So as everyone knows, Apple put some "Answers to your Final Cut Pro X questions" on their site this morning. And, well, to be honest it’s kind of insulting.
I don’t want to do a point-by-point here. It’s unnecessary and tiresome. Instead, I want to focus on just one thing. This is taken verbatim from Apple’s page:
Does Final Cut Pro X support external monitors?
Yes. If you have a second computer monitor connected to your Mac, Final Cut Pro X gives you options to display the interface across multiple monitors. For example, you can place a single window — such as the Viewer or the Event Browser — on the second monitor, while leaving the other windows on your primary monitor. Like previous versions, Final Cut Pro X relies on third-party devices to support external video monitoring. We’ve been working with third-party developers in our beta program to create drivers for Final Cut Pro X, and AJA has already posted beta drivers for its popular Kona card: http://www.aja.com/support/konaNEW/kona-3g.php.
Clicking that link takes you to a now-infamous document Aja provided last week talking about how Final Cut Pro X “supports” real-time monitoring. I put the word “supports” in incredibly sarcastic air-quotes for good reason.
The long story made short is that if you have a Kona board installed in your Mac Pro, and you have just a single graphics monitor attached, you can configure your Kona to act like a second graphics monitor. Then you can tell Final Cut Pro X to display an enlarged viewer on your second graphics monitor — which is actually displayed, thanks to Kona trickery, on your broadcast monitor: your BVM, your Cine-tal, your FSI, whatever you have.
Except what you’re seeing, when you do this little exercise, is not your actual frames. It’s an eight-bit, progressive-scan facsimile of your frames. As Aja say themselves in their how-to document, “the quality of the output produced during editorial should be considered preview quality.” Frankly, even calling it “preview quality” is a bridge too far. Working with interlaced material with the wrong field order? Tough. You’ll never see it. And that ugly-ass posterization you see in all your graphics? Yeah, it’s not really there. It’s an artifact of the eight-bit downconversion. And does your footage have the correct gamma curve applied to it? I don’t know. We’re talking about Aja here, so probably; those guys know what they’re doing. But we’re also talking about Apple, and those guys have conclusively demonstrated they don’t. So your guess is as good as mine.
Now, maybe that’s okay for you. Maybe you don’t deal with interlaced material (if you’re very, very lucky). Maybe you don’t work in more than eight bits per channel (if you’re stupid). If both of those are true, then you don’t really need more than what FCP X can give you right now. If they aren’t, then you’ll simply have to wait and hope for the best.
But there are two larger points to be considered here. The first is that Apple didn’t ship the software with support for broadcast monitoring. The product isn’t ready if you can’t see your pictures, guys. It’s incomplete. It’s not yet done. It’s a potential product at best. Apple doesn’t seem to get that. They seem to think monitoring is something most people don’t care about. And maybe they’re right. But the product has the word “Pro” in the name, which implies a level of commitment beyond “Eh, only the really high-end guys need that feature, it can wait indefinitely.”
Which brings us to that petition that’s been going around. I’ve been contacted by three of its authors — or at least three people claiming to have been authors of it, who really knows or cares what the truth is on that point — and I’ll repeat here what I said to each of them privately: It goes too far. The language is too whiny, too butthurt. “It’s not professional,” the petition says. “It’s prosumer-grade.” And then the petition demands that Final Cut Pro X should be “considered part of the iMovie family or labeled a ‘prosumer’ product.”
Guys, due respect, but it’s none of your fucking business what Apple calls their products. They can call it pumpkin pie if they want, and you can’t do anything about it. Branding and positioning are not open for public scrutiny, and making a lot of noise about how the program is or isn’t advertised just reinforces the idea that a bunch of insecure self-appointed “professionals” are feeling threatened by democratization and the lowering of barriers to entry.
Nobody gives a shit whether you consider yourself to be “professional” or not, or whether you think anybody else is “professional.” All anybody cares about is your craft. If you’ve got talent as a storyteller, great, awesome for you, shut up and edit. If you don’t and you’re just a computer nerd, then kindly fuck off back to your basements to play with your expensive toys.
If the industry as a whole had wanted to make a demand of Apple, they — we, I suppose — should’ve done so in a reasonable and fair way. If it’d been up to me, you know what I would’ve done? Just this: Apple, announce that Final Cut Pro 7 is end-of-lifed. Put it back on sale. Commit publicly to continue selling it, and providing direct support and compatibility and bug-fix updates for it, until July 1, 2013. That’s two years, rounded off a bit. Two years is an entirely reasonable time to continue supporting an end-of-lifed product that your customers depend on in their businesses. Come right out and say, bluntly, “We will not add any new features at all to Final Cut Pro. We’re giving it the minimum necessary attention for the minimum reasonable time.” We know how to cope with that. It’s been done a million times in this industry. It’s fine. And it means that anybody who uses FCP 7 now can continue to do so with confidence while they transition off of it. You can even turn it into a marketing opportunity: “We think Final Cut Pro X is the way to go. But we understand it’s not there yet. So consider it as your next-generation NLE of choice, as you make your transition off Final Cut Pro.”
And if you really wanted to be cool, Apple? I mean really revolutionary in the industry? You’d give away a copy of Final Cut Pro X to everybody who has a valid Final Cut Pro serial number. “We value the customers who’ve chosen Final Cut Pro. We want a chance to convince you that Final Cut Pro X should be on your radar. Here’s a code to download a copy for free on the App Store. Please let us know what you think.”
That’s how Apple could have turned this from a PR calamity into an industry-shaking triumph: By saying FCP X is a finished product and ready to go for some customers, and a preview of what’s to come for the rest. They’d have gotten good will in spades, not to mention recruited thousands of existing high-end Final Cut Pro users to be the world’s largest focus group.
If somebody, last Tuesday afternoon, had put that into a petition, I’d have signed it in a heartbeat.
And yes, I’m acutely aware of the fact that I didn’t do it myself. I know, I know, I’m an acknowledged genius with a once-in-a-generation mind, but even I’m not Superman.