Final Cut Pro is a series of non-linear video editing software programs first developed by Macromedia Inc. and later Apple Inc. The most recent version, Final Cut Pro 10.6.3, runs on Mac computers powered by macOS Big Sur 11.5.1 or later. The software allows users to log and transfer video onto a hard drive (internal or external), where it can be edited, processed, and output to a wide variety of formats. The fully rewritten Final Cut Pro X was introduced by Apple in 2011, with the last version of the legacy Final Cut Pro being version 7.0.3.
|Original author(s)||Macromedia Inc.|
|Developer(s)||Apple Inc. (1998–present)|
Macromedia Inc. (before 1998)
|Initial release||June 21, 2011|
10.6.3 / May 19, 2022
|Operating system||macOS 11.5.1 or later.|
|Type||Video editing software|
|License||Commercial proprietary software|
|Website||Mac App Store|
Since the early 2000s, Final Cut Pro has developed a large and expanding user base, mainly video hobbyists and independent filmmakers. It has also made inroads with film and television editors who have traditionally used Avid Technology's Media Composer. According to a 2007 SCRI study, Final Cut Pro made up 49% of the United States professional editing market, with Avid at 22%. A published survey in 2008 by the American Cinema Editors Guild placed their users at 21% Final Cut Pro (and growing from previous surveys of this group), while all others were on an Avid system of some kind.
Final Cut Pro provides non-linear, non-destructive editing of any QuickTime-compatible video format including DV, HDV, P2 MXF (DVCProHD), XDCAM (via plug-in), 2K, 4K, 5K, and 8K film formats and can import projects directly from iMovie for iOS and iPadOS. It supports a number of simultaneously composited video tracks (limited mainly by video form capability); unlimited audio tracks; multi-camera editing for combining video from multiple camera sources; 360º video editing support; as well as the standard ripple, roll, slip, slide, scrub, razor blade and time remapping edit functions. It comes with a range of video transitions and a range of video and audio filters such as keying tools, mattes and vocal de-poppers and de-essers. It also has multiple color correction tools including color wheels, sliders and curves, video scopes and a selection of generators, such as slugs, test cards, and noise.
The legacy (v. 7.0.3 and earlier) Final Cut (Pro and Express) interface was designed around non-computerized editing workflows, with four main windows that replicate tried-and-trusted methods of organising, viewing and editing physical tape or film media. The browser, where source media files (or clips) are listed, replicates the editor's traditional film "bins" or stacks of videotapes. The Viewer, where individual media files can be previewed and trimmed, replicates the source monitor of older tape-based systems. The Canvas replicates the "program" monitor in such systems, where the edited material is viewed. The Timeline, where media are assembled into a sequence, replicates the physically edited film or master tape of earlier systems. There is also a small Toolbox window and two audio-level indicators for the left and right audio channels.
Both the Viewer and Canvas have a shuttle interface (for variable-speed scanning, forwards or backwards through a clip) and a jogging interface for frame-by-frame advancing.
As in most digital non-linear editing applications, the Browser is not an interface to the computer's file-system. It is an entirely virtual space in which references to clips (aliases) are placed for easy access, and arranged in folders called 'bins'. Since they are only references to clips that are on the media drive of the computer, moving or deleting a source file on the media hard drive destroys the link between the entry in the Browser and the actual media. This results in a 'media offline' situation, and the media must be 'reconnected'. Final Cut Pro can search for the media itself, or the user can do this manually. If multiple clips are offline at the same time, Final Cut can reconnect all the offline media clips that are in the relative directory path as the first offline media clips that is reconnected.
The browser has an 'effects' tab in which video transitions and filters can be browsed and dragged onto or between clips.
The canvas outputs the contents of the Timeline. To add clips to the Timeline, besides dragging them there, it is possible to drag clips from the Browser or Viewer onto the Canvas, whereupon the so-called 'edit overlay' appears. The edit overlay has seven drop zones, into which clips can be dragged in order to perform different edits. The default is the 'overwrite' edit, which overwrites at an in point or the space occupied after the playhead with the incoming clip. The 'insert' edit slots a clip into the sequence at the in point or playhead's position, keeping the rest of the video intact, but moving it all aside so that the new clip fits. There are also drop zones to have the application automatically insert transitions. The 'replace' edit replaces a clip in the Timeline with an incoming clip, and the 'fit to fill' edit does the same thing, but at the same time, it adjusts the playback speed of the incoming clip so that all of it will fit into the required space [in the Timeline]. Finally there is the 'superimpose' edit, which automatically places the dropped clip on the track above the clip in the Timeline, with a duration equal to the clip below it. Unless an in or out point are set, all edits occur from the position of the playhead in the Timeline.
Using the wireframe view on the canvas, the clip can be manipulated directly - dragging it around in the canvas to change its position, for example, or resizing it. Precise adjustment controls for these things are in the viewer.
The viewer has tabs for each channel of the selected clip's audio, in which the waveform for the audio can be viewed and scrubbed, and where its volume can be keyframed. The filters tab is where effects for the clip appear and where their parameters can be adjusted and keyframed. If the clip selected is a generator (such as an oval shape), a control tab appears for changing its geometrical properties. Finally, the viewer's motion tab contains tools to adjust the scale, opacity, cropping, rotation, distortion, drop shadow, motion blur and time remapping properties of a clip. Mini-timelines to the right of each parameter allow the property to be keyframed. The Viewer is not present in Final Cut Pro X.
Clips can be edited together in timelines called sequences. Sequences can be nested inside other sequences, so that a filter or transition can be applied to the grouped clips.
The Timeline in Final Cut Pro allows 99 video tracks to be layered on top of each other. If a clip is higher [in the timeline] than another, then it obscures whatever is below it. The size of a video clip can be altered, and the clips can be cropped, among many other settings that can be changed. Opacity levels can also be altered, as well as animated over the course of the clip using keyframes, defined either on a graphical overlay, or in the Viewer's 'motion' tab, where precise percentage opacity values can be entered. Final Cut also has more than a dozen common compositing modes that can be applied to clips, such as Add, Subtract, Difference, Screen, Multiply, Overlay, and Travel Matte Luma/Alpha.
The compositing mode for a clip is changed by control-clicking or right-clicking on the clip and selecting it from the cascading contextual menu, or by selecting the mode from the application's 'modify' menu. For either matte modes, the clip that will perform the key is placed overneath the fill clip on the Timeline.
Final Cut Pro uses a set of hot-keys to select the tools. There are almost 400 keyboard commands that allow the user to increase the speed of edits. This combined with the nonlinear approach that digital editing, provides Final Cut Pro users with several editing options.
Users can also set their own customisable keyboard preferences.
Randy Ubillos created the first three versions of Adobe Premiere, the first popular digital video editing application. Before version 5 was released, Ubillos' group was hired by Macromedia to create KeyGrip, built from the ground up as a more professional video-editing program based on Apple QuickTime. Macromedia could not release the product without causing its partner Truevision some issues with Microsoft, as KeyGrip was, in part, based on technology from Microsoft licensed to Truevision and then in turn to Macromedia. The terms of the IP licensing deal stated that it was not to be used in conjunction with QuickTime. Thus, Macromedia was forced to keep the product off the market until a solution could be found. At the same time, the company decided to focus more on applications that would support the web, so they sought to find a buyer for their non-web applications, including KeyGrip, which by 1998 was renamed Final Cut.
Final Cut was shown in private room demonstrations as a 0.9 alpha at the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) exposition in 1998 after Macromedia pulled out of the main show floor. At the demonstration, both Mac and Windows versions were shown. The Mac version was working with a Truevision RTX dual-stream real-time card with limited real-time effects. When no purchaser could be found, Apple purchased the team as a defensive move. When Apple could not find a buyer in turn, it continued development work, focusing on adding FireWire/DV support and introduced Final Cut Pro at NAB 1999.
In order that Final Cut Pro would be supported from the beginning with third-party self-paced and instructor-led training, Apple worked with DVcreators.net, who released a training disc called "Final Cut Pro PowerStart" at NAB on the day Final Cut Pro was released. Apple worked with DVcreators.net to host hundreds of free and paid Final Cut Pro seminars and workshops in 60 cities in the U.S., Canada and other countries over the following years, a strategy that some feel fundamentally contributed to Final Cut Pro's early awareness in the marketplace and rise in market share.
After the introduction of Final Cut Pro, Adobe Premiere's market share remained strong on Windows but began to decline on the Mac as its older codebase was more difficult to maintain. In 2003, Apple announced a program for Premiere users to trade in their discs for a free copy of Final Cut Express or a $500 discount on Final Cut Pro.
Final Cut Pro benefited from the relative maturity of QuickTime and its native support for then-new DV cameras connected with FireWire (IEEE1394).
The first fully Broadcast quality, Worldwide Distributed TV show produced on Final Cut Pro was 2000's WOW! Women of Wrestling, using the Pinnacle CinéWave uncompressed video card. The Oxygen Network was a beta site for Final Cut Pro in late 1999 through network launch in early 2000. Shows like ShE-Commerce were cut using FCP.
In late 2001, Independent Producer, Michael A. Bloom announced in an interview with Larry King while defending his controversial film "PlayCouples, A New Era Of Swinging (2003)" was made possible only after his transition from Avid Media Composer to Final Cut Pro. He cited the relatively new platform hadn't failed once while rendering his film, which was not what he experienced with Avid. After completing much of the leg work under a separate agreement between The Oxygen Network and his production company during beta testing of Final Cut he became an outspoken advocate. The studio motion picture The Rules of Attraction was edited on beta versions of Final Cut Pro 3, proving to the film industry that successful 3:2 pulldown matchback to 24fps could be achieved with a "consumer" off-the-shelf product. Roger Avary, the film's director became the spokesperson for Final Cut Pro, appearing in print advertisements worldwide. His advocacy of the product gave confidence to mainstream editors such as Walter Murch, that the product was ready for "prime time."
Final Cut Pro 4 was announced in April 2003. It included three new applications: Compressor, used for the transcoding between video formats; LiveType for advanced titling (such as the creation of animated lower thirds); and Soundtrack, for royalty-free music soundtrack creation. It also bundled Cinema Tools, which was previously sold separately for filmmakers working with telecine.
Also in 2003, Apple launched Final Cut Express, a less expensive version of Final Cut Pro. It uses the same interface as Final Cut Pro, but it lacks some of the film-specific tools and other advanced options, limiting the feature set for non-professional editors. In January 2005, Soundtrack and LiveType, previously only available with Final Cut Pro, were added to Express, and features were added to edit HDV. Soundtrack was subsequently removed with Final Cut Express 4. In June 2011, Final Cut Express was officially discontinued, in favor of Final Cut Pro X.
In April 2004, version 4.5 of Final Cut Pro was introduced and branded by Apple as "Final Cut Pro HD" due to its native support for Panasonic's tape-based DVCPRO HD format for compressed 720p and 1080i HD over FireWire. (The software had been capable of uncompressed HD editing since version 3.0, but at the time had required expensive video cards and high speed storage.)
Final Cut Pro 5 was announced at a pre-NAB event in April, and shipped in May 2005. Final Cut Pro 5 added support for the burgeoning HDV format for compressed HD, which had previously been supported in Final Cut Pro's "scaled-down" cousin, Final Cut Express. Final Cut Pro 5 also added support for Panasonic's P2 format for the recording of DVCPRO HD video to memory cards rather than tape.
In January 2006, Apple stopped selling Final Cut Pro as a stand-alone product. In March 2006 the Universal Binary 5.1 version was released as part of Final Cut Studio. Upgrades were achieved by sending the original installation discs back to Apple with a fee. One noticeable difference is that the Intel versions of Final Cut and Motion no longer recognize After Effects plug-ins. Instead, Apple released its own universal plug-in architecture FxPlug.
On April 15, 2007, Apple revealed Final Cut Pro 6.0, as the cornerstone of the Final Cut Studio 2 bundle. Once again, Apple did not have a booth at NAB 2009, though the product was well represented on the show floor in various booths. The RED Camera team relied heavily on FCP during development.
On July 23, 2009, Final Cut Pro 7/Final Cut Studio 3 (not officially designated as such by Apple but adopted by most users to describe the 2009 changes) was released, but it was not yet a 64-bit application.
Final Cut Pro X was announced on April 12, 2011 and released on June 21. It is a 64-bit application completely rebuilt with a new interface, workflow enhancements and automation, and new features such as ColorSync integration, resolution-independent playback system, system scaling with Core Animation, and more. The three Final Cut Studio apps, Color, Soundtrack Pro, and DVD Studio Pro were dropped, while Motion 5 and Compressor 4 were released onto the Mac App Store.
In its initial release, Final Cut Pro X was met with mixed reviews as many video editors eschewed its dramatic departure from the traditional editing interface and the dropping of many legacy (and some non-legacy) features. At the time of the initial release, a significant number of long-time Final Cut Pro users considered the new product to be an unsatisfactory product undeserving to be part of Final Cut Pro product line. An online petition was started demanding either the continued development of the legacy Final Cut Pro product or its sale to a third party by January 1, 2012. The initiator of the petition was banned from the Apple discussion forums. By January 2014, the petition had received well over 9,000 signatures.
On October 27, 2016, Apple unveiled Final Cut Pro X 10.3, which included a redesigned interface, enhanced window resizing, extended multiple display support, support for the Touch Bar on the new MacBook Pro, and an updated version of the Magnetic Timeline.
In December 2017, Apple updated Final Cut Pro X to version 10.4, which included enhanced color editing tools, 360-degree video editing support and support for HDR. The new version also supports the HEVC video format and HEIF photo format. Final Cut Pro X 10.4 has also gained the ability to import projects from iMovie for iOS, and now supports enhanced performance on the iMac Pro.
A Final Cut Pro Project technically consists of separate files:
The location of the Media and the Render/Cache Files is not standardised. Final Cut Pro can be configured where to store them. Some users have a central directory where they store all their Source/Render/Cache files, some set those file paths to their specific project directory, so that they have all project files at one place.
After having finished a project, one can erase everything but the project file, to save disk space, and at a later time Final Cut Pro can re-capture/re-link all source data and recalculate all render and cache data, provided it can access all linked sources.
The first versions of Final Cut Pro and Final Cut Express used a binary file which contained all montage information such as timecode information, clip's in/out-points, size/crop/position, composition nesting, filter settings, automation data, etc.
More recent editions of Final Cut Pro and Final Cut Express, before Final Cut Pro X, used the file extension
The latest version of Final Cut Pro, Final Cut Pro X, uses a new file extension;
.fcpx. Apple has come under some criticism for not supporting the older
.fcp project files, while it does support importing iMovie projects (
.imovieproj files). This concern has been addressed through the use of third-party software, allowing for the migration of legacy FCP file formats into working FCPX libraries and projects. The software is called 7toX and was developed by Philip Hodgetts.
Either captured from tape or loaded/imported from the file system.
Files which are generated by Final Cut Pro, i.e. audio waveform display, filter effects, etc.