Science writer and filmmaker Tom Levenson asked me for my thoughts on the whole Final Cut Pro 7 vs Final Cut Pro X thing, because he was wondering what he should use with students in his filmmaking classes. I wrote my thoughts to him in an email, but figured I might as well share them here too. This was prompted by an app I saw that purports to convert FCP7 project files into FCPX files. If it could also convert them backwards to FCP7 — so you could hot-swap your projects between both editing paradigms — that would be truly awesome.
I’m torn. It seems obvious that Apple is going to have to let FCP7 die at some point. And it also seems clear that they’re distancing themselves from serving pro markets — the Mac Pro tower hasn’t seen a decent upgrade in years. That doesn’t seem to bode well for putting much stock in FCPX as a truly professional-grade postproduction solution.
Just because Apple may be distancing itself from serving the pro market in terms of feature filmmakers, TV producers, and other “big scale” production workflows, doesn’t mean they’re necessarily leaving mixed-media/multimedia producers behind. I’ve heard that FCPX can be pretty powerful for quickly putting together short films for the web shot on DSLRs and other tapeless media that outputs h.264 rushes. And because you can edit any codec natively without transcoding, it sounds great for remixing and collaging footage from the internet. It can also (apparently) run like lightning on a Macbook Air.
So FCPX might be a pretty great teaching tool. Like a sketchbook for short-form editing or experimenting. If I had the money to buy an Air just for the hell of it, I’d put FCPX on it for exactly this purpose. Not as a bulletproof postproduction solution, but as a sandbox for messing around with ideas on the fly, like this (a mix of original DSLR footage and found stuff from the web, cut together in about a day):