Apple has finally updated their popular flagship non-linear editing tool Final Cut Pro. Released on Tuesday, June 21, this updated version is called Final Cut Pro X (that's 'ten' not 'ex'). In all fact, this is not really an update to version 7. This is version 1.0 of a whole new Final Cut Pro.
Previously, Final Cut Pro was only available as part of Apple's Final Cut Studio 3 package, which was priced just under $1,000. While this may seem a bit steep, it was a complete suite of media applications including - Final Cut Pro 7, Motion 4, Soundtrack Pro 3, Color 1.5, Compressor 3.5, and DVD Studio Pro 4. The new Final Cut Pro X (FCPX) is now sold separately. It is also only available through the Mac App Store. The price - $299.
FCPX is a completely new reworking of Final Cut Pro. This is not going to be welcome news to professionals who make their living working with the older Studio 3 suite. This new version cannot open FCP7 projects. It cannot output separate clips to Motion for effects. It cannot output separate audio tracks for clean-up in an audio editor. Final Cut Pro X has a whole new workflow to editing. One that Apple thinks most editors old and new will love.
FCPX has been completely rewritten and compiled to take advantage of the many new technologies available in the more modern versions of Mac OS X. Two of these new technologies are Open-CL and Core Animation. These two pieces add to the look, feel, and speed of the new FCPX. Oh, did I mention that it is completely 64-bit. FCPX can now take full advantage of as much RAM as you can stuff into a Mac.
Apple claims that FCPX is a revolution. Of course, this is ad speak. However, FCPX does have a new dynamic editing system. They call it the 'Magnetic Timeline. Seeing it in action is pretty amazing. Clips can be added and moved around quickly and easily. When you move a new clip to the timeline, it will automatically slide existing footage over to make room. It slides it over, keeping everything together, which includes any additional audio, b-roll, titles, or additional graphics/animations. The reverse is also true. When you want to delete a clip on the timeline, hit delete and everything snaps closed to fill in the gap. This removes the possibility of having unwanted black space. There are things called gap clips that you can leave in place of a deleted clip, if you are trying to keep your timing the same.
Some other impressive new features are Compound Clips combining a sequence into a single object, an Inline Precision Editor allows for quick clip adjustments including ripple, roll, slip, and slide edits, and Auditions allows an editor to assign several versions of a clip (like multiple angles) and easily swap them in and out.
Apple has basically unbundled Studio. Gone are SoundTrack Pro, Color, and DVD Studio Pro. These Apps might be gone, but some of their functionality has been folded into FCPX. There are plenty of audio sweetening tools and easy color adjustments inside the new FCPX. Discs can be burned inside the program. As far as I can tell there is no way to create menu structures. Hopefully more features will come later or maybe some companies will be able to create add-ons for FCPX to help fill in the feature gaps.
Available as separate Apps are Motion 5 and Compressor 4. Motion is Apple's amazing media composing tool. It is used to create custom transitions, titles, and other 2D/3D effects. It also allows for high-quality keying effects. You may know this as "green-screen". You can film someone in front of a solid colored background, usually either green or blue. With Motion you can replace the background with practically anything, a still, computer CG, or other video. Probably the most common use for this is the good ol' weatherman/weathergirl in front of a weather map.
Compressor 4 is used to convert video files from one format to another. After you are done editing a project you will need to save it in a format used for distribution. This could be mpeg2 for DVDs, H.264 for anything from the web up to Blu-Ray, or even something you can watch on an iPod/iPhone/iPad. Compressor is fast and can be highly customized and files can be prepared using a batch list. When you find a setting for your output format you can save it for later use. There are plenty of presets to use too. Motion and Compressor are only available on the new Mac App Store and are priced at only $50 each. Motion 5 for only $49 has to be the best deal ever for such a powerful motion-graphics tool. (Note: you don't have to have Final Cut to run Motion.)
FCPX, Motion, and Compressor all need a fairly new Mac. Minimum requirements need at least an Intel Core 2 Duo processor, 2GB RAM (4GB recommended), and lots of hard drive space (3GB for FCPX, 2GB for Motion, and 1GB for Compressor). Apple also recommends an Open-CL compatible video card that can display at least 1280x768 pixels or higher, a DVD burner for DVD production, and a Blu-Ray burner for Blu-Ray production. The faster and more cores your processor has the better. The faster and more VRAM your video card has the better.
As far as I can tell, Final Cut Studio is gone. Also gone is Final Cut Express, which was perfect for those who found iMovie too simplistic but couldn't handle the major bank account hit that Studio would take. Since FC Express was priced at $200, Apple is betting that anyone who was interested in Express will go with the new FCPX. No word on upgrade or educational pricing, but I wouldn't expect to see anything in that department right away.
Apple created a revolution with the original iMovie and then Final Cut Pro back in 1999. When Final Cut Pro 3 came along, many TV and movie studios started using it as their main editing system. The new Final Cut Pro X is not for everyone, but it is ideal for those who find the new iMovie too limiting. If you are an aspiring filmmaker, or you just want to create great looking videos for home or work, then Final Cut Pro X is priced right and will give you all the tools needed to complete almost any project. Add the amazing bargain of Motion 5 for $49 and you can start making truly professional level video.