The Future of Final Cut

I’ve been wondering for some time about Apple’s plans for Final Cut Studio. This weekend, two major Apple insiders – Mac Soda, and Philp Hodgetts – argued about the future of Final Cut Studio. Mac Soda’s blog post had an optimistic laundry list features supposedly on the way for 2011. In response, Philip Hodgetts wrote a fairly critical response. Here are the Cliffs Notes of the debate, along with my perspective:

1) Mac Soda says Final Cut Studio 4 will be released in 2011, and be a major upgrade, including multicore processing, much faster render and preview times. User Interface will stay unchanged. Hodgetts says it’s possible, but would likely take until 2012, and that the UI would probably change somewhat too.

2) Mac Soda says that Motion will receive a major update, including elements of Apple’s discontinued compositing program, Shake. Hodgetts points out that the two programs are completely different. Like Hodgetts, I’m puzzled about this particular claim. As one of the five people who actually bought Shake, it seems to me that the only element of that ridiculously unfriendly program that could plausibly be ported over to Motion would be the far superior chromakey tool.

3) Mac Soda says DVD Studio Pro will “go the way of the Dodo.” Hodgetts thinks that it will eventually, but not quite yet. I would venture to suggest that rumors of the death of DVDs has been greatly exaggerated. My corporate and agency clients would be very surprised if I were unable to provide them with DVDs of finished projects. For Apple to  jettison DVD Studio Pro would be a big mistake.

The bigger question seems to be whether Apple will wind up being a day late and a dollar short. I’ve spent the last 10 years using Final Cut. Does it make sense for me to continue to put up with Apple’s gamma-shifting, price-gouging, the-customer-is-always-wrong attitude, just because I know the program like the back of my hand? Or would I – and the rest of us – be better off jumping ship to products made by Adobe – a company that focuses exclusively on the needs of creative professionals?

UPDATE: This says it all: “Final Cut’s progress has been slowed as Apple has reassigned engineers to work on projects for the company’s iOS devices.” http://macrumo.rs/bmFtYU

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5 thoughts on “The Future of Final Cut

  1. I have a question related to future income potential. You ask, “Would (we) be better off jumping ship to products made by Adobe?”

    I’m curious. Which direction would you advise a hopeful and hard working newbie learning editing and After Effects?

    Is it better to choose FCP because its popular in the job market?
    I think Premiere is slightly better, but is it’s job potential sharply limited because few folks seem to use it?

    I like your blog. I look forward to an interesting reply.

    • If you’d asked me that question 10 years ago – or even 2 years ago – my answer would have unequivocally been “Final Cut Pro.” But just in the last 6 months, the pendulum has started to swing the other way.

      If you’re already using After Effects, which is an Adobe product, I’d say you’re probably better off sticking with Adobe, and learning Premiere Pro. Not only does it integrate better with After Effects, it’s available for Mac and PC (unlike Final Cut, which is Mac only). This means that if you’re working on your own, you can buy whichever computer you prefer; and if you apply for a job at a shop that uses PCs, you won’t have to worry that you’ve invested a bunch of time on a Mac-only package.

      Also, Premiere’s ability to take advantage of 64-bit processing, and native DSLR video files is gaining it a LOT of ground in the pro community.

      With that said, all Non Linear Editing packages work in similar ways. The buttons and labels are different, but basically you’re going to be cutting and rearranging clips onto a timeline, and then adding effects. Whether you learn Final Cut or Premiere, it won’t be *too* hard for you to transfer your skills to different software later.

  2. Thanks for reply Alex.

    Recently I’ve heard other freelance editors speak well of Adobe Premiere. It’s hard for me to imagine Premiere gaining a bigger user share. FCP has such a strong foothold. … But I do like what Premiere offers. I’d like to see more Adobe users.

    I hope a few other FCP or Premiere Editors give their opinion on the likely future trend.

  3. I know it’s horse for courses, but FC users seem pretty blind to and even dismissive of Avid Media Composer.
    I know there’s a pretty big price difference, but I’ve always found it a doddle to work between MC and AE.
    Avid also seems to have consolidated on the NLE front and as far as I can see listens to it’s users far more than Apple.
    And it’s still an industry standard.
    If you want to work in a post house it’s FC or MC, as good as Premiere has become.

    I know quite a few FC users who are wary about the future of FC and even the development of the Mac machines, and their instinct is to shift to MC until their Mac needs an upgrade and then migrate to one of the pretty flawless HP machines.

    Just a thought.

    Only just found your blog by the way – keep up the good work.

    • Interesting point. I’ve had a bad taste in my mouth about Media Composer for years; ever since a few years ago, when Media Composer did an “upgrade” that was an absolute nightmare, requiring users to make huge investments in new hardware and training time. More recently, a colleague of mine spent many thousands on an Avid Adrenalin system, and – after pouring money and time into it, and struggling with compatibility issues and workardounds – recently switched over to Final Cut. However, based on what you’re saying, it sounds like Avid has regrouped and made a concerted effort to get back to what made them the original industry leader in NLE editing. I’d be interested to see a three-way comparison between MC, FCP and Premiere Pro CS5.

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