- Nontraditional timeline-editing may turn off longtime pro editors
- No stabilization or motion tracking for 360-degree video
- No search in import dialog
Final Cut Pro (macOS) can import (and export) both projects and events in XML format. This means professional video editors can round-trip their work between video editing software and tools like Blackmagic Design’s DaVinci Resolve, a standard in pro video color correction. The same holds for organizing projects in Square Box System’s CatDV, which lets teams of professionals organize clips. On the other end of the spectrum, you have the ability to import iMovie on iOS projects, so you can start editing on an iPhone or iPad and continue in the more powerful desktop app.
For collaborative editing, Final Cut support Apple Xsan storage, with file locking so team members don’t trip on each other’s work. A new option is the ability to export a ProRes or H.264 content as proxy files at 50, 25, or 12.5 percent of the original size, allowing remote editors to access huge projects more efficiently. Premiere Pro, on the other hand, offers a bit more in the way of collaboration options with its Team Projects and Adobe Anywhere which leverages Adobe Creative Cloud to enable simultaneous editing with conflict resolution features.
In addition to its automatic clip-organization options, Final Cut Pro includes manual keyword tagging. Much like a good photo workflow app, the video editor makes entering frequently used tags simple—you can even use keyboard shortcuts. Tagging in Final Cut Pro still isn’t as sophisticated as the keywording feature in Adobe Lightroom, but Premiere can only use tags through the separate Adobe Bridge manager (though it does offer lots of metadata and face detection). One very cool keyword tagging option in Final Cut is that you can apply a tag to just part of a clip. You can also star, rate, or reject a clip from icons below the source tray. I’m always surprised at how many video editing apps lack this basic metadata capability.
The interface sports a consistent dark gray that makes the content you’re editing the most prominent thing on the screen. Four preset window layouts in Final Cut include Default, Organize, Color & Effects, and Dual Displays (which is grayed out if you don’t have dual displays). You can also create your own custom workspace layouts. You can’t, however, undock panels to make them float free, as you can in Premiere Pro.
While the Final Cut Pro (macOS) timeline looks something like that of iMovie, with its free-form, trackless Magnetic Timeline view, the pro program packs vastly more editing power. As with pretty much every video editing app, Final Cut Pro presents the standard three-pane view, with source clips on the top left, preview on the top right, and timeline across the bottom.
A timecode indicator appears below the preview window, along with an indicator of rendering percent complete. You can expand the preview to full-screen and resize any panel, but you can’t pull panels off into separate windows (Corel VideoStudio Pro and Premiere Pro let you do this). You get Undo and Redo in Final Cut, but Premiere Pro’s history window offers more in the way of letting you get back to any point in your editing process.
There are no track numbers along the left edge; Final Cut Pro calls tracks lanes, and you can add as many of these as you like. There’s no track limit like you find in other video editors such as Pinnacle Studio and CyberLink PowerDirector. I should note that Final Cut still makes excellent use of keyboard shortcuts, such as for changing back and forth among the trim, select, blade, and range selection functions. Good old J, K, L, I, and O still work as you’d expect. You can display an on-screen keyboard showing them all and edit key functions to taste.
Adding clips to the Magnetic Timeline is a simple dragging operation, and your dropped clip snaps to neighbor clips or the start (you can use a Position cursor tool). If you’re attentive, you’ll notice a small hairline connects the clip you enter with the first clip you added. This Clip Connection means that whenever you move the main clip, the one added after will stay in the same relative position on the timeline. But if you drag a clip so that it overlaps another, that second clip scoots out of its way, dropping down to create a new overlapping lane beneath it.
Another concept unique to Final Cut Pro is that clips are categorized into Roles. Roles define what clips are for—it could be video, titles, dialog, music, and effects. But the power of this comes when you create your own custom sub-roles, such as effects, dialogue, background, or B-roll. Clear color-coding of these roles means you can use the default colors or choose from a tasteful palette of a dozen colors to assign your own. Not only do these colors show up on the on-screen timeline, but also on the Touch Bar’s mini timeline view, helping you see what kind of tracks are playing. It’s great organizational tool.
Editing 360-Degree Video in Final Cut Pro
Apple’s support for 360-degree VR video isn’t just a gesture. It’s deep, well-though-out support with the tools editors in this medium need, including true 360-degree titles, VR headset support, effects, and 360° Patch. The last is very useful for this kind of content: It lets you remove the camera rig from your production with a cloned area (usually the ground). Because 360 VR captures everything in every direction, the camera itself is not excluded, but often undesired in the final product.
After importing 360 content, you can view and navigate through it by dropping down the 360° Viewer option from the View menu. I tested with footage from a Nikon KeyMission 360 and a Samsung Gear 360 with no problems and snappy response. The latest update adds stabilization for 360-degree footage, but it took a loooooong time on my test Macbook for a 50-second clip—over 4 minutes—though the result was good. CyberLink PowerDirector has long offered both stabilization and motion tracking.
Effects that you can use on 360-degree content include variations of Blur, Glow, and Sharpen. If you have Apple Motion ($49), you can create custom 3D, 360-degree titles and motion graphics, but the base Final Cut includes a selection as well. When you’re done editing, you can directly share to the biggest outlets for VR content these days: Facebook, YouTube, and Vimeo. Each of those has specific requirements that the program handles.