Apple announces Final Cut Pro X

Apple gives users a sneak peek at the next generation of its Final Cut Pro software. The 64-bit video-editing suite is the first update to the tool since 2009, and cuts $700 off the current price.

Josh Lowensohn Former Senior Writer
Josh Lowensohn joined CNET in 2006 and now covers Apple. Before that, Josh wrote about everything from new Web start-ups, to remote-controlled robots that watch your house. Prior to joining CNET, Josh covered breaking video game news, as well as reviewing game software. His current console favorite is the Xbox 360.
Josh Lowensohn
4 min read
Apple's Peter Steinauer demoing Final Cut Pro X at an NAB event. Adam Bedford/Twitpic

Apple tonight took the wraps off Final Cut Pro X, a new version of its professional video-editing software that the company says is a complete rewrite of the 12-year-old platform.

Final Cut X is a 64-bit application written in Apple's Cocoa. It sports a new interface, as well as features to speed up the editing process, including background rendering, full use of multicore processors, and Apple's Grand Central Dispatch system, as well as the option to make edits as footage is being imported.

Apple says the tool will be available to users in June as a direct download for $299, replacing the $199 Final Cut Express, and coming in at a steep discount compared with the company's $999 Final Cut Studio suite.

The new software--which was announced at the annual Supermeet editor meet-up event that takes place in concert with the National Association of Broadcasters trade show in Vegas--marked a return of Apple releasing a new version of the software at NAB. The company was once again not at the show itself, however.

Apple made headlines last week for allegedly getting Supermeet's event organizers to cancel its planned speakers, as well as sponsorships from competitors like Avid and hardware vendors like Canon, to make Apple the only presenter.

That turned out to be the case, with Randy Ubillos, Apple's chief architect of video applications, and Final Cut architect Peter Steinauer making an appearance to outline the new software in an extended on-stage demo.

Among the new features is a tool that detects when are people in shots, as well as what type of shots they are (close-up, medium, or wide angle), two things Apple added to the most recent version of iMovie. That's not the only iMovie carry-over. Apple has also brought "skimming," the feature that lets users preview the content of a clip just by moving their mouse across it.

New organizational features include a way to manage clips with tags that can be applied to certain times, giving editors a way to hunt for specific bits of media in a large library.

Clips can also be compounded into buckets that contain everything from that specific part of the timeline. This lets editors put together a specific sequence and move it around the timeline without worrying about it interfering with other items on the workspace. Joining this is a new way to link up the audio and video tracks so they don't get pushed out of sync by accident.

For viewing, Apple has also included a new feature called "auditioning" that lets editors create variants of audio and visual combinations on the timeline and pick which one they like later on. This is meant to serve as a way to test out differing edits without having to re-do the work if one is preferred over the other.

On the back end of the platform, the software has absorbed Color and Soundtrack, the tools designed to help video editors make color and audio adjustments. Apple also says Final Cut Pro X has resolution-independent playback, meaning videos of varying sizes can be piped out to the same size screen. That could prove especially important given that the software is now able to handle 4K resolutions, making it more compatible with footage from cutting-edge digital cameras.

The move to offer Final Cut Pro X as a direct download follows suit with Apple making its Aperture photo-editing software available on its Mac App Store at a steep discount compared with its packaged counterpart. It also offers Apple a higher level of control over distribution, tracking downloads and linking that purchase information up to Apple ID accounts. At the event tonight, Apple said it currently had more than 2 million licensed Final Cut Pro users, a number that could jump given the price cut.

Still, what is likely to be of most interest to longtime users is the future of Final Cut Studio and Final Cut Express, something Richard Townhill, who is Apple's director of pro video product marketing effectively said was done for during tonight's introduction of Final Cut Pro X:

"Lastly perhaps, we've had a couple of different flavors. We've had upgrade pricing, we've had Final Cut Express, we've had Final Cut Studio. So we decided we really wanted to do away with that. We wanted to greatly simplify the pricing structure and make it very easy for you if you decided that you wanted to get a copy of Final Cut Pro. So we've decided to make it available for the amazing price of $299."

The question remains about what happens to the other applications that came bundled as part of studio, short of Soundtrack and Color, which have been built into Final Cut Pro X. In a follow-up with The Loop, an Apple representative said "today was just a sneak peek of Final Cut Pro," and to "stay tuned."

A shot of Final Cut Pro X's new interface. Apple

As of 10:45 p.m. PT, Apple had not yet updated its site with mention of the upcoming software.

In the meantime, you can catch quite a few shots and some more details from Apple's presentation over at Photography Bay, which was in attendance.

A special hat tip to UStream user FoxtrotYankee, who snuck a video camera into the event.

This post was updated at 12:15 a.m. PT Wednesday with the above shot of the new interface provided by Apple.

Update at 11:40 a.m. PT on 4/13: MacRumors points to two videos shot by attendees at the event that cover nearly an hour of the presentation in case you want to see the software in action.

Correction at 3:10 p.m. PT on 4/14: Fixed misattribution for Richard Townhill's quote about the future of Final Cut Express and Final Cut Studio.