Since graduating college and entering into the world of post production, it seems like everyone asks the question: Which editing program do you prefer, Avid or Final Cut? In one corner you have Avid, the old reliable used by seasoned professionals around the globe. In the other corner is Final Cut, the new kid on the block with a lot of promise. With the editing world divided, and a large amount of work moving from film and tape to file based work flows, both programs have their pros and cons, but Final Cut was said to be taking the lead. With great expectations for future versions, we all waited eagerly to test out the latest and greatest from Apple: Final Cut Pro X. After reading about it, using it, and seeing a live demonstration by a certified technician, it is clear that Final Cut Pro X missed its mark. In a world where Apple can do no wrong, they sure lost the match this time.
Many things have changed from Final Cut Pro 7 to Final Cut Pro X. For one thing, there is a change in language that editors must learn. What was once called a “project” has become an “event.” What was a “sequence” is now a “project.” “Log and transfer” became “import from camera,” “bins” became “keyword collections,” “subclips” became “range-based keywords,” and the list goes on and on. Many of the hot keys have changed as well, but the keyboard is customizable and was only changed to support the new features. For those who rely on autosave, you better reevaluate your work flow. There is no autosave vault in Pro X because Apple finds it unnecessary. Because the program is always saving at its current point and rendering in the background, there is no need for ye olde vault. If you want to save a version of your edit, do so by duplicating it and preserving one copy. If you are running on OS X Lion, you can also take advantage of “versions,” which creates a new version of the document every time you open it. While these changes may be exciting for new editors, the reinvention of the editing wheel comes with some confusion. Imagine two editors trying to communicate about a project they are working on. If one is working in Final Cut Pro X and the other in Pro 7, I figure it will take them a day to figure out what the other is saying. Not to mention, Pro X is not compatible with Pro 7 files, so if you have projects and media in storage, don’t get rid of your Pro 7 software because Pro X won’t open a thing. Final Cut Pro X is very different from Pro 7, and while Apple is gung-ho about pushing “out with the old and in with the new,” the change may be a little too abrupt for most of their professional users.
Final Cut X is not an upgrade to Pro 7; It is its own entity. That being said, it wasn’t born with all of the same features as Pro 7 users are accustomed to, but does have a handful of thoughtful surprises. For example, there is no multi cam editing. Apple has announced that it intends to release this feature as an update, but for now there is a work around using clip synchronization, which delivers a similar effect. There is no multi track editing. Many editors are used to layering tracks, but Pro X has a new trackless timeline system that works around primary and secondary storylines. Instead of adding tracks, one would connect clips or create synchronized or compound clips for more complex editing. Final Cut Pro X does have a new scrubbing feature that allows you to roll the mouse over clips in the event, and plays back a thumbnail with audio as you scrub. You can set in and out points within the thumbnail and it makes a visible outline around the segment of the clip that is being used. Another new and useful feature allows for metadata to be linked to a clip. By typing in key terms and adding them to a clip, or a group of clips, you are able to quickly search for media and organize your clips easily. However, there is no reconnect command when media is offline. This is because reconnecting media was at times too difficult and there was more chance for reconnecting the wrong clips. Pro X uses an identifier that reads individual clips so that you can never reconnect to the wrong item. For editors who work with offline edits, not being able to disconnect and reconnect to high-res media doesn’t sound very promising. Final Cut Pro X certainly has some new, improved, and snazzy features, but it cut out too many basic features to be considered an upgrade.
When it comes to exporting, any editor today will tell you that options are necessary. With so many codecs floating around, and device compatibility always on the brain, professional editors need a variety of export options in order to make proper deliverables for clients. In Pro 7, one could export with current settings to a QuickTime movie, use QuickTime conversion and set all of the export parameters, or export to compressor for even more control. In Pro X, under the share menu, it is extremely easy to link your video directly to YouTube, Facebook, Vimeo and more. Unfortunately, when you try to export your project from within Final Cut, you only have ten settings to choose from- six of which are ProRes and h264. Apple suggested that if you need more control to change the export parameters, you may send to compressor after you purchase it for $50. Apple also confirmed that at this time Pro X does not support export functionality for EDL, AAF, OMF, or XML files. Again, it seems as though Apple is taking out more than they are putting in, but insist that in the near future there will be plug-ins that can be purchased to access the missing features… but remember folks, everything is à la carte!
Since Final Cut Pro X has startled many in the professional demographic, editors are searching out alternative editing programs that are willing to take a bite out of the Apple while it’s down. One program that I have yet to use, but have been hearing a lot about, is Sony Vegas Pro 11. It is a multifunctional editing suite that allows users to import, edit, and even render in separate projects- all at once. It also offers stereoscopic 3D editing and Blue Ray authoring. Vegas started as an audio editing suite and later became an audio and video NLE system, so Sony boasts that you don’t have to switch between programs to edit different production elements, particularly audio. Vegas offers 32- and 64-bit support, but only runs on Windows. If you are looking for something that is Mac friendly, you can opt for the 64-bit Adobe Premiere Pro CS5.5. Premiere has been the topic of conversation lately, with features offering GPU acceleration that gives speed to editing, rendering, and even allows you to drag entire sequences into Media Encoder and begin exporting while still editing a different project. As long as your system supports it, the Mercury Playback Engine blasts through effects, transitions, and complex long or short format edits with ease. It offers a new keying system as well as support for many of the newest cameras on the market. Before you get excited, be sure to check system compatibility as well as any hardware that you may have… We all know that some brands don’t play nice in the sandbox, and what starts as a simple upgrade can easily turn into a month-long nightmare. Know your options, be brave enough to experiment with free trials, and test out all of the competition.
While some say that professional editors should stand by Final Cut Pro X and watch it evolve, everything that I have seen about the program suggests it wasn’t designed for professional editors in the first place. Upgrading a program and moving forward with new features and new technology is understandable and even necessary, but Apple made too many changes, too quickly. While the majority of work is now following a file-based workflow, there are still clients and editors that work with analog formats. By taking away editing essentials, Apple lost a good portion of their professional following. Final Cut Pro X has many promising new features that are amazing, but what would be more amazing is if they added those features to a great program that already existed: Final Cut Pro 7. What we have here is a glorified iMovie. It’s quick, efficient, and perfect for the consumer who wants to edit home videos. What many users will find is that Pro X is an unfinished product. Sure, with upgrades and plug-ins it will become something totally different, but that doesn’t fix what we have in the present. Many, including myself, want to love Pro X, but until it matures, I am afraid it’s not possible. For these reasons, many professional editors are choosing Avid or Adobe Premiere Pro over Final Cut. Final Cut Pro X entered the ring, got knocked out in the first round, and is now trying desperately to get back on its feet.