An Ode to the “Professional” Editor #FCPX

On April 12, 2011, Final Cut Pro saw its first major redesign and update since 2001… Even earlier if you remember the program as KeyGrip (the name of the program at Apple purchased as the foundation for FCP in 1999).

As I tuned into the twitter feeds of #FCP last night to experience the cumulative reaction of the 1700 people at the FCPUG usersSuperMeet at NAB, I found myself to be outside of the “Reality Distortion Field” normally found in Apple keynote addresses. You see,unlike the next iPhone or the next iPad, Final Cut Pro has been the program that I have made my living for the past 10 years. It has been my lifeblood, a passion, and the one piece of software that I can truly say I’m an expert with. What makes me so comfortable

with this program I know how to fix this bugger when it breaks. I know how to avoid problems with this clunker because of known bugs, and more importantly I can navigate this program with an efficiency that takes years to develop. It is another thing altogether to create something wonderful with this tool.

But as I utter these words, I realize that there are many other programs I rely on to do my job. Microsoft Word, any e-mail program,any operating system… These are all just cogs in a greater skill-set to do my job effectively and efficiently. By owning Microsoft WordI don’t call myself a professional writer. By knowing how to navigate WordPress, I’m not a professional blogger. And by owning a hammer and knowing that I can swing it, does not make me a carpenter. Anyone can give themselves a creative title until they have to build “it”. Only then, can someone can be called a “Professional”, whether it be a writer, a blogger, or Jesus.

With that said. If Jesus have been an editor, he would use Final Cut Pro X.

In my analysis of this announcement, I will look at this the changes to FCP from two different perspectives. One from an editors perspective, and the other from the role of an Educator and Multimedia Systems Administrator. Additionally, because this announcement was a “sneak peek” I will not recap the feature-set. For a complete list of changes to the program thus far, or to watchthe Keynote address please visit the following links:

Feature List:

Keynote Video:

From an Editors Perspective:

Forgoing the easy analysis of Final Cut Pro X as “iMovie on Steroids”, I truly believe Apple is trying to accomplish many goals. One of the obvious goals in the demo was efficiency disguised as making things “easier” for the editor. Every single new feature that was demoed is intended to make finding your media faster, and implementing decisions quicker.

As the demo for Magnetic Timeline and Compound Clips was happening, I was counting the steps or “clicks” that I would no longer have to do for insert editing or choosing b-roll/environmental. Those who perform many repetitive actions to nested sequence of over 700 clips know what I’m talking about. Those micro-tasks add up quick, and after seeing FCPX “editing during ingest” of h.264, Iwas sold. Those features alone can save hours.

The Twitterverse might ask, “So what about the UI?”.. Well to that I say, “Meh”. UI’s change. They become more efficient, especially inApple’s world. So what if it looks like iMovie. Spend a week with the program and learn how to be more efficient by starting over.You’re a professional, aren’t you? You’ve done it before with almost every other program you have. Grow up.

There is no way that this upgrade will make FCP less powerful. It provides the underpinnings to an exciting, powerful future where any format will “just work.” Isn’t that how we want all of our software to do… Just work with what we want? Apple is leveraging it’s core technologies (Open CL, Grand Central Dispatch, and Core Animation) to make things in FCP “just work.” From DSLR’s to flip cams, to legacy codecs (I’m looking at you DV).. These decisions will make editing easier for everyone because it strips the high-levelof understanding away and makes the technology invisible.

Knowing how to fix compression problems with mpeg-2 will always come in handy, but if those problems are not there in the first place because the software “took care of it”, who’s to know, and who’s to care? Producers only care about the final product. As an editor/producer I look forward to a more efficient and seamless FCP experience so that I can concentrate on creativity and story, notcodecs and metadata. Jesus can do my offline.

From a Systems Administrator/Educator Perspective:

If this version of Final Cut is not adopted by the professional community, FCP is dead as a Pro App. Lots of people will use it, but a toyit will be.

The decision to continue with Final Cut in the classroom will only be decided if it is taken seriously in the post-production world. Will the new price ($299.00) scare post-production houses away? Or will producers ask for FCPX by name, to keep costs down? The assumption 10 years ago was that because FCP was cheap and accessible, it would require lower post-production costs and “less-skilled” editors. Producers quickly realized that only the former turned out to be true. But the “non-professionals” still called themselves shooters and editors… with their DVX-100’s and XL-1’s, they pointed their Quicktime Export to YouTube,starting MANY careers in the process. Consumers became producers with technology that was now more accessible.

I owe some of my career to my basement and my XL-1. My early knowledge and adoption gave me a leg up at the first of many small studios that I have worked. This (DV+FCP) was technology that caught salty Media-100 and Fast VM/Linear “Professional Editors”off-guard, and changed an industry in 8 years. I don’t believe this version (of FCP) will make waves like it did in the 2000’s… but you

will see a new generation of filmmakers with DSLR’s and Macbooks creating stories with a different (read: more advanced) aesthetic than DV and our G4’s hurled at the industry 10 years ago.

So will I install FCPX in the classroom? Only if it benefits the students professionally.. and that depends ultimately on how you define a“professional”. This will take time. But given the current economic condition of education right now… There may be a clearchoice. Adobe, and especially Avid, are more nimble and affordable than ever, but a 4G modem, a Macbook preloaded with FCPX, tied to a Canon T2i, for under 2K?.. Well that sounds like anyone, anywhere, can tell a professional story.

I say as an editor, use it immediately. If you like it add it to your toolset and move on. If it’s more efficient, tell producers that you can get it done faster in FCPX. Charge less, make more.

As a systems administrator. Wait a year. Look at the details. Call production houses and media outlets to see what their plans are. They will tell you their direction. The popular vote wins. (hint:most provide multiple NLE’s)

If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to let me know. You can also find me on the twits @danielphelps, or email meat dphelps{at}


My thoughts about an old program's nostalgic influence on an old(ish) editor. On April 12, 2011, Final Cut Pro saw its first major redesign and update since 2001… Even earlier, if you remember, the program as KeyGrip (the name of the program at Apple purchased as the foundation for FCP in 1999).