Did Apple Know What They Were Doing?

For those of us fascinated by the evolution of editing technology, the Final Cut Pro X release is the gift that keeps on giving. Kanen Flowers has reinvigorated his long-dormant podcast, “That Post Show” (on iTunes), and the episode released yesterday covering FCP X a month after the launch, includes Mike J. Nichols, Paul del Vecchio, Peter Wells and Larry Jordan, talking about why the application is not for pros, at least not yet. But go to Apple’s FCP site and you’ll find the word “professional” everywhere, so much so that the whole thing seems defensive — a rarity  from Apple. The center of the page showcases four videos that highlight innovation in the program, again explicitly aimed at “professionals” and, shock of shocks, including screen grabs from the competition. Apple is feeling the heat, that’s for sure. They’ve damaged their biggest asset: the loyalty of their user base. Avid’s new management, by comparison, understands how precious that is (and current Media Composer users are a very loyal bunch).

The conventional wisdom right now seems to be that Jobs and Ubillos knew exactly what they were doing. They deliberately accepted the loss of the pro market in order to appeal to a much larger market. We may not like it, but it was a smart business decision — or so that line of reasoning goes. But I’m not so sure. Everybody makes mistakes, even Steve Jobs. Did the people at Apple really expect this much push-back? I’ve seen too many companies get stars in their eyes going after the Hollywood market to be confident that Apple is willing to write it off. I suspect that they want it all, and they still think we’ll come around. The question is whether the FCP X interface, which lacks a source monitor or bins, can ever be patched to work for people like me.

Apple has attempted to purify and clarify the editing model for a file-based era, removing anything that comes from film or linear tape. The source monitor — linear tape. Bins — film. EDLs — tape. Even in and out points are gone — again, they stem from the tape days. Frankly, I applaud that kind of out-of-the-box thinking. And there’s plenty of innovation in FCP X, innovation that I hope Avid and Adobe are busy copying. But Apple wins by taking chances, going where no one has gone before. And sometimes it goes to far. It sure seems like this is one of those times.

Let me end this post with a shameless plug. If you’re thinking about moving from Final Cut to Media Composer, you need my book, “Avid Agility.” MC is not a clone of FCP. Much of what makes it so powerful and responsive is hidden. The fastest way to understand why so many people think it’s the best way to edit is to get my book.

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7 Comments on “Did Apple Know What They Were Doing?”

  1. Grant Sundin Says:

    I’m on the ‘they made a mistake’ side of this discussion. They were betting that the reality distortion field would extend into the pro-post market and were surprised when it didn’t. As to whether FCPx will ever evolve to where FCP7 already was is an unanswerable question.

  2. Jan Maitland Says:

    To comment on your closing sentiment: I did buy your book and it’s fantastic. I was made aware of it via the Creative Cow forums and I couldn’t be happier (in fact, I’ve made it required reading for our assistants).

    It’s rare to get the opportunity to thank someone so directly for their efforts, but allow me a moment to do just that: Thank you for writing a book that cuts right to the chase. There’s no remedial anything in there, it’s written by a user for a user and I greatly appreciated that.

    As for the FCPX issue, well, let’s just say that I’m happy to have made a return to Avid in time to participate in their “comeback”. All of their “we’re listening” marketing-buzz isn’t just hyperbole, they really are and their product (MC in this case) reflects this.

    It took Apple the better part of 8 years to make FCP what it became and it feels like it’ll take another 8 for FCP-X to accomplish the same thing, but until that happens, I, for one, am happy to have a quality alternative as well as a dedicated pool of teachers/trainers to ease my re-entry into Media Composer.

  3. Steve Says:

    Jan,

    Thanks so much for the kind words. Much appreciated. The best thing about writing a book like this is connecting to other editors. I’m glad it’s been helpful to you and your team.

    I took a look some of the material you put up on the Utopic site — very nice work!

    Steve

  4. Sean Albertson Says:

    Shameless plug indeed. But I’ve been using avid for almost 20 years, and I find your books priceless.

  5. Steve Says:

    Thank you, Sean!

    Steve

  6. Norman Says:

    As someone who is in the “Jobs/Ubillos knew what they were doing” camp, I think that they were well aware that some of the market was going to have problems, and maybe even to leave them. But they decided that it didn’t matter, they’d pick up plenty of sales without them, both immediately and over the long and very long range).

    As Larry Jordan says “Let’s face it, you’re going to buy FCPx anyway.” And, while there are large companies that are thinking of switching, most individual editors (especially those finishing by themselves) are rooting for 3rd party plug-in writers to do their thing, and for Apple to come out with FCPx.1. I’d look for it fairly soon.

    When FCPx gets within 10% of what we want on the high end, then it will be over for most people. Not most high end professionals, but Apple isn’t going for them.

  7. Chris Bove Says:

    Gosh my ass hurts from being so firmly planted on the fence with this one. I’m a Mac Media Composer dude… And yet I’m starting to believe Apple knows exactly what they are doing. When playing chess, look at the whole board. My guess is this version of Final Cut is showing the beginnings of functionality that Apple plans to cross-soft on a TON of their next 5-years worth of software… and hence the changes. Sure the pro market (me included) is running away screaming. But like Jobs always does, we’ll be wowed in a year or two. See, I think Adobe Premiere is mildly OK as an edit system, but has immensely enviable cross-soft functionality with Photoshop, AE etc. Just wait – Apple will climb that mountain and possibly topple Adobe’s Queen for a checkmate.

    …Or maybe this is the next Newton… or hockey puck mouse… Lisa anyone?


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