Final Cut Pro X for Photographers

I mentioned to a friend of mine who doesn't work on a Mac that I was editing my first movie in Final Cut Pro X. He said, "Oh that's the one everybody is complaining about, isn't it?" I replied, "Yeah, that's the one."

It's interesting to read such emotional reactions to what I consider a great software release. I'm guessing that I love Final Cut X (pronounced "10") for the same reasons that many hate it. You see, I never could warm up to Final Cut in the past. I tried, but I despised it. Same goes for Final Cut Express. I kept thinking to myself, why did they make it so hard to use?"

Final Cut Pro X After about an hour in the new Final Cut Pro X, I was thinking more about my movie than operating the software. Click on image for larger size.

The situation grew worse as more of my clients wanted video as part of the deliverable. "I'm a photographer," I thought to myself. So I would work within the limitations of iMovie and sometimes use Aperture for those short postings on YouTube and Vimeo that everyone was requesting.

Then, along came Final Cut Pro X.

Within an hour I was becoming comfortable. My iMovie and Aperture experiences were actually helping me in this new version of Final Cut. But I could do so much more. And it ran beautifully on my 13" MacBook Air.

My first project is telling the story of the recent Sonoma County Hot Air Balloon Classic that was part of our June TDS Photography Workshop in Northern CA. I had a mixture of still images and HD video captured with my Canon 5D Mark II. I imported the video into Final Cut Pro X, then when I needed a still image, I would use the Photos Browser to look into my Aperture Library, and drag an image right in to the timeline. Once there, I used the Crop tool to fit to 16:9 or to add a Ken Burns effect.

I could then move over to a video clip, double-click on it in the timeline to break out the audio track, and drag the audio over the still images. So professional. So easy. Same goes for transitions, titles, and sound effects. Easy.

I can understand why long time users of Final Cut are thrown off-balance by this latest release. It's so different. But I think most of what they need is actually in there, and the rest will follow soon. As for the rest of us, photographers who need to produce video that looks as good as their stills. Final Cut Pro X is the blessing I've been waiting for.

I'll talk more about this during Tuesday's TDS podcast. The video, Hot Air, is now available on YouTube. I can't wait to start working on my next project.

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I use Final Cut Pro (previous version) every day at work. I went to the FCPUG meeting in London last week and Larry Jordan basically agreed with the critics but said Apple had made a bold move. This was their vision of how video editing should look for the next ten years. There are features missing from previous versions but Larry felt these would either be re-introduced by Apple or by third party developers. Give them time.

Bottom line, pros hate the fact this looks like iMovie on steroids but for most of us it simply makes for a cleaner and more usable interface. I like it.

And the price is right for anyone to get it. Maybe the price is what puts the pro off the program?

I have a lot of empathy for the video pros who have invested years learning the older FCP and developing a workflow pipeline. These types of changes are difficult.

But I am thrilled for the thousands of photographers and emerging video stars who have a powerful editor that is much easier to use and that we can afford. I still gulped when I paid my $299 for FCPX, but it's a heck of a lot better than the previous $1200 for FCP Studio.

Oh, and personally, I like the new look :) Thanks for commenting Rod and Geir.

I'll download it in the next couple of weeks, but I'm proceeding cautiously. I believe FCPX will be perfect for me but I totally understand the frustration with the pro's in the big shops.


Nice to see something positive. I tried to use Final Cut Express, however kept running into features that had been gutted from the program. Final Cut Studio was hard and too expensive for occasional use.

Enjoying the powerful meta data control over organizing video, and direct access to my Aperture libraries really creates a seamless experience for combining stills with video.

Performance is fast, but not crazy fast, especially when you turn on all the options for analyzing during import...

I agree with your sentiments on FCP. I learned it starting with FC Express and then I upgraded to version 4 of FCP (and eventual to v6). It required significant effort to become proficient and all the while I was using it I was hoping for something easier.

After almost a week of use, FCP X has great promise for me. I like it so far. I just completed the Ripple Training last night so I'm starting to "get it".

One shortcomming is FCP X doesn't see videos stored in Aperture or iPhoto's libraries. I wonder why it is so hard. At least if you store it in Aperture by reference you can easily import into FCP X directly. If however, you store the videos in Aperture as managed, I don't see a way to get them into FCP X (unless you export them first of course).

I'm in the same place like you, Derrik. The old versions of FCP just didn't got me.
But with FCP X, it's a joy to work and learn how to do better movies.

It's true, I'm not a professional in that, so I cannot assess what a professional (whatever that means) needs.

I'm a photographer who used to be a tv guy - I edited on Avid and FCP workstations.

While I'm sure this new version is great for a one-man operation and greatly simplified for the masses, the problem with FCPX for pros isn't about learning new ways or working: it's about no longer being able to work, period. When I say pros I just mean people working in standard post-production facilities. Some of the things that have been taken out of FCP with this release are not just useful in a broadcast environment but absolutely essential.

FCP 7 can be (and is) used in top of the line film or TV environments. FCPX can't. It's not about snobbery or reluctance to embrace the new: Apple has completely broken this app for high-end work. Maybe updates will fix some of the problems, but post-production houses who've invested in this solution over the years must be scratching their heads in disbelief.

A very odd and troubling move IMHO.

Hi Patrick, As I mentioned in the article, I have a lot of empathy for those who have pipelines built around FCP Studio. And since the release for FCPX, those in pain have dominated the discussion about the new software. I'm hoping that Apple helps these existing customers by putting the previous version back on the market and helping existing users make the transition.

But that's not my point here. I don't want the very people that FCPX could help get scared away by upset broadcast professionals. The app itself is very good, and for those who need this level of editing, without all of the previous experience, it's a blessing.

Like Derrick, I tried FCP7 and found it overwhelming.I consider myself a simple hobbyist and gave FCPX a spin. I really like the more simple and easier to use interface. I guess the video professionals are up in arms because of the big changes but for the common joe like me, I'm very happy to be able to finally enjoy a easy to use but sophisticated video editing program.

I totally understand your point Derrick. I'm sure this new version is probably quite empowering for a lot of us. Just wanted to illustrate the reasons for what some have described as whining by spoiled divas. It goes way beyond that unfortunately.

I've just posted about how I feel about all this as an Aperture user. Article is here if you're interested: