So, the emerging narrative among a certain subset of the Internet post production community is that Final Cut Pro X isn’t a ‘pro’ app. But I’ve seen a lot of Internet firestorms around Apple product announcements over the years. I’ve watched Apple closely for the entire Jobs (and now pseudo post-Jobs) era. And I don’t buy it.
To me, this looks like another one of those situations where there are multiple narratives that fit the same underlying set of facts, and a bunch of people decide, for whatever reason, to embrace one that makes Apple look terrible.
In this respect, it’s much like the iPhone 4 antenna issue. It eventually came out that Apple knew about the underlying technical issue there before ever shipping the device. But they also knew that in the real world the iPhone 4 actually held onto calls better in a lot of instances. Their comprehensive testing had shown they’d made reasonable design tradeoffs. They clearly never expected the issue to be framed the way it was in the tech media. They were, as a consequence, no doubt surprised by the resulting backlash.
With FCP X, Apple has introduced something that has quite a few pro features, was introduced at an event for pros, is positioned as the successor to a pro product, and has ‘Pro’ in the name. I think they anticipated people understanding it as a pro product that’s still missing some features (because it was just rewritten from scratch), and are probably surprised by the number of people who are determined to see it as a non-pro product, and are seizing on every possible justification to support that conclusion.
The truth is, you can play that game with anything. I could make a very compelling argument that FCP X is a pro app and it’s Final Cut Pro 7 that’s not. I mean, a bunch of effects in FCP 7 render in 8-bit! How amateur is that? FCP 7 won’t even warn you when exporting a sequence with offline media! I can’t work with important projects like that! And how am I ever supposed to organize long-form projects if I can’t even tag things? And don’t forget the QuickTime gamma bugs.
I’m familiar enough with FCP 7 to go on for a long time like this, but you get the idea.
There are, when you get right down to it, a grand total of about four big things missing from FCP X that matter to high-end users:
- A way to export sequence data.
- More audio exporting features.
- Support for third-party I/O hardware.
And not all of these matter to all high-end users. For instance, we mostly work on features, and couldn’t care less about multicam in that context.
Combine these missing features with some iMovie user interface similarities, and a bunch of people who’ve already been skeptical about Apple’s commitment to the pro market for the last couple of years (ironically, skeptical because Apple hadn’t yet rewritten FCP as a 64-bit Cocoa app, which is precisely what FCP X is), and you get the current PR mess.
But the actual material facts in no way conclusively support the narrative of Apple abandoning pros. Many of the features FCP X does have, as well as some of what we’re hearing out of Apple via Philip Hodgetts and David Pogue, point in the other direction: that FCP X is a pro app. It’s just a pro app that happens to be missing some features in its first release. And Apple is not unaware of this, and is working to resolve it.