With the release of its hotly anticipated Final Cut Pro X (FCP X), Apple breaks new ground -- not just with its flagship video editor's interface and underlying infrastructure -- but with the whole mindset of what it means to be a working professional video editor.

Apple has revamped Final Cut Pro's hands-on user experience in three major areas: Editing, media organization, and post-production workflow. New tools such as the Magnetic Timeline, Clip Connections, Compound Clips, and Auditions provide a smooth, intuitive editing experience.

With the rise of data-centric workflows and tapeless video recording, organizational tools such as Content Auto-Analysis, Range-based keywords, and Smart Collections work in the background to automate formerly tedious and time-consuming manual processes.

Post production workflows now offer customizable effects, integrated audio editing, color grading, and a host of streamlined delivery options.

With this new application, video pros can no longer follow traditional ways of working.


Clips in FCP X's new Event Library are sorted by both user-created Custom Keywords (blue icons) and Smart Collections. The latter are created automatically by Content Auto-Analysis during import (purple icons).

Final Cut Pro X, despite its familiar name, is not an upgrade of Final Cut Pro 7. It is a brand new product. FCP X is also no longer part of a suite of applications such as Final Cut Studio, but rather one of a trio of component parts that include Final Cut Pro X (£150 plus VAT), Motion 5 (£25), and Compressor 4 (£25). All are available separately for download from the Mac App Store. There will be no boxed copies.

Rolling

Final Cut Pro X starts off by immediately analyzing your media as it begins to import footage, while at the same time archiving critical secondary information on colour balance, motion, rolling shutter artifacts, tracking, and stabilization data on a clip-by-clip basis.

While handling the bulk of analytical information at ingest, FCP X is tagging the files with metadata in a manner that speeds secondary file processing, delivery, and rendering capabilities and vastly accelerates workflow. The heavy lifting of this content is invisibly handled in the background—between the application and the Mac operating system—as a byproduct of the conversion to a fully 64-bit application workflow.

The most profound interface changes to FCP X—beyond the new darker look—are the Event Browser and the Event Library. Importing your content into the app creates a new Event, a virtual folder that holds all of the information about your media: what it is, where it's stored, and whether it’s from a specific date, place, or client. You can even rate, organize, and show or hide clips from view while accessing tools like Keyword and Smart Collections. Events are created by the application as part of the ingest, in addition to your organizational effort.

When you're done creating your video, you can use the direct upload options within FCP X to share it on Facebook, Vimeo, YouTube, and CNN iReport. All Apple devices are available as options, as well as Podcast Producer, output for standard definition DVDs, and even Blu-ray devices, directly within FCP X. Plus, the application still offers fully integrated processing with Compressor. Standalone export output options offer all flavors of Apple's ProRes, H.264, DVCProHD, Apple HDV, and even Sony’s XDCamEX format at 35Mbps and the 50Mbps version of the XDCamHD 422 codec.

In this hands-on First Look at the new Final Cut Pro X , I'll walk you through some of the major interface elements that inaugurate new ways of editing and organizing your video.

Magnetic Timeline

Acting as a trackless canvas for your video edit, the Magnetic Timeline allows you the freedom to arrange and re-arrange your media wherever you want. Existing clips on the timeline slide in and out of the way without danger of collision or overwriting a previous edit. They snap into place “magnetically,” dynamically aligning with existing media in the timeline. Despite being trackless, you can easily create multi-level compositions and properly maintain continuity as you move media around in your project. This feature interactively shows you exactly what’s happening in the timeline as you work, so you can easily execute your vision.

Clip Connections and Compound Clips

Designed to maintain the continuity of media in the timeline, Clip Connections are relational links between primary media in the timeline and secondary elements. Content such as titles, B-roll, sound effects, and even music, can be moved and repositioned seamlessly as a single clip, maintaining audio and video sync, and giving you a clear, visually defined connection to your assets.

Alongside Clip Connections and its facility at combining primary and secondary elements into a cohesive unit for editing and filtering, Compound Clips further advances the concept by allowing a complex multi-element group of media to be handled as a single clip. It's easy. Just select the relevant media and choose Create Compound Clip from the File menu (or hit the Option-G key command).

Compound Clips let you move, duplicate, and handle clips as an individual segment. You can even share such clips across multiple projects or use a clip to apply filters and effects across all combined elements. The Compound Clips feature helps video editors remove clutter and simplify the timeline’s organization, while maintaining media continuity.