Latest Final Cut Studio rumors make little sense

So, the Internet is abuzz with rumors about major delays for Final Cut Studio. Frankly, these don’t make a ton of sense.

Apple is working on a major rewrite of Final Cut. This is pretty well established. Because they’ve essentially deprecated the Carbon API, the programming interface large parts of Final Cut use, they have no choice but to rewrite. And even this latest largely pessimistic rumor confirms they’re doing precisely that.

Now, Final Cut Studio has traditionally been on a two year release cycle. Expecting a major rewrite to take at least twice that long is not remotely unreasonable, and they’re not at that mark yet (even measuring from FCS2, the last full-scale upgrade). Moreover, a major Final Cut rewrite essentially requires Apple to deliver a major QuickTime rewrite first, which was never likely to happen before OS X 10.7, which almost certainly won’t ship until Q3 or Q4 of next year. (It’s not even officially announced yet.)

Some commentators seem concerned Apple is going to lose significant market share to Avid or Adobe if they take another year to ship a major Final Cut update, but I doubt it. Avid Media Composer is significantly more expensive than Final Cut Studio. The cost difference isn’t much to a post house, but for a freelance editor or an indie film, it’s not nothing. And while Media Composer has native R3D support, it’s missing many other things Final Cut Studio has (motion graphics, serious color correction, etc.) and is much more limited in terms of what video I/O hardware it supports. Meanwhile, Premiere Pro has some flashier features, but still isn’t as mature as Final Cut as a professional editing platform. One big issue is that Adobe currently lacks an answer to ProRes, which in my experience is used very widely for file-based workflows, and would be even if Final Cut had native support for more types of media — working with native media (especially Red media, for the majority of editors who don’t have a Rocket) tends to bog things down.

This industry is pretty conservative; not many shops are really going to switch just because Apple takes a year longer than would have been desirable. We regularly run into editors who run a year or two behind on NLE upgrades anyway. And speaking from personal experience, after two and a half years of Red workflows we weren’t really happy with, we’re finally settling in on something we like with RedCine-X transcodes, FCP 7 editing, Resolve color grading, and round-tripping from Resolve back to Final Cut (via some custom in-house workflow tools). We’re not looking to totally shake things up again right now.

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