Monday, June 27, 2011

Why FCPX is a four letter word.

When Final Cut Pro X was first announced, everybody that is running FCP loved the fact that there was finally going to be Background Rendering (about time!) and support for 64bit processors (about time!) and a few other exciting little improvements, not least of all the software is downloadable from the App store and a drastic reduction in price of nearly $1,000.

Basically, since the first generation of Final Cut Pro was first unveiled at NAB 1998, each new version of the software was just an upgrade, a patch, if you will, on the original software, which formed its foundation.
Final Cut Pro X, however, was completely rebuilt from the ground up.

Then the software hit the shelves last week.

Whilst a lot of people who only use the basic functions of FCP  loved it, it's essentially the lovechild of FCP and iMovie. it's a bastardised software that doesn't know what it wants to be.
There was a lot of public outrage, as Apple pulled FCP 7 and Studio 3 from the shelves, forcing people to purchase FCPX. And boy did Apple get slammed for it. There was so much negative feedback, in fact, that Apple deleted and disabled the comments on FCPX page of the AppStore.

Editing guru and post production expert Larry Jordan offers a high end post production take on the new software, and offers some friendly advise to Apple, saying that "damage control" is what they need to be focusing on now.

"When I first saw Final Cut X, I was excited by its potential, but warned Apple that this release would be intensely polarizing to the editing community. It does not give me pleasure to see that I was right."

"Worse, Apple has alienated the very people who can make a very visible statement as to the inadequacy of the program. No clearer example can be found than the public ridicule of FCP X on the Conan O’Brien show."

After the launch, Apple compounded their problems with three extremely poorly timed moves:
1. Canceling Final Cut Studio (3) and pulling all existing product from the market. This is devastating to shops that can’t use Final Cut Pro X. The two applications can co-exist on the same system — killing FCP 7 will not boost sales of FCP X to those shops that can’t run it. All it does is set up a black market for FCP 7.

2. Not providing – then publicly stating (thru David Pogue’s New York Times blog) that they do not plan to provide – a conversion utility from FCP 7 to FCP X. Not only does this render a HUGE number of past projects inaccessible, it sets up the obvious conclusion that if Apple is willing to discontinue support for legacy applications with no warning, what’s to prevent them from doing so again in the future? Every time you watch a movie that is more than 6 months old, you are dealing with legacy assets. Not providing a conversion utility is completely inexcusable.

3. Leaving the support for interchange formats – XML, EDL, OMF and others – to third-parties; or not supporting them at all. Yes, the video and film industry needs to move into the current century. However, Hollywood is very reluctant to change what works. Meeting deadlines is far more important than adopting new technology. Apple’s walled garden approach is totally at odds with the nature of post-production, where the editing system is the hub around which a wide variety of other applications revolve. On any editing project I routinely run 5-10 other programs simultaneously — only three of which are from Apple. I am constantly moving data between programs. This, combined with a lack of support for network-based storage, highlight grave development decisions in determining what features to include in the program.
"When I was talking with Apple prior to the launch, they told me that they extensively researched the market to determine what needed to be in the new program. In retrospect, I wonder what people they were talking with."

In FCP X, Apple got some things amazingly right. But they also got key features amazingly wrong. And if they don’t change course, this software, which has significant potential, is going to spin further and further out of control. At which point, its feature set is irrelevant, its reputation will be set. We’ll be looking at another Mac Cube.

Apple does not normally ever comment on future products – though they did this year, prior to WWDC, because they needed to reset expectations. Because of the visibility of this product into an audience that can cause extensive PR damage to Apple, I suggest that Apple break its usual vow of silence and do three things:
1. Immediately return Final Cut Studio (3) to the market. If it is not compatible with Lion (and I don’t know whether it is or not) label it so. But put it back on store shelves so consumers have the ability to work with the existing version until FCP X is ready for prime time.

2. Fund the development of a conversion utility – either at Apple or thru a 3rd-party – and announce the development with a tentative release date.

3. Publicly announce a road-map for FCP X that just covers the next 3-4 months. Apple needs to be in damage control mode and the best way to defuse the situation is to communicate. Answering the question: “What features will Apple add to FCP X, and when?” will go a long way to calming people down.


  1. For the Professional Editor or the businesses that employ them, I don't know if this is something Apple can recover from. Apple has completely shattered the faith/trust the industry had in them.

    I'd be very reluctant to spend tens to hundreds of thousands of dollars on Apple products in good faith that support will always be there. Inexcusable and no one wants to gamble on their livelihood.

  2. That's absolutely right,
    Apple worked hard to entice the Avid dominated professional market to adopt it's software. This is a colossal screw up on their behalf, I only hope they get their act together, not only for their sake, but for those who rely on Apple to put bread on the table.


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