There has been a lot of collective wondering going on lately. People keep asking me and many others why we are so upset by the release of Final Cut Pro X. Why is it a bad thing? Both apps can still be installed ... right? The price is more affordable ... right? The needed updates will come eventually ... right?
The release of Final Cut Pro X was the defining moment for many. In my line of work, I get to interface with a lot of video editors and other video professionals. I have spoken at numerous user groups and conferences. As a forum leader and podcaster for Creative COW, I have been hearing complaints for years. I also get to sit in edit suites with clients. The waiting for transcode on import as well as the 32-bit nature of Final Cut Pro 7 has caused a lot of impatient waiting in edit suites around the globe.
Final Cut Pro X was supposed to fix this. At least that was the belief most held. It would be “awesome” we were told. I guess that can mean different things.
People are not breaking up with Apple because of what Final Cut Pro X is. They are ending their relationship because their fears have been confirmed. I present to you a summary of the issues that have people freaked out. Please pass this list on to anyone who asks you what the big deal is. These are my 10 reasons that people are switching.
These are just opinions. Opinions formed by my interactions with many and my professional experiences and connections.
The Long Wait
The release of Final Cut Studio 3 was seen by many as a stopgap. DVD Studio Pro removed its HDDVD features. Color saw a .5 bump up. Other apps saw improvement but nothing “killer.” The biggest feature seemed to be the Share menu (which added several export capabilities and speed). And we got more flavors of ProRes (nice, but nothing that impressed my clients). In terms of life, it was an appetizer to hold us over to the main meal.
Here is the summary of events according to Wikipedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Final_Cut_Studio).
NAB 2007 – Final Cut Studio 2 : Final Cut Pro 6, DVD Studio Pro 4, Motion 3, LiveType 2, Soundtrack Pro 2, Color, Compressor 3
July 2009 – Final Cut Studio (2009) : Final Cut Pro 7, DVD Studio Pro 4, Motion 4, Soundtrack Pro 3, Color 1.5, Compressor 3.5
The pent up demand from 2007 made this feel like a four year wait form many. A wait filled with little communication about the vision or future. In tough economies, people want leadership that is visible and clear. They want to be able to talk to the companies that work with at industry events and trade shows, not just their local shopping mall.
The Warning Signs
There were lots of warning signs that had people concerned about the future of Final Cut Studio. For example:
- iPhoto got several key features like Faces and Places well before its professional sibling Aperture.
- Aperture saw its priced slashed several times and its sales soar on the App Store. I think this proved to Apple that make applications approachable and affordable could make them more profitable.
- The App Store model also doesn’t offer upgrade pricing. Currently, a person must pay nearly $400 to get three applications. In the past, they paid $500 for seven applications as an upgrade (in fact it was only $299 for FCS3).
- This article here (http://t.co/ET3Qa3w) does a great overview of the demise of Apple’s pro products like Shake, Cinema Tools, Logic, and more.
This of course takes us to the current release. People are nervous when updates to applications like Color, Soundtrack Pro, and Cinema Tools are gone. Broadcasters and large facilities which spent significant resources investing in Final Cut Server are also less than pleased. People aren’t sure what to think when such large holes are left open and no one is talking from the company.
The Market Evolves
There have been a lot of questions about how people could be jumping ship so quickly. How can you go back to Avid? Why are you switching to Premiere Pro? People did not make these decisions overnight.
I myself stopped by both the Adobe and the Avid booths at this year’s NAB. Both companies have also been actively supporting user groups (even groups that use to be exclusively Final Cut Pro). Professionals have been looking over the fence since the release of Final Cut Studio 3.
They want the following features:
- Native Editing – True ability to import media without having to transcode first. We got that in FCPX sort of... it just keeps transcoding in the background.
- 64-bit Support – We buy expensive computers, please see those processors and RAM so we can make our deadlines.
- GPU Acceleration – This too is implemented in FCPX. Unfortunately the hardware requirements were released after FCPX and after many found out that their systems would not be supported by the new application.
- Support for Third Party Hardware – Final Cut Pro boomed thanks to great manufacturers like AJA, Blackmagic Designs, Matrox, and others. The ability to use a wide range of hardware (as well as storage choices) was the key selling point to many customers. Products like Avid were a closed technology for many years (but even they have changed). Apple says they are open, but shipped a product which for the most part ignores or cripples third party hardware. Folks aren’t mad about the $299, its what that $299 does to the monitor, deck, and capture card (estimated price $10,000–$50,000). I have also heard from film editors and colorist who are baffled why they control surfaces for color grading and audio mixing don’t work.
In a given week, I will use most of these formats: XML, layered Photoshop files, AAF, OMF. I will also capture and output to tape (far more often than I like to).
With Final Cut Pro 7, Avid and Premiere Pro, I can exchange projects. I can go to ProTools, Audition, or Soundtrack Pro for an audio mix. I can send to Apple Color or DaVinci Resolve for color grading. I can export via XML and easily exchange footage with After Effects for compositing or motion graphics.
Professionals want to run around the entire playground, not just sit inside a single sandbox (especially when that sandbox keeps getting smaller).
In today’s market ... it takes vision. New products are not visionary if customers can’t understand them. Customers don’t want to be told what they want, rather they want to feel that their company of choice is listening.
The amount of noise on the net over this release is insane. Look at Twitter with the hashtag #fcpx. Visit the Final Cut Pro X forum at Creative COW (http://forums.creativecow.net/finalcutprox). Read my response to the New York Times (http://www.richardharringtonblog.com/files/fcpx_response.php).... They changed their review the next day thanks to people like you.
What’s missing in all of this is a statement from Apple. Instead they have responded through a few bloggers and trainers. What people want is a road map. What features do you intend to keep. What can we expect to see in the future. I know its difficult to say when... but something. I really like what Adobe did here – http://tv.adobe.com/watch/industry-trends/adobes-vision-for-professional-video/. I also like that they are all over social media and blogs and forums. I can interact and I can get answers. That really does matter and is the greatest factor when it comes time to decide where I spend my money.
I know we mentioned this point, but it bears repeating. Native and RAW workflows matter. Camera technology is amazing these days. Efficient codecs for storing video in high definition. Several camera even offer raw capabilities (whether shooting stills for time-lapse on a DSLR or market leaders like RED and Alexa).
Last week I got the joy of working with Vincent Laforet (http://www.laforetvisuals.com) for a few days. We did a bunch of Raw time-lapse and played with RED Epic footage in 5K HDR. My mind was blown away by what we could do with the source material. This is the future. By the way we have something in common, he’s switched to Adobe Creative Suite for his RAW and time-lapse workflow.
But every day at my own shop we are pulling in tons of media shot on Panasonic P2 cameras and DSLRs. I can work with this material immediately in Adobe or Avid.
While some say that you can in Final Cut Pro X, you’ll quickly notice a key difference. The material wants to transcode to ProRes. Even if you import natively, as soon as you adjust or modify it transcodes. It wants to transcode on import, you can disable it. But time and time again, as soon as I work with the files, they begin converting. In the course of a normal edit gigabytes of render files (even unused ones) pile up. Why can’t I pay the render tax on final export instead of filling up my drives with files I don’t want?
An Existing Ecosystem
Apple was a popular solution because it worked so well throughout the facility. We had hardware options for storage, capture, and monitoring. We had a rich system of supporting applications like Plural Eyes, After Effects, Photoshop, and more. We had thousands of plug-ins to choose from.
We are told that we will have those choices. What I hear often is that Apple was so secretive that they have only released some of the technology needed at this point. Most developers and hardware makers got their copies of the software that I did.
It’s a partnership. We bought into Apple because it was the captain with a great team behind it. What we get from others (and even Apple in the past) is support for entire workflows on day one of launch. People don’t want to give up on their total investment just to get a few new features. Especially when those features already exist in other tools on the market.
The Version 1.0 Argument
Most of the Apple Certified Apologists (not my term) keep arguing that this is a version one product. Don’t worry, the features will come. Surely we’ll see XML and multi-camera support and the ability to import projects. What makes you so sure?
- When you launch Final Cut Pro X it says version 10.0. (For an interesting commentary see Steve Hullfish’s article – http://provideocoalition.com/index.php/shullfish/story/proof_that_fcp_x_is_really_just_imovie_-_directly_from_apple/)
- When you have 11 years of functionality, you don’t expect to have to start over. (For a laugh, watch this – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SgXUh1HrYOw&feature=share.
- There are paradigms that people want to follow. Just because you invent something new doesn’t mean you destroy the way people have worked for centuries. Good software is flexible, allowing people to work they ways they like. If a new (or “better”) way coms along, you let people choose to migrate at their own pace.
The Walled Garden
So here’s the truth ... when it comes to hardware, I give most of my money to Apple. I’ve been buying Macs since my days at Drake University in 1990. For more than 20 years, I’ve chosen Apple hardware. For ten years, I’ve stood in front of professional conferences and presented off Mac hardware.
I’ve bought every iPod, iPhone, and iPad. I have filled my company with their products as well as my home. I think I’ve convinced more than 100 people to get an Apple TV.
I am an Apple fanboy (but perhaps I am now recovering).
I’ve started to use other people’s stuff. I’ve played with a Droid phone. We have some smoking fast PC’s in the office from Dell that just chew through motion graphics and video production tasks. I have more choice.
Choice isn’t always good ... it can make support difficult. But choice is becoming less and less a factor with Apple products.
- I cannot choose where I buy their software. The VAR network offered a valuable service of configuring machines and supporting them to many clients.
- I can only get support on the software on day one from the two trainers they choose to give advanced access to the software.
- I cannot choose third party tools or hardware with any confidence.
- I have to wait months (if not longer) for small developers to catch up and get plugins working. Many are choosing not to or are at least taking a wait and see approach.
The Trust Factor
This takes us to the final point. Can you expect that the investment you make today will work in the future? Can you invest in training your employees so they are ready for the future? Can you trust Apple?
I am going to speak no further ... that is a personal decision for you to make.
-Richard M. Harrington, PMP