First look: Apple Final Cut Pro X 10.0.3

The June 2011 release of Apple’s new Final Cut Pro X set off a firestorm that reverberated across the globe — at least in video circles. The hotly anticipated new version of Apple's flagship video software was unexpectedly accompanied by the immediate removal of the previous version — Final Cut Pro 7 — along with the company's Final Cut Server and Final Cut Express apps, from distributors. That alone had longtime users jumping ship.

But that wasn't the only bad news. The reviews of the new app were almost universally critical. To longtime videographers who had built careers around Final Cut workflows, the new FCP X lacked the pro-level power features they considered essential.

A new environment without connectivity to broadcast monitoring and networked storage, without the ability to assign audio outputs, and without the ability to open archives of previous FCP 7 projects, caused the industry to respond with shock and outrage. Apple’s competitors meanwhile, rejoiced in vitriolic glee at the prospect of gaining back years of market share they had lost as a result of the FCP’s dominance.

Then something astonishing happened: Cupertino backed down. Apple sent its product managers out into the editing community to reassure video pros that it and FCP X were indeed committed to supporting the product's working professional base, and that Apple would soon restore multicam editing, broadcast monitoring and output, the ability to assign audio tracks in a specific order, and the ability to import and export to and from their favorite third-party applications for audio, color correction, and finishing—as well as connect to Xsan or other networked storage volumes.

In short, Apple told its angry customers not to worry; they had their back.

Complaints addressed

With today’s FCP X 10.0.3 update, Apple made good on its promises in a big way. In fact, it has addressed all but one of my complaints. Before going into detail, a brief history is in order.

With the FCP X version 10.0.2 update, released in Mid-November, users could assign audio tracks to output in a specific order, export XML to other applications, and connect to Xsan or other networked volumes for editing. Now, barely seven months after the program’s initial release in the Mac App Store, the new FCP X 10.0.3 added everything I had asked for—except for native 3D editing—to the package.

Apple’s demo of the new version for Macworld last week employed an iMac attached via Thunderbolt to Promise’s Pegasus array and AJA’s IoXT for playback on a professional broadcast monitor. Seeing that setup as I walked into the room, I knew that many of my original concerns were going to be addressed. But what I saw and heard next was even more surprising.

Apple spent a good deal of time talking about their partners and their relationships within the FCP X ecosystem. Many users do not realize the number of plug-ins that have become available for FCP X since its launch last summer — there are more plug-ins for FCP X than there were for FCP 7, though companies like GenArts have had to wait until the 10.0.3.

FCP 7 projects to FCP X

Another big surprise was XML 1.1 integration with FCP via Intelligent Assistance, the company owned by video guru Philip Hodgetts. Available with the launch of this update will be the 7toX for Final Cut Pro conversion app for £6.99/US$10. The new 7toX for Final Cut Pro offers full import functionality that will allow users to convert their older project files into FCP X events. While I am sure there will be many poorly organized FCP 7 projects that may not translate, I urge everyone to treat this news in much the way as when we started converting and sharing our first FCP projects via XML or EDL.

A quantum leap with multicam

Videographers were promised from the introduction of FCP X that in the near future we would once again be able to edit a multi-camera project, and Apple has delivered. With up to 64 active camera angles available, FCP X may actually shake the industry to its core with that level of multicam facility in the basic editing package. This means that you can actively edit more cameras than I have ever heard of being used for any multicam project, with the possible exception bullet-time for The Matrix.

Multicam editing is now a reality in FCP X. Users have the ability to sync clips by camera time code, camera name, in or out points, markers, or using the source audio. With up to 64 angles available, Apple has been responsive to the requests of its user base.

Apple did not stop there. Because FCP X contains the most powerful metadata engine of any NLE, users now have unprecedented control over multicam events, with the ability to access and sync tracks not only via time code, but with keywords, in or out points, or audio tracks.

Multicam functionality is intelligent enough via the underlying metadata structure to be able to dynamically identify multiple takes from the same camera and drop them sequentially onto a multicam track — something that is utterly amazing. Apple augmented FCP X’s audio syncing capacity by allowing the app to exploit audio metadata to sync multiple cameras with similar audio content when there is no matching timecode on the files.