Apple’s FCP X FAQ: Reading Between the Lines

Apple today posted a FCP X Answers To Common Questions page in attempts to address some pro editors concerns (read: “do damage control”) about the new application. While it brings some much-needed clarity to some questions (about sharing projects, etc.) many of the answers (to their own carefully phrased) questions talk around the issues.

Below I’ve offered my highly-subjective and quite likely wrong translations of some of the more curious Q+A sections of Apple’s FAQ. I’m no fortune teller, and if I’m wrong I will be happy to be wrong. But this is a very carefully worded document and, as is often the case with PR statements, what’s not said is as important as what is.

Can I import projects from Final Cut Pro 7 into Final Cut Pro X?
Their answer: Final Cut Pro X includes an all-new project architecture structured around a trackless timeline and connected clips. In addition, Final Cut Pro X features new and redesigned audio effects, video effects, and color grading tools. Because of these changes, there is no way to “translate” or bring in old projects without changing or losing data. But if you’re already working with Final Cut Pro 7, you can continue to do so after installing Final Cut Pro X, and Final Cut Pro 7 will work with Mac OS X Lion. You can also import your media files from previous versions into Final Cut Pro X.
My translation: “No. And do not get your hopes up about this ever working. But it might — we said might — be something that works in limited fashion via XML, possibly through a 3rd party plugin, in the future.

Can Final Cut Pro X export XML?
Apple’s answer: Not yet, but we know how important XML export is to our developers and our users, and we expect to add this functionality to Final Cut Pro X. We will release a set of APIs in the next few weeks so that third-party developers can access the next-generation XML in Final Cut Pro X.
My translation: “We’re going to enable XML export. And, who knows, maybe XML import… Wait and see.” Hey, your guess is as good as mine (probably even better), but it sounds as if they will add the ability to export XML, though the wording is vague enough that one could interpret it to mean that they’re going to rely on third parties to develop an XML export plugin. Also, curious is the fact that they say nothing of XML import, particularly since some detective work by others has shown that Apple appears to have been developing XML import capabilities in the program’s code. Maybe I’ll give Apple the benefit of the doubt. (That’s something I’ve not said many times in the last few days.) 

Does Final Cut Pro X support OMF, AAF, and EDLs?
Apple’s answer: Not yet. When the APIs for XML export are available, third-party developers will be able to create tools to support OMF, AAF, EDL, and other exchange formats. We have already worked with Automatic Duck to allow you to export OMF and AAF from Final Cut Pro X using Automatic Duck Pro Export FCP 5.0. More information is available on the Automatic Duck website: http://automaticduck.com/products/pefcp/.
My translation: “We’re outsourcing some of the pro features you used to find in Final Cut Studio. This is one reason we’ve lowered FCP X’s price tag to $299. So we don’t have to develop this stuff. So get out your checkbook, but remember that FCP X, Compressor and Motion are under $400. You can spend the money you used to spend on Final Cut Studio to add back the functionality to which you’re accustomed. This a la carte approach is a way for us to get advanced hobbyists on board and to try to keep pros.”

Can I send my project to a sound editing application such as Pro Tools?
Apple’s Answer: Yes; you can export your project in OMF or AAF format using Automatic Duck Pro Export FCP 5.0. More information is available on the Automatic Duck website: http://automaticduck.com/products/pefcp
My translation: “Um, yeah, if it wasn’t clear from above, we’re outsourcing those pro features.”

As I said, I’m quite possibly wrong about these things — and maybe way off the mark. I’m speculating, but that’s because Apple is — even after releasing a FAQ — still asking us to speculate.

If I am right, and the new approach is a la carte features, well, I’m not sure that’s actually a bad move. Other vendors developing these tools means that things might be better and more quickly developed than they would if Apple was doing them. They are, after all, a consumer electronics company now. Again, assuming this is the case, the big questions are:

What will be the final cost of adding in these various plug-ins, etc.?

Will Final Cut Pro X remain the bargain that Apple’s touting it to be?

And, perhaps most importantly, if FCP X lacks professional features without the use of plug-ins, does using plug-ins on a somewhat less-than-fully-pro application trump using something like Avid, Premiere Pro, or Lightworks?

We shall see. Later this week I’ll be posting some switching resources… because if you use FCP 7 you’re switching, one way or another, to an entirely new edit suite.

EDIT (6.29.11 12:14pm): Made some changes to the XML-related Q+A — one typo had changed the entire meaning, so I revised my interpretive paragraph.

2 Responses to “Apple’s FCP X FAQ: Reading Between the Lines”

  1. Laurie McNair Says:

    I think you are probably spot on. In fact, some of your speculations are some of the most reasonable and probable I’ve read. You’re right , they’ve decided since not everyone wants XML export / import, let thrones who really want it or need it pay for it. I never vested in the duck because it was a pretty high price just to get my projects to talk to Avid. I mean, I know that’s not all it does, but that’s when it always came up. Usually that meant it was going to a post house, and all the houses i work with have the duck. So I never really needed it. Thing is, now I think I’m going to need AVID to work with those post houses. It will take awhile to for everyone to make the jump, but if they do, I will have to as well. I work on too many different kinds of projects to not be able to deliver broadcast and feature film projects. Or parts of thhem anyway. But I also work as a DIT/ data wrangler. I haven’t really seen anyone talk about this, but part of what I do on a feature is set up a new system for the production company. In Indie World it’s pretty much a Mac pro and a new licensed copy of FCS, which we then use to ingest and transcode and log the footage, set up everything correctly and organize it in FCP. We cant do that anymore. Even if I were to get lucky and find a new copy for sale somewhere, it won’t be long til I can’t. Plus, now how am I going to advise a producer to invest in Final Cut? Changing times indeed.

  2. Alex Says:

    I think it’s time to face facts: Apple has abandoned the creative pro community. They can make more money by selling overpriced, environment-killing gadgets (iPod battteries, I’m looking at you) to the masses than by developing high-end software for a niche market.

    Fortunately, we still have Adobe. The last time I used Premiere was in 2004, and it sucked, but I gather that it’s gotten better since then. A lot better.