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Final Cut Pro X is finally here and I've been playing around with it this morning. I haven't used it for any projects yet, so don't consider this a formal review, but here are my first impressions.

As a software developer, I understand that a 1.0 release is difficult and not every feature can be added. However, I feel that Apple made some glaring omissions with FCPX that I will cover in the "ugly" section.

Good

  • FCPX is FAST. I tried to break it with lots of stacked clips and effects but it played them all seamlessly.
  • FCPX uses AVFoundation instead of QuickTime. The QuickTime API is clunky, antiquated and the modern features Apple tacked on don't work as well as the older stuff. Breaking free of the shackles of 1990s-era technology is the best thing that ever happened to Final Cut Pro.
  • Everyone's been complaining about FCP's media management since version 1.0 and the new database file format and keyword-based metadata tagging are huge improvements.
  • FCPX will import a memory card in the background, allowing you to edit the footage directly from the card and then replace it seamlessly with the media on the hard disk once the transfer is complete. I think this is a great idea.
  • Effects and titles were never FCP's strong point and these have been greatly improved.
  • I'm also enjoying the little touches I've spotted here and there, like the way an edit point turns red when you select it if the in and out points are at the outer limits of the clip. These features are tiny but they make a big difference.

Bad

  • It took a long time for multiple marker colors to be added to Final Cut Pro. Now we're back to one marker color again. There are no chapter markers either.
  • You need an OpenCL-compatible graphics card. This has left some Mac Pro owners out in the cold.
  • The QuickTime movie output options in FCPX are poor, which means you're obligated to pay an extra $49 for Compressor 4 because you can't send to Compressor 3.

Ugly

  • Compressor 4 is still 32-bit and doesn't look like it's received an overhaul, meaning that the problems many of us have suffered are likely to continue. I have already had several issues with Qmaster.
  • No multicam. This is a massive oversight in my opinion.
  • No XML import / output. Another huge oversight.
  • A lot of plugin developers have been left out in the cold with no answers from Apple.
  • No support for old FCP 7 projects.
  • No credible broadcast monitor output. The current solution is to mirror your desktop through a capture card, which does not result in a broadcast-quality output.
  • Final Cut Pro, Motion and Compressor are $400 combined. This is a great price, however if you need features that are not in FCPX, you're going to end up paying more. If you need OMF output, you need to pay $500 for Automatic Duck. You will also most likely need to pay to upgrade any plugins once support for FCPX has been added. Rumors have suggested that Apple may be offering these missing features as additional applications for a fee, which also contributes to the overall cost. When you consider all of these potential costs, FCPX doesn't seem as cheap as it does on the surface.

As you can see, there are some serious issues with FCPX. However, the biggest problem is that Final Cut Pro 7 support ends today. All of the above issues could be forgiven if Apple had allowed the two to co-exist until FCPX had matured enough to be a viable replacement. This is especially important considering the lack of support for importing Final Cut Pro 7 projects.

Unless you're using DSLRs to create content solely for the web, I would recommend having a more fully-featured NLE on your system in addition to Final Cut Pro X. Apple has made this difficult by discontinuing Final Cut Studio 3, so I would recommend Avid Media Composer or Adobe Premiere Pro. (Premiere Pro is probably easier for Final Cut Pro users to pick up.)