Final Cut Pro X Debacle Heats Up

Final Cut Pro X

Fortune magazine is reporting that 643 people describing themselves as filmmakers and video-editing pros have signed a petition against Final Cut Pro X, Apple Corp.’s video-editing software reboot.

The petition reads, in part:

“Many have invested hundreds of thousands (some even millions) of dollars in creating Final Cut Pro based companies. These are now threatened by a ‘prosumer-grade’ product upgrade of Final Cut Pro 7 titled ‘Final Cut Pro X,’ and will likely put several of these companies out of business. The costly process of migrating studio hardware and software is a major burden, especially on studios that have made recent upgrades to support Final Cut Pro. If many had known of the Final Cut Pro X release prior to investing in expensive hardware and software licenses, most, if not all, would have sought alternative solutions.”

The petition demands that Apple reinstate Final Cut Studio 3 immediately and place Final Cut Pro X under the category of consumer software, or auction the source code of Final Cut Pro 7 to a third party by the beginning of next year. (Don’t hold your breath.)

The reaction against the new video-editing suite has been startling. New York Times columnist David Pogue, who has gamely tried to defend Apple, said that it is a reaction unlike anything he has seen since he began writing the NYT’s tech column.

Many of the complaints have to do with Final Cut Pro X’s lack of backwards compatibility. While I think a lot of the reaction has been vastly overblown, here the beef seems valid. Final Cut Pro X cannot open projects that were created in previous versions of Final Cut Pro, but it can open up old projects in Apple’s iMovie, a software that is to video editing what Garageband is to audio production. Which is to say, not much.

Other complaints include the software’s inability to output to XML, its lack of multi-camera support. Fortunately, I have found a video tutorial showing a nice workaround on this problem–though I’m sure it is totally insufficient for such pro users as concert video editors. Still others complain about the software’s limited support of external monitoring. All of these seem to be major issues, though Apple has pledged to fix them.

Other gripes seem less valid, having to do with missing features that really aren’t missing at all–they’ve just been moved to new places. So their beef really is that Apple is forcing people to learn to use a new software. But it is also leaving Final Cut Pro 7 in place–not overwriting it–so people can keep using it while they hunt and peck around with the new software to learn how it works.

I haven’t yet purchased Final Cut Pro X. But I’ve been researching the hell out of it, and on balance, I think it is everything I need. I hope it will allow me to do some video production on a small scale for some of my corporate clients eventually, and from what I can glean that is not an unrealistic possibility.

But it also seems pretty clear that Apple has done at best a lousy job in keeping its real professional client base happy. It may even, as some have suggested, be ceding its filmmaking and TV studio customers to other vendors, in order to capture the much more voluminous and lucrative prosumer/consumer market. Which would include me.

So I think I’m going to be very happy with this software when I finally buy it, after breaking free from some other pressing projects.

But it also allows me to say something that I don’t think I ever would have said before. I’m sure glad I’m not Francis Ford Coppola.

Watch for the pending lawsuit that this petition suggests might be right around the corner.

By the way, if you haven’t seen it, this flap has even attracted the attention and ridicule of Conan O’Brien. Watch the video below:

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