Final Cut Pro X Or Really iMovie Pro?

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Apple introduced Final Cut Pro X earlier this week with the tag line “Everything just changed in post.” I guess it depends on what you mean by the word ‘changed’. Apple said they showed the pre-release version to professional editors and their jaws dropped. One Academy Award-winning editor said he was “blown away” by the modern and fast software that let’s you focus on telling your story without worrying about the technical details. Now that it’s released, many critics and early Final Cut Pro X downloaders are telling a different story. Some are even suggesting they will jump ship from what many are calling iMovie Pro or much worse.

Out of 742 customer ratings on the Apple Store right now, 45% are giving the software one star, the lowest rating possible. Comments include:

  • “It’s as if they took a beautifully written novel and turned it into a children’s book.”
  • “This makes no sense. How is it i can import a iMovie project but not a FCP project… What was apple thinking.”
  • “Final Cut ‘Pro’ implies this is an app for working professionals. It’s not.”
  • “I was excited about the new features and 64-bit support, but after running it for the past day, the sad reality has set in that the product we ultimately paid for takes editing in Final Cut Pro back at least 7 years.”

There were also reports reviews were disappearing from the Mac App Store only for Final Cut Pro X. Was it an highly coincidental glitch or something more? The reviews are now back and make for interesting reading.

In fairness, 27% of the customer reviews rate it 5 stars. The average now is 2 and a half, making it the lowest rated Apple software on the Apple store, along with the just released companion Compressor app. For some long-time Final Cut Pro fans, we may be at MobileMe levels of dissatisfaction. (See Steve Job’s comment, as reported by Fortune, to the MobileMe’s team: “You’ve tarnished Apple’s reputation.”)

Many complaints center around lost features. We used to be able to do this, and now we can’t. You can’t work with existing FCP Suite projects. This is one of those updates where you don’t want to overwrite the old app with the new one. Most editors will need to keep the older copy of the program on their hard drive and hope the two versions don’t cause a problem. Or else, you could spend the extra time and effort to install the new version on a disk partition.

There’s no external video monitoring, no EDL imports (if you don’t know what that is, then it won’t be a problem for you), no backup application disk so good luck re-installing the software on the road without a good internet connection, and lots of unanswered questions about site licensing. There’s also no multicamera editing.

Is this negative response just a very short-term response from editors who have gotten used to doing things the old way and don’t want to change? Clearly, there are some amazing new features in FCP X. The 64-bit architecture means much better performance. The new tools such as the magnetic timeline, clip connections, compound clips, and audition seem like intuitive, great features. The ability to work natively with DSLR formats will be very useful.

Of course, this is version 10.0 of the software. It will only get better and new features will be added. Third-party plug-ins that don’t work now will likely work in future releases. As with most prior versions of Final Cut Pro, I’ve always waited until the .1 version to start using it on projects that really matter.

But, editor Walter Biscardi wrote:

“I simply will not cut Apple some slack because it’s a 1.0 release. That’s complete BS. … The developers at Apple, who do NOT make a living as a video editor, decided that they would completely re-invent video editing based on their preconceived notion of what a video editor does. If it’s not right the first time, we’ll just develop more features, on our own timeline without telling anyone what we’re doing, until we get it right.”

Biscardi continues, “for now, and it’s sad for me to say this, I’m done with the game. This was the product that completely built my company starting in 2000 / 2001 and now it’s time for me to say goodbye. As I tell everyone else, if the tool isn’t working for you, then find a tool that does.”

On the other hand, Filmmaker magazine wrote:

“Great design, like great music, is almost always foreign at first, if not disturbingly strange. You have to spend time with it. But if it is great, and if you invest your attention, it will change the way you look at the world.”

John Gruber, who wrote a roundup on the backlash, predicts “a two-year transition where the previous Final Cut Pro suite remains available, whilst the new Final Cut Pro X suite regains lost features.” Robert Scoble tweeted “I don’t care what the pros say, I love Apple’s new Final Cut Pro… Great companies piss off users sometimes.”

At TechCrunch TV, we use Final Cut to edit most of our content. We’ll be testing FCP X to see if it’s a good fit for our productions. My initial hunch is iMovie users will love it, but its going to be awhile before more professional editors start adopting it.