FCPX and the Death of Final Cut Pro 7 is All Vincent Laforet’s Fault (or Why I think FCPX is Aimed Squarely at Photographers)

Vincent Laforet's "Reverie" set a wave in motion that has helped change the course of FCP. IMHO.

First, let me start by saying that my blog post title today is totally tongue-in-cheek. Just a provocative title to make a subtle point and not in anyway meant as an indictment against Vincent. In fact, it’s a testament to his groundbreaking work in DSLR filmmaking and the impact his little film “Reverie” has had. Indulge me if you will…

I’ve been thinking this week “what in the world is going on with Apple and Final Cut Pro?” For the past ten years, it has been the “little engine that could.” Ten years ago when Apple released FCP 1.0, it was kind of a joke in the high-end pro filmmaking and TV world. Avid was the BMOC (big man on campus). But through Apple’s innovation and listening to pro filmmakers, they turned FCP into one of the most popular non-linear editing systems in Hollywood. Everyone from big budget studio pics to little indie guys were using Final Cut Pro (and eventually Final Cut Studio). Apple’s “Final Cut in Action” page had slick testimonial videos from the likes of Francis Ford Coppola, the Coen Brothers, @Radical Media, ID4 producer Dean Devlin, and high-profile film schools like Full Sail University. The message was clear. Final Cut Pro, a program that cost a fraction of the traditional editing suites in Hollywood, was just as powerful as its predecessors. Avid and Adobe saw their market share shrink.

Now after waiting two years for an update to FCP 7, what does Apple deliver? A very slick, very sophisticated 1.0 product that is not usable by all the aforementioned high-profile Hollywood types whose testimonials help gave it the credibility to become what it once was.

So I’m sitting in bed, unable to sleep. Not because of Apple, but because my wife is taking a much-needed lone vacation and I always find it hard to sleep when she’s not home. But I digress. (I miss you sweetheart if you’re reading this). As I was saying, I’m sitting in bed wracking my brain about what Apple is up to. Everything I’m seeing is telling me they are abandoning that high-end pro market. Killing off Soundtrack Pro, Cinema Tools, Final Cut Server, DVD Studio Pro and not importing legacy projects is one pretty big sign. Then I watched most of this insightful video by the guys at Ripple Training (a leading producer of training videos and resources for Mac video producers). Mark Spencer, Alex Lindsay and Steve Martin (yes, his name is Steve Martin, and no it’s not the comedian) sat around a table for 2 hours talking about their take on FCPX and answering a lot of questions about it. They then showed much of the program. It is a complete paradigm shift in how an editor thinks (and how every other significant video editing program works). Other blog posts I read which backed this up include this one by FCP expert Chris Fenwick, and of course, this funny (albeit profanity-laden) post by maker of the now famous “No Title for This” video Jeffery Harrell. The nail in the coffin was Shake developer and ex-Apple inside man Ron Brinkmann’s post yesterday.

As Fenwick’s and Brinkmann’s posts suggest, Apple has abandoned the high-end pro video market in favor of the potentially more lucrative mid-level market. It really is iMovie Pro. Apple is not stupid. They are revolutionary in their thinking and 9 times out of 10 are way ahead of the game. They had to know this would put off a lot of top-tier professionals. They must believe that in the long run, a $299 mid-level program will make way more money than a $1,000 high-level suite.

But who is this mid-level market they’re targeting? It can’t be the general hobbyists. iMovie is good enough for that. And parents aren’t going to spend $300 just to edit home movies. Neither do think it’s the indie and wannabe filmmakers. Why? Because indie and wannabe filmmakers want to eventually make it to Hollywood. And I don’t think Hollywood is going to adopt FCPX. Which also means film schools won’t adopt FCPX. So I’m left thinking what industry is big enough to make the investment in FCPX (and the subsequent disenfranchisement of Hollywood) worthwhile?

Photographers…

Yes. This is just my little ol’ theory. But as someone who is hip deep in both the film and photography industries (ergo the name of my blog), it is all clear to me. This must be where Apple is targeting. And this is where the title of my post comes into play.

When Vincent made “Reverie” everything changed. Filmmakers started shooting with DSLR cameras. Photographers started calling themselves “visual artists” and directors. “Cats and dogs were living together. MASS HYSTERIA!” There’s only one market I can think of that is big enough to change the course of the river that was FCP. Pro photographers-turned-filmmakers (or pros wanting to add video to their repertoire). Ironically, I’m not even talking about Vincent Laforet level photographers. I’m talking about all those “Debbie Digitals” and mom & pop photographers who’ve been editing their DSLR footage with iMovie and have been flustered by FCP. I think it’s a safe assumption that this market is easily 10-20 times bigger than the high-end pro video producer/filmmaking market. So a 2/3 drop in price is nothing compared to the upside.

Proof in the Pudding

Again, this is just my very humble and untested gut reaction. But here are a few nuances that support my hypothesis

  • Smart Collections. One of the most significant paradigm shifts in FCPX is the loss of “Bins” in favor of “Smart Collections.” Words mean things people. A “bin” is a direct inference to old filmmaking lexicon (film strips used to be held in bins). The way smart collections work in FCPX, when you ingest your media, you must tag them with keywords, which puts them into these smart collections. And it does so chronologically, i.e. media is dated and named based on when it was created. Hmmm? What workflow can you think of that involves keywording your media as you ingest it, and is managed primarily in chronological order? Oh yeah, photo post processing programs like Adobe Lightroom and Aperture. It’s a paradigm photographers are already familiar with.
  • Event Libraries. Again, names mean things. Your media is no longer contained in “scratch disks,” but in event libraries. All your media must either be IN a library (which you can save anywhere you want), or if not saved directly to your library, it is still referenced via your library in FCPX. Hmmm? What other media workflow process do you know uses the term “libraries” for cataloging and storing media. Oh yeah, Lightroom and Aperture. Moving on.
  • Imploring Users to Upgrade from iMovie. Right on the FCPX website is a section on why you should upgrade from iMovie. Hello? Who is this message aimed at? The tens of thousands of pro filmmakers that have been editing in FCP 7? No. The new dad that just wants to edit home movies and his iPhone vacation clips (who never even visits the Pro applications page of Apple.com)? No. It’s aimed at professional visual artists who are currently using iMovie. The overwhelming number of professional visual artists using iMovie to edit are pro photographers.
  • Color Wheels Gone. Another paradigm shift… color wheels are gone. Now, you look at the color spectrum on a horizontal line, not unlike how one might look at, oh, I don’t know, a histogram? Hmmm?

These are just a few things to ponder. But I think they’re pretty significant (well, the first three anyway. I admit the color wheels/histogram theory is kind of a stretch). But when you combine these changes with the fact that it has direct hooks into Aperture, and all the other things people have been complaining about, I think my theory holds some water.

Predictions

I’m going to go out on a limb. These are some of the things I predict we will see in the next 365 days…

  • The Hollywood testimonials will be replaced by testimonial videos by Mike Colon, Joe Buissink, Jasmine Star, MeRa Koh, Scott Bourne, or some other photographer(s) in their ilk (NOTE: although I do know these people personally, I do NOT have any knowledge one way or the other confirming my theory. I’m just guessing. There is no inside info here.)
  • You will see a testimonial video by some high (or relatively high) profile wedding cinematographer. My guess would be they approach StillMotion.
  • You will see full page FCPX ads in major pro photography magazines like Professional Photographer (again, even though I freelance write for this magazine, I have no inside knowledge. Just theorizing).
  • You’ll see a large FCPX contingency at the major photo shows like WPPI, PhotoPlus and Imaging.

So. What do you guys think of my crazy theory?

Take a look at this excellent article by industry veteran Alex Lindsay. It supports both of my “crazy” theories (this one and this one).

31 thoughts on “FCPX and the Death of Final Cut Pro 7 is All Vincent Laforet’s Fault (or Why I think FCPX is Aimed Squarely at Photographers)

  1. Yes. I agree. Another hand forcing of Apple.

    • Goodbye Floppy
    • Goodbye SCSI
    • Hello USB
    • Hello thunderbolt
    • Hi Mac Pro, whens the last time you were updated? 4 PCI slots – wha?
    • Sorry Blu-Ray, you must stay at the orphanage, Apple doesnt want to adopt you.

    I spoke with an amateur editor, he was so stoked with FCPX, that he said “If people can’t relearn shortcuts and actually ‘think’ – screw em, this program is awesome and they way of the future.”

    Guess what? He is a “visual artist”. He actually tweeted “Hello still camera, I think I remember how to take a photo.”

    Thats a great territory, I love that area, however Apple once catered a nice segment of their industry to the pro’s. If they abandon them, its going to suck. OS X Lion is more moving away from structure to point and click and keywords. It’s not really linear thinking, its dump-style thinking. Sort it out later while we force you to use what we deem is best.

    Somehow, the 1984 ad is looking back at them.

  2. Some very well thought out points. I’ve spent some time this past week helping friends transition over to PPro. It’s a shame I think. I know I’d be absolutely disheartened if Adobe did something similar, so I’m sad for a lot of my friends who had put so much time, energy & investment into FCP7 and had faith in a new pro application being released. What a let down.

  3. I totally agree, especially considering I’m exactly the demographic you mentioned…I feel like I’ve reached my limit with iMovie, and was just starting to work my way up the very steep final cut learning curve. Hopefully the new FCPX will be just enough of a simplified version of FCP to make it easier to pick up.

    1. Jay, FCPX isn’t a simplified version of FCP. It’s nothing like FCP (the old FCP). You’ll find going from iMovie to FCPX will be very, very familiar.

  4. Well Said, I fit that model perfectly. I am a veteran photographer with 22 years experience on the commercial end. It seems EVERYBODY is a photographer now! Hanging up there virtual shingles outside there facebook doors. This has forced a lot of Good Photographers like myself to look for more revenue streams and with the birth of HDSLR’s, video has become a path to follow. FCPX fits my needs well, as you said imovie was too basic and FCP too daunting. Having no formal editing background and being comfortable with imovie and aperture, FCPX should be an easy learn and I am excited about the possibilities.
    If you stroll into any Apple Store you will see it is less about the pro these days and solely focused on the enormous number of iphone, ipad, imac consumers that can barely fit in the store. They do not lack business !!!! With people camping out for days to buy a new iphone, why would you waste energy on bunch of whining elitists. Apple is smart and knows where the real money is, I think FCPX will be a HUGE hit with Photographers and prosumers alike.

  5. So is the pro backlash towards FCPX akin to the pro backlash against DSLR’s? Are the pro editors upset that ‘up and comers’ will have access to the more advanced tools? One thing the last couple of years have shown us is that it’s still just talent and experience that stands out.

    I’m all for as many people having access to great tools, I was in exactly the same position 10 years ago with FCP 1 and it has benefitted me greatly.

    I’m more surprised at the ink [?] this release has created especially the Conan video, that’s somewhat mainstream. Who would’ve thought a niche software release would generate such discussion? Another testament to the power of social media.

    I think you’re on point with your thoughts Ron.

    1. That’s a good question Nigel. The backlash against FCPX from pros is nothing like it was against DSLRs. It’s not about a fear of newbies entering the market. That backlash would have happened a decade ago with FCP 1.0. No, this is about professionals who make a living with FCP and now won’t be able to use it because it lacks core features. Imagine if Photoshop were discontinued and you had to use a slicker, slightly more advanced version of iPhoto from now on.

  6. I believe you are right. Last week I was thinking to myself, “I really don’t know anyone who even opens iMovie let alone us it.” And then I stopped short. Ohhhhh, actuLly I DO know someone who uses iMovie. Crap, I know the market they’re going for.”
    The person in question was a guy I had to work with a couplle of months ago, a photographer who now calls himself a “videographer” musts because he owns a 5D. It was a complete nightmare, he ws shooting interviews in the field, and even though he has some nice equipment, (all the “work around” products to deal with the lack of adequate audio recording on. A 5D) the audio was almost always totally hosed. He was also trying to tell me the reason I had encountered some issues while working on a feature shot on the 5D was because I needed to use iMovie to capture the footage. Right.

  7. Very prophetic Ron🙂 I agree. well said. I am surprise you have no opposition in your comments yet! I am learning PP now and plan to still use FCS as long as I can. I have to say I am a little worried what OS Lion will bring (or leave).

    Dan

  8. I’m taking Ron’s advice and waiting. I’ve used FCP since it’s inception and have never looked back! Now, I don’t know what to think.
    I don’t care about the market or the details. I just don’t want my favorite toy taken away.

    Question is: When did Apple become the evil Empire? Are they trying to bring balance to the creative industry?

  9. Well I fit the dad-with-camera who happens to be a pro photographer that has fun with iMovie but wants just a little more, but not a high end NLE. All the things people “hate” about FCPX I love! And this is just based on what I’ve seen, I haven’t even bought it yet, but I just might. IMHO, this theory is spot on Ron!

  10. That’s a really interesting take Ron. Interesting that you mention possible endorsements by Stillmotion for the Wedding market. Since we are in that market too I’m heartened to see that FCPX is still a contender for people like us. (And yes we use DSLRs too.)

    I’ve got some of my own ideas on what might be behind Apples reasoning with FCPX.
    I think they are aiming for the broadest market possible with options for those who want it more pro being left to the 3rd parties. I’d love people’s take on that idea if anyone would like to read my post here – http://wp.me/p1Az2g-a

    Great thoughts as always Ron.

  11. I have to say that if you are crazy then I’m crazy with you as I think you have pinpointed exactly what Apple are up to.

    I’ve been doing a bit of work in FCPx, its not bad, I want to learn it just on the off chance that they do reinstate the features I need. It really isn’t the nightmare that the internet is portraying it as right now. But it is not aimed at the same FCP7 market, not by any stretch of the imagination. I was hoping at some point it would be, but now that I have read this post…..I think you are on to something. Apple may make some improvements and add back some features, but will professional editors ever feel like their needs are being met? At present I don’t think so.

    In the meantime CS5.5 should be the professional editors tool of choice. Why? Because Adobe want it so much, they are hungry for the prestige of the high end film and television market and they are not afraid to tell us about it. We have all been waiting for apple to say something, anything, that might give some hint of their direction, a ‘road map’ of just what we can expect from FCPx, and still we wait. So here is a video of the kind of thing you will never see Apple do, and I applaud Adobe for how they are handling the increase in interest they are receiving courtesy of Apple – http://tv.adobe.com/watch/industry-trends/adobes-vision-for-professional-video/

  12. I think that Apple will get this app to the professional level in less than 6 months. I think many people are forgetting is that the true “high end” editors would not jump right into this app even if it was free. Editors in Hollywood are not going to disrupt their workflow and learn a new program when they know in a few months they are going to start getting dailies from the latest Speilberg flick.

    Apple anticipated having time to get this app right. Remember that FCP took a while to make inroads when it was originally released.

    As disappointed as I was in the lack of multiclip editing, I have been playing with the new FCP almost everyday since I got it and recently purchased the Ripple Training, and I can say that I am getting more and more optimistic as I use it. It’s clear that they didn’t just throw this together and it’s way more than iMovie Pro.

    My speculation is that Apple wants to go after both markets, the pros and the amateurs. Can they do it? We’ll see. Is it totally impossible to make an app that is powerful enough for a Hollywood studio, yet easy enough for a soccer mom? I think so. The basic concept of video editing is pretty simple. Import your footage, drop it into the timeline, export to YouTube. It’s only when the creatives and the pros get a hold of the app does it become more complex. And so far FCPX has some pretty complex stuff in it. The clip viewer is going to change everything. Audition is going to change everything.

    Only time will tell. But let’s see how long it takes for Adobe Premier to copy all these new features like they did with the rest of FCP.

  13. I’m a PC, not a MAC, so I find this all so amusing. I’m also a Vegas Pro user, which is probably amusing to many FCP users. Vegas Pro is actually a very intuitive NLE that has all of the power of FCP 7. Will FCPX ever be used by current FCP users? Well, probably not, at least not until it can handle a multi-camera timeline. This is probably the biggest reason StillMotion and most of the wedding filmmaking industry won’t endorse or adopt FCPX.

  14. The most telling thing I’ve heard about FCPX is that the pro market is 20 times bigger today than it was 10 years ago. Apple is simply catering to ‘pro.’ Pro has changed.

    I’ve been happy with FCP1 thru FCP7. But I prefer FCPX because it’s obviously much better designed that FCP Classic, much as OS X is obviously better designed than OS 9.

    I agree FCPX is very much like Aperture. Perhaps FCPX is like Aperture because the photo app provided a model for working with digital media in a more intelligent way, using databases and metadata and working non-destructively. Something had to replace the legacy video model. This is important because current workflows, which duplicate clips erase metadata at every stage. FCPX works at the level of data. The value of non-destructive editing is that it’s very easy to attach data to the file instead of rewriting a dumb file. So, for example, I could theoretically create a Look in Color.app, and share my Look template to any FCPX user in the world. And I can keep my own library. The thing is, I don’t need Color.app to use the Looks. They are available in FCPX because it and Color would be integrated at the level of data. It’s just numbers. (The other cool thing is I can choose what settings are available to end-users of my Look template.)

    I wouldn’t be surprised to jump 7 years in the future and find FCPX, like the iPhone/iPad and iTunes, has a store built into it. What’s the content? All the elements you need to make your movie. You have decent search, so you can look through thousands of title templates made by your peers, ie. pro motion graphics designers, and find a title sequence template to buy, along with music, sound effects, and so on. There is live auditioning, just like existing filters in FCPX, so trying looks and templates and stock shots, etc is fast. Some templates you buy, some are shared freely. All the collaborators involved in moving image production can be integrated for the first time, in a powerful new way that no one else is in a position to deliver. Apple is the storekeeper. In fact, in this scenario, Apple is at the centre of a giant creative marketplace. All the collaborators involved in moving image production can be integrated for the first time, in a powerful new way that no one else is in a position to deliver. That’s the kind of thing we have come to expect from Apple.

    And that’s what FCPX seems designed to do. Integrate the components of production so well that it can function as a marketplace. Could Apple really be doing that? Who knows. I do know from dealing with them for a long time, that things that don’t make any sense now, often make so much sense later you wonder how you didn’t notice.

    At the very least, that represents the scale at which I would expect Apple to be working: looking way into the future, wanting to change the world (and make lots of money doing it). Adobe could be working on the same thing. Who knows?

    “They must believe that in the long run, a $299 mid-level program will make way more money than a $1,000 high-level suite.”

    I wonder if this is significant. I assumed Apple have simply chopped up the suite into apps because, as they tell developers in the App Store, with a digital product, you will make way more money selling to more people for a lower price.

    1. Thanksfor commenting Brad. I wanted to address your point about meta data and non-destructive media management. FCP7 is non-destructive. If I add an effect and render it, the original media is not changed in anyway. A new rendered file is created. And as far as media management, it would not have been difficult for Apple to add a similar metadata management model to the current paradigm of editors. Give the editor a choice. I for one like to drop all my clips in a bin and visually use the browser to see which clip I need. I don’t want to be forced to add keywords to everything if I feel the project doesn’t need it.

      Anyway, only tell will tell if this move on Apple’s part will make sense long term.

  15. You are spot on. I chuckled reading this. I am a professional photographer who did video in my HS days in the late 90s and now interested again, in HD dSLR filmmaking. When I saw FCPX, I already felt it was for someone like me, not strictly filmmakers using more advanced software. This blog is so uncanny. Apple is about business so they know what to do and what’s up. I even downloaded the trial of Adobe Premiere and though I know Photoshop well, of course, Premiere was just scary. LOL. Then I looked at FCPX and thought, yeah, I need to buy that, I am a Mac user anyway. Hehe.

    Good post.

  16. Hi Ron,

    Thanks for your article which I found very interesting.
    I am a Motion Design and VFX professional working in London for over a decade, in broadcast, video and film.

    I agree with you that the target audience has changed but I do not think it is as simple as saying it is for Photographers. I think it is for a new type of professional emerging due to technological developments where a Canon 5D can shoot better looking footage than a tape based ‘professional’ camera thousands of pounds dearer. I think as you see more and more of these technologies mature, the FCP features a lot users are missing, will simply not be as important. We still need EDLs and I don’t like having to duplicate a 5GB project to do a sort of force-save but FCPX is superior in many other ways to FCP7 if your workflow involves digital footage. I think a lot of the terminology in handling colour and metatags in footage is a direct response to technological advancements. If professional editors start adopting photographic cameras to shoot videos then their software needs to reflect this.

    I think Apple, as always, is looking very far forward and developing software in direct relation to hardware.

    Shari.

  17. Has a ENG & Sports videographer and a FCPX tester since it’s launch, I can tell you that news operations (broadcast journalism) will jump on this as well. I”m editing faster and easier, despite still editing with a linear approach in a non-linear system. The way I’ve done it since editing on Avid, Lightworks and Premiere. I”m interested in the new 10.03 which I will buy soon. It has the multi cam editing and some other major updates. But no matter what happens, if you are a good editor, you can create great content with FCPX, CS5, Avid, Vegas and even low end Best Buy PC editing applications. I’m ready for an iPad 3 or iPad HD with FCPX so I can edit & upload my content instantly, anywhere on the planet.

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