Final Cut Pro X 10.3 full review
Final Cut Pro X 10.2 review
This is our review of the Final Cut Pro X 10.2 update, from May 2015.
Our last look at Apple's professional video editor, Final Cut Pro X, was not quite a year ago (turn to the next page to see what we had to say about that version) and yet there have been five (yes, count 'em, five) separate updates since then. Many of these updates have been bug fixes but there have been some notable enhancements, including a major version update.
Greater control over Libraries in Final Cut Pro
Shortly after our last review was published, Final Cut Pro X 10.1.2 was released. This version included a number of enhancements including exporting an entire library as a single XML file, improvements to audio recording for voiceovers and support for the new Apple ProRes 4444 XQ format. However, probably the biggest change was that this version allowed us to set a location outside the library for rendered media and other library cache files (relating to thumbnail and waveform creation and media analysis). Moreover, we were also given the ability to be able to remove render files, optimised or proxy media from any project, event or library, making managing libraries and collaborating with other editors much more effective.
Native MXF support in Final Cut Pro
The next notable update came in December 2014 and, in conjunction with Apple's Pro Video Formats 2.0 update, added native support for importing, editing and exporting MXF files. Though this might not sound like a major update, if you are a professional editor working in broadcast it was huge. MXF files are not only a common file format but also a part of ANWA and the DPP's AS-11 file delivery specification for broadcast programmes, particularly in the UK. This update firmly positioned Final Cut Pro X as an editing tool for the broadcast industry.
Final Cut Pro X 10.2 review: new additions and refinements
And so onto the meat of this article. In April 2015 Apple released a whole new version of Final Cut Pro X with 10.2. There are a few headline-grabbing aspects to this latest version, but let's start by taking a look at some of the smaller refinements.
Firstly, the new consolidated import window places all your import options into a single window rather than the separate sheet that opened once you hit the import button. This not only saves an extra click every time you use the import window, but it also means you can quickly make changes here as you're selecting your media for import. It's a small enhancement, but one that makes the import process a little more streamlined.
Apple have also increased the range of formats supported from camera manufactures such as JVC, Panasonic, RED and Sony. This update also provides support for Sony's XAVC and XDCAM formats without the need of an additional plugin (including support for the XAVC L format).
Other under-the-hood changes include GPU rendering when using Send to Compressor (making exporting much faster, especially using the dual GPUs on the Mac Pro), faster drawing of audio waveforms to improve performance (I know several people who are pleased to see this) and a resizable filter window when searching.
Smart Collections in Final Cut Pro X 10.2
Another seemingly minor addition is that Smart Collections can now be created at the library level. I've always used Smart Collections to help organise my media and would be lost without them and though we've always been able to run complex searches across a library, being able to save those searches as Smart Collections at the library level makes this another welcome feature. As if to emphasise this point and highlight the usefulness of Smart Collections, every library you now create (or update from previous versions) has a default set of Smart Collections, though you can easily delete them if you find they are not needed.
Effects in Final Cut Pro X 10.2
Effects now include some enhanced masking effects, including the new Draw Mask effect. This allows you to create your own custom mask effects (or garbage mattes) using linear, bezier or b-spline control points. Existing masks can be customised by clicking the Convert To Points option. Although masks can be keyframed over time, sadly there's no built-in tracking option available.
All other effects (both built-in and third party) also benefit from the addition of masking features. Though these are limited to simple shape and colour masks, multiple masks can be applied and reordered on each effect to create more complex shapes.
Colour in Final Cut Pro X 10.2
The Color Board is now no longer an inherent part of every clip, instead it is now the Color Correction effect which can be automatically applied by using the shortcut Command-6 . The benefit of this is that you are now able to reorder the colour corrections you make with any other effect you also have applied, ensuring you're able to achieve exactly the result you want. A classic example is ensuring the Broadcast Safe effect is placed lower in the effects list so that it gets applied after any colour correction or grading effects, ensuring your footage says legal. This was not possible before without a workaround such as a third party adjustment layer or creating compound clips. If you're wondering where the balance color and match color commands are, they can still be found in the enhancements menu.
Video scopes in Final Cut Pro X 10.2
The video scopes also benefit in this update. Now you can display up to four scopes simultaneously, change their layout and brightness. This means there's less toggling between different scopes when colour correcting.
All customised effects can now be saved as presets making them easy to apply multiple times. If required, these saved presets can be copied from one system to another, though it's not as straightforward as with other custom templates as these live in the user's Library/Application Support/ProApps/Effects Presets folder.
3D text in Final Cut Pro X 10.2
However, undoubtedly the headline feature in this update is surely Final Cut Pro's stunning new 3D Text capability.
If you are new to working with 3D text, there are some simple animated templates in the Titles browser that can be used to get you started, including a limited number of “cinematic” templates. Though, as always with Final Cut Pro X, you've got far greater controls waiting for you just below the surface.
Any 2D text element can be instantly converted to 3D allowing you to choose from a wide range of incredibly detailed materials - such as stone, paper, plastic, wood, metal, etc. - that add texture to your text. Additional controls for lighting styles, shadows and general environment options allow you to truly refine your 3D text to perfection within Final Cut Pro. Of course, for a more detailed level of control you can always open an existing title in Motion 5.2 to fine tune any of these options further, or even take advantage of Motion's additional features, such as tracking.
Needless to say, much has changed in the world of Final Cut Pro X in less than a year. The updates continue to come from Apple thick and fast (the latest update to 10.2.1 dropped as this article was being written with a new set of bug fixes) and new features being added regularly. But while we wait for the next big update to appear on the App Store, there's plenty here to help keep the professional video editor at the top of their game.
A detailed breakdown of all the updates is available here.
On the following page you can see our review of Final Cut Pro X 10.1 from June 2014