I’ve been a Final Cut Pro user for a long time. It’s the only professional video editing software I’ve ever used. Even though it’s my tool of choice, I avoided upgrading to the new version for as long as I possibly could. Final Cut Pro X has been lingering in my subconscious ever since it was first introduced in 2011. I finally decided to jump in.
As I explained in my Has the Pro Finally Been Cut? post from July 2011, you cannot open projects that we made with earlier versions of FCP with the X version. I wasn’t ready to cut all of my ties with the past in order to use a new video editing program. Apparently, now I am.
This was not an easy decision to make. TechRadar ranked FCPX as the #1 most hated program of all time. That’s pretty bad! After using it for a few weeks, I can partially back that up. Using FCPX for the first time, even if you have years of experience with older versions of the program, is extremely frustrating.
Now, to be fair, using any advanced professional software for the first time is usually difficult. However, when a veteran FCP user tries out FCPX for the first time, they are in a completely alien landscape.
For starters, the simple act of creating a new project is terribly confusing. Instead of making a single new project, Apple has broken the system up into three parts: Projects, Events, and Libraries. What are the differences between these? I’m still not sure. I have not found a clear explanation of what these three different things are supposed to be.
Here’s another painful hangnail: there is no Save function in FCPX. So, when you want to start a new Project, you can’t save it. Yay! Simplicity! What’s that? You want to import footage and save it to an external drive? FCPX laughs at you.
You can call Apple support, but if the only time you get to edit is at night, the entire FCPX support team will be out of the office. They’ll be back tomorrow morning at 8 a.m. In the meantime, you can’t do anything. Your fleeting creative time was just completely wasted.
Since this program automatically saves things for you, it’s abundantly unclear where your stuff is actually being saved. So, if you need to import a bunch of footage — which you will certainly need to do — there isn’t a clear way to tell the program to save the footage to an external drive.
Like a 16GB iPhone, the internal SSD drive on my 13″ MacBook Pro Retina doesn’t have very much free space available. The first project I made with FCPX ended up maxing out the internal drive on my computer, long before I was anywhere near finished. The computer was hobbled, and I needed to erase a bunch of stuff just to get it operating properly again. Not a good start.
Try reading Apple’s instructions for how to start a Project (here’s the link). I’ve read this page several times. Call me dumb, but I find it to be incredibly unclear.
This extremely confusing workflow is extra upsetting because Apple had a start fresh with FCPX. They had the opportunity to build something really user-friendly. They blew it.
For a program that’s four years old, there are still some really annoying quirks lingering in FCPX. Exporting a finished project is awkward. You need to select Share, and the completed file gets dumped into your iTunes library. Your frigging iTunes library! That’s the last place I would ever want my video files to go. With FCPX, you have no choice.
Speaking of the iLife suite, whenever you plug a memory card into your computer to import video footage, Apple Photos automatically opens. Talk about annoying. It’s Apple at its worst. You can stop this from happening by following the instructions on this site, but, you need to do this for every one of your memory cards. APPLE!!!
Since FCPX was released, countless people have migrated over to Adobe Premiere. Others left for Sony Vegas. Few people liked FCPX, and the exorbitant prices of the new, trash-can-like Mac Pro computers were another turnoff. I considered leaving, too.
Should you buy FCPX?
With all of the trash talk I’m spitting out, you might assume that my advice would be to not buy FCPX. Well, it’s not that simple.
With all of its faults, there are some really good things about FCPX. It has the ability to automatically sync externally recorded audio files with video clips, much like the famous Plural Eyes plugin from Red Giant. This is an awesome feature. I’ve used it, and I love it. Adobe Premiere has this feature as well, but, FCPX won’t charge your credit card every single month.
I shot some footage where the ambient sunlight changed slightly between takes. The color shift between the clips was noticeable, distracting, and ugly. FCPX had a tool that made it simple to match the color between the takes. The results looked natural, and it was really easy to do. Awesome!
I’m pretty sure that the more I use FCPX, the more things I’ll find to like about it. Over the years, I’ve spoken to many video people who use it and love it. I’m sure I’ll find more bugs and annoying quibbles, too. But all in all, I’m glad that I don’t have to pay Adobe every month to edit my videos. $299 for FCPX is a great price. You just need to pull your hair out a lot.
Should you buy Adobe Premiere or Vegas?
Deciding to use Adobe Premiere or Sony Vegas is attractive because you’re not forced to use Apple Macintosh computers. Both of those programs are compatible with the Microsoft Windows operating system (Sony Vegas is PC-only). For me, though, this wasn’t luring. I’ve been using Macs as my main computers for over a decade now, and I’m not interested in switching back to PCs. No thank you.
The main reason people walked away from Final Cut Pro is that it just didn’t seem like a professional tool any more. They said it felt like they were using iMovie Pro. I must say, even though this program is four years old now, it still feels like software made for amateurs.
If you’re a heavy Apple user, and you used Final Cut Pro a lot in the past, I think FCPX is still worth $299. Presently, I pay Adobe $11 a month for Photoshop CC. It’s a great program, and a great price, but, in the long term, it’s a financial burden that I want to get rid of. I will likely purchase Affinity Photo in the near future. If that does everything I need it to do, I will cancel my Photoshop subscription.
Sigh. What a pain in the butt. Apple! What’s going on here? Why is your product so bad?
One of the worst things about FCPX is its uncertainty. Apple made a major change to the program in 2011. They took a big risk, and the risk didn’t pay off. They lost a great number of important customers. Now an air of uncertainty hangs over the product. Is Apple really behind it? Are they in it for the long haul?
It’s hard to say. Apple provides 24-hour phone support for iMovie, a free video editing program. They don’t do the same for their $299 video editing program. Why? Good question. This adds to the fog of uncertainty around the program.
Starting a project, saving a project, and managing a project is a confusing mess with FCPX. They had a chance to get this right in 2011, and they blew it. In 2014, Apple updated FCPX to version 10.1, which introduced switchable media libraries. I suppose this was an attempt to simplify, or, remedy its project management system. Well, I’m confused as hell. So, in my book, they blew it again. The fog grows thicker.
On the bright side, Apple did release a major update to Logic Pro this year. (Logic Pro is their professional audio production software). So, in my mind, that clears away some of the fog. Maybe Apple is in this fight for the long term. I hope they are.
Am I pleased with FCPX? No. Do I wish I paid Adobe every month for Premiere? No. Do I want a PC and Sony Vegas? Hell no. Am I going to continue using FCPX? Yes. Should you buy FCPX? Maybe. If you take the dive, just be warned that the water is freezing. I’m still shivering, but I think I’ll get used to it.