Abandoning the Fans

In a recent Creative Cow podcast (on i-Tunes), Walter Biscardi and Richard Harrington go into vivid detail about why FCP-X won’t work for them as professional editors. Matthew Levie makes some similar points in a five-part diary describing his first experiences with the program. Though their comments represent the earliest of first impressions, the fact that these long-time FCP users had so many problems has to be taken seriously in Cupertino.

Whatever you think of Apple, Jobs and company sure have a knack for stirring things up. Depending on your background and your prejudices, Final Cut Pro X is either a stroke of genius, modernizing and expanding the company’s dominance in the semi-pro world, or a classic blunder, alienating some of its most loyal customers, who owe their careers to the democratization that FCP brought with it. The new program has many problems: no compatibility with FCP7, no import or export beyond Compressor and Motion, no provision for site or volume licensing, no good way to use multiple monitors, minimal support for tape I/O, a metaphor based on “events” and “projects” rather than media and sequences, a single on-screen viewer rather than the traditional source/record windows, and a powerful resemblance to iMovie. All of which says to existing professional users, “We don’t see you as our customers anymore.”

Apple is working a playbook it knows well, the same one it used with the original FCP: democratizing and enlarging the market by going after a group of customers that the other guy doesn’t know exists. But the first time, they were seen as a savior, a Pied Piper. This time, they have an existing user base. Those people have already pinned their hopes and built their businesses on Apple. All that accumulated experience now will have to be relearned.

This undoubtedly represents big opportunity for Avid and Adobe. But as pro users migrate to other applications, Apple’s competitors would do well to remember that FCP1 was also seen as a toy. Avid didn’t seem to take it seriously until the growing customer base began to suck the oxygen out of the post production environment. And despite the initial problems, FCP-X contains plenty of real innovation. At the end of the day, it’s the innovation that matters — the company that makes the best musical instrument, the one that lets me produce the sweetest music and have the most fun doing it, is the one I want to use.

As creative professionals, we all rely on an implicit, long-term collaboration with the developers of the applications we use. Did Apple made a business decision to accept defections at the top of the market in exchange for more customers further down the food chain? Or did its legendary secrecy cause it to underestimate the push-back it would encounter for changing so many basic features? It may take some time to sort that out. But one thing seems clear: the relationships we create with our favorite software applications may be more one-sided than we think.

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Explore posts in the same categories: Adobe Premiere, Apple, Avid, Avid vs. Final Cut

4 Comments on “Abandoning the Fans”

  1. Loren Says:

    [Whatever you think of Apple, Jobs and company sure have a knack for stirring things up. ]

    I think that’s an accurate statement. God knows my head was spinning. All the way around!

    I know for fact the FCP team is in heavy LISTEN mode right now. I suspect nothing is off the table with regard to feature restoration. Log into LAFCPUG.org, which has an “X” forum. It’s being scanned periodically. Help build the future for us.

  2. Frank Reynolds Says:

    [Did Apple made a business decision to accept defections at the top of the market in exchange for more customers further down the food chain?]

    I haven’t had a chance yet to check out FCPX, only because I’m booked on two features this summer (one FCP7, one Avid) and I don’t have the time. (Though the lack of EDL and OMF support right now would probably be a deal-breaker for me in using it in my work anytime soon…I could most likely work around anything else.)

    But the more I think about the whole FCPX issue, I believe Apple has made a business decision, as Steve’s quote above says, though my suspicion for Apple making it is much more cynical. I have a strong suspicion that Apple realized that there is a much bigger market of wannabe filmmakers out there (who sit at home making little movies on their Canon Ds and editing them on their laptops) than there are actual filmmakers working professionally. Much in the same way a photographer who does headshots for actors most likely makes more money off the actors who don’t make it in the business than the actors who do. So Apple created an editing app (new hip word!) that caters to that huge “wannabe” market, or created an app that that market would think is cool. And if they lose the professionals along the way, well, how big a slice of their market was that anyway? And you know what? When all those young hip wannabe filmmakers see how much those old stodgy “professional” filmmakers hate FCPX for all their “silly reasons,” it’ll make the young hip wannabes embrace FCPX more because it embraces some new paradigm of filmmaking that those old-fogey professionals just don’t understand! Because who needs professional sound-editing or color-correction anyway? (If you go to a place where there are many more amateur filmmakers than there are professionals, like Austin TX, you’ll see a LOT of this general attitude.)

    As long as there are lots of young hipster wannabe filmmakers who never make it professionally in the business and who don’t fully understand how a professional film is created in the first place, Apple will have a market in FCPX.

    Yeah, I’m a cynic.

    • Sean Albertson Says:

      Plenty of these young, hipster, wannabe filmmakers are the future of our industry, like it or not. I remember when Robert Rodriguez made his first short film. Whatever you think of his work (and I have endless opinions about it), the guy has built an empire (studio) unto himself. I think Apple’s business decision is based on the same bet they have been making since FCP 1. Sell to that pro-sumer market, which starts out as those young, hipster, wannabe, filmmakers. Then they will usher this new tool into the professional world. And I expect they will. All the while, Apple will listen and restructure accordingly for the current pro user. I agree that they are after a larger market share, and I think this is a very shrewd business move that happens to piss me off.

  3. Frank Reynolds Says:

    Sean, I agree, but Apple was never so blatant about it until now. It’s one thing for FCP 1 to not have support for EDLs and OMFs and for that to come later…it’s not like Avid editors and feature films were switching to FCP in droves at first. But for Apple to remove those features once they existed in a previous version makes their thinking on this matter so transparent.

    And yes it’s true that many hipster wannabe filmmakers are the future of our industry (and being a regular visitor to Austin TX, I also have many opinions about Rodriguez), but many many more will not make it in the business. But that doesn’t matter, because make it or not, they’ll buy FCP.

    I guess what really grinds my gears is that it’s often very difficult to explain to young wannabe filmmakers today the value of things like sound editing, re-recoding mixing, and a proper conform/color-correction in films, and then here comes FCPX, which makes a proper workflow for these functions next to impossible. It’s almost like Apple designed FCPX to play into the erroneous, misinformed idea that young hipsters have about making films. (“Oh, just add music under the dialogue tracks, spit the timeline out to a QuickTime movie, and you’re done!”) As you said, this will most likely change, it just galls me that this is the current thinking.

    Having said all this, though, I do want to try out FCPX for myself, just to have an informed opinion, I just know I won’t have time until the fall to learn it.


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