Apple took the wraps off its upcoming update to Final Cut Pro at the SuperMeet in Las Vegas this week. Dubbed Final Cut Pro X, the software has been rebuilt from the ground up to support the Cocoa technology underlying Snow Leopard, and by extension, utilize the full potential of modern 64-bit multicore systems with powerful GPUs. There's a whole host of new features alongside some radical changes to the interface and workflow … but it's the new pricing model we think is the most interesting.
New key features include:
- resolution-independent playback with support for 4K
- non-destructive auditioning in the timeline
- automatic generation of metadata with shot and people detection
- ability to add metadata to a specific range of a clip
- background rendering
- inline precision editing
- the ability to edit while footage is ingesting
- automatic image stabilization, color balance and audio cleanup during ingestion
- non-destructive color balancing
- software can be driven entirely with key commands
(As Mike Jones notes, it's important to note that some of this is not new to the non-linear editing (NLE) software market, just Final Cut Pro.)
What the Gizmag team finds particularly interesting is Apple's new hardware/software strategy, essentially a reverse razorblade model, only achievable by a vertically integrated company like Apple. Wintel shops must be green with envy.
Since 2007, neither Final Cut Pro or Logic Pro (Apple's digital audio workstation software) have been available as a standalone products, only as part of a Studio bundle which includes applications that aren't necessarily useful to everyone. For example, DVD Studio Pro is becoming less relevant by the second in today's age of ubiquitous broadband and YouTube.
With Gizmag writers spread around the globe for the trade show season in Q3 this year, I was admittedly wincing at the cost of buying the $999 Final Cut Studio for everyone.
But Final Cut Pro X will cost just US$299, and you can only get it from the Mac App Store, which means there's no upgrade price – people who've got a box for FCP 4 and each upgrade through to 7 sitting on their shelf will pay the same price as someone who's just bought their first MacBook Pro. Exactly which applications from the Studio package will be included in that $299 price, and whether the total cost of all the applications will add up to $999, is yet to be announced.
Either way, I think this makes sense. After all, that broadband-fueled digital age I mentioned before also means that appending "torrent" to the name of a piece of software in a Google search means you can be up and running with a pirated version of it that day, maybe even sooner than you could nick down to the shops and buy it if you're on a fast link.
Now there's no "buy in" cost. New users are paying far less for what they want, and nothing for what they don't need, yet they don't feel like they're making a compromise by buying a cut-down Final Cut Express. Existing users pay the same price they were expecting to pay for an upgrade, so they're happy.
You only need to look at the prices of competing NLE software to see just how cheap $299 is: Vegas Pro 10 costs $600, Premiere Pro CS5 costs $799, and Avid Media Composer 5 costs a whopping $2,495 (which would buy you Final Cut Pro X and a quad-core MacBook Pro).