Apple Final Cut Pro X 10.0.3: A Closer Look

I will admit that I was initially among the dissenting voices in the professional editing community that dismissed FCP X upon its initial release.

Like other editors who make their living with Final Cut Pro, I felt a sense of abandonment. Nevertheless, I was able to put the emotional response aside and see the cold, hard reality: Apple was moving on to where the money was. Nothing personal, it was just business.

Since then, however, I have been pleasantly surprised by Apple’s response to the editing community's concerns: In the last 6 months, three updates have added several major capabilities. Two of the most requested features – multicam editing and external broadcast monitor support – were included in the recent 10.0.3 update. If you consider that the product cycle for previous FCP versions was in the ballpark of 18 months, then I think it’s safe to say that Apple is listening.

Last week I put up a quick post when the 10.0.3 update was announced. Now that I’ve spent some time with the new updates, I’d like to discuss them in a little more detail. I’m not going to touch on multicam editing, as that has been discussed extensively elsewhere. What I do want to look at is the updates to XML, Photoshop import, and broadcast monitor support.

XML 1.1

The lack of XML export was fodder for some of the loudest criticism upon FCPX’s initial release. The 10.0.1 update quickly silence some of that, but not all. It allowed import/export of projects and events in XML format, which meant professional video editors could get their projects into 3rd party tools like Blackmagic Design's DaVinci Resolve, which seems to have become the standard in pro video color correction.

But one thing it didn’t address was the ability to import FCP Legacy projects into FCP X. That has now been addresses with the latest update, XML 1.1. Well, not directly, but it has allowed a 3rd party plug-in developer (Intelligent Assistance) to release 7toX For Final Cut Pro – which now lets you import and open legacy projects.

Larger post houses will be glad to learn that it also supports workflows with Apple Xsan storage.

Layered Adobe Photoshop Graphics

This may have been a minor update compared to the rest, but for me was an important inclusion. Initially, FCP X dropped the ability to import PSD file layers into a FCP timeline. This was a handy feature in FCP legacy versions, as it let you quickly animate simple graphics that didn’t require a more robust solution like After Effects. Now the ability to import PSD layers is back, with FCP X importing all the object layers from a Photoshop file in a single Compound Clip.

Broadcast Monitoring (Beta)

To my mind, lack of Broadcast Monitor support in the initial release represented the biggest example of Apple dropping the ball. Seems they have decided to pick up the ball and get back in the game. The "Beta" tag is due to a requirement for all 3rd party hardware makers to produce fully tested drivers. The new update not only supports Black Magic and AJA cards connected to a broadcast monitor, but also allows Final Cut to connect to any HDMI screen using the Thunderbolt interface.

Intangibles: the Fun Factor

One thing that has not been covered extensively in the recent reviews is how much fun the new Final Cut Pro is to use. Once I had gotten over my initial resistance to using the new version, I found myself feeling like a kid in a candy shop as I worked my way through the new interface. I look forward to seeing what Apple has in store with future updates – and if the last 6 months is an indicator, I shouldn’t have to wait long.