There are a lot of different editing programs and a lot of different opinions about which is the best. Final Cut Pro has grown in popularity and mainstream adoption for both film and television industries since it’s release in the 1990s, but Apple made some controversial changes in 2011 that divided loyalties amongst editors at all levels.
So, we thought an honest Final Cut Pro review was long overdue, free from comparison, so you can decide if it suits your editing needs.
What We Love About Final Cut Pro
There is a lot to love about Final Cut Pro X, and a lot can be achieved with the software. Some of our favorite things about the software are happening behind the scenes.
1. One Time Price
Final Cut Pro X is one of the only industry-standard editing programs that comes for a one-time price. That is, once purchased, you don’t need to continue paying a monthly fee, and all the updates are included. If you’re a professional video editor that’s going to use FCP for a long time, this can save you big bucks!
Additionally, FCP is purchased, downloaded, and updated through the App Store, so you don’t need to pay extra to have it on more than one editing machine. You can have up to 10 Apple devices, 5 of which can be computers, connected to the same Apple ID. That’s 5 potential editing devices you can have for the one time cost. Pretty sweet deal if you ask us!
2. User-Friendly & Intuitive Learning Curve
Final Cut Pro X has an app like quality to it, with a clean interface and easy to access controls. The whole program has been designed to make it easy for beginners to start using straight away.
There are several features, such as multicam editing, that are a bit hidden away, but these are more advanced editing styles. For beginners, the interface is uncluttered, and for experienced editors, once you know where these tools are, they are as intuitive as the rest.
The drag and drop functionality makes adding effects, titles, and transitions simple, and the timeline (or project) gives a clear overview of what is happening in the video, so stray clips or transitions are easy to spot.
3. Render Speed
The render speed of any editing software will depend mostly on what you’re doing. More complicated effects and transitions will take longer to render than a more straightforward composition.
Final Cut Pro X does its rendering in the background, a considerable change since FCP7 when rendering was manual. The big advantage of background rendering is that FCP is doing it every time you stop using the mouse, even if it’s just for a few seconds, a few frames will get rendered.
So, when you’re editing, you often don’t have to wait for anything to render, FCP has already done it while you sent that text, made that cup of coffee, and spaced out briefly thinking of your next creative move.
4. Auto Saving
Editing is a time consuming and fiddly process. There’s nothing worse than doing a great job only to lose it all when the program crashes. As an editor, you should get used to saving your work regularly, but Final Cut Pro will save you the trouble.
FCPX autosaves at various points throughout your work, creating time and date stamped project files as you go. Not only does this mean you don’t need to remember to save your work, it means you can go back to a previous version of your project (if required), and it will be filed away ready to start from an earlier point in your edit. This might save your butt one day!
Unfortunately, no editing program will be 100% stable—there will be the occasional glitch or corruption to a file. This is inevitable when working with such large and complex files. That said, Final Cut Pro is a pretty solid foundation on which to build your video projects.
Final Cuts performance and stability will also depend on the technical specifications of the device you use, including the type of graphics card and how much RAM and memory the device has. FCPX has some specific technical requirements which are worth looking into before purchasing the software.
6. Expansion With Plugins
Final Cut Pro X doesn’t have a vast number of different titles, transitions, or effects, but it does make it incredibly easy to install third-party plugins. There are thousands of free and paid plugins to FCP, which can add to your editing capabilities, especially if you want to add more animated elements to your videos.
What We Don’t Love About Final Cut Pro
No program is perfect, and as much as we may love Final Cut Pro, several drawbacks that can make you think twice or prevent you from using it altogether.
1. Not Compatible with Windows
Probably the most limiting thing about FCP is that it’s only available on a Mac. The age-old argument of Mac vs. PC: Macs offer more stability and security, PCs generally cost less, and parts are easier to replace.
If you’re a regular PC user, remember Final Cut Pro means not only purchasing a Mac but learning how to use one. A major plus in the Mac vs. PC argument is the cost difference. You can buy a mighty PC for less than a standard MacBook or desktop setup. Naturally, this can drastically increase the cost of your edit suite setup, as well as the amount of time it takes you to learn the software.
If you’re working with a team or across a studio, using Final Cut Pro can create problems if some of your colleagues are on PCs. No bueno.
2. Oversimplifies Advanced Features
As we mentioned earlier, the redesign from FCP7 to FCPX divided fans of the program ever since. Many professional editors were (and still are) angry that certain advanced features were removed in the redesign.
There’s no doubt that FCPX has less advanced color and audio editing than previous versions of the program. But if you never knew the program with them, it’s unlikely you will miss them. That is, unless you’re comparing it to other powerful tools like Adobe’s Premiere Pro and Audition.
3. Collaborative File Sharing
Final Cut Pro is excellent if you’re working on your project on your own, and you only need to share master versions with people for review. If you intend to collaborate on a project, you might run into some problems.
The truth is, FCPX isn’t a particularly collaborative platform. It has no cloud-based functionality, and if you want to share a project with another member of your team, the easiest way is physically moving the project on a hard drive (doubly hard if they’re on a PC, as we mentioned above). FCPX also has no legacy saving option, so if you’re on newer versions, your colleagues won’t be able to open the project.
4. Advanced Audio Editing
Final Cut Pro has some pretty neat, albeit basic, audio editing functionality. You can do some basic audio clean up, adjust volume levels, add a few effects. For the most part though, it lacks the advanced audio editing options that a lot of professional editors require.
If you have complete control of your audio on set and have a good quality sound, Final Cut Pro will likely have the tools you need to touch up the audio to a professional standard. Unfortunately, when you come to more complicated audio editing, such as background noise sampling, FCP just doesn’t have the skills. You’d need to jump into Logic (Apple’s version of Adobe Audition) to get the job done.
5. Advanced Effects/Animation Require Motion
FCP is a clever bit of editing kit, but it’s very limited in the animation and effects department. As we mentioned, third-party plugins do allow you to add to Final Cut Pros offering, but if you want to create something entirely bespoke, you will need to use Apple Motion.
Apple Motion is to Final Cut as After Effects is to Premiere Pro. The strange thing about Motion is that despite all of Apple’s work to make FCP intuitive and easy to use, Motion can feel like it has a much bigger learning curve.
6. Motion and Logic Not As Integrated
Both Motion and Logic Pro are programs that integrate with Final Cut Pro X, to give you the animation and audio functions missing from the latest version. While each application in its own right is fit for purpose, Apple doesn’t seem to have spent as much time working on how the programs integrate compared to the Adobe Creative Suite.
The workflow between the three programs seems clunky and, honestly, a little outdated. It’s a real shame because Logic is an outstanding program and a favorite among musicians.
Should You Choose Final Cut Pro?
We’ve covered some of the things to love, and some things to not like about Final Cut Pro is our review. But remember, it all comes back to what you want to do with it.
For those just starting with their editing journey, Final Cut Pro X is a great option, so long as you’re happy to be using a Mac. The intuitive controls and clean interface make the program super simple to pick up and go. The one-time cost is also attractive. You’re not going to feel the pressure to learn everything at once to get your money’s worth.
There is also a lot of support online for both professional and amateur editors, in the form of video walk-throughs, Facebook groups and forums, and articles like this one. Getting started is easy, and you can be editing your video in just a few minutes.
If you’re a professional editor, you probably already have a strong opinion on Final Cut Pro one way of the other. If you’re already an FCP user, the program will suit your needs for the projects you create, and you may have found some exciting ways around the various limitations.
If you’re not an FCP user, perhaps you’ve had bad experiences or disliked the change from 7 to X. However, FCP is a fast and stable platform that allows any experienced editor to throw together videos quickly and efficiently. Sure, it can’t do everything, and other programs have more advanced animation and audio, but do you really need that much power?
So, folks, that’s our honest Final Cut Pro review. We hope you’ve got a clearer idea of whether FCPX is the right program for you. Don’t forget that editing programs can only be compared by what you can create if you want to quickly and efficiently edit videos, FCP is a great option.