If you want to begin editing videos, you’ll first need to decide what software you want to use. If you’re a Mac user, there are several options available to you, but in this article, we’re going to look specifically at Apple’s editing software, iMovie vs. Final Cut Pro.
Firstly, it’s worth noting that neither Final Cut Pro or iMovie is better or worse than the other. Which program you choose should depend on what you want to achieve and the type of editing you’re going to be doing. As an editor, it’s essential that you have the software you are comfortable using, and that works for you.
iMovie vs. Final Cut Pro: Key Features and Differences
The two editing programs have some notable differences in their key features, which makes sense as they are aimed at different video editor skill levels. But some of their similarities might surprise you!
|Feature||iMovie||Final Cut Pro X|
|Price||Free with every Mac||$299.00|
|Basic Editing||Yes, with two video tracks on Magnetic Timeline||Yes, multiple tracks on Magnetic Timeline|
|Advanced Editing||Speed control, cropping, chromakey, composting presets, camera shake||Full keyframing control over compositing, effects, assets layout on timeline, transition, filters|
|Text||Preset Motion-based templates||Larger array of press Motion-based templates, with more custom options|
|Color||Auto options, Match Color, and Balance. Manual color correction, preset color filters||Full color correction and grading tools. Color Board, Color Wheel, Color Curves; customizable color filters presets|
|Audio||Ducking of levels; background noise reduction; Equalization presets.||Full Audio mixing settings; Surround sound control, keyframing, customizable filters and presets.|
|Motion Graphics||Preset Title templates only||Customizable templates, greater control options, Keyframing for animation.|
|Plugins / Integrations||None.||Vast array of third-party plugins for all technical and creative aspects|
|Mobile||Yes free app version||None|
|Multicam||None.||Multicam edit up to 16 audio/video channels in real-time.|
Apple first released iMovie in 1999, and it’s been through several changes in the 20 years since it first appeared on people’s computers. Since 2013, iMovie has been included on all new Macs, and the application has been available to download for free in the App Store since 2017.
The premise of iMovie was simple: to allow anyone with Mac the ability to edit their home movies without paying out for professional industry software. iMovie has been a favorite of many amateur filmmakers and vloggers ever since.
The main pro to iMovie is that it’s free. Whether you’re picking up a second hand Mac or have a sparkly new one, iMovie can be downloaded from the App Store, which is why it’s so popular. iMovie is also available for your iPhones and iPads (again, for free), giving you the ability to edit and shoot basic videos on the same device.
The interface for both the desktop and app version of iMovie is intuitive and incredibly user-friendly, making it a solid first step for people who have never edited before. The drag and drop functions have a familiar ‘build-a-block” feel, similar to popular website builders and photo apps.
Despite this simplistic approach to editing, iMovie can do a couple of cool advanced things such as adding camera shake and even removing green screen. While these functions don’t offer as much control as professional editing software, they are a good stepping stone to understanding the principles of adding effects and chroma key.
The main con for iMovie is also one of its pros—it’s a basic editing application. While this makes it easy to use, it also limits what you can do in it.
The magnetic timeline functions in much the same way as Final Cut Pro, but you only have two tracks available to you. To begin with, two editing tracks might be enough, as it does allow you to add titles above your video. This limitation, however, can quickly become frustrating as you want to add more layers to your videos.
Another limitation of iMovie is with motion graphics. While there are plenty of preset templates to choose from, they have very few customization options. If you are regularly going to be making videos in iMovie, it won’t be long before you are bored with the small selection of motion graphics.
Final Cut Pro
Apple purchased the software that was later to become Final Cut Pro in the late 1990s. The program grew in popularity amongst independent film and TV producers throughout the early 2000s, until 2006 when it became part of a bundle of professional tools called Final Cut Studio, which covered all aspects of offline and online video editing.
In 2011, Apple made the controversial decision to completely redesign and relaunch the product as Final Cut Pro X, based on developments made by the iMovie team. These changes have split Final Cut Pro fans, some of whom love the more app-like functionality, others are angry that key professional features were removed.
Final Cut Pro X is nearly as easy to use as iMovie, and when you move from one program to the other, it’s clear to see iMovie inspired the changes to FCP. The intuitive controls make learning FCP a quite easy process, and the interface takes a clean and simplistic approach to editing workflow.
Final Cut Pro X also has all of the ‘advanced’ editing functions you might expect, including color control and audio editing. While these are much more advanced than iMovie, it’s worth noting that they still fall short of the functionality in programs such as Adobe Premiere Pro or even Final Cut Pro 7. These are the features some fans of the program were less than happy about being removed.
A big Final Cut pro (see what we did there..) is that you can install third-party plugins to supercharge your editing machine. Some are paid for, but there are also plenty of free plugins, and they cover everything from animated titles and transitions, to impressive video effects. The ability to install native plugins allows you to grow your editing skills beyond FCP’s limitations, and do things you might otherwise need Apple Motion or After Effects to achieve.
Final Cut Pro does have a cost attached to it, which may be off-putting when iMovie is right there, free to use. But FCP is very reasonably priced. The one-time, flat fee includes all future updates, and you can install on up to five devices at the same time, so it offers excellent value for money. You can even try it out for a spin on a 30-day free trial.
Despite being very app-like in its functionality, there is no mobile app for Final Cut, so this might cause some issues if you’re looking at creating videos on the go.
To sum it all up, iMovie is the perfect option for those beginning their editing journey, or for people who just want to tinker with it occasionally. If you’re going to create simple vlogs or slideshow videos, iMovie will do just the trick. For those of you who want to create more advanced compositions, Final Cut Pro X might be the better option. FCP will allow you to produce professional videos with animated titles, transitions, and graphics far beyond the capabilities of iMovie.
Both Final Cut Pro and iMovie are editing systems that can be relied on and provide a simple way for people to begin their editing journey. There is no doubt that iMovie is a more basic platform than Final Cut Pro, but this can be a good thing. Since iMovie is free, why not download it and give it a go, you can always upgrade to Final Cut Pro X when you feel you are ready. And, perhaps that is the point, there is no iMovie vs. Final Cut Pro; both platforms work brilliantly for the purposes they were designed for, and that’s what counts.