Apple's Final Cut X: right idea, appalling execution

Apple Final Cut Pro-X is not the great upgrade Apple though it would be. Here is my enterprisey take.

As I have said on many an occasion, I am an unashamed Apple fanboi. I am also enterprisey in my leanings. On occasion, I fancy myself as the second coming of Steven Spielberg though in truth that would best be regarded as deranged and wishful thinking. So when Apple released Final Cut Pro X I was more than eager to see what could be done to improve a well loved but ageing video production solution. The result, even for this aspiring video maker was little short of disastrous.

While Apple had done its level best to improve the user experience, that came at the cost of dumbing down a solution that I understand is aimed at serious producers of video content. In my day to day world, it is akin to hiding the complexity of debit and credit but gutting functional control. What do I mean?

The previous version of Final Cut was unquestionably showing its age. Fully featured and highly flexible yet clumsy and over burdened with processing overhead, it certainly needed an overhaul. But in the process (sic) of reinvention, it seems the gnomes of 1 Infinity Loop sacrificed enterpriseyness for populist appeal. In the process, they didn't just drop the ball, they stomped on it as well. How?

Apple says:

Rebuilt from the ground up to meet the needs of today’s creative editors, Final Cut Pro breaks free from the restrictions of old-fashioned timeline tracks. A new, dynamic editing interface lets you experiment freely while working with extraordinary speed and precision.

Whatever Apple did, FCP-X divided the community of users, best summed by The Register a couple of months back when it said:

The early response to Final Cut Pro X is at best mixed, with some complaining that the film editing application lacks XML support, and worse still, is bereft of backward compatibility with previous versions of the software.

Others who use Final Cut Pro are saying it's too early to be moaning about the application, which Apple said yesterday had been "rebuilt from the ground up".

The complete re-write of the software has left many film and video editors perplexed by the radical changes to Apple's Final Cut Pro, which competes with Avid in the film editing software market.

A steady stream of insults against and in support of Apple is currently flowing around the blogosphere.

One forum over at Creative Cow has fanbois waving handbags at each other about the new look application.

I observed much of this from the sidelines but was ultimately prepared to fork over $199 for the upgrade in the hope FCP-X would give me much welcome relief from interminable rendering time and a new UI that would prove more intuitive. What a mistake. I feel cheated.

Rather than reprise much of the to and fro on this topic I will simply recount the result of my experience. Instead of giving me what I needed, Apple took away much of what was essential, i.e. control over the creative process.

In the end, Apple has done something I could never have anticipated: it has driven me gratefully into the arms of Adobe Premiere and After Effects, even though that is at much higher cost.

Many colleagues welcome the new FCP-X and that's just fine. But as someone who is aspiring to deliver more than edited home movies, FCP-X doesn't come close to meeting my needs. To make matters worse, in going through the upgrade, Apple took away my ability to return to the clunky yet annoyingly familiar older version.

I see this in a much broader context. While colleagues clamor for the consumerization of enterprise technology, none of us should forget that runs the risk of yielding a less than optimal result.

Those looking at stodgy old enterprisey apps and thinking their day is done could learn a great deal from Apple's botched job. Don't throw the baby out with the bathwater. It's a very bad idea.

In its defence, Apple has said it will address concerns. Unfortunately, that doesn't matter to the many who rely on professional production systems and in a world where video production is becoming increasingly popular. These folk need to get things done now. I count myself as among them, even though I may never win any Oscars.

I confidently expect to see others reporting a run for the Adobe hills as they seek to regain control over their creative needs.