FINAL CUT PRO X. Is it really that bad or is it a tool for a new Pro category or: How I got a refund

Screen shot 2011 06 30 at 1 35 32 AM

UPDATE: I returned the software and got an immediate refund from Apple since the software is unusable for me. Please read why and how I returned it and got a refund.

Over and Underrated
I was super excited about the features that FCPX would bring when it was first introduced. Everybody was euphoric and excited to get it into their hands.

Then on Tuesday a week ago we could get it from the Mac App store and try it out. But before I downloaded it I was totally surprised when I saw the rating. 2.5 stars out of 5. That has been the worse rated app in its price category in the app store so far. So, I read a bunch of reviews carefully and I observed that people would give it either 4/5 stars or just 1 star.
Screen shot 2011 06 30 at 1 37 50 AM
To Buy or Not to Buy
I decided to give it a try and downloaded it to my computer. I also got the rippletraining.com tutorials from my friend Steve Martin (he is such an amazing guy). So I worked through the tutorials and started working on a very simple project to test the waters.
One thing I can say upfront, the software behaves completely differently than FCP7 and without the tutorial it’s very hard to figure this all out on your own. So I suggest that you get the tutorials from rippletraining.com.

This is not for you if..
Upfront: This software is not for you if
1. you are working in a closed environment with lots of extra hardware tools, monitors, capture cards, scopes etc.
2. you are dependent on all the stuff that Apple has built in into FCP7 over the years like XML, EDL, separate timelines you can display next to each other, your plug-ins that you have purchased
3. if you are still working with the roundtripping workflow like Color and Soundtrack or DVD Studio Pro etc.
UPDATE:
4. if you make a living using FCP. Read further down to see why.
Screen shot 2011 06 30 at 1 42 10 AM
So Who IS It For?
I think this software was created with a new Pro – category in mind. It is a very marginal but fast-growing group who do mostly
1. web delivery
2. web advertising
3. viral videos
4. image films
5. people who are doing the stuff on their own with a small guerilla team
6. folks with their DSLR’s.
7. pros who work independently in their own studios and they don’t have to share the work (at least in its current version) with colorists, audio engineers, or graphic artists.
It seems its build around the one – man band production shop where the project is handled from start to finish by the same person. Apple published a release note answering all the burning questions what we can expect to come. Here is the link.
UPDATE: Scratch the above! At this point it’s only for people who are curious what the new technology is capable of doing and people who just want to do more then iMovie does.
Screen shot 2011 06 30 at 1 57 31 AM
The Good
1. FCPX is super fast, not only in terms of the hardware usage. That we expected since its now programmed in 64 bit and takes advantage of all your memory and all the processing power like multi cores and GPU acceleration. I’m running it currently on an iMac 2010 4 core and a MacBook Pro 4 core and its fast like hell most of the time. FCPX uses all the cores for almost every task. So thats a good thing.
2. What makes me even more drawn to the software is that these thousands of mouseclicks you had to perform in FCP7 are over.
For example:You are in the finishing process of a project and you have layer over layer of clips, everything is aligned with audio, music etc. Now you have one interview clip that you just need to replace with a slightly longer clip because the client wants so.
What did you have to do in FCP7? You delete the clip, then you have to use the TTTT tool in order to move all the clips on the right of the clip and create a bigger gap so that the new clip would fit in, you have to cut the audio/music tracks so they would travel with it at its place, then you bring in the clip down and after that you have to close off all other clips to the right, align the audio/music clip, and trim till everything is smooth and aligned again.
This is a process that can take up minutes.
In FCPX it works like this:
First, Take the new clip with in and out point and hover it over the clip you need to replace, the clip turns white transparent indicating it performs a swap edit.
Then, Leave the mouse and the new clip is now in place where the old clip was before. Remember the new clip is a little longer so in order to extend it I drag at the out-point of the clip and all other clips follow accordingly.
Done. Takes seconds.
And this is only one example how fast you can work instead of performing endless clicks and rearrangements like you had to do before.
The same is true with opacity changes i.e. fades etc. Now they are fully integrated with dragging just one handle like in Motion and it creates the interpolation accordingly. Done. No keyframing etc.
Other Improvements
3. Fast forward playing gives you nice and unchoppy audio. I often play 2x the normal play speed and edit interviews twice as fast.
4. The ability to publish adjustable parameters for templates and animations from Motion. Before, you could throw a Motion project in the timeline but in order to change parameters you had to go back to Motion in order to change it. Now you have the option of sharing these parameters with FCPX.  Instead of going back to Motion to change things you can adjust them right in FCPX
5. Attach the harddisc with your material and FCPX will immediately find your files without the (time consuming) reconnection of files.
The same is true if you rename a file or a folder and FCP7 had to reconnect everything. Not with FCPX since the identification of clips and volumes are performed behind the scenes and not by filenames anymore
6. I love that the material has now large thumbnails in the ‘Browser’ that I can skim through the footage. In FCP7 I had to load each clip in the Viewer in order to see and hear the content. That’s a huge timesaver especially if you have to go through large B-Roll footage
7. Magnetic timeline is really an improvement and time saver

8. DSLR footage in realtime, no prorezing anymore

9. Text animators from Motion right build in in FCPX

It’s a blessing to work this fast and I can go swimming with my family and get paid since I’m cutting my editing time in half ;  )
That is complimented also by the fast color corrector, the build in Looks effects, that was just over $400 from Magic Bullet. Very useful to have it all build in.
10. Sound mixing on the fly and addressing problems like noise and hum in seconds without roundtripping. It seems it does a very decent job and for most well shot and recorded material it will be a blessing to work this fast. Obviously if you have very noisy material or the voice recording is problematic you have to go a different workflow.
Bucket faq
The Bad (UPDATED to include the Ugly)
UPDATE: The software starts to disintegrate itself. More and more features are starting not to work anymore, whether its about corrupted project files that causes FCPX to crash or title effects that render only parts of the text as oppose the full text (i.e. blur in and out, title inspector doesn’t open anymore in order to make changes on the text etc).
One really bad thing happened when the project wasn’t opening anymore. It was probably a corrupted project file that caused it. Since FCPX tries to display every project in the event browser the program wouldn’t even start anymore because of this one file. I had to find the bad guy and delete it manually.
But worse, all my work on this one project is gone since there is not incremental auto save built in that saves you every 15 minutes (default in FCP7) a new and fresh copy of your project.
So, if you get a corrupted file you can go back to the copy that is still intact in your auto save folder. In FCPX there is only one copy unless you duplicate manually, but hey, wasn’t this the whole point of the new auto save in FCPX that you didn’t need to worry about it anymore?
Now I have to duplicate the project file every 15 minutes in order to be safe.
All the stuff obviously you can read in the  forums and reviews at the Mac App store and I agree with most of  them. The only thing that I find a bit funny is the downward compatibility issue with project files from FCP7. Yes it would be nice. But I think as long as I can open them in FCP7 still and a copy of FCP7 will be preserved when installing FCPX I have no issue. You have to understand, FCPX according to Apple is programmed from the ground up that it was impossible to guarantee downward compatibility.
Here’s how Apple could improve it.  
1. I wish I could just drag and drop filters and effects of a clip onto multiple other clips like in FCP7,
2.  JKL is there but if you it 2x L for fast forward and you want to play it at normal speed again what you used to do was hitting J and then it will play the clip backwards. Not in FCPX it will go straight to play the clip backward. So you have to hit K first to stop it and then it L again. Kind of annoying
3. I need to be able to rearrange the windows across two screens. Often I have my selects in one timeline and edit straight from these clips into my storyline
4. I want the roundtrip with Color back. I think the color grading tools have been improved but the output is not nearly as good as color graded from Color
5. I want my timeline markers back. Right now there are only clip markers
6. What really needs to be improved is the video/audio sync ability. Right now you can drag a audio clip onto a video clip and FCPX is syncing them up like its necessary with DSLR footage.
But this is really no well thought out. I have usually multiple video and audio files of the same interview person and it takes forever to find the respective audio clip for the video clip. Pluraleyes was so much better in that. You could just drop all the material into the timeline and it would syncing all the clips up in one timeline. This is a real no-no since Pluraleyes is not available for FCPX. I have a workaround that I do it through FCP7 but that defeats the purpose of using the original files and I have to prores everything again, or at least my interview clips
7. easier ways to drag and drop effects on clips and multiple clips
8. more robust performance. I noticed that text animation can be quite glitchy. I also experienced several crashes.
9. where is final cut theater gone? I used it quite a few times since I’m editing with quite some folks remotely. I hope Apple puts it back.

10. if you drag a transition onto the beginning of the clip it automatically adds one at the end of the clip. No clue how to prevent this

11. if you add a dissolve to the clip it also adds automatically a dissolve onto your audio what can be very annoying
12. no incremental back up anymore that leaves you with one project file, unless you dublicate it. But hey, didn’t Apple invent the auto save in order to make your life easier? Now you have to manually duplicate it every 10 minutes in order to have one save copy.
Logo area link
Final Verdict
UPDATE:
At this point I can’t recommend this app. Not only did Apple get rid of thousand of Pro editors and facilities by discontinuing important features it also showed with such a buggy software release that it is more interested in consumer products and taking more care about iPhone & Co.
But this wouldn’t be so bad if Apple would have been a consumer company from the start. I think a big part of Apples success was because it was viewed as a Pro and elite company that also invented and developed consumer products. It doesn’t work the other way around. I think the damage Apple did to itself is unimaginable.
Think this way. You know how many people I converted to Apple that were not Pro’s and people relied on my expertise because I’m a Pro and make my money with Apple products. Can you imagine what happens if thousands of people who work in the film, advertising and commercial industry are not raving about their Apple products anymore? Yes, I use Apple for other things then FCP but would I really still buy a more expensive Mac if I can’t use my bread & butter software anymore? And once many of us moved to Avid or Adobe Premiere why would we want to still buy a mac that cost us more money then a comparable PC?
We only can pray that Apple is still a smart company as it has been till recently and uses wisdom to make decisions in the right direction. Yes, the FCP market is monetarily small, but the image it generates to be perceived as high – end and Pro like is immense and a vital factor why people like my aunt or sister are having Macs. Its about the image. Not what it does that consumers base their spending habits on.
FCPX is a great new tool showing some great possible new ways of editing. Its not made yet for Pro’s in facility environments. I think there is a new category out there of Pro’s that range between the High end guys and the preditors (Producer/Editor) that are creating content primarily for the web or DVD like myself. We are independent content creators who work mostly by ourselves and service clients from the web around the globe. I think this new category FCPX addresses very well without all the hassles of the ‘Pro’ features. Its slim, its fast, it has features that only third party plugins or separate programs used to have like color effects, audio effects etc. I think the price point is alright and I think its not a huge risk to try it out. If you don’t like certain aspects yet you always can go back to FCP7 and do the things you can’t do in FCPX. But over time they will be addressed as the FAQ release from Apple shows. If you are a content creator and doing lots of stuff for the web this might be the right tool to look into.
I have already a lot of fun of using it and it saves me tremendous time in the process.
P.S. Since its a brand-new software I will be updating this post as I go along and discover new things. I’ll keep you posted.

Let me know what you have experienced with FCPX. Am curious what others think.

Refund
I asked Apple for a refund since the software is not ready to be used professionally and they refunded the money within 24 hours. I suggest if you bought the software get a refund so that Apple sees we are serious about moving away if things are not put back into the software that we need in order to make a living.

How you do this you just open the App store, type in Final Cut, on the right hand corner their you can see a link called: Final Cut Pro support, and follow the links till you can send an email to the support team. Ask for a refund because its not a pro software anymore. Done. And you know what, FCPX is still on your computer to try it out if they changed anything. If I see that they updated it properly I’m going ahead and repurchase it. Till  then it will stay a dead copy on my Mac.

S.

Some very compelling posts:

Larry Jordan
http://www.larryjordan.biz/app_bin/wordpress/archives/1514

Q&A
http://www.philiphodgetts.com/2011/06/what-are-the-answers-to-the-unanswered-questions-about-final-cut-pro-x/

Steve Martins first look:
http://www.kenstone.net/fcp_homepage/fcp_x_first_look_martin.html


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20 Responses to "FINAL CUT PRO X. Is it really that bad or is it a tool for a new Pro category or: How I got a refund"

  1. John Spirou says:

    You can have video only dissolves… just double click the audio part of the clip and the clip expands. Now select the video edit and put there the transition.

    You can also put a transition in one end of the clip… just click on that end and double click on the transition youn want.

  2. Dave Harrison says:

    Thank you for the update! The points you explain here are exactly the things I’ve heard other pros say about FCPX. Let’s hope they get it together for the pros and continue to support us. Avid & Adobe are looking good to a lot of people right now.

  3. Evan says:

    Good post Shmuel.

    This is the second write up that I’ve seen mentioning instability. That really scares me.

    I was going to chance buying and trying it, but seeing this I may hold off.

    Playing with a new toy is one thing, but I’d rather put the $300 bucks towards a lens that will work as expected.

    Thanks for the post.

    -Evan

  4. Walker Murch says:

    Yep, it really is that bad.

  5. garrettgibbons says:

    Great article!

    I found FCP X neither fast nor powerful. It was sluggish on my unibody 15″ Macbook Pro Intel Core2 Duo 2.4 GHZ. Maybe it’s fast on the i5/i7 line?

    The thumbnails were difficult to look at, since they were seldom scaled to fit a helpful set of previews for my footage. I wish that I could get just one thumbnail per clip like in every other editing program on the planet (except maybe iMovie).

  6. agbstudios says:

    again..this is a good time for change to adobe premiere not only for 50% discount if you came from FCP, premiere pro is the most powerfull tool for video editing and post production in the actual time..

  7. Shawn says:

    Shmuel,

    I am not an editor by trade (I’m a CD/writer primarily). I never learned Final Cut, but instead edit my short films using iMovie 06 (silly huh). So, I’m ready to move on…but want an easy, intuitive program. Like a step up from iMovie 06, which I really loved as it was so intuitive ands was fine for an amateur like me. So, my question is, could this be right for someone like me?

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