Final Cut Pro X: Review 13,472.0.4
Writing a review of Final Cut Pro X in April of 2012 feels about as relevant as reviewing Slumdog Millionaire. But after a few months of dedicated use, I thought I would touch on some lesser-publicized features. Like many, I turned into an angry, betrayed Robert DeNiro-styled Fan when Apple released FCPX last summer. It wasn’t compatible with most plug-ins, many ‘professional’ features – notably audio – were stripped, it had a touch of iMovie aesthetics and that default audio skimming feature freaked me out.
But after 10+ projects on the controversial software, I’m now ready to give a fair and balanced critique, Hannity & Colmes-style.
Audio: As a formerly aspiring audio engineer, the top half waveform display in FCPX initially annoyed me. But it makes sense – why do we need to see a mirror image of the bottom half? More importantly, the new wave is great because it changes in real time with your effects. The loudest points turn to yellow when your approaching the danger zone and red when you start to peak. When you apply an effect, the visual waveform will change when the applied effect renders.
While I love the visual representation of the audio, I’m not a fan of the new effects. The single band compressor is awful and, while branded Logic, it is completely different than single band in Logic. It expands and slopes and a bunch of crazy stuff my mind doesn’t understand. There is also a glaring lack of professional audio features. Luckily, there is a good way to export to Logic, Audition or ProTools…
Third Party Exports: The missing feature from early FCPX iterations that drove most editors into the arms of Adobe was the absence of export options for third parties: no OMF, AFF or XML. How can we work with DaVinci? Or ProTools? Or After Effects? Or even Apple’s own Motion? The new XML solves issues with DaVinci compatibilities. But integration with Motion Graphic software remains tricky. Why in the world can we not export to motion like in FCP7? Since there isn’t an In & Out export option on the timeline, we can’t even expert a section of our project as a ProRes file and import it into motion. We have to copy that section, paste it in a new sequence, export as a .mov, import that file into motion and then add animation.
Luckily, audio is no longer an issue for my workflow. I love the “Roles” feature of FCPX. Instead of tracks, we can assign attributes to all of our clips, both video and audio. I can assign types of audio – effects, dialogue (multiple characters if need be), music, etc – then export as roles, bring these seperate .wav file “roles” into Adobe Audition or Logic as individual, perfectly aligned tracks. I can then edit and re-import the stereo or surround mix down back into FCPX and mute all the other tracks. This feature alone made narrative film editing on FCPX an option for me. (Although sometimes when I export my FCPX project as a final Prores file, some of my muted tracks get exported into the mix).
Effects: This is the only area of significant change that seemed unnecessary. What was wrong with the 3-way color wheel? Or all the other normal visual effects in FCP7? I don’t bother doing any footage color touch-ups in FCPX. I’ll use Magic Bullet Looks or export to Davinci. I would do that anyway, but it was nice to do minor touchups in FCP7. I do really enjoy the stabilization and chroma key features in FCPX… definite upgrades from 7.
A certain downgrade is the inability to copy and paste individual effects. If you copy one effect from one track to another, it also copies the audio effects AND the audio volume automation and fades. The ability to “favorite” your effects is also sorely missing.
I love the look of the FCPX interface. I recently worked in Premiere CS5.5 and it was so darn ugly; I felt like I was editing an audio project in Cool Edit. In FCPX, it is also nice having an accurate gamma in the previewer. In FCP7, I had to switch my gamma to 1.8 to get an accurate reading. Now my footage looks on the FCPX previewer how it will look on any other screen.
I edit with a MacBook Pro i7 with 8 GB of RAM. Not a beast, but essentially the fastest Macbook Pro available. Still, editing with FCPX isn’t a speedy experience. The background rendering is nice, but it slows you down. In general, it feels a bit slow. I know I could be editing on a Mac Pro at a quicker rate… but since Apple hasn’t really updated their Pro line since Prison Break was canceled, that isn’t really an option.
The Actual Editing:
So I guess this is what really matters, what you are actually doing when you sit down to work: editing. In this capacity, FCPX is 2001: A Space Odyssey to Premiere’s Marooned. It’s ahead of its time. The magnetic timeline, editing tools, handles and all the other new features make Final Cut Pro X the quickest editing software I have used. It takes a little while to get used to, but I would highly recommend switching from FCP7 or Premiere.