Final Cut Pro X (version 10.4.8) is the latest iteration of Apple’s video editing software released in December 2019. It was once known as the industry-standard software, and still packs many high level features that only professionals would require, such as multicam editing, or processing on 28 CPU cores, and Pro Display XDR compatibility. But since its initial release Apple have developed its user interface to be even more approachable and now is befitting for all macOS-based video editors that like clean, smart workspaces.
Unlike Adobe software, such as Adobe Premiere Rush, Apple’s FCP X doesn’t start-up with a tutorial walkthrough, but instead hides a User Guide in the Window drop-down menu, lots of which is text-based. It would be good to see a splash screen walkthrough added to the software. However, it’s relatively straight-forward and is easy enough to make even a hastily edited project look decent.
To see how it compares with other video editing options, see our round up of the best video editing software.
Good use of panel space
FCP X makes good use of space in the main window by ordering content via five initial panels. The upper right-hand panel can be switched between inspectors for: Video; Color; Audio; and Info, which changes the panel display without altering the size and shape of other panels in the window. This is great for visual consistency as other controls remain in-place meaning a faster workflow whilst reaching for different tools.
We also like the simplicity of switching between each inspector because rarely, if ever, is more than one required at the same time. However, if you want to view/hide different panels, three small buttons in the top-right of the window can toggle each panel on/off to give more space to the remaining visible panels for fine-tuned work.
Smart video analysis
FCP X features all the standard import, file directory, and naming conventions you’d expect to see in a video editor of this calibre, but also includes some extra tools underneath the Analyze and Fix panel. If Find People is ticked, Final Cut Pro X will start analysing the clips selected and will automatically assign tags based on the type of shot, and how many people may be in them.
For example: Medium shot, One Person. Although it’s not perfect, it does a good job at tagging the clips, and can even be applied after import to either whole clips, or sections of them, in case you want to save time with large media imports.
The latest version of Final Cut Pro X features some healthy additions for better performance. Namely, the new Metal-based processing engine. It’s set to accelerate rendering, compositing, and exporting which makes project completion much faster.
FCP X is also optimised for multiple graphics processors, and up to 28 CPU cores, including the use of an Afterburner card, and is designed for High Dynamic Range viewing when editing on a Pro Display XDR. Users can now select specific internal or external GPUs for processing media files.
360 degree video editing and VR headset playback
Final Cut Pro X now allows 360 degree video editing as long as you have compatible hardware. It can also monitor video through VR headsets as long as it’s on the list of compatible devices. It does a great job of processing quickly and gives the option of moving through viewing angles, as well as laying titles on the footage in three-dimensional space within the video. That means you can place titles, anywhere in the 360 degree view.
Apple minces no words when it says FCP X has “the industry’s most advanced multicam editing” because it can synchronise up to 64 different angles of video, allowing users to view up to 16 angles simultaneously using the Angle Viewer. It also features an Angle Editor timeline which lets users edit individual clips. However, this professional-grade tool isn’t going to be used by the average consumer, so it’s really only boasting to the pro-level market here.
This handy feature allows automatic categorisation of files in FCP X by matching up search criteria. For example, if you want to organise clips based on keywords you can add a rule by right-clicking on the Smart Collections tab, and defining your new rule with the + button in the window that appears. All media with keywords associated with the rule will now appear in the Smart Collection. Speeding up workflow like this makes it easier to call-up media content that you need for specific jobs, for instance, if you require a three person close-up shot. This works excellently, as long as you’ve keyworded your media files.
Simple graphics and export control
For an additional $50 you can also integrate Apple’s Motion, and Compressor softwares into FCP X for improved motion graphics and content delivery, with which FCP X shares its render engine. Motion is capable of processing 2D and 3D titles, transitions, and real-time effects, as well as being capable of processing this all in 360 degree content as well. Where Compressor adds customisable output settings which also supports 360° video, HDR, HEVC and MXF output.
Final Cut Pro X: should you buy it?
Final Cut Pro X is ideal for professionals that require the extra level of high-end control that other softwares lack (such as the massive multicam feature) and also caters for less experienced users, too. The GUI is relatively intuitive, but certainly baffles beginners at times with hidden menu items behind drop-down windows.
Video rendering is almost instant in Final Cut Pro X, and you can scrub through clips in the browser, or timeline without lag and it even outputs audio simultaneously. It makes good use of space, with a clean, smart layout including the inspector panels which can switch between video, color, audio, or analyse EXIF data.
It has a good level of manual adjustment for color grading and tone details. However, the Titles and Generators sidebar includes graphics that look like they’re straight out of the 90s with cheesy text and visuals. We’d like to see this improved in a similar way that Adobe have done with Premiere Pro 2020 by introducing their stocks tab right inside the software. However, we’re also aware that for those that can, creators can generate their own titles and motion graphics using Apple Motion - but we’re aware that’s an extra purchase, and new skill to learn that is just one step too far for some users.
The Final Cut Pro X free trial lasts 30 days, but is currently extended to a whole 90 days due to the covid-19 pandemic, which is longer than any other free trial video software we can find. Compare that to the 7 day free trial Adobe Premiere Pro 2020 gives, and you may favour Apple’s offer if working from a Mac.
Final Cut Pro X: System requirements
Apple Mac only
- macOS 10.14.6 or later
- 4GB of RAM (8GB recommended for 4K editing, 3D titles and 360° video editing)
- OpenCL-capable graphics card or Intel HD Graphics 3000 or later
- 256MB of VRAM (1GB recommended for 4K editing, 3D titles and 360° video editing)1
- Discrete graphics card, macOS High Sierra or later, and SteamVR required for VR headset support. AMD Radeon RX 580 graphics card recommended for best performance.
- 3.8GB of disk space