(The title of this post is shamelessly derived from the Creative Cow forum post that inspired me to write it.)
For reasons I’ve already laid out at extensive length, I am entirely convinced that Apple does not intend to abandon the pro video editing market. If that’s the case, Final Cut Pro X is clearly a huge risk. Apple is not a company that’s afraid of risk, however.
One of my favorite examples of this dates to the early days of the iPod, when Apple introduced the iPod mini, which had 1/4 of the storage of other iPods, and was only $50 cheaper.
Critics were all sure the iPod mini would fail; who’d buy a player with a capacity that much smaller, just to get a slimmer form factor? A year later, the mini was the most popular music player in the world, and Apple canceled it to introduce the iPod nano, which was the same price and had even less storage space. The nano, of course, went on to cement Apple’s position as the overwhelmingly dominant force in the music player market.
From the Mac’s two major architectural transitions, to the elimination of the floppy drive in 1998, to the launch of the iPad into a tablet market that had been moribund for a decade, Apple is a company that often takes risks, and rarely fails.
Well, Apple has unleashed Final Cut Pro X on the editing community, and the editing community is up in arms. Is FCP X one of Apple’s rare failures?
I doubt it.
The truth is, most of the backlash over the last ten days has not been a direct consequence of people reacting negatively to the product’s substance. It has been a consequence of people erroneously believing, because of a handful of missing features, some superficial similarities with iMovie, and a whole lot of preexisting paranoia, that FCP X signals Apple’s departure from the pro market.
Many people who have actually sat down to edit something with the new app, giving it a fair shot on its own terms instead of merely being frustrated that it works differently, have said positive things about it. My experience has been that the new timeline is really just a lot of fun to edit with (the importance of this should not be underestimated), there are some great new organizational features, and in terms of speed and quality, the new engine is a home run.
Six months from now, you will be able to take a sequence out of FCP X and bring it into Resolve. There will probably be a way to export OMF that doesn’t cost $500. You will have more control over audio track exports. You will almost certainly be able to hook up a real video monitor. While some detractors will still grasp at straws, and while there will still be a few gaps and limitations here and there, the claims that FCP X is not a pro app will have been pretty thoroughly undermined.
Pros will start doing interesting things with it. After a while someone will cut an indie feature with it, and Apple will run a profile on them where they rave about the importance of metadata and the freedom of the magnetic timeline, and talk about how they did assembly edits on location using MacBook Pros with Thunderbolt RAIDs.
Word will get around that rumors of Final Cut’s demise were greatly exaggerated.
Nobody has to believe me about this today. Ultimately, we’ll have to wait and see. But, not to toot my own horn too much here, I am the guy who predicted this whole present blowup, in broad strokes, over a year ago:
We’re going to get the OpenCL and Grand Central Dispatch goodness that everyone wants. But we’re not going to get an app with a strict superset of Final Cut Pro’s functionality. Instead, we’re going to get an app that Apple believes is better overall for the tasks video editors perform, even if some features are cut. And we might also get a significantly overhauled UI; something that results from a process of sitting down and questioning every assumption about how editing interfaces currently work.
In short, I think they’ll come up with something really interesting… that will probably cause a bunch of people to totally freak out about how Apple has ruined everything and make forceful public declarations about how they’re leaving the platform. Meanwhile, people actually willing to embrace the thing might discover it has a bit of that iPad ‘magic’.
I think I have a pretty good feel for these things.