Missed Hopes and Opportunities – My Broken Friend Final Cut Pro X
The fallout from the high-end post production community for Apple’s Final Cut Pro X release no doubt has their engineers and marketers looking for safe haven. Final Cut Pro X reminds me of a dear friend who has taken a wrong turn. As positive as I have tried to be with this update, I wince at the circus freak show this release has been.
I understand the desire and the benefit of leaving legacy behind in software development. Sometimes you have to pull life-support off for the better good of the application’s future. But if Adobe Premiere can easily import a FCP 7 project, it’s reasonable to wonder why FCP X cannot do the same. To me this isn’t a big deal for the kind of work I do; however, I can see why a number of pros are upset over this.
I also get that the initial target audience for Final Cut Pro X are probably folks like me: one man shows that do web-based content production. Israel Hyman of Izzy Video is also in that camp and his initial impression is positive: “I’ve been studying Final Cut Pro X for the past 48 hours, and I think it’s really, really good.” OK, so that’s great. There’s a lot to like in FCP X for web-based content producers like Izzy and myself. I agree that it’s pretty good – for this particular audience.
It leaves me wondering, though, if Apple has made a horrible marketing mistake. Sure, perhaps, hundreds of thousands of users will be one man or woman shops. However, it’s the high end users, the post-production houses, whose testimonials can make or break a product. I cannot recall a more hostile reception to an Apple product release. The MobileMe fiasco pales in comparison. So, when several prominent editors, post-production houses, colorists, trainers, and podcasters almost uniformly railed against FCP X, I felt deeply embarrassed for Apple. I’ve tried to keep a positive view of the product. Indeed, there is much to like in it. However, I do worry that Apple has missed an important opportunity to reach the hearts of those who could be their most vocal and passionate advocates.
Apple no doubt has made a lot of money on FCP X. But at what cost?
Walter Biscardi, founder of a prominent Atlanta-based post-production house, has publicly stated on his blog that they are moving on. They waited with high hopes for this release of FCP X. In Walter’s mind FCP X is just another iMovie upgrade. So, he’s moving on to Adobe Premiere Pro CS5.5. That’s a powerful indictment against Apple’s pro apps. And the fact that the FCS 3 suite has been pulled and EOL’ed is a train wreck and deal-breaker. The post-houses have been pushed out of the airplane with no parachute.
What’s scary is just how easy it is for Adobe Premiere Pro CS5.5 to import existing Final Cut Pro projects (see Walter’s video below) – something that FCP X cannot do and evidently there are no plans to do so. I would be surprised if Adobe and Avid did not pounce on this mess. The opportunity to woo possibly tens of thousands of FCP users into their fold is too irresistible. They would be foolish not to try.
Apple has had about 4 years or so to make this right. What do they have to show for it? Yes, FCP X is a beautiful application and has wonderful promise for the future – assuming Apple can deliver quickly enough. But today’s episodes of Good Eats or America’s Got Talent cannot wait for a promise to be fulfilled. They have to cut and grade today. So what more would a few more months have hurt to get this right? I can’t imagine that Apple would have ignored the basic needs of the high end post production houses – but, incredulously they did! Sadly, the derisive iMovie moniker is going to be a hard one for Apple to live down. Never mind that I actually like iMovie! And I think FCP X is a decent release for me – the individual, one man content producer. The reality of it is, though, that this is the negative perception the high-end market has of FCP X. Though their numbers are low compared to the multitude of Mort and Mindy editors of the world, it is the high end users’ words, opinions, and impressions that ultimately helps market or tank Final Cut Pro.
Apple has a real marketing mess on their hands.
I do hope my broken friend gets help soon.
Update on Thursday, June 23, 2011 at 3:59PM
Let’s say I needed to hire another editor (boy, that would be great!), and so I go set up another Mac for that editor. However, the project I’m working on is deeply entrenched in FCP7. I’m in trouble because there is no way to buy another FCS license.
Apple could really go a long way in restoring good faith by giving post-houses their parachute back. Remember the iMovie upset a few years ago? Apple eventually relented and gave away iMovie HD. Why not do that now with FCS 3? Give it away to every FCP X customer or existing FCS customer.