Final Cut Pro X: One Man's Journey from Denial to Acceptance

Note: This blog was originally posted on Philip Bloom's Website alongside the impression of 6 other professional editors.

When the Final Cut apocalypse hit, I was an independent filmmaker working in LA. Many friends and colleagues would soon jump ship and go over to Premiere, or Avid, but I was curious about Final Cut Pro X. It’s not that I was any less upset than the rest of the Final Cut Pro community. I too had seen the tools that I used for the better part of a decade killed in one fell swoop. But I was in denial and I ponied up the $300 to start exploring Apple’s latest non-linear editing application. What became immediately apparent to me was that our friends in Cupertino had decided to completely rethink non-linear video editing.

I liked what I saw and I decided to take FCPX out for a spin. For three years now, I’ve been working on a documentary film about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. As part of that project, we collected 500 street interviews: 250 in Israel and 250 in the Palestinian territories. During the summer of 2011, I tabulated the data from the Israeli side and wrote a 2200 word report based on the results. What I needed, at the time, was a video to accompany the written report. This seemed like the perfect project with which to test out the new Final Cut. I challenged myself to do everything from editing and sound mixing, to titles and color correction inside of FCPX.

At first, things seemed to be going really well. While I had to unlearn some old muscle memory (no more Shift-Delete!), the logic of the new paradigm made sense to me. Nevertheless, the overall performance of the application left something to be desired. I work on a 2.8 GHZ Quad Core i7 iMac with 8GB of RAM and for some reason, FCPX didn’t feel as snappy as FCP6 on the same system. When it came to subtitles, working in FCPX was actually a breath of fresh air. It was really nice to be able to work inside a unified interface without any round-tripping and it did save me time. But there was a glitch in the application and every time I closed FCPX, the tracking of the subtitles would get screwed up. I ended up finishing the video, but the process of making it was incredibly frustrating. I had moved to anger. 

It was clear what Apple was thinking. The concepts in the new paradigm definitely had the potential to make things faster and easier. But their implementation was so sloppy that it made me feel like I wasn’t in complete control of my own work. Moreover, the feature omissions that had caused so many to jump ship, were a problem for me as well. There was simply no way that I would edit a feature-length documentary in a system that couldn’t hand off files for professional sound work. So I left FCPX and went back to editing in FCP6.
A couple of weeks ago, I was getting ready to launch an IndieGoGo campaign to raise finishing funds for my film and I needed to produce a short appeal video. I figured I’d give FCPX another shot. After all, it had received two updates in the interim and I was interested to see whether things had improved. Nevertheless, I was nervous about working in FCPX , because of my previous experiences. So I made a rough assemblage in FCP6, exported it as a Quicktime, imported that Quicktime into FCPX, and finished it there. The updated application was much more stable than I remembered it and the editing process was reasonably smooth. I understood, of course, that this hybrid approach (bargaining?) was not a feasible editing strategy for my feature-length film, but at the same time, the siren call of background rendering, automatic audio syncing (all of my interviews are shot with two cameras), and quick subtitling was very seductive. Still, there was no efficient way to move all of my FCP6 work into FCPX.  That’s where I stood until about a week ago, when Apple released its third update to FCPX, 10.0.3.
With the latest release, not only have the vast majority of missing features been restored, but a new utility is now available on the Mac App Store which allows you to move legacy FCP projects and sequences into FCPX. I paid the $10, downloaded the application, and moved a sequence over. It wasn’t perfect, but I’d say that 98% of my work made the transition intact and after a little bit of cleanup, I was up and running in FCPX. So far, the experience has been good. The performance is much improved over the first few versions, although it’s still not as snappy as I’d like. Multicam works a charm as do all of the features that originally made the application attractive in theory. In sum, the benefits at this point in time far outweigh the remaining issues and I think that it’s a good time for my colleagues to reconsider Apple’s contender. Final Cut Pro X is a powerful tool that has finally come into its own and I, for one, am well on my way to acceptance.