Last night I was invited to be part of a panel discussion held by WIFV at the Discovery Networks HQ in Silver Spring, and for me it really underscored just how badly Apple has dropped the ball in regards to the launch of FCP X in the eyes of the pro community.  The discussion was two hours long and quite heated at times, but the bottom line was clear: Apple burned bridges with people from all walks of professional production life.

Was this their plan all along?  I seriously doubt it.  After jettisoning people from the Pro Apps division last year, it’s possible that no one who was left felt they could stand up and point out the obvious: the release of X had trouble written all over it.

FCP X in its current form is really just beta software.  If you poke around in its package contents you’ll see signs of features that are planned but not yet finished so they are disabled (thanks to Richard Harrington for pointing this out last night).  About a week after release, Apple responded to the firestorm of criticism about missing features with this FAQ, a very rare attempt (by Apple standards) to soothe the masses.

Assuming for a moment that FCP X had to ship as is, how could things have turned out differently?  Let’s flip our Apple history books back to March, 2001, when Apple released Mac OS X 10.0 to the masses.  OK, maybe not the masses, because I went to buy it on launch day at CompUSA (Apple Stores were still months away from opening) and they hadn’t even bothered to put copies of OS X on the shelves yet.  In any event, OS X was radical.  It was groundbreaking.  And it didn’t really work that well.  Third party support was scarce.  Features were simply not there (what do you mean I can’t burn a CD?) and for all its potential you really couldn’t use it for real work.  But unlike the FCP debacle, Apple didn’t make OS 9 instantly unavailable- they rolled it into OS X as the Classic Environment.  Now, if you wanted to lead the charge into the 21st century, you could run X and still open old apps in their own window right on top.  It was kinda ugly and I have a hard time believing Apple would do something like that today, but back then it was crucial to get people to adopt OS X.  It took years before Classic support was eventually killed, and by then we had all moved on and shrugged our shoulders.

I’m not for a minute saying that there should be an “FCP 7 Classic” layer on top of X, but there should have been a clear roadmap and some tools to at least get rudimentary project information from 7 to X.  During the NAB sneak peek in April they compared the same timeline for a complex edit first in FCP 7 (oooh, messy) and then in X (oooh, shiny).  If that didn’t give editors the impression that their work could make the jump to the new version then I don’t know what would.

I have no doubt that change is tough, especially for people who earn their living using tools that Apple killed in one fell swoop.  Apple may feel that they needed to rip the band-aid off, make a clean break, and tell us to get over it.  But where would they be as a company if they followed this path in 2001?

16 thoughts on “FCP X: the missed opportunity

  1. We’ve always known we should keep up our skills in more than one NLE, and this has been a huge reminder of that!
    I’m sure Adobe and, especially Avid, are making new friends.
    It’ll certainly be interesting to see how the FCPX ecosystem evolves in the next few months, and whether current FCP6/7 professionals eventually embrace it or just move on to Avid &/or Adobe Premiere, both of which, is has to be said, have incorporate well-loved FCP features in their interfaces.

  2. Glad to see people aren’t looking at Apple with rose-colored glasses anymore. It’s time to get realistic about what Apple provides to the professional community these days, hardware and software-wise.

  3. Great blog, thanks for that.
    I myself have simply been disappointed by the seeming arrogance of the attitude behind the launch of FCPX. I would have liked to have seen a gentler transition, but the way it’s been done, I have lost a fair bit of respect for the company and certainly won’t be parting with any cash for it as it stands. When I feel it’s a more finished product I may consider upgrading. Or I may just dump it in favour of a competitor. You see that ‘howls of protest’ from a lot of the pro community may be considered as pathetic overly dramatic, but it belies a real and strongly felt disappointment in the way everything is handled. If Apple’s core mantra is all about the user experience, in this case the user’s experience INCLUDES how the user is experiencing Apple. I feel their user experience has taken a major nosedive. No one likes to feel like they’re being controlled and bullied.

  4. Paul Ford, New York Magazine, could be pointing to part of the problem…

    “Apple couldn’t get much bigger without selling oil, while the media industry has been reduced to dime-size buttons that show up on iPhone screens.”

    Too big for its FCPX britches. And I don’t even know how to use the old FCP!!

    P.S. Bill, this blog is aces

  5. “I shuttered my former blog “theFCPguy,” because I may not be one much longer…”

    Bill, say it ain’t so! Historically, I have to give Apple some room on this as they have been the driving force in the NLE revolution for the last decade. One has to ask where would Avid, Adobe, etc be if FCP had never been released? It really forced all of those players to build a better, more scalable edit solution, and we’ve all benefited from that no matter what platform you edit on.

    I, myself, am excited about a lot of the features that FCP X brings to workflow with metadata and I can see easily how my workflow will benefit from these advances. Does it need work? Absolutely! I can’t do any professional work as it currently “ships”, but I can run FCP 7 in tandem, and that has been my main tool for many years. I like how Adobe and Avid are responding, as they have been sharpening their tools yet again to try to steal back some market share. Another win for us, again brought to you by Apple! (albeit, not in the way they intended).

    The ball is in Apple’s court, and they have handled it dreadfully so far. Hopefully the outrage from the accomplished pros who have been using FCP since the beginning, like yourself, will turn the heat up on Apple to respond, and then maybe the bar will be raised yet again. And it’s with that hope, that I will remain “anFCPguy” and maybe rekindle an old flame with Avid or Adobe whilst I await their response.

  6. Dave-

    Agreed on all points. There’s very little downside to this whole thing from the perspective of a professional editor, and the tools at our disposal have never been stronger. My main focus in closing down theFCPguy was to broaden the topics I write about, and because my pages of “tips and tricks” were EOL’d. 😉

    Hey, take a look at this:

    http://www.crumplepop.com/blog/?p=369

    These guys are all in with FCP X.

  7. Wow, that’s a fascinating article thanks for sharing. Love your blogs, whatever they are called, so keep up the chatter!

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