The present and future of post production business and technology | Philip Hodgetts

Jun/17

21

The Real Reason People Hated Apple Over FCP X

When Apple released FCP X six years ago, there was an incredible backlash, which Apple deserved for the sudden, harsh removal of FCP 7 from the market. But I believe there was another reason behind the anger beyond the sudden cut off: there was no more hope that Apple would supplant Avid in the editing world.

Over the 12 years of FCP Classic’s life, it started to supplant Avid’s Media Composer in “Hollywood.” Initially at the budget end of the market, where FCP’s price point was very compelling against the expensive hardware/software combination that was Avid Media Composer.

Over its life some people saw Apple heading in the direction of becoming a Media Composer killer.

Except no-one disliked Media Composer that much. What was happening is that, while people loved working in Media Composer, they were not fond of the company that made it. Around 1999 the consensus was the editors loved Media Composer and hated Avid.

With the release of FCP X, it was obvious that Apple had chosen to embrace the democratization of production that had happened over the intervening 12 years and they were not going to make a niche app for “Hollywood’s” needs.

Hopes dashed, despair follows leading to the dark side and hatred.

Arguably Apple fanned the flames of democratization with the release of FCP 1 with support for DV: the “good enough” format that drove democratization.

Betting on democratization was the right thing for Apple to do, once it was obvious that FCP had to be rewritten from the ground up. If there’s a rewrite, why not a rethink? With over 2 million licenses sold (and potentially five times that number of active seats) FCP X is unquestionably the most popular professional NLE in the current market. Not necessarily in the “let’s replace Media Composer” market, but in the democratized video work for sure.

Now, if you are looking for an “Avid killer” then Blackmagic Resolve is probably the app to do it.

It’s also worth noting that those who went back to Media Composer after Apple’s “abandonment”, went back to a very different Avid, and very different cost structure for Media Composer. Instead of $150,000 a seat (with essential hardware), you could now pick it up for $1295 (sans hardware).

Apple’s competition had made Media Composer more affordable, but the release of FCP X made many editors simply hate both companies!

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25 comments

  • Jamie LeJeune · June 21, 2017 at 11:46 pm

    One other influential customer base that Apple upset were the large school film programs. They are big boats to steer and Apple’s seemingly immediate switch to a radically different FCPX was hard for them to take. New purchasing decisions for shared storage, as one example, can take years in the beauracracy of a state university. Rapid change that isn’t communicated ahead of time really is a problem for these types of institutions. I know people who manage them feel that Apple blindsided them and (justified or not) that Apple might just capriciously drop FCPX at any time leaving them hanging. Although the chances of that are slim to none, the lack of forewarning hasn’t been forgotten.

    Reply

  • Martin Baker · June 21, 2017 at 11:48 pm

    “Except no-one disliked Media Composer that much.”

    Oh trust me they did! There were many of us who thought MC was clunky and outdated. And that was 15 years ago!

    It could be argued that in the end, Avid’s price cuts may not have been the right strategy. They optimistically thought they could compete with Apple and Adobe for emerging new markets. That hasn’t happened and the reality remains that they rely on their traditional broadcast users, who are generally less price sensitive.

    Reply

  • Alex Gollner · June 22, 2017 at 6:12 am

    Another aspect not talked about over the years: Apple didn’t care about how established players to could make money out of installing and supporting Final Cut Pro X workflows.

    Reply

    • Author comment by Philip · June 23, 2017 at 12:06 pm

      Apple never cares about the effect on third parties. It’s just who they are. They do appreciate “team players” though.

      Reply

    • Gregory Clarke · June 23, 2017 at 4:43 pm

      At the Supermeet “Sneak Peek” event there were some very very upset Value Added Resellers who discovered that the new Final Cut Pro X would be sold through the Mac App Store at the crazy low price of $299. No room for them in the new world!

      Reply

  • Paul LoPiccolo · June 23, 2017 at 11:24 am

    You are rejecting apples primary thought process at the time. They were leaving being a computer company. They had an entire professional line of server hardware and raid system that they previously dropped. They realized that being a computer company is not where the future is. Which is why they are now just called apple. As well Fcp X made collaboration near impossible in the first versions, and every editor was hanging on waiting for a FCP 7 update. Careers were built on FCP editing. IN one release apple crushed professional careers and there was a sucking sound in the market. Until premire came out with a new software and that is what most people migrated to. Avid is still a beast to deal with.

    Reply

    • Author comment by Philip · June 23, 2017 at 12:05 pm

      I did understand that, but I think it’s not relevant to this discussion. At no point did Apple “crush” professional careers. There still people using FCP 7 now. There was ample time for anyone to adjust to another NLE. What you’re saying is pretty much nonsense and not at all what happened. The people who were hurt right at the release were people like us, who sold 3rd party apps for fCP 7. Our business died overnight at the preview and immediately cost us $20K. But we adapted and moved forward and have done very well from FCP X. Actually “most people” have not migrated to Premiere Pro except in a few niches. Premiere Pro has about 1.1 million active seats, FCP X in excess of 2 million sold, potentially 10 million seats. FCP X is the most sold and most used professional NLE in the market today.

      Reply

      • Andrej · June 24, 2017 at 5:27 am

        Maybe you’re referring to us as “niche”, but at least here in Germany in the commercials market you will almost never see FCP X used – strangely, only maybe for the animatic/pre-viz versions, which are usually not edited by a professional.

        About 90% of the Final Cut 7 users I’ve encountered have stayed on FC7 or migrated to Premiere and graduating students from editing academies seem to prefer Premiere to Avid (whenever they have a choice), I never hear FCP X mentioned as a preference. Maybe it’s the German mindset, but it’s still considered child’s play and not “professional” enough.

        I will not argue that FCP X is the most sold and most used professional NLE – but is it the most sold and most used NLE in professional markets? I would be surprised if FCP X is used more often in “professional” environments than Premiere. Far from the vibe I’ve gotten in many years of working here.

        Reply

        • Author comment by Philip · June 24, 2017 at 10:04 am

          The problem with being in a forest, is that you only see the trees around you. You need to get out of your forest to see that there was an entirely different ecosystem, just around the corner. Your observations of your local trees does not advance the discussion.

          Reply

          • Andrej · June 24, 2017 at 2:50 pm

            I readily acknowledged that I’m talking about a specific location and industry. Unlike you, proclaiming a “consensus” (from 18 years ago no less), I tried to point out my subjectivity in the matter.

            I am in Berlin, the German capital for all things film and video, and deal with people in media from all sorts of areas and have been for 12 years. One “local forest” like this, home to a massive media industry, is very possibly an indicator for the rest of the world, at least what we call western world.

            Instead of enlightening us (I asked you a specific question about professional markets), which I am very open to and often am reading your articles, you offer condescending tree talk, shoot people off for “nonsense” and offer speculative numbers in your favor (potentially five times more active FCPX users than the 2 million? But Premiere is definetly just the approx. 1.1 million?).

          • Author comment by Philip · June 24, 2017 at 3:24 pm

            “Most used in professional markets” is a nonsense. It has no meaning. What is a “professional market”. Surely the only definition that makes sense is “anyone who makes money editing or producing video that includes editing.” Every other answer is elitist, or attempting to create some mythical “professional market” that just includes what you, and those near you, do.

            A wedding videographer is as professional an editor as a film editor is. There skills are different and I doubt a feature film editor would do a particularly good job editing a wedding. All kids of professional video.

            Bisk Education employ at least 9 full time editors, editing educational material. Are they professionals?

            That’s why I didn’t respond to your question, because there is no response appropriate.

            Apple revealed the 2 million sales number at NAB 2017. It’s probably higher than that now. Each sale could be used on multiple seats as there’s no restriction other than they be logged in under the same Apple ID (and I’m not sure FCP X is too fussy about that either). Hence the “potentially 5x that” because in the consumer side of Apps through the App Store apps can be installed on “up to five devices”.

            The Premiere Pro figure comes from a conversation I had with someone who corrected my estimate at the time, up to 900,000. I’ve extrapolated at about the same growth rate from then to now, to come up with the 1.1 to 1.2 million active seats.

            Remember Adobe is primarily a print and document processing company. The dynamic media division is a relatively small part of the company, as important as it seems within our industry.

            You came off as being not open to a view other than your own, so I was inclined not to respond.

            As for Media Composer, my estimate of 120-150,000 seats has never been corrected by anyone, which it most certainly would be if I was seriously low in my estimate. From Avid’s published numbers, and the numbers that happened when we first started selling 7toX (where we outsold FCP X for two days, in numbers sold, not revenue) Avid sell about the same number of seats of Media Composer in a month, than Apple did in 2012 per day for FCP X.

            None of which makes any NLE more “professional” nor more useful. There are many workflows that FCP X isn’t suited for. No bin locking/collaboration limits it in some environments, for some workflows.

            There are no bad choices. Premiere Pro is a fine NLE. Resolve is a fine NLE. I think Media Composer is somewhat outdated, but it has its fans. If you’re looking for a traditional, track based NLE, then there are great choices.

            If you want something that looks more toward the future than the past, then I think FCP X is a better choice. If you want a faster, more fluid organization and editing experience, I think that’s FCP X.

            Now you have more answer than the original article!

          • Andrej · June 24, 2017 at 3:44 pm

            Not sure why, but the reply button does not appear under your latest response, so I’ ll reply to this one.

            Thanks very much! Now that’s an answer!

            I would agree wih you that professional markets are hard to pin down and that we should include anyone who makes money off it. I had videographers and wedding filmmakers in mind, too, and even from them I usually hear Premiere – and often times on Windows. Considering how much of the creative world outside the States don’t even work on Macs made me question the dominance of FCPX in the professional market even more.

            I didn’t mean to make it a “my NLE is better than yours” discussion and am thankful for as many competing professional NLEs as possible. But I had a hard enough time pleading and convincing my employers to edit the next commercial on Premiere. They don’t laugh anymore five years later but still scoff at FCPX… which I’m sure will change sooner than later, too (you’re next, Resolve).

            Thanks again!

  • Timber · June 23, 2017 at 3:03 pm

    Effing Randy Effing Ubillos is to blame for pretty much the whole shooting match, including getting the REAL possible MC-killer removed from the field – DF/X and Aldus’s Hitchcock, shown once and then welded into a steel box and dropped into Puget Sound when Adobe bought Aldus, and the eternally snakebitten Premiere was favored.

    Premiere sucked from day one. Really it was the SuperMac “Digital Film” video card capture utility, way overgrown, with a very shaky timebase at it’s core. It wasn’t until much later and a few full rewrites that it became usable.

    Then he started Key Grip (a truly awful name that would only have been conferred by someone who knew NOTHING about the film business) at Macromedia, which Apple unwisely bought and developed into FCP.

    So, is there a decent editing platform on iOS? IMHO that’s probably the future of computing.

    Reply

    • Author comment by Philip · June 23, 2017 at 3:10 pm

      I have seen a copy of Hitchcock, in its shrink wrap packaging in Adobe HQ in Seattle – probably 15 years or so ago now, but well into the Premiere era.

      iMovie on iOS was the first NLE built on Core Audio, Core Media and Core Animation. FCP X was the second built on those frameworks while then iMovie on macOS was still QuickTime based until it was replaced with an FCP X lite which is the current iMovie on macOS. iMovie on iOS has had its own development path focused on the core technologies of the platform.

      Reply

    • Gregory Clarke · June 23, 2017 at 4:46 pm

      “Key Grip (a truly awful name that would only have been conferred by someone who knew NOTHING about the film business)”

      Repeat after me: engineers are NOT responsible for marketing decisions

      Reply

      • Steve o · June 24, 2017 at 2:32 pm

        Key grip was an internal development name, so who cares. It’s really irrelevant add that want the shipping name. Lots of betas have interesting names… Or not.

        Reply

  • Nicholas Sousa · June 23, 2017 at 4:45 pm

    Mr. Hodgetts, I agree with the general recollection of the glee many of us felt when Apple was undercutting Avid so boldly in price, making the bloated and arrogant Avid company suddenly have to rediscover customer service and adjust their prices (and attitudes) because of the new scrappy kid on the block. Avid’s service plan in ’99 was about $10K/year, I was told, and that was for the 9am-5pm support — based on Tewksbury, Mass.’s time, not Los Angeles’s 9-5. It was pure schadenfreude and also excitement, paired with, as you remind us, the potential of DV filmmaking. Another wave of “democratization” (after the Neorealists, the French New Wave, young Hollywood, etc….) was upon us.

    However, ten years later, I remember when you, wearing a Macromedia t-shirt, presented the “new” FCP X to a room full of indie filmmakers in Claremont, CA, and how defensive about the product you were. You spoke condescendingly to people who asked if it was possible for FCPX to have a Preview window instead of just the little “hoverscrub” icon in the timeline — oops, sorry, “Storyline” –, scorning them for clinging to old broadcast mindsets and not being visionary or at least open-minded enough to appreciate the brilliant new paradigm in how to edit from the great minds in Cupertino. (Designers who apparently didn’t involve real working editors in the design process.)

    Once the room figured out that you were going to diss people just for innocently asking about features that were apparently not included, folks clammed up. It was an exchange that left most in the room, including apparently yourself, ticked off. “Awk-ward!”

    The biggest thing, I think, that pissed people off about Apple’s abandonment of FCP7 was that the thing they replaced it with SUCKED when it came out, in a number of important ways. Besides no preview window (because editors want to LOOK AT SHOTS BEFORE THEY CUT THEM INTO THE TIMELINE — radical notion!), another thing I didn’t like in the release was that the clips in the “Storyline” were all the same size, whether they were of long or short duration. Gone was an indispensible visual indicator of rhythm and pacing, not to mention making it hard to recognize where one was in the timeline based on visual differences. On long form projects (hour-long television or feature films), having to work harder just to see where you are in the story when looking at the timeline is just a huge waste of mental energy. There’s enough to tire a person out in a 15 hour day under deadline without every clip looking exactly the same length in the bloody timeline.

    Aside from the tag-based labeling that FCPX introduced, which I did very much appreciate from the perspective of an assistant editor, I didn’t adopt FCPX, for either editing or assisting work. Of course, for the longest time there were no shows cutting on FCPX, and today they’re probably still rare as hen’s teeth — at the broadcast / feature level, I mean — i.e. livable wage jobs. I stayed with MC, and now I’m using Premiere as well. It’s solid and gets updated fairly often with CC. Most of the features I want it to have are things I valued in Media Composer, chiefly subsequencing.

    So, I once again disagree with you about the “real reason” people were infuriated by the FCPX debacle. The product was not ready for professional use for several years after its release, and, while of course people could and still do use FCP7, having 7 turn instantly into an unsupported platform undercuts say, the boutique commercial house in Santa Monica that nn acquaintance of mine owns, which switched over to an Apple/FCP7, divesting themselves of their “old” Avid infrastucture with Unity shared storage and DS finishing stations. Facility owners felt betrayed, just as if you owned a car rental company that only had Saturns and then one day, whoops, everything you’ve invested in, hundreds of thousands of dollars of equipment, is unsupported. But the real twist of the knife was the smug “we know better than you” attitude that came from Apple — and from some of Apple’s fanboys.
    Ahem.

    Reply

  • Jeff · June 28, 2017 at 1:47 pm

    Phil – I built a company on FCP and also disagree with your theory about a tie between the hatred toward FCX and anything to do with Avid. The program sucked on release and for years afterward. Those of us in pro audio, video and graphics loyally supported Apple thru all those dicey years when they had 4% of the market. Once they discovered iTunes, iPods, iPads etc… they cut us all loose and came out with iMovie Pro instead of a real platform. They abandoned the Mac Pro for years and years, and still do. The millions of users u quote for FCX I would wager are all consumers making web videos with iPhone footage – all well and good for them – but I also know no serious editors using it professionally. I use Premiere on a screaming hackentosh. Good pic being an apologist for a Apple

    Reply

    • Drew · July 3, 2017 at 10:34 pm

      I’m a New York based professional editor. I’ve cut three feature films on FCPX. I’m also expertly versed in Premiere and MC 8, both of which I’ve used as much as anything else. Yes, FCPX wasn’t ready until 2 years after its initial release. Yes, high-end post production houses, notable TV shows and feature films now use an FCPX ecosystem. Yes, FCPX is the finest NLE on the market. It isn’t debatable at this point.

      Reply

  • Ric · June 29, 2017 at 9:30 am

    I had tens of thousands invested in Final Cut Server, a great piece of software that worked beautifully with FCP7. Boom, one announcement blew up the whole thing. We struggled on for another 2 years and eventually went to Premiere and there’s still nothing remotely like FCS for under $50K.

    Reply

    • Author comment by Philip · June 29, 2017 at 5:37 pm

      I feel for FCP Server users, not for FCP editors or facilities. FCPsvr took a huge investment beyond the software to implement, and that’s hard to direct somewhere else. When did it stop working?

      Reply

  • Hasan · July 1, 2017 at 6:08 pm

    Dear Philip,

    As much as I love your articles and agree with your opinions and ideas but I have to disagree with you on this one;

    I was so excited when the first FCPX was announced and after downloading it and starting to check its features I thought that I downloaded iMovie by mistake (I’m not joking).

    1) The idea that it didn’t support FCP7 files at all was not the smartest decision. I understand that its a newer technology and 64bit and all that. But I don’t think that it was impossible to let X be able to read 7’s XML files at least.

    2) The Event, Library and Project were/and still a bit confusing for editors. You can call it timeline/sequence/storyline thats ok. But when you change even the basic things it drives people nuts. Its like you changed the alphabets. Bins/Folders are not an “outdated” way of organizing files. Its how people organize their things in real life or on computers as well. So why reinvent the wheel. The metadata system is amazing for sure and lots of other features of X are awesome. But these ones were/are awful.

    3)Media management was confusing. Editors like to know more about where exactly their files are and how to move it around hard drives (or even servers). And FCPX wasn’t clear about how all these things worked when it started.

    Yes I have a feeling that FCPX have a good chance of being the future of NLEs
    Yes I like that they cut the middle man for the sales of the app directly through their store
    Yes I think that lots of plugin developers are happy with FCPX and making good money by doing it

    But “being sad that Apple wasn’t able to get Avid outside the game” wasn’t the main reason we were angry/sad when FCPX was released.

    Looking forward to reading your next article as always 🙂

    Reply

    • Author comment by Philip · July 1, 2017 at 7:47 pm

      Progressive disclosure of complexity is a skill that Apple are very good at, and in FCP X they have done a particularly good job of having a seemingly simple interface that reveals the complexity when needed.

      1) Shipping is a major feature for any app, and NO APP is ever ready at first release. The FCP that “everyone loved” was from v3 or v4 onward. The translation from FCP7 XML to FCP X XML is very complex and would have delayed the release by at least six months. The XML represents the underlying data structures which have zero compatibility. We know the complexity because the job was outsourced to us. Literally. And we went way beyond what we thought we would be able to do with accurate translation. And we’re still working on it as outlying cases, and Premiere Pro issues, arise.

      2) I do think the old labels were becoming a liability. “Bin” was so far removed from anything in the modern video world that it was meaningless, other than a label, and if it’s just a label then any label is as good as any other. It takes very little time to adapt in my experience.

      3) You’re entitled to your opinion but there was never a time when I didn’t know where my files were. Like every app, it evolved from the first release for sure, but like ever V1 app it needed time to mature, as FCP classic did. It was not widely adopted in the “hollywood” world until version 3 or 4, by which time it had sold over half a million copies.

      By “good money” you’ll notice that few plug-in developers are living high on the hog, mostly we live on the lesser cuts of the animal. 🙂

      Thanks for the discussion

      Reply

  • Dan Preston · July 17, 2017 at 12:35 pm

    Like pretty much every one I know, when Apple killed FCP7, my shop switched over to Adobe Premiere Pro. It was far easier to continue our workflow than switching to FCP X for at least a few reasons:
    – While it was almost impossible to import a FCP 7 project into X, it was fairly easy to export an XML that Premiere could import.
    – The Premiere Pro timeline, interface and overall behavior was more like 7 than X was (you could even mimic FCP 7 keyboard shortcuts).
    – We were already using PhotoShop, After Effects, Flash and other parts of the Creative Suite … and there was Premiere Pro, already part of the package
    – And Apple’s attitude toward FCP 7 users, which was pretty much “screw you”, contrasted sharply with Adobe’s.
    Avid wasn’t part of my universe, so I couldn’t have cared less about Apple’s impact on Media Composer. No doubt this was important to those folks, but not to me.
    In sum, I hated Apple over FCP X because of the trashy way they treated all the folks who had built their businesses on FCP 7.
    And don’t get me started on how Apple has treated the Mac Pro since 2010 … not holding my breath on their new modular scheme, though will wait and see … at least until 2018 since Apple never gives pro users much of a timeline for planning.

    Reply

    • Author comment by Philip · July 17, 2017 at 2:54 pm

      I’m glad I could provide a forum for you to regurgitate the same old tired rhetoric and contribute nothing to the discussion.

      Reply

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