FCPX in 2012 [10.0.3-10.0.7]
Over the next several weeks we’ll be taking a look at where Apple’s Final Cut Pro X might be headed over the 2013 calendar year. But first I thought it might be worth taking a look back at the past year and see just how far we’ve come before getting to where we might be going...
This will not be a feature by feature review. If you’re looking for detailed notes on each release, I encourage you to seek out Apple’s own release notes. Here I’m more interested in what these updates mean generally for the software’s future development.
When 2012 started there was still tons of doubt about FCPXs focus. We had seen one major [10.0.1] and one minor [10.0.2] update in 2011, and although some important stability and usability issues were addressed in those updates, it had done little to diminish the long list of professional features that were indeed still missing from the application. So was FCPX really meant for “hobbyists” or “Prosumers”? Or was Apple’s ultimate goal indeed to eventually fill the same market-space as FCP7?
A NEW, OPEN APPLE [by Apple standards anyway...]
Released on November 16th 2011, FCPX 10.0.2 was in itself a minor maintenance release. The bigger story was a list of pre-announced features appearing on the “What’s New” page of Apple’s Final Cut Pro X website. Beyond the importance of the features themselves [Multicam & Broadcast Monitoring], Apple preemptively discussing any unreleased future product was a break from their modus operandi. Shortly after FPX’s original release in June, in the firestorm of disappointment and burning hatred, Apple had done a Q&A in the addressing specific questions about whether Apple intended certain Pro features to return.
The 10.0.2 pre-announcements definitely seemed to indicate an intention to continue a more open dialogue with users- attempting to telegraph [as clearly as Apple ever would] that Pro features would would indeed return to FCPX, and in the near term. Then on April 10th, just before NAB2012, Apple released FCPX 10.0.4 and this time invited members of the press to discuss upcoming features bound for the software “In 2012”. The highlighted features again focused entirely on Pro-oriented requests, including RED and MXF support, Multichannel Audio Editing, and Dual Viewers.
This peak into FCPXs future development was a great start, I can’t help but think Apple needs do more to sooth the choppy waters FCPXs introduction caused. Even if the platform matures as those of us who use it think that it will, the wariness about Apple’s commitment to the Pro user will likely continue to dog the software long after it has technically left those barriers behind.
But Apple’s new PR push wasn’t without it’s stumbles... In July, the LACPUG announced that Apple would be doing a presentation around the 1 year anniversary of the software’s release. The wording of Apple’s PR blurb was vague, and the rumor mill went into overdrive- from attendees thinking they would see a preview of new features, to some even speculating that 10.1 might be released shortly thereafter. As it turns out, it was a dog and pony show of all the features that had been re-implemented into the software since 10.0. Reports on twitter were that the presentation did not go over well with many in attendance. It was a miscommunication of messaging, but it’s exactly the type of confusion Apple needs to avoid.
Going forward into 2013, I doubt we’ll see these feature pre-announcements continue for much longer. As long as FCPX is re-integrating legacy functionality- they’re certainly not letting the cat out of the bag on anything by teasing us with the immediate roadmap, but once those holes have been filled, I’d bet very heavily against seeing Apple giving us lists of “next generation” features that could technically give it a competitive advantage. That’s just good sense.
RAPID DEVELOPMENT [by anyone’s standard], FOCUSED ON PRO FEATURES
The features pre-announced with 10.0.2 were earmarked for “Early 2012”. The general consensus was that this would mean 1st quarter of 2012... or more likely around NAB in April. But to the surprise of just about everyone 10.0.3 was indeed released VERY early in 2012, on January 31st. This in my mind is one of the big FCPX stories for 2012; the rapid and regular update cycle that Apple has been able to maintain throughout the year. FCPX is still lagging behind from a feature perspective, but if they keep this pace up, it won’t be for long.
FCPX received 2 major feature updates and 3 maintenance updates in 2012. If anything, it’s likely the FCPX development team is BEHIND on it’s own goals for the year. On June 11th at Apple’s Worldwide Developers Conference, the company released it’s first Retina Mac, the 15” MacBookPro with Retina Display. Along with it came Retina updates to several applications, including Aperture and Final Cut ProX [10.0.5]. It’s generally understood that Apple’s development teams work in tight silos, with one group knowing little to nothing about what another is doing until absolutely necessary. So it’s quite probable that the FCPX team received little notice about the impending hardware update, and when they were informed that they’d need to have a Retina update ready for WWDC, had to push back the schedule for it’s next major release until they could get 10.0.5 out the door. If they hadn’t had Retina support sprung on them, it seems possible we could have seen the 10.0.6 features in 10.0.5, around the 1 year anniversary of FCPX.
If you look at the release schedule thus far [see chart below], 10.0.6‘s 134 days is certainly the anomaly, with the average update cycle to that point being about 10 weeks [70 days].
FCPX RELEASE SCHEDULE [days between updates]
Keeping that in mind, the FCPX development team was STILL able to get 10.0.6 out on October 23rd, well clear of the “2012” deadline they announced at NAB. AND they were also able to release an end-of-year maintenance update on December 6th [10.0.7].
In our next article we’ll examine more closely whether this release pattern will continue into 2013, or if we’re nearing a pivot point in the development of the software.
FORGET WHAT YOU THINK YOU KNOW ABOUT PRODUCT FOCUS
It used to be that Apple kept a very tight reign on product focus. If Apple had a product to launch, they would put all their marketing effort behind that one product. Longtime Apple users will remember that even Final Cut Pro releases would get feature placement on Apple’s website not so long ago. Of course, this was when Apple’s stable of products was much smaller. 2 laptops and 2 desktops, iPods, iLife and iWork suites, and their Pro software: FCP and Logic.
All thru this fall, as speculators attempted to estimate the release date for 10.0.6 [myself included], people would always black out ranges around Apple events, especially consumer focused ones. The thinking being that Apple would want to keep it’s marketing message focused on whatever devices it was announcing that day. But the day 10.0.6 was released in October, was the day of an event that introduced the iPad mini, and 4th generation iPad, the newly designed iMac, and a 13” variant of the Retina MacBook Pro. Clearly, Apple isn’t worried about FCPX being released and muddying the PR waters for their other products.
This is a positive in that it means that FCPX is free to follow along on it’s own development path unaffected by how Apple schedules it’s Mac and iOS products. That’s not to say that they can’t pursue synergy where it makes sense. This is why we saw the Retina MacBookPro and a Retina update to FCPX on the same day. But FCPX development won’t be slave to unrelated products. That’s good news.
RE-THINK, NOT JUST REPLICATE
One thing that has been obvious from the start of FCPX is that Apple’s intention wasn’t just to update, but to rethink every aspect of the software- even if some might not want them to. Every feature that has been brought back to FCPX in 2012 has been fundamentally rethought to make it more intuitive, more useful, and more powerful. Multicam in 10.0.3 combined with the new Multichannel Audio Editing tools in 10.0.6 deliver an amazing step up from it’s legacy counterpart. RED support has improved drastically, bringing it in-line with the best offerings from competitors. Paste Attributes does the same job with more granularity and control.
And while it remains at present an incomplete solution, I think Roles holds great promise for the future; as a foundation for project organization, audio mixing, and project versioning [more to come on that later in this series].
A LONG ROAD BOTH AHEAD AND BEHIND
While the application has come a long way since 2012 began, as we close out the year, there remains a lot of skepticism about FCPX. While it seems to be finding a lot of friends in one-man and small shops, it’s penetration into more established markets remains a novelty at best. Let’s make no mistake- FCPX’s deficiencies are very real for many workflows. But each update comes with new stories of those decided to take the plunge and find advantages in FCPX’s new philosophies and concepts.
Full Disclosure: though I was playing with the software almost every day since it was released, I didn’t move the majority of my work to FCPX until the 10.0.4 release in April, when Broadcast Monitoring came out of Beta. At this point I probably only open FCP7 once a week, to do a quick tweak to a legacy project, or for a client that needs FCP7 backup files. But happily those are the exception these days.
In Part 2 of this series will look ahead to 2013 and discuss what form this years updates might take; and if, how, and when a 10.1 update is in the cards.