Another emerging source of concern about whether FCP X is a professional app is its relationship to iMovie. In particular, a narrative seems to have emerged in which FCP X was derived from iMovie, after Apple realized there was no way to modernize the existing Final Cut Pro codebase.
There’s clearly a lot of shared DNA between FCP X and iMovie, as marcus.sg noted in commenting on the previous post. But the most accurate way to look at this is to view iMovie and FCP X as having a common ancestor, with a bit of horizontal gene transfer since the apps split off. I suspect an accurate depiction of the relationship runs something like this:
(Horizontal transfer probably occurred more than once and it’s hard to say exactly when, but that’s not really the point.)
The idea that Apple only recently realized it wasn’t possible to modernize the old FCP codebase, and belatedly decided to start over from the iMovie codebase, isn’t very plausible. The old FCP was obviously not the way forward. Its interface felt like something from a different age, it was the only Carbon pro app left, and it was clear at the very least that the entire rendering engine was going to need to be rewritten to use GPU acceleration and multiple cores.
It seems far more likely Apple started serious work on FCP X immediately after wrapping up FCP 6 in 2007 (FCP 7 was more of a maintenance release) — this would have actually been somewhat before the product’s release date, which was April of that year. Now, shipping a pro video editing product based on an entirely new technical foundation is a serious, high-risk undertaking. But Apple happened to have another video editing product where the new engine and even some of the new UI could be tested without much risk: iMovie.
So along comes iMovie ’08, in August of 2007. Rewritten from the ground up, it’s clearly a much more modern app… but it has so many features missing it seems almost more like a proof of concept than a finished app. My theory is, that’s because it pretty much was. It was Apple’s early-stage work on its next-generation video editing platform, quickly packaged up as a consumer app.
When you get right down to it, most of what sets a pro video application apart is not related to the core task of arranging video clips in time, but to ancillary functions like format support, video I/O, workflow integration and metadata management. So, if FCP X is an offshoot of the same codebase as iMovie, but adds support for these things… well, that makes perfect sense. Why would Apple not allow iMovie and FCP X to share DNA this way? Why is this a bad thing?
What’s funny is that nobody would object to this if the release order had been reversed, and the shared new features and UI had shipped first in FCP X and not shipped in iMovie until, say, iMovie ’12. But the truth is, pro users are all much better off for the fact that Apple isn’t dumping four years of code on them with no real-world testing. FCP X will be less buggy because Apple has been using consumers as guinea pigs for nearly four years.