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If you’re reading this, you’re probably a fan of Final Cut Pro. And while new features have been added this year (tracking changes, voice isolation) there have been no revolutionary changes to how the app works. If you learned how to use the app last year, you don’t need to re-learn it this year, and it doesn’t look like much has changed. So… does it matter that there hasn’t been a great deal of visible progress? It’s complicated, so let’s dig in.

FCP is a mature app

When an app that’s older than ten years, you can expect progress to slow somewhat. Avid Media Composer has been notoriously slow to make any changes, Adobe InDesign is still a very similar app to the one that launched about 20 years ago, and any change made to Microsoft Word is met with confusion and unhappiness. Some apps change a lot, some apps change a little, and both approaches can work.

In fact, in a recent post to Daring Fireball, the concept of a ‘Maximum Viable Product’ was mooted, where an app was designed to be great, but not to change over time. That might work for some niches, but I don’t think it’s the way forward for many apps, and certainly not in a competitive environment like NLEs. In part, that’s down to the way that Apple (doesn’t) promote Final Cut Pro.

 

Apple don’t promote FCP very loudly

To be clear, Apple does promote Final Cut Pro on its product page, and when a new Mac is launched, the introduction video is likely to show FCP in some way. But is that it? Surely, as the biggest company on the planet (by market capitalisation, and biggest electronics company by revenue) they could do more?

To be clear, nobody knows this one for sure, but I can make a good guess. First, Apple’s hardware sales dwarf every other metric, and it’s mostly iOS hardware. Second, there is a limit to how many messages a company can deliver to its customers before those messages become muddled. So if you look at Apple as a whole, if they want to make sure they stay on message, they’re very rarely going to advertise anything but their top selling, most important product: the iPhone.

If Apple wasn’t such a huge company, it could happily advertise Final Cut Pro, and Keynote, and Pages, and Logic Pro — but it doesn’t advertise any of these apps on TV or social media. At the scale of Apple, it seems that apps are too small to worry about. While they probably could advertise those apps to the niche audiences interested in them, if there’s any risk of distracting from their central iPhone message, I can see why they wouldn’t take the risk. There’s another possibility, that Apple has legal advice that promoting their own apps over the competition could be seen as an anti-trust issue, but nobody knows for sure.

Of course, Final Cut Pro competes against other NLEs, and the lack of direct promotion does hurt in that context. Adobe does directly promote their new features, as does Blackmagic. But it’s not just promotion: if Apple doesn’t provide a vague roadmap to inform industry about future plans, then long term planning at large companies is less likely to include FCP. And as you’ll know if you’ve ever been lucky enough to speak directly with the FCP team, Apple generally doesn’t comment on future plans. Which means…

 

Apple doesn’t control the narrative about FCP

Third party sites end up being the closest thing to an official source of news, but today, there’s a healthy mix of different kinds social media in most people’s news diets. Some of that is first hand, but a lot is rehashed, misheard or simply made up.

In the absence of real news, a lot of what’s left is rumours — some true, some false, some optimistic. But because rumours become facts on the second or third retelling, when a popular rumour fails to become reality, it’s worse than if the rumour had never been started. Quite recently, the company Serif, makers of Affinity Photo, Designer and Publisher, put out a promotional video promising “something big”. Someone wished out loud for a motion graphics app, and that rumour spread pretty quickly. As it happened, the announcement introduced v2 of the Affinity Suite of apps, and there was disappointment.

To be fair, few large companies announce their plans ahead of time these days. It’s far easier to cancel products that didn’t work out if you didn’t raise expectations ahead of time. But total secrecy does mean that unrealised rumours have a long, long life.

 

iPad rumours

In the Final Cut Pro space, the most persistent rumour for years has been a request for an iPad version, but I just don’t see it happening any time soon. A few reasons:

  • The UI would need to be totally reworked
  • Any macOS-specific libraries would have to be ported to iPadOS
  • The screen is too small for a good editing experience
  • Editing is slow without a keyboard and mouse
  • Storage is limited and there’s only one port

If Apple won’t fit a touch screen to a Mac — and they’re on record as having tried it and rejected it — I can’t see them releasing FCP on an iPad without significant work, and it’ll have compromises.

While Blackmagic have brought (part of) DaVinci Resolve to the iPad, it’s a limited experience compared to editing on even the cheapest, smallest Mac. The form factor will make it great for some quick jobs in the field, but it won’t replace a traditional NLE for most.

davinci resolve ipadDaVinci Resolve for iPad, just released

Still, even if it’s not for me, Resolve on iPad should be celebrated, because professional iPad users can now edit videos and correct colours in a far more sophisticated way than before. The 12.9” iPad’s reference quality screen would be perfect on set, and there’s a clear use case. But instead, the power of rumour means that every story about Resolve on iPad mentions Apple’s perceived failure to put FCP on the iPad first. Maybe they tried and there’s a good reason it hasn’t happened?

But hey, let’s hypothesise that Apple have been spending time reworking FCP for the iPad, and that’s the reason why there hasn’t been much visible progress on the desktop app this year. That wouldn’t be a total win either, because the vast majority of FCP users will remain on the desktop, with the potential to be upset at the “wasted effort” of an iPad version. Whatever Apple do, it’ll disappoint someone.

With or without an iPad version in the mix, software development is a complex beast, and from the outside we can’t know why there haven’t been many updates this year. Maybe there’s been a lot of work behind the scenes to fix low-level bugs, or maybe there’s a release being held back to launch alongside a new Mac in 2023. As ever, those who know can’t say, but anyone can make stuff up to fill the void.

 

Influencers and educators burn out

With a limited amount of real news, influencers and educators are in now a tricky spot. If there aren’t any significant updates to the software, there’s nothing new to talk about or teach, and the audience for online tutorials and in-person conferences suffers. After all, if you’ve taught people the best way to do something already, it’s hard to find the enthusiasm to teach it again. Looking at YouTube videos as a whole, the most active FCP tutorial creators are those for whom the app is still fresh. The older guard have said everything they wanted to say already, while the algorithm rewards newer videos. (Here’s one on vlog storytelling with FCP.)

While there is room for news on the larger ecosystem, of plug-ins, templates and so on, that world inevitably slows down as an application becomes mature. Therefore, the problem compounds, leaving even fewer new topics for the current generation of educators and influencers to talk about.

Mind you, the relationship between how much people talk about something and how much it is actually being used for professional work is, I suspect, pretty fluffy. For example, there’s not a lot of chat about Avid Media Composer, but it’s as dominant in the professional space today as it has ever been. DaVinci Resolve news has been prominent because it’s seen plenty of recent updates — including the iPad version — and because there’s a free version.

For many people — unfairly or not — no news is bad news. To fill the void, it’s worth shouting about all the cool work being done with FCP, or people will think it doesn’t exist. And that work is definitely out there.

 

Cool work is being done — quietly — with FCP

Editors are happy to talk about how they edit, but many people who do other things besides just editing (including Casey Neistat, Xyla Foxlin, MKBHD and many others) don’t often mention the software that they’ve used to get a job done. And though FCP is the choice of a lot of part-time editors and creators, it’s also being used for bigger jobs:

I’m sure there are more I’ve forgotten — please post links in the comments to others.

So yes, there’s work being done in FCP, even if the majority of high-end work is Avid, and many independent studios seem to be using Premiere. But hang on. One of the most important things to remember is that there really aren’t that many people editing video, at least not when you compare it to other creative fields like graphic design and photography. If you believe Zippia’s data for professional video editors in the US, there are only about 33,000 in total, fewer than the number of architects or doctors.

While that seems a small number, especially with the influence that video has on our daily lives these days, remember that outside the world of production there are more people who do some editing as part of their jobs. There are also many, many hobbyists making videos for themselves, for friends and families, for non-profit enterprises, and the amount of non-professional content being produced utterly dwarfs professional content. Of course, I’m not saying that professionals don’t matter — of course they do — but you can see why a company might prioritise the non-professional market.

While you might need to use a different NLE to work for a larger company, you can absolutely make a living editing without ever becoming part of the industry. If you’re working independently and handing over finished jobs to a client, you can use whatever you like. But using FCP professionally, and making sure other post professionals understand that it’s not “iMovie Pro”, is still worthwhile.

FCP has a place in higher-end productions because that helps everyone. We want more developers to create more tools to make our lives easier. We want to grow the pool of pro editors using FCP to make it easier for professional productions to have a pool of editors using FCP. We also want raw numbers to encourage Apple to invest in the app and the ecosystem itself —  all this matters. But I think we can safely say that Final Cut Pro isn’t going away. 

 apple across the wayApple Park from the Visitor Center across the road.

 

Conclusion 

Let’s end on a positive note.

At the recent Final Cut Pro World Tour dates in the US, members of Apple’s FCP team were present (yay) and they did talk about what they’ve been doing to help the FCP community (yay again). So far, they’re engaging with professional editors about FCP in broadcast, and they’ve re-introduced Apple Certified Exams and training courses (full disclosure: I’m involved). These initiatives will take time to have an impact, but it means that the Open Letter to Apple has not been ignored.

As is ever true for large companies, progress is slow sometimes. But let’s see what next year brings, and keep fingers crossed for a big update soon. Happy New Year everyone! 

 

 

 


Written by
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Iain Anderson is a trainer and freelance editor based in Brisbane, Australia. Among other things, Iain is the author of Final Cut Pro Efficient Editing, an Apple Certified Trainer in Final Cut Pro, a lead trainer for macProVideo.com, a tutorial creator for coremelt.com, a videographer, an editor, an animator, a writer, a designer, and occasionally a coder of Apple Watch and iPad apps. In the past he’s created animations and live videos for Microsoft, virtual islands in Second Life for government, and screensavers for fun.

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cseeman's Avatar
cseeman replied the topic: #123398 27 Dec 2022 19:36
The lack of promotion and feature growth (and FCP still has room to grow) can cause the market to shift further away from it to NLEs like Resolve. Additionally, Apple's attitude my hurt plugin developers and they may continue to shift emphasis to other NLEs further hampering feature additions from third-party developers.

I understand the developers of FCP Command Post are working on BRAW support and Sony GyroData support for FCP. Still, they're concerned that without Apple's approval for them to be offered in the Mac App Store may kill those projects.

If if Apple isn't doing direct marketing their support (or lack thereof) for third-party developers is a serious concern. It may well make more sense for Apple to rely on third-party FCP promotion but that still requires Apple's involvement.

Additionally, third party development drives up the cost of ownership and also may require multiple purchases of those third-party apps in some cases for collaborative work.
VTC's Avatar
VTC replied the topic: #123399 27 Dec 2022 21:15
You time Resolve improvements / updates / new releases using a chronometer.
You time Final Cut improvements / updates / new releases using next years calendar.
Oliver Peters's Avatar
Oliver Peters replied the topic: #123400 28 Dec 2022 00:06
There are really only a handful of new features I'd like to see in FCP. However, what's disconcerting is that there are numerous bugs dating back to the original release that have never been fixed (sub-1-frame black, RAM leaks, etc). And if such bugs are systemic due to the software design, then there should be an official explanation of why they can't be eliminated. Add to this the half-measures that have never been followed up on. For example, adding audio roles without continuing that into the development of a functional mixer.
WCely's Avatar
WCely replied the topic: #123406 29 Dec 2022 14:23
I agree that I don't think there's a ton of missing features keeping FCP from being a professional level, widely used editing app. I do think there are keyframe bugs (among other old bugs that Oliver mentioned) that should have been fixed by now, but every app has bugs that don't necessarily keep us from using them. I still think the biggest drawback to FCP being used more is that it has been designed to be such an insular editor. Although there are workarounds (mentioned in some great articles on this very website), FCP is really designed to be used by a small number of editors working on a single computer. The modular design of FCP, getting plugins to make it the editor you need it to be, can be very cumbersome for projects that require multiple editors over multiple systems requiring a great deal more prep than other editors typically need. At this point, I really wonder if we're not forcing FCP to be something it's really not meant to be, or needs to be?
Oliver Peters's Avatar
Oliver Peters replied the topic: #123407 29 Dec 2022 16:01
"At this point, I really wonder if we're not forcing FCP to be something it's really not meant to be, or needs to be?"

I think that's a good point. I would tend to view it this way, too. Given the success FCP has had in new media circles - especially YouTube (which often presents very professional content) - why should Apple jump through hoops trying to pull in 1-5% of potential users?
knurrrrrrt's Avatar
knurrrrrrt replied the topic: #123458 02 Jan 2023 11:20
I think we laid out the reasons for Apple to support this tiny yet influential market  in our open letter:
www.gopetition.com/petitions/support-ope...t-final-cut-pro.html
srinivasx's Avatar
srinivasx replied the topic: #123652 14 Jan 2023 07:42
FCP X is like a sports car. People want it to be RV. Apple is busy building iPhones : )

In the next few months, Apple may launch new Mac Pro, with a big update for FCP X. Then, we can have one final chat about the future of FCP X.