The Truth About Final Cut Pro X and Final Cut Pro 7

After following the hype, the backlash, and the general confusion that happened after Apple, Inc. released Final Cut Pro X, I finally took the leap and purchased the application.  I’ve been using it now for a few months on professional projects and I have a lot of observations and some general comments about the future of the application as well as the validity of Legacy Final Cut Pro 7 (also referred to as Final Cut Studio 3).

At this point we’ve all heard the same old arguments about what FCPX does not have so I’ll do my best to limit those types of comments as best I can.  However, I did want to mention that I have noticed a growing number of people complaining about certain lack of FCPX functionality when, in actuality, FCPX can do those things it’s just that it does it differently than FCP7.  I think the important observation on this is that we all need to be sure to do our research, watch tutorials or read instructional books like Larry Jordan’s Making the Transition to Final Cut Pro X.  These will definitely bring clarity to some of the questions that seem to float out their about general functionality and editorial processes in FCPX.

The other thing I want to mention, and Larry Jordan (yes, I’m a fan!) has made it a point to clarify this.  There has been a lot of debate as to whether or not Final Cut Pro X is a professional NLE.  In my opinion, if you are using it for professional uses (i.e. you are earning money creating media with it) then it is professional.  It’s not just about the tools, it’s about what you can do with the tools.  However, I also feel this comes with a very large caveat-the types of projects you are working on.  Which brings me to my point.

I can see myself using both Final Cut Pro X and Final Cut Pro 7 consistently for different reasons and different projects.  Also, using third party programs like 7 to X by Intelligent Assistance (http://assistedediting.intelligentassistance.com/7toX/) has enabled me to use Final Cut Pro X as a finishing program (i.e. color correction, effects, etc.)

So, let me start by mentioning where Final Cut Pro X shines as a stand-alone NLE.  I think this is an excellent program to edit anything that is going to end up on the web, especially short promos, commercials, music videos, etc.  I also think it is an excellent tool in dealing with multi-camera shoots and, especially, documentaries that have a massive amount of footage.  The meta data tagging in FCP X is powerful and extremely useful for these types of projects.

Once you get past the strangeness of the interface and embrace the differences, you can actually cut pretty fast in FCP X.  Now, can you cut faster than in FCP7? I would say that the short answer is yes, especially once you get into the workflow.  And, of course, the background rendering is awesome.  Although, to me, there’s a little ‘gotcha’ with the background rendering.  I have had times where it slowed down my system when I was dealing with a complicated project (timeline) and ended up having to wait for the render to happen just so the system wouldn’t hiccup.  I will say, in defense of FCP X, I could probably use a better graphics card and more RAM in my Mac Pro which would definitely take care of this issue.

Back to our discussion… here is where I think FCP7 still shines.  Editing feature or broadcast projects that may be complicated and may involve multiple post-production facilities and staff in the pipeline.  FCPX is simply not suited for this type of environment.  If you are a standalone shop or simply collaborating with another editor who is also on FCPX then you’re fine.  But once you get into having to talk with other people, other systems, I think FCP7 is a much better answer.  Some editors even feel that FCP7 is still a better system than Adobe Premiere Pro, even as it advances (although I think this will change shortly, especially with the impending Adobe updates).

Although FCPX can export an XML file, and this works in conjunction with a slew of third party products, including DaVinci Resolve, I feel that the lack of export options including OMF and even EDL limit FCPX playing nicely with other programs and therefore limits the collaborative process that is involved with larger feature film and broadcast productions.  I also want to mention that I miss the ability to export to Soundtrack Pro, part of the Final Cut Studio suite.  Although they have included the majority of plug-ins that are in Logic in FCPX, and the effects are similar to how they worked in Soundtrack Pro, I still miss the type of audio workflow you find in a Digital Audio Workstation like that-especially use of the master fader as well as buses.

I also feel, and many people have mentioned this, that the re-linking in FCPX is not nearly as intuitive or powerful as it was in FCP7.  Hopefully this will be attended to in future FCPX updates.

For me, one of the things that is still annoying about FCPX is the idea of calling your ‘projects’ ‘events’ and calling ‘timelines’ projects’.  Most professionals don’t refer to their projects by shoot date or event name, it’s usually by client or project name.  I know this event workflow is in line with Apple’s general methodology and they seem to be attempting to streamline the look of their software across the board.  But at the end of the day, I just find it to be a little strange, although I am willing to get on board with it to continue to use the powerful features in FCPX.

The truth is… I will be using both Final Cut Pro X and Final Cut Pro 7 (as well as the other programs in Final Cut Studio 3) for different projects and purposes-at least for the foreseeable future.  And I think I’m not alone in that methodology.  Will Final Cut Pro X ever be so great that I could abandon FCP7? Only time will tell.  In the meantime, let’s hope that the continuous upgrades of OSX don’t preclude me from using both.

9 thoughts on “The Truth About Final Cut Pro X and Final Cut Pro 7

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