Final Cut Pro X: Did Apple Just Walk Away From The Professional Video Editing Market?

I've been closely following the recent release of Final Cut Pro X, and I'm sure many of you have been as well. I have never edited any video professionally, but having recently purchased some DSLRs with solid HD video capabilities, I was excited that Apple would be releasing a new version of Final Cut Pro that not only simplified and expedited the video editing process, but also only cost $300 in the Mac App Store. However, the recent critical firestorm surrounding the release of Final Cut Pro X has given even me pause about clicking that "Buy" button.

Hit the jump for more details and to share your thoughts on Final Cut Pro X.

Professional video editors all over the web have been howling about how the new software resembles and functions more like an "iMovie Pro" than a "Final Cut Pro." For example, Walter Biscardi over at Creative Cow writes:

All in all the worst product launch I've ever seen from Apple or pretty much any software manufacturer. Instead of a nice suite of applications that worked well together (FCP, Color, Motion, SoundTrack Pro, DVD Studio Pro) you now have one big app that really doesn't do all that much well. It completely ignores the 11 years of existence by giving you zero options to open older projects. We called it iMovie Pro when it was debuted back in April and quite honestly, that's what it is.

The new release, and Apple's strategy surrounding it, may have implications for anyone who works in video production. Many of the crucial features from Final Cut Pro 7 have been excised or hidden, and Final Cut Pro X appears to be extremely buggy to boot (for a full dose of the public sentiment around this product, just check out the reviews from the Mac App Store). Even Conan O'Brien got in on the Final Cut bashing last night:

More damningly, Apple is no longer selling Final Cut Pro 7 and has not announced any plans to continue supporting it. This means that millions of people who have spent years building their livelihoods around learning and using Final Cut Pro can no longer have confidence that they will be able to depend on this software for the foreseeable future.

[Some people have simply suggested, "Don't switch to Final Cut Pro X! Keep using Final Cut Pro 7!" But new workflows and paradigms are always emerging that will necessitate up-to-date software. Also, what if Apple releases an OS that no longer supports Final Cut Pro 7? There are many issues with holding onto Final Cut Pro 7 for as long as humanly possible, especially if Apple is no longer supporting it. It does seem likely to me that Apple will "pull an iMovie '08" and make Final Cut Pro 7 available until Final Cut Pro X gets more features. But will that be enough?]

In the ensuing controversy, David Pogue (whose review of Final Cut Pro X is fairly positive) posted a response that reads like Apple damage control. Officially, Apple has been totally silent about the criticism thus far, but based on past behavior, I'm certain that they will issue some kind of response soon. The bigger concern is whether that will be sufficient to assuage the concerns of vast numbers of professional who feel betrayed by an organization that seemingly had no conception or concern for the intensive needs of hardcore professionals.

The following comment on Pogue's post is instructive (see also Richard Harrington's extensive response to Pogue. Update: See also Jeffery Harrell's illuminating blog post on the subject, via Nick):

David, with all due respect – how are you qualified to "address the concerns of professional editors"? FCP X is probably fantastic for cutting an eighth grader's class project, but please take a breath and try to understand why the professional editorial community is totally freaking out about this. The changes, omissions, and "new direction" of Final Cut X are truly devastating to any editor who uses the software in a rigorous and/or professional post-production context. Going down your list, it's abundantly clear that you just don't understand. You're answering concerns "one by one" with a lack of experience, knowledge and understanding- and it's really frustrating because your article is just going to reinforce the totally false idea that editors are over-reacting to this release with nerdy hissy fits.

I cut feature films. I have been using FCP for over a decade, and even with all its quirks and eccentricities it has worked like a charm. I can tell you without any doubt or question that FCPX is absolutely not equip to handle the type of work that I do, and it hurts me to say it- but based on what I see, I can't imagine it ever will be. The financial implications of this are significant. I am going to need to re-train on new software (Avid or Premiere), buy some amazingly expensive new hardware, and re-position myself professionally- no longer can I tout my 10 years of cutting with this software as a marketable skill set. I want you to take a split second, right now, and think about my situation. No vacation this summer. Serious economic stress. Immense frustration.

As David Pogue points out in his review, Final Cut Pro was used to edit the Oscar-nominated films The Social Network and True Grit. Those days may be over. With the release of a Final Cut Pro that is apparently targeted solely at the prosumer market (to the exclusion of all other Final Cut Pros), Apple appears to be indicating that it no longer wants to position Final Cut Pro as a high-end, high-cost product. The company might not be officially saying it, and it may not even "want" that outcome, but that is the direction it is signaling with its recent actions.

What's puzzling to me is that Apple probably could have avoided many of its problems by simply continuing to support Final Cut Pro with incremental updates and repositioning this new product as a Final Cut Express-like brand new prosumer solution. Hell, why not call it iMovie Pro? My guess is that the executives at the company did the math and decided that its current gambit would have the most profit potential (Who knows? Maybe this violently negative reaction was already anticipated and part of the plan all along).

Is Apple ready to surrender its massive marketshare in professional video editing for a chance at widespread consumer/prosumer acceptance?  Perhaps that's where the profits are. But the destruction to the prestigious Final Cut brand, which continues daily until they issue a response, may have deeper implications than the company originally planned.

Discuss: I want to know what you guys think. Many of you are editors and aspiring filmmakers. Does the release of Final Cut Pro X and Apple's big push behind it fill you with excitement? Or dread? As a professional, does Final Cut Pro X disrupt your workflow in irrevocable ways? Will you be switching to a different editing system as a result of Final Cut Pro X?

[This post is adapted from an earlier post at my blog. If you are a filmmaker and want to tell your story in depth, feel free to e-mail me at slashfilmcast(AT)gmail(DOT)com. Please include details about your background and what films you have worked on. I may republish the most illuminating responses.]