Final Cut Pro X 10.1 review

Yes, believe it or not, Final Cut Pro X (and, just for the record, that’s pronounced “ten”, not ”ex”) is now three years old. The time seems ripe for us to take another look at Apple’s reimagined video editor, now in its twelfth iteration at version 10.1.1, to see what it offers the video professional.

Much has already been written about Final Cut Pro X and its radical approach to video editing. Out went the track-based editing that characterises other non-linear editing systems in favour of the freestyle approach of the magnetic timeline. The old organisational structure of folders (or “bins” in video editing parlance) was superseded by a slick use of metadata, including keywords and ratings. Skimming allowed us to review our footage faster than ever before and editing tools were streamlined. Innovative functions such as clip connections, storylines, auditions and content-based auto analysis (for face detection, colour balance and audio problems) were introduced.

Since the initial release, what’s been notable over these last three years has been the degree and speed at which Apple has developed this software, adding new features such as roles and multicam editing, or enhancing existing ones, such as rich XML interchange and audio component editing. All this was wrapped in a modern, 64-bit architecture allowing FCP X to take advantage of the latest developments in Apple hardware and software.

What’s new in Final Cut Pro X 10.1

Final Cut Pro X 10.1 added a number of enhancements to this list. Most notable of these has been the introduction of libraries, the way media is managed and support for the latest hardware, including the new Mac Pro. [Read our reviews of the Mac Pro line up here]

The introduction of libraries means that now all your events and projects are all grouped together in one place. You can really think of a library as being an overall container for all your editing on a particular production. Events within the library still allow you to group and organise your unedited material using Keyword Collections, but projects are now also added to an event - and even Keyword Collections - making for a much more logical relationship between projects and source media than the separate Project Library employed previously.

You can also work with multiple libraries, opening and closing them when you need to and copying or moving media easily between them. I like to use a single library for each of my clients, organising the different productions I work on for that client into events within the library. Unlike the old Final Cut Events folder, libraries can be stored and opened from anywhere on your Mac or external hard drives - even on Xsan Volumes or SAN locations. Although FCP X keeps other files inside the library bundle, such as optimised media and render files, if managed correctly, libraries can be used to easily swap work between editors, even if those editors aren’t in the same city.

For additional control over your Libraries, you can use Final Cut Library Manager 2 from Arctic Whiteness - www.articwhiteness.com - or Cantemo Portal - www.cantemo.com - if you work as part of a team.

Although FCP X automatically “saves” your work as you go, a new backup preference allows you to backup the library database file wherever you want, such as to a separate hard drive or even a cloud storage service. These backups then allow you to restore your library if you run into problems and need to step back to a previous version.

Similarly, Project Snapshots can be used to instantly capture the current state of your edit. This is very useful when you want to make revisions to your edits without undoing anything you've already done, or need to re-version projects for different delivery requirements or audiences. Any Compound or Multicam clips are effectively “frozen” within the snapshot until you decide to adjust them.

Another major enhancement in 10.1 is the way in which Final Cut Pro X manages media files. Video, audio and photos can now be imported directly into the library bundle, copied to a selected folder or just left in place (if importing media from an attached hard drive rather than a camera card). The first option is useful for ensuring all media is safe inside the library, whilst the latter two options are useful if you are working collaboratively or multiple editors need to have access to the same media.

If you change your mind about how your media is being stored, you can use the new Consolidate Event Files function to copy external media inside a library, or move managed media outside a library. And for those concerned with having files being shared by multiple editors, Final Cut Pro X will never move or delete any external media files, so others sharing that media will never be affected.

The enhanced retiming options now allow you to adjust the playback speed of a clip without adjusting the clip’s length and rippling the timeline, which could change the timing and pacing of your edit. You can also adjust the smoothing between two speed segments on a clip and even add additional speed segments quickly using the new Blade Speed command (Shift-B) - one of my favourite new functions!

Stabilisation has also been improved with a new engine that analyses the clip for the dominant motion and applies the correct algorithm necessary to steady the shot. A new InertiaCam option can even remove camera wobble during unsteady pans and zooms.

Smaller (but no less useful) refinements include the addition of Through Edits which allow you to remove the edit point between two clips of a continuous piece of media, along with the ability to adjust fade handles on multichannel audio. A new feature I find very useful is the ability to view Used Media Ranges, a huge timesaver when searching for that extra shot while trying to avoid the editing faux-pas of using a shot more than once. Used portions of clips can be quickly hidden in the Browser by pressing Ctrl-U, revealing just the unused parts of your rushes.

Strong third-party support has always been part of the FCP experience, and that is as true today as it’s ever been. Companies such as Intelligent Assistance, Motion VFX, CoreMelt, Marquis Broadcast and many more continue to create applications and plugins that extend the abilities of Final Cut Pro X. This is only going to become more pronounced as Apple has added support for FxPlug 3 to both FCP X and Motion 5, promising richer and more powerful integration for plug-in developers.

Finally, FCP X 10.1 has been optimised to make full use of the new Mac Pro. The processing power and multiple GPUs of the Mac Pro help make FCP X one of the most powerful video editors available. In tests, I have had Final Cut Pro X playing back RAW 4K video files with numerous video effects without rendering. Add to this that you can now monitor 4K video using the HDMI port on the Mac Pro, and you have everything you need to start editing a full feature film right on your desktop.

OUR VERDICT

All-in-all, three years ago Apple set their sights for their professional video editor firmly on the future. Now, as FCP X comes of age, that future is upon us.

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