Well, well. This is something you don’t see every day: an open revolt by some of Apple’s most loyal customers.
It’s not that Final Cut Pro X is a bad product. Quite the opposite. It’s actually a tremendously cool and bold product. (I’ve been playing with it for two days now.) The problem is, for those who make a living with Final Cut Pro, it’s disturbingly incomplete.
To best appreciate the depth of frustration out there, you need to understand FCP’s history. Released by Apple in 1999, FCP had to do battle with the far more popular editing software from Avid and Adobe. Over the years, it grew more and more sophisticated, ultimately turning into Final Cut Studio — a full suite of high-end apps for video, sound, titling/effects, DVD authoring, color correction and compression.
Starting with nothing, FCP became the darling of Hollywood and the first choice among pro editors and video hobbyists. An amazing success.
But FCP was seriously due for an upgrade. So when Apple let loose that an all-new 64-bit version of FCP was coming, there was joy across the land.
It was a joy that came to an abrupt halt this week when Final Cut Pro X was released.
FCPX is indeed 64-bit, but it arrived missing features that many pros simply cannot live without. And Apple knows that.
For example, FCPX doesn’t support multiple cameras — which are a standard setup in many productions. It can’t open projects from previous FCP versions. It doesn’t support XML. (See what a big deal Apple made about XML in its own announcement two years ago.)
Apple said it was killing off a bunch of Final Cut Studio apps — Soundtrack Pro, Color and DVD Studio Pro — because their functions were now built into FCPX. However, FCPX offers up only streamlined versions of these apps.
Unfortunately, the list goes on. Creative Cow provides a thorough picture of what’s missing here.
The criticism that FCPX is really “iMovie Pro” is not far from the mark. For people like me, a high-end consumer app is a fabulous thing. For professional editors, broadcast news organizations and production companies, it’s a sad and disorienting thing.
This whole affair seems very out of character for Apple. Why would they create a product that is so forward-looking and revolutionary (it is), but do it in a manner that will provoke such a predictable backlash?
Some point out the obvious, that this is a “typical” Apple launch. The 1.0 version has a limited feature set, but provides a solid foundation for more advanced versions to come. That’s how it worked with iPod, iPhone and iPad.
Unfortunately, that argument has a big, gaping flaw. Apple did not introduce any of the i-things to a large existing customer base that relied on those products to earn a living. The FCPX intro is so illogical, I have to suspect there’s a deeper truth hiding in there.
As we know, Apple does not have infinite software resources. Mac OS X Lion and iOS5 have clearly been the main focus. With an update to FCP being way overdue, chances are that Apple simply set a goal for this product that became too difficult to reach.
Apple did not make a mistake in creating FCPX. They made a mistake presenting it as a high-end pro solution.
Imagine if they had unveiled FCPX as the new Final Cut Express instead. Buyers of that product would have been absolutely delighted by the many leaps forward in power and simplicity, and the missing features would have been insignificant to them. A new Final Cut Express would also have given pro editors a tantalizing preview of a new FCPX to come.
I only get disappointed by Apple when they create a problem that didn’t need to be created. By choosing the route they did, they created the impression that they’re oblivious to the needs of the editing pro — which we know is not true.
Apple’s response has been to say that the missing features will be added back in with updates coming soon. I’m sure they will. And you know what — that’s a perfectly acceptable solution. There’s little reason why the pros can’t continue to use the current Final Cut Studio until there’s a product that meets their needs.
And that’s my whole point. The only problem here is the manner in which Apple introduced FCPX. Great a product as it is, it’s just not a replacement for Final Cut Studio. Yet.
If there is no crisis, I’m puzzled why Apple would choose to create one.