Steve Jobs e-mail reassurances notwithstanding, this is a question that’s getting asked a lot in editing suites these days, especially those with large Final Cut Pro/Final Cut Studio installations. While users of other software; Adobe CS Suites including Premiere and After Effects, Avid’s Media Composer, Sony Vegas and Square Box Systems CatDV just to name a few, get new features and powerful upgrades, Final Cut Pro editors are stuck waiting on the sidelines.
The fact is Final Cut Pro hasn’t had a substantial upgrade in more than 3 years. For the large base of editors who work with the software every day, that’s just too darn long. Sure, Final Cut Studio got an upgrade a year ago, but aside from Snow Leopard compatibility and RED camera workflow integration, the changes to FCP — the heart of the package — were negligible and most users saw it as a disappointment. (Raise your hand if you want to see it as a standalone product).
Here’s what’s making people nervous.
Software applications sold to, and adopted by, professionals need to have regular updates. I’m not talking about bug fixes, although that’s always great too; I’m talking about new features and improved functionality. It would also be nice to know the people making the tools you use to earn your paycheck are listening and getting feedback from many people across the editing spectrum. Not doing so is exactly one of the things that got Avid into trouble a few years back and I fear its starting to happen with Apple. The secretive nature of Apple’s product development makes many in the editorial world feel as their requests are just bouncing off the walls of an echo chamber. Don’t get me wrong; I respect Apple’s decisions to develop their software any way they want, and I still use Final Cut for certain editing tasks. But a cold, hard fact is that in the ten years since it’s release, Final Cut Pro has not gained as much traction in the feature film and television worlds as Apple’s marketing might have you believe. The prevailing sentiment of professional editors is that the lack of upgrades, feature shortcomings and, dare I say it, idiosyncrasies of Final Cut Pro make it a distant second to cutting on an Avid.
Why people are skeptical.
Apple is in a strange spot with Final Cut Studio; consider the situation. The company has had phenomenal success with their mass-market products, the iPod, iPhone, iTunes Store and now iPad and CEO Jobs has clearly stated his emphasis on being perceived as more of a “consumer electronics” company. Final Cut Pro is unquestionably a big success, but let’s face it, professional video editing software throws nowhere as wide a net as the company’s iGadgets or even products like Logic Studio and Aperture. Although Apple is the leader at creating software that’s incredibly intuitive and easy to use, pro content creation packages are inherently more complex and require a base level of technical knowledge to operate with confidence. Adding new features and functionality often magnifies this situation hence, I think Apple’s reluctance to do so.