Apple's Final Cut Pro X debuts, only on Mac App Store

Apple released Final Cut Pro X today, a major new version of its pro video editing app. If you want it, though, there's only one way to get it: the Mac App Store.

Apple on Tuesday released Final Cut Pro X, the long-awaited 64-bit version of its pro video editing software. You won't find it on DVD on the shelves of the Apple Store, however. There's only one way to get it, and that's through the Mac App Store.

Billed as "the biggest advance in Pro video editing since the original Final Cut Pro," Final Cut Pro X sports new features like the "Magnetic Timeline." It replaces the concept of tracks with the ability to simply arrange clips wherever you want them, sliding other clips out of the way. "Clip Connections" link story clips to elements like titles and sound effects, while "Compound Clips" can combine story elements. A new "Auditions" feature lets you swap quickly between clips to check out different takes.

Other new features include "Content Auto-Analysis," which attempts to automatically tag media with metadata content on import. That information is used to organize clips into "Smart Collections," which help users find shots by media type, the number of people in the shot, and what kind of shot it is - close-up, medium or wide shot.

Apple has also released new versions of companion applications previously included as part of the Final Cut Suite - Motion 5, a motion graphics application, and Compressor 4, a media encoding software package. Each is available for $49.99.

Following in the footsteps of Apple's Aperture software, Final Cut Pro X, Motion 5 and Compressor 4 are the latest professional apps to get released through Apple's Mac App Store.

A primary feature of Apple's forthcoming Lion operating system (due for release next month), the Mac App Store is built into recent versions of Apple's Snow Leopard operating system software and provides a buying experience similar to Apple's iTunes Store and App Store for iOS software. Users use the same Apple ID credentials as those other stores to make purchases.

But unlike Aperture, Final Cut Pro X and its companion applications will not be released in a retail form. Anyone looking to get them will need to download them from the Mac App Store.

Apple's priced Final Cut Pro much lower than previous releases, but it's not offering an upgrade path for users of previous versions. You'll need to buy a new copy if you want to use the new release. On the other hand, software purchased from the Mac App Store can be freely copied between Macs sharing the same Apple ID authorization.

Apple will offer the same distribution method for Lion, which will be available from the Mac App Store in July for $29.