterverse.  I hit go on the App Store the moment it popped up in the UK.  I was there for the debut at NAB, I remember the buzz by the end of that fateful Supermeet.  The very first impression was not a functional one but a financial one.  The days of cut $ and replace £ seemed to have ended with the App Store.  So the price that got the Supermeet crowd on their feet was still present for a UK audience.  As expected the price wasn't quite like for like with FCP7 due to the unbundling, but the ancillary apps were less than I expected both in terms of number and cost.

Unfortunately, the excitement of the launch soon turned to howls of protests.  Have the iMovie Pro protagonists been vindicated?  Have the Pro community been left out in the cold?  I haven’t deep dived into the software myself.  I did enough playing to decide that I needed to pull back and have a good look at this new paradigm and decide how best to engage in it or whether to engage at all!

I have read a lot of the comments and listened to the arguments for and against and I think I am finally in a position to have a draft opinion.  Not a final one, because that is going to need me to have a lot more direct use of using the software myself.

Is it Pro?

“No, it isn’t” is the most obvious answer but you have to be very careful how you define “Pro”.  FCPX is a Non Linear Editing tool and so the profession or craft you would associate that with is Editors - be that for films or television.  As a collaborative tool it is severely limited.  A situation compounded by Apple both failing to provide a transitional route and killing off FCP7 with almost indecent haste.  Although I don’t fit in this user category myself, I understand their frustration.

However, within the admittedly high walls that limit its functionality, the software is certainly capable of producing professional results.  The ground-up rebuild does mean that the software is capable of professional output in a shorter space of time with less recourse to additional programs or plugins than its predecessor.  With so few plug-ins available thats just as well but that was always going to be the case when 64bit arrived.  I’ll concede that some of that new functionality maybe a bit too “black box” for the purist but there are some exciting things both in FCPX and in Motion 5.

Is it the NLE for the rest of us?

Well, Apple will tell you that is iMovie still.  FCPX is still a step up from there but an easier step than FCP7 used to be.  For someone like myself who is an enthusiast who aspires to professional results then its a very good fit functionally and financially.  I can also see it suiting creative professionals who are not dedicated editors.  

The demand for video content is growing almost exponentially but much of this growth lies outside the realms of traditional post houses.  I think this is the market Apple is gunning for and, if it exceeds, could be very lucrative.  Would Apple forsake the high-end customers for this market.  I think they would...I think they have.  I think they will gamble that the high-end will move or someone else will fill the gap even if they don’t.  I do expect to see FCPX change quite quickly though.  Its the App Store way of doing things.

Choosing a different path

Why bother learning a new paradigm, isn’t it easier just to jump ship and go to Premiere?  I have been using Premiere more over the last year than FCP7.  There have been a couple of reasons for this.  The first is I have been shooting nearly everything on DSLR and Premiere handles DSLR footage much better than FCP7.  I have a Mac Pro with 8 cores, 12GB RAM and a Quadro 4000 and FCP7 runs pretty much the same as it does on the older iMac it replaced.  Only in Premiere did my Mac Pro really fly.  I have been trying to learn After Effects and the integration via Dynamic Link is really cool.  If you are a big user of Photoshop and After Effects then its sort a no brainer.  The major downside is cost.  Most people will buy the Production Premium pack and that is a big chunk of change.  The full version is an order of magnitude more expensive and even the upgrade from 5.0 to 5.5 is dearer.  Even the month-by-month subscription cost is close to the outright cost of FCPX.

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