Final Cut Pro X First Look Review

I try very hard to walk into everything with an objective mindset, and try to find the pros and have them outweigh the cons.  I have to admit, despite the screenshots I was really excited for Final Cut Pro X.  If you really look at it, this is the first major update that we have seen to video editing in a long time, other than iMovie, and anyone that considers themselves more than just a home movie editor really doesn’t use iMovie.  I will be the first to admit it’s great when it comes to making slide shows for a sequence of still images.

Final Cut Pro X Meters When I first opened Final Cut Pro X I was disappointed, mainly because I have a certain layouts I work  with depending on the project that I use, and I rarely find myself ever using the standard layout that Apple provides you with, which is almost what you have with this version of Final Cut. The irony is that during the loading process of FCPX there is a status of loading window layouts.  This is what you get: you don’t even get audio meters to start with, but it seems with the way that everything is automated by default, why would the default user know what the meters are, or really care to use them. (I take back the meters, they are there, more iMovie-ish but we still get full sized meters near the timeline … if you want)  I will say that I enjoy the darker colors, I think that they are easier on the eyes then the lighter color scheme of Final Cut Pro 7.

Simply by default it’s set to do all the work for you: to copy, import and render media,which I have already found to be undesirable.  At first I was excited about this idea.  I have friends that  can edit off a CF Card and when they unplug that card their media is still going to be there. Well theoretically with FCPX it will be there, as the software’s intent is to allow you to edit off the card, copying the media then rendering it into an “optimized format” (ProRes).  I love this idea, no longer do you have to log and transfer and wait for the clips to transcode, a huge thumbs up to Apple for doing this, yet it will “optimize”, I mean transcode, in the background, which I found to bring my 17″ Macbook Pro with a 2.8 first gen i7 to a crawling hault.  FCPX so far has worked surprising well with native formats, so it’s not a huge deal for me so far not optimizing media.

FCPX will transfer your media and organize it for you based on event.  It takes the need to organize and care for your media out of your mind, no longer needing to set scratch disk.  However if you want to save to one hard drive, keep your media to another, and maybe  have your autosaves go to a dropbox (instant back of project files) then you have to tweak with the folders, something I haven’t tried yet myself, but will do so eventually, since I really enjoy having my auto-saves back up by themselves.  That’s right, version auto-saves are gone, there’s no longer an auto-save folder, so don’t make too many changes since you might not like as it might not be that easy to go back to them later and change your project. Continuing my rant on final cut’s import and organizing, it doesn’t like any media outside of the event folder it makes on each hard drive you use. Okay sure you have the option to leave your pre-organized media intact and not copy it, sort of.  Simply put, when you tell FCPX not to move and copy media it creates Alias for that media within the event folder.  This bugs me, I am not sure why I am upset that it’s making the Aliases, but it just annoys me, and at the same time I really hope Spotlight doesn’t index these aliases. I get a feeling that it could be rather annoying (Inserts disclaimer that I just don’t know how Spotlight handles Aliases in general, they are something that I myself never use unless the system decides I am going to)

The software is kind enough to auto-recognize drives, and events, the new project save format, think iMovie on this one, and display them on the side for you.  User be warned, should something go wrong with a project and you get  a corrupt file then your final cut will crash since it auto loads every project.  I have already had something happen and Final Cut Pro X would crash on open because of trying to open a bad project, I mean Event. Now you have to think of the event as your save file, and a project as your sequence, it’s the easy way to describe it, but it’s not exactly how it goes.  The days of custom frame sizes, and having to match a sequence’s compressor and format are gone.  Either FCPX does it for you, or you can’t change it.  I’ll miss custom frame sizes. Say you were recutting something for a banner on a website (yes I get those clients that want odd ball sized banners of the top of their websites, and yes I hate them ….  but I suppose you can call them a necessary evil). Or Should you have two events with that same name, well you made a giant mistake there because there is no easy way of telling which Event you are now assigning your project to. It is nice enough to tell you what your video settings are going to be when you let it choose for you.  However the clip I dropped on was shot on an HVX200, which only does 1080i/720p, so 1080p as a recommended setting beats me, but I am going to roll with it for now.


Tracks are gone, as you might know, but the little red line on the top that tells you that you need to render is still there! (Just i ncase you were worried!) Why dropping video on to a project that is set according to the video needs rendering is beyond me, but as my laptop tries to fly away the line disappears.  Now I am almost out of space on my hard drive so where rendered media goes when the drive files beats me. I know in Final Cut Pro 7 you can dictate a second render location for that very reason.  For now I can just hope that it does take all the space up so I can figure out what really happens.

Linking of files is awesome, attaching a file to another and having it stay and be connected to that file is a great feature.  I have a DSLR (if you’re one of those people a HDSLR) with a Zoom DAC, linking files to clips is going to be awesome, synch audio once, and never have to worry about it again, You can’t complain there.  Now the downfall that I noticed a few seconds into the edit is if it gets synced/linked to a clip you aren’t going to want later, it goes too.  So say I have editing to a song, you know a highlight reel and it gets linked the whole song is gone along with the clip should you change your mind.  You can do what I have done, which is link it to a blank clip, a slug so be it, but those actually aren’t that easy to create with the magnetic timeline.  WHY IS it so hard to unlink the music from a clip. I can drag up and have it be a part of my main layer easily, I just want it to be its own track.

Bear with me, I am writing this as I go, and as I am working with this, I think Final Cut is rendering in the background, but I can’t be sure, other than my window to type, my whole systems has kind of hit a pause for the time being … Okay, I am force quitting as Final Cut Seems to be jammed. for the time being…  I have restarted, it defaulted to opening the first Event’s Project however all previous work has been saved, I for the life of me can’t get my music to detach from the video clip so I have “replaced with blank clip” and have continued.

I grabbed a clip of a cop car speeding by, and decided it would be nice to have the video speed up as the car got closer.  The first thing I did was retime, once selected you can retime based off of  aset 100% (Normal) 2X, 4X, 8x.  Or you can go to the retime menu, yes there is a dedicated fixed menu baked into the interface now, and set options there.  Well I didn’t find any easy way to remap time and speed such as the time remapping in Final Cut Pro 7, which to be honest  remapping never seemed to be simple with that either, though you could do it.The problem is, it’s tiered, I want one speed change that varies, the tiering is extremely obvious in the video, not at all what I am looking for, so for now I am going to just settle with speeding up the video.  As you might have notice “Detaching the Audio” was simple and allowed me to retime the audio and video separately.

Now talking about audio, there seems to be a lot of auto tools for auto hum remover, but I haven’t gone into testing them, nor do I really plan on doing so for this article, however if you have been doing any research you’ll see that there are a lot complaints about the lack of OMF.  OMF allows you to export audio in a manner best for importing into ProTools or other pro-audio applications.  You’ll notice that since there is no new Soundtrack Pro, or at least news of a new Soundtrack Pro, round-tripping audio is dead, if you really wanted to you could do all of your audio in ProTools or Logic, and compress it down to a flat file from there, but you would have to start with a clean project in either application and go from there. I was truly surprised this being an Apple application there would be at the very least a Send to Logic menu option, but there is no such thing here.

Something that  surprised me and I love is the new all in one viewer window.  Now I hate iMovie, I just think that it’s counter intuitive for pro level editing, and I hated the idea of anything that was remotely iMovie moving to the other end (well other than the fact you never render in iMovie, oh and the much broader support for codex) but I really love what they have done with the viewer.  I love viewer, working in the viewer is the most efficient way of editing in my opinion.  They have taken the viewer and made a it 100x better, and gave it an iMovie feel.  It’s awesome, and to be honest it’s the scrubbing that makes it awesome, it’s so easy to scrub to find what you want in the video.You can use your normal “I” and “O” keyboard shortcuts and even insert and overlay all from the viewer.  This is probably one of the top features that was added to Final Cut Pro X, and I really wish there was a way to move this feature to Final Cut Pro 7.  I don’t care whether or not it listed clips, and I dislike the filmstrip view of all clips.  You can see the separation of clips, titles, and information from them, but it just feels as if there is way too much information being thrown  at me all at once, and I don’t to have to deal with it all in one sweep.  I assume over time, this is something that I could get use to and learn to love but my first impression tells me that it’s not what I want, it’s just too much. What would make this better is if you were able to batch edit clips with this. Imagine being able to view all of your clips, set all your ins and outs at once and then bring them to the timeline/project, but you can still only manage one clip at a time, and by selecting another clip your previously set ins and outs are cleared. Come to think of it, FCPX does not save any of your in and out points in the viewer, which is a true let down as I commonly find myself marking the clips to exclude pre and post roll before selecting my final clip, essentially watching the clip in the viewer.

This brings me to scrubbing. Like iMovie, you can turn your mouse into an active scrubber for both audio and video.  You can turn it on and off, but I enjoy, I feel more efficient, almost as if every movement of my mouse is actually accomplishing something vs before where I felt like I was doing a lot more just navigating the interface ( I do consider myself pretty keyboard shortcut literate FYI) . Yes I thought that this little bit of information warranted for a whole paragraph.

Color Correcting is the next thing I wanted to mention.  I love Color, and I thought Apple providing Color with the Final Cut Studio Suite was one of the best choices they made.  Originally Color was called FinalTouch, and Apple bought out the company that made it in 2006.  From what I have read, to buy FinalTouch, it cost roughly around 25,000 a seat ( I don’t have credible sources so don’t quote me on that), and it really added a great touch to the software package.  Really in my opinion despite Final Cut Pro being behind the competition on the backend of the software, color made Final Cut Studio the leader it has become.  It was great, and well I shed a small tear as I said goodbye Color/FinalTouch, may you rest in peace. I must applaude apple though FCP X makes color correcting easy, that is if you don’t want a lot of control.  You lose your node based editing, a ton of controls and features, but the process becomes something everyone can do.  For the longest time I found Color intimidating, frightening, and just awesome. Then I learned how to use it, and fell in love.  I started making fun of Premiere fan boys because they couldn’t grasp the awesomeness of Color, and it’s gone, my soap box disappeared (unless it’s one of the yet to be released features).  My first thoughts were mixed. I mean, the idea of simple color matching, simple color adjusting, I really like it, though this if implemented right could make losing Color something I might be able to get by with … I opened up my video scopes and really lost hope, just based off the fact that I like to see all of my scopes in one panel. You essentially have a few options: you first choose the color you want to modify with the color mask, and the shape you want to modify with the shape mask (Note neither are dependent on the other) You then can adjust color, saturation and exposure.  I mean it’s there, it works well for simple color correcting, but it’s by no means Color.  With color you could do a lot of work creating looks and feels, working with primary and secondary corrections, and far better mask options.  I just feel let down. Sure, Apple provides you with a ton of presets and the ability to ad as many layers of color correction as you want, but I still feel like I was promised the worlds best cookie, and given a cheap cookie from the Walmart Bakery (yeah Walmart, don’t get mad, you know what I am talking about).

Compositing seems to take a big hit, it’s hard, I do not like it at all.  There’s no real time line to work on, you can set keyframes but can’t easily tell where they are or what they are really affecting.  I know that if you are really going to work on composting you’re gonna jump over to Motion or dare I say After Effects, but I found that there many cases before where I could just simply do a little work within FCP just to save myself the work of round-tripping, or having to export render import again.  Though I found that working with layers on the project line items would vanish.  I just don’t understand, the system is broken, and when you start working with multiple modifications, timing of them, it just becomes complicated, and confusing.  Really a step backwards in my opinion.

Now this is a quick look at a some of the features. There is  some good with this software. I think that foundation is a huge step forward, the way that the software works with media has potential to provide a step forward for Apple, but this to me isn’t professional.  There are still flaws, missing features, and WTFs.  I mean just adding a keyframe made FCPX want to render my entire clip, a keyframe that caused no changes to the media, or added no motion, essentially your before I do anything base keyframe caused a render, what?

I wanted to address some of the complaints and myths before I wrapped up this article.

Complaint: You can’t organize your media
Answer: You can, there are a couple ways to do this, you can either move all your files to where you want them before the edit, and then use that system of organization, or you can choose the drive you want to keep your media on, and FCP X will do all the work for you.  When you import the media you can choose to use folders as keywords, and then organize based of keywords.  At anytime you can assign keywords to your work and media and use those as a way to organize your media.

Complaint: Less controls over exporting, and no way to export EDLs, OMFs
Answer: Yes and no, Apple so far has taken a lot this out.  You can go third party, or if you need to customize your output you can use Compressor.  Though I disagree you should have to buy another program to export media from your NLE the way you want to.

Complaint: No Support to export to tape
Answer: Yes, which I think is a horrible idea.  Yes tapes are quickly becoming a thing of the past, but a lot people still use them.  They are a far more failure proof way of archiving backups.  I worked at place that had three on air stations inside of it.  When we were finished editing, we always split the audio, narration on one track, music on another and exported it to tape.  Why you might ask, well hard drives die, they can be dropped, they are vulnerable to power fluctuations, as where tapes can be put in a sealed container and kept safe with little worries for decades to come.  You might be able to buy hardware that does this for you, but I am still stuck on the idea that you shouldn’t have to buy hardware to do what software use to.

Complaint: Missing support for file formats
Answer: Format support for RED and a bunch of other cameras are missing.  My answer to that is wait, they are coming it takes time to build support for a ton of different formats, though FCP X has been in the works for more than two years now, why hadn’t they done this by now.  Rumors suggest that a lot of devs from around Apple got pulled to work in iOS development instead of software, it’s sad, but probably true

Complaint: Missing features such as multi-cam
Answer: We’ve become use to having a lot of features, and yes all the competition has it now, but do remember there as a a time that people worked without. If you can get compositing to work then you can setup your own multi-cam rig.  Sure not as great as the software one, but it’ll work till Apple provides it in an update.

The Good:

  • 64-Bit with Grand Central, far more powerful than previous versions
  • Interface look (not counting custom arrangements)
  • Media Handling: I mean rendering, management options, keywording, all cool features.
  • It’s simple, it’s going to add a bigger user base. That’s what Apple wants, though it’s alienating a dedicated group of people. I believe that there is more than editing to any project and given the tools that people that can really edit will shine and those who can’t won’t
  • A lot of good concepts from iMovie came over, concepts that will make editing easier, faster, better


  • A lot
  • A lot of bad concepts from iMovie came over, concepts that will make editing harder, slower, worse
  • It’s not professional, not yet at least, so where does a 500 seat house, or school go now, thats a lot invested in special hardware, and software to lose it
  • It’s too easy, doing complicated work is hard, or impossible
  • There is going to be a step learning curve, try before you give up on it.
  • It’s missing features, even Apple mentioned that.  Aperture was missing features when it came out but people say its better now
  • There’s no trial version, no 30 day free demo, which would have been great, though probably would hurt sales
  • FCP 7 is dead in the water, you probably won’t see updates and might have to switch if apple can’t over come the missing features


This is my first blog post like this so there will be considerable editing and revisions.
Thank you and goodnight

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