Final Cut Pro X Unveiled in Las Vegas

Just got back from a few days at the NAB Show in Las Vegas. As a Final Cut Pro editor the highlight for me was not even an official NAB event, but the Final Cut Pro User Group SuperMeet held on Tuesday evening.

Marking 10 years of Las Vegas SuperMeets, Bally's Event Center was abuzz with anticipation as the 1700 attendees speculated on the truth behind the worst kept secret in Vegas: Apple was taking over the presentation portion of the evening and would be giving a sneak peek of Final Cut Pro X, the latest version of the editing software. Sure enough, that’s exactly what happened.

"Final Cut Pro X"

From the moment FCP Architect Peter Steinauer stepped on stage, it was clear he was preaching to the converted. The very excitable FCPUG crowd hooted and cheered with each new feature he listed. These include 64-bit compatibility, which means it will no longer be limited to 4GB of RAM, but will now be able to take advantage of all the RAM on your machine. And the editor’s nemesis, the render bar, is apparently going to be a thing of the past, with all rendering now handled in the background. The new Final Cut also supports resolution-independent playback up to 4K. A new feature called Smart Collections promises to detect what kind of shots are brought into the application, flagging them as close-ups, medium shots, shots with one or two people, and groups. This should take a lot of the manual leg-work out of the organizational process. Then there are new timeline tools that lock primary audio and video so they can’t be accidentally knocked out of sync, and you can lock secondary audio to primary content if needed. The Magnetic Timeline feature was a big hit during the demo, which moves audio automatically out of the way as you move clips along the timeline. Then there is the completely overhauled UI, which has some critics complaining that it is just iMovie on steroids. I’m going to hold off on commenting on that until I’ve actually used it – don’t care what it looks like, so long as it lives up to it’s promise. My only concern at the moment is that it is indeed such a reworking that it is actually a completely different application. That means a bit of a learning curve.

The pricing of Final Cut Pro X was what got half of the audience to their feet with a standing ovation: $299, available as a download from the App Store. Sounded good at the time, but after a little sober reflection, this price only applies to Final Cut itself – what about the other apps in the Studio suite? Will we have to download Compressor, DVD Studio Pro and Motion individually? Will this à la carte pricing actually end up costing more that the current $999 price tag of Final Cut Studio? "Wait and see" is the official line from Apple. With a June release date, that wait should not be too long.