Last Tuesday, Apple announced new versions of Final Cut Pro and Logic Pro for the iPad. “Final Cut Pro and Logic Pro for iPad bring all-new touch interfaces that allow users to enhance their workflows with the immediacy and intuitiveness of Multi-Touch. Final Cut Pro for iPad introduces a powerful set of tools for video creators to record, edit, finish, and share, all from one portable device.” (Apple press release)
NOTE: I purposefully did not include information on Logic Pro in this article because I don’t know or use it. I’m not a qualified commentator. You can learn more here.
Before I go further, let me state that this does NOT mean that Final Cut Pro for the Mac is going away. On the Final Cut – Mac website, Apple makes clear a new version for the Mac is coming very soon. I’ll have more on that later in this article.
But, the iPad version is a harbinger of things to come, both good and bad.
FIRST, THE FEATURES
NOTE: Apple notes that both Magic and Smart Keyboards, which run on the iPad, provide keyboard support for the software as well.
If you are a mobile movie creator, there is a lot here to like.
SYSTEM REQUIREMENTS & PRICE
Apple’s website says that Final Cut Pro for iPad requires the 12.9-inch iPad Pro (5th or 6th generation), 11‑inch iPad Pro (3rd or 4th generation), or iPad Air (5th generation) with iPadOS 16.4 or later.
NOTE: In other words, FCP requires an iPad with an M-series chip.
The software is available starting May 23 but only via subscription. The price is $4.99/month or $49 annually.
Website: Final Cut Pro for iPad
Based on my understanding, there are a few key missing features in this initial release that are important to know:
NOTE: MacWorld got really worked up about this in its review. Those comments were echoed by several other websites.
According to the Final Cut – Mac website, the Mac version offers advanced color grading, object tracking and other unspecified features not in the iPad version. These differences will be specified further when the iPad version launches.
WHO’S THE MARKET?
Like many professional editors, I’ve invested thousands of dollars and years of time to build an editing studio. FCP – iPad is not for me. Apple is not expecting us to upgrade – though some of us may find the portability of an iPad useful for, say, editing on set.
Apple provides video editing for consumers using mobile devices with iMovie and Clips. Professional editors have Final Cut Pro on the Mac. The iPad version lives between them. Not consumer, not pro. Semi-pro – with features designed for mobile creators.
When you think about it, by the time you buy a high-end iPad, add a keyboard, Apple pencil and, ultimately, external storage to an iPad, what you end up with is a lashed-together MacBook. If you need an editing powerhouse, you don’t need the iPad version. We already have that with FCP and a laptop. If you need to travel light, get a MacBook Air.
No, the market for FCP – iPad is the media creators who will never buy a laptop. The new “influencers” who record video about their clothes, latest stunts, or the travails of their cat. Where mobility and speed are essential to communication. Who need more software oomph than an iPhone can provide. Whose audience is not corporate or broadcast, but social media.
It is not by accident that FCP – iPad is optimized for YouTube, Instagram & TikTok. This product is designed for people who post media multiple times per day. Where quality is less important than immediacy. Where animation is more important than composition. Where personality beats content.
While somewhat depressing for someone like me who’s spent a career in media, these folks outnumber us. By a lot.
And only high-end iPads will be useful for this work.
THE BIGGER PICTURE
Software as large and complex as Final Cut Pro – iPad is not created quickly. I don’t know, but based on my experience, the decision to begin the design was probably made three years ago, with active coding starting two years ago. Based on LinkedIn postings, there was a large team that worked on this. This was not a small or inexpensive decision.
It is probably not coincidental that starting about three years ago, development of Final Cut Pro – Mac virtually stopped. Final Cut Pro 10.5 was released in November, 2020. Almost three years ago.
In fact, the lack of significant upgrades led a group of over 100 professional editors to send on open letter to Tim Cook on April 19, 2022. Their key requests:
A month later, on May 19, 2022, Apple responded by saying (in part):
“While we believe we have plans in place to help address your important feature requests, we also recognize the need to build on those efforts and work alongside you to help support your film and TV projects and keep you posted on important updates. This includes taking the following steps:
It should be noted that all three of these statements involved Apple listening to editors. But Apple did not commit to doing anything after that listening.
Future Media Concepts is working actively with Apple to provide workshops and certification training. As well, I know the industry panel met once – with great fanfare from Apple. If it’s met since then, I have not heard about it.
But, based on Apple’s release notes, when it comes to adding “important feature requests,” here are the new features added to FCP – Mac in the last two years:
10.5.3 – June, 17, 2021
10.6 – Oct. 18, 2021
10.6.5 – Oct. 24, 2022
In two years, that’s not a lot. In fact, compared to Adobe or Blackmagic releases, it’s embarrassing.
In thinking about this I realized that Apple has a different vision of video editing software than I do. For me, it’s a career and communications tool. For Apple, it sells hardware. (This isn’t bad – we just have different priorities.)
For more than twenty years, video editing was the hardest thing we could do on a computer. The needs of video editors drove the computer, monitor and storage industries; we constantly demanded bigger, faster, and better. Applications like Final Cut Pro 7 and, initially, Final Cut Pro X, were the fair-haired children driving the high-end, most profitable sector of the market for multiple vendors.
But, today, computers and storage are so capable, that it no longer requires the biggest, fastest, baddest gear to edit video. When Apple markets the current version of Final Cut – Mac by saying “Creators can work in 8K ProRes video… [and edit] up to 18 streams of 8K ProRes 422” (Apple FCP website) you know that today’s hardware more than meets the needs for 99% of video editors.
Any shipping M-series Mac can easily edit HD or 4K video without breaking a sweat. Especially when attached to external storage.
My suspicion is that Apple doesn’t know what to do with Final Cut Pro. In the past, they used it to drive hardware sales and it was wildly successful at selling tons of high-end gear. But, with the release of Apple silicon, even entry-level hardware can easily edit video.
I think Apple is paralyzed in a debate about whether to upgrade an expensive, complex product targeted at a tiny, tiny base of users. Creating a professional-level upgrade to Final Cut is a time-consuming and expensive effort. Yet, the installed base of Final Cut editors is roughly 0.003% of all Apple users.
Is this upgrade critical to us, as editors? Yes. But not to Apple.
I think Apple lost the incentive to actively develop Final Cut when they realized that it was no longer driving high-end Mac sales. While I think the new versions of the Mac Studio and Mac Pro were principally stalled because of supply chain issues, underneath was the realization that these high-end systems weren’t really needed by most high-end users. WANTED, yes. Needed, no.
The market for high-end, expensive hardware may be getting smaller because Apple silicon is SO GOOD at what we need it to do now. While I want an M3 Mac Studio, the M2 Pro Mac mini meets all my editing needs for the foreseeable future.
Perhaps Apple looked to broaden the reach of Final Cut. Increase the number of people using it. Maybe spread the development cost between platforms. Plus, the iPad version drives high-end iPad hardware sales.
I believe Apple when they say a new version of Final Cut Pro – Mac is on the way. I’m hoping that it adds features that have been requested by professional editors for years. That list of requests is long; especially collaboration, speech-to-text and audio mixing.
But it seems to me that the bloom is off the rose. Final Cut Pro is no longer a favored application in the mind of Apple. It is important, true. It is an app that many of us rely on everyday. Careers are built on it. But, it no longer drives hardware sales the way it used to.
I’m seeing that lack of interest from Apple expressed in the slow pace of new releases, the lack of focus on user requests and their excitement surrounding a new version that drives sales of high-end hardware. But iPads, not Macs.
NOTE: Apple implied they want feature parity between the iPad and Mac versions of Final Cut. I suspect we’ll learn more when the iPad version ships on May 23.
OH! AND THAT SUBSCRIPTION THING
Developers love subscriptions. Consistent revenue is ideal for budgets, hiring staff, paying for R&D and releasing new products. Subscriptions encourage maintaining existing software, not just quickly creating upgrades with half-baked new features to generate revenue to meet payroll.
So, from a developer perspective, I totally understand subscriptions.
But, as an end-user, I really dislike them. Each time I turn around, it seems like I am renting my computer life. And, heaven help me if I stop paying for a subscription. I may not need the application, but I do need access to that existing data.
I would much prefer a Lease-to-Buy, where the payments stop at some point in the future.
I suspect that Apple is using FCP – iPad as a test to see how well software subscriptions are received. Is Apple software now going to be another element in Apple’s Services bundle?
NOTE: Based on what I’ve heard, but not confirmed, Apple is not planning subscriptions for their Mac software.
I’m not the market for this software. I have a fully-equipped editing suite with hardware and software optimized for media production and editing. I don’t spend my life posting on social media. And I have yet to find a personal use for an iPad.
So, I’m not the market. The students I teach ARE the market. They are not tied with existing infrastructure, clients or workflows. They can invent something new on the fly. And more power to them.
I wish Apple success with the iPad version of Final Cut Pro. I only hope that, in all the excitement, they don’t forget that we Mac users need upgrades too.
And forget about that software as a subscription thing.
Here are some relevant weblinks:
26 Responses to Apple Announces Final Cut Pro for iPad. Semi-pro & Designed for Mobile Movie Creators← Older Comments
“……………. Apple did not commit to doing anything after that listening.”
Apple has been getting feedback from users either directly or in countless postings and YouTube movies for years. Evidentially they haver not been paying any attention …. For years! Make you wonder what’s going to be different now.
“…………it no longer drives hardware sales the way it used to.”
I think that comment is the key, because it speaks to what has motivated Apple for years software wise.
I do think Speech-to-text is something that Apple could roll in/leverage as part of ramping up machine learning and AI (separate and apart from editing video) So I could see an overlap there.
Subscription for FCP wont fly without a SIGNIFICANT update. Or after they address being able to easily use external storage with iPad pro and make sure you can move FCP projects “both ways”
Also Use the logic code they already own and fatten up audio within FCP. As an option, maybe charge ONE monthly fee for both iPad and desktop versions. But if iPad subscriptions work, they will have to do something with FCP.
Another great article, Larry. Very informative.
For many years I hoped for FCP on iPad so I can complete a truly mobile and nimble ENG kit. Especially when working alone on breaking news, you want maximum flexibility in a small bag. (Let’s not even talk about walking in a dangerous neighborhood with an expensive camera on a tripod and my Senneheiser mics.)
I have shot and edited entire news packages on an iPhone. FCP on iPad would at least slow down the rate of approaching blindness- a much more comfortable experience.
I was excited about this news until I read that you have to rent the software. Grrrr! What happens to my completed projects if I decide to cancel? I have often come back to a story multiple times over the course of days, weeks and months as news develops, more facts become available and I get more interviews. FCP is tailor-made for news.
A 2TB 12.9″ iPad with Apple Pencil and Magic Keyboard is $3,076.81. That’s a lot of money for a tablet. Now Apple wants monthly cash? No. Why can’t they sell me the software and I can decide to purchase updates? Sell me FCP and after a year, I can purchase updates. It’s fair and a win-win.
Anyway, Apple needs to reconsider being a landlord- in this case, a software-lord. If I could, I would place a middle finger emoji to Apple right here.
all good points but it sounds like an old man screaming get off my lawn.
There are many new professionals working to crate important work on mobile media.
I think innovation on all fronts is good
I saw 7-8 videos on YouTube hours after Apple announced FCP for iPad. EVERY one could have been written by Apple’s marketing department. Are these the “new professionals” you’re referring to? And what’s your definition of “important”?
I get the MO with early access and the story embargo- play nice with the company or lose access. It’s not too different from sports media, which has also become a virtual arm of the PR/marketing machine.
There are only one or two Apple experts who I have seen over many years who tell it like it is, good or bad. And one of them is named Larry Jordan.
ENG is a different animal. You have know about the story/get a tip, drive to the story, get out of the car, approach strangers, knock on doors, often deal with police who don’t want you there and might try to obstruct the newsgathering, convince people to give you an on-camera interview (if you’re lucky 20% will agree), shoot b-roll, screen the video, write the script and edit a package… all done within a few hours. And your credibility is on the line with every story.
Keep your young professionals. I’ll take an experienced grumpy reporter who is asking questions and demanding answers.
P.S. When you do get off my lawn, STAY OUT!
Thanks for your kind words. Trying to highlight the good while still presenting the bad of a product is a consistent goal for me.
Given your description of news-gathering, I don’t see the benefit of this new iPad version at all. You would be far better served with a small, discrete camera/mic and a laptop to edit, than to use an unwieldy iPad for a camera – with all the limitations that has for run-and-gun shooting. iPads are great for people that want to brag about shooting something, not try to get a story when nobody knows you’re there.
Also, out of the box, a laptop has all the tools you need to import from a camera card or mobile device, edit and export without requiring pens, pencils, or the absolute maximum of RAM or storage. And, if you need more room for media, a small, attached SSD provides fast, portable and extensible storage.
However, I would be happier with the iPad version if Apple was more proactive developing FCP on the Mac.
Thank you, Larry, for this helpful article. I’ve spent so much time and money learning FCP X. But now, I’m concerned that I should have put my time into learning Premiere Pro as well as I have learned FCP X. It’s a bit depressing. You’ve been editing for years and, though you don’t look it, you might be near the end of your active career. I’m just getting started on mine, transitioning from attorney at law to video editor of my videos and webinars for other lawyers and students. Oh well… Thanks again, sir. Jay Creighton
Smile… It isn’t as depressing as that. Regardless of what Apple does, or doesn’t do, Final Cut will run well for years to come. And, given the type of editing lawyers need, FCP provides all the features you need for most of your projects.
The world changes constantly. Keep your eyes open on what’s happening around you. But, for now, keep using FCP. You know it, it meets your editing needs and clients will pay you to use it. The future remains unknown.
When we expect the Tutorial for FCP in iPad.
Smile… I don’t plan to create one. I am not a fan of the iPad.
However, I will be creating FCP – Mac tutorials of new features this week.