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iPad & Final Cut 2 – a cut above the rest

So the iPad has got more power than it needs – or has it?

Final Cut on the M4 iPad Pro

The iPad is probably the most divisive product that Apple makes. It’s a Marmite product – there is no middle ground. I’ve learned over the past few weeks of using and making content about the iPad that you either love it or hate it. You either get it or you don’t.

This week I’ve ramped up the demands on my 13-inch M4 iPad Pro in the only way I know how to – video editing. I put Final Cut Pro 2 for iPad on my iPad and over the weekend – I also downloaded the new Final Cut Camera app onto my iPad, iPhone 14 Pro and iPhone 15 Pro Max and decided to head out and see what the iPad is like to use away from the studio as a total production solution. What could go wrong?

I was curious to know if the iPad now represented a genuine alternative to Mac for video editing. Is it a running gun creation tool? What’s it like to use, who it’s for, how well did the iPad stand up to these new demands and what effect did it have on the battery life of the iPad and iPhones?

One hugely important point to make about the iPad though – you can shoot content on it as well as edit it and even potentially upload it making it a one-stop production solution – possibly making it unique in Apple’s lineup.

Before heading out I did have a little play around in Final Cut on the iPad – just get my head around the basic UI. But when I set out on this week I had no idea of what I was getting into – I’d not launched a Live Multicam session before.

Set up was easy – all you need to do is open the Final Cut Camera app on the phones (but not the iPad) and then create a new project in FCP on your iPad where you’ll be given the option to choose a Live Multicam project. Once you’ve named your project you select your devices (the other devices automatically connect) & choose your resolution, orientation and frame rate and then you’re good to go. You can start to record on any of the devices.

iPad – a complete production unit

Editing on the iPad is a simplified version of Final Cut for Mac – but they’ve done their best to use the screen real estate as best as possible and it never feels cramped. If you have some basic editing knowledge or used FCP on the Mac before you’ll pick it up ever so quickly – selecting which camera angle you want to use, adding titles, transitions and even delving into the audio settings.

One thing that took me a while to work out was how to spin the camera around on the iPad to the front-facing camera – it defaults to the rear camera. I looked everywhere – but all you need to do is go full screen with your iPad input in your project and then you’ll find the rotation icon.

And although the audio sounds fine, I couldn’t find where to choose the audio input source – maybe it defaults to the local device as I guess that’s nearest to you – the iPad other words. But with FCPs Voice Isolation and Noise Removal tools, it tidied up the audio well.

Even so, I’d like the option to choose an audio input

Out and about

The iPad seems to have good and bad days when it comes to battery life and for no apparent reason. But, the day I went out to shoot with the iPad it played a blinder. After about 6-hours of pretty consistent and hard use, it still had about 45% battery left.

The iPhones didn’t fare quite so well though. In fairness, it was a roasting hot day – around 30 degrees, but the phones got super hot and drained battery very quickly. I’m guessing that was all the Bluetoothing that was going on…

One of the improvements Apple has brought to FCP for iPad 2 is the ability to now work directly from an external SSD (I was using the Samsung T7). It means you no longer have to spec your iPad with huge amounts of expensive internal storage – everything can be done from the SSD. Exporting the videos was pain-free as well – the whole editing experience from importing, editing on the timeline and editing was super-smooth.

The only negative I came across was the old nugget – it is still one way editing. By that I mean you can start a video edit on the iPad and export it but once you bring it to the Mac and start to make any changes you can’t take it back to the iPad. That seems a major flaw – hopefully one that can be fixed with the next update.

Who is Live Multicam for?

Using the iPad and the Live Multicam app for the day it quickly became clear who this is best aimed at –

  • solo content creators looking for an easy and quick way to make dynamic content
  • podcasters – setting up an engaging podcast with phones on the guest and host and maybe even a wide angle shot of the complete session
  • vloggers – no one seems to have mentioned how the Live Multicam app is a godsend for vloggers

This is the first time I have tried to push the iPad but it handled it all effortlessly. As I hadn’t tried to edit a multicam session on the iPad before I decided it best to try it for the first time back at the studio – but honestly, I could so easily have done the full edit at a coffee shop it’s that painless.

One of the things I like about how Apple has gone about developing Final Cut on the iPad is that have leaned into the tablet’s strengths rather than just bringing over the Mac version. I’ve never been a fan of editing on small devices – on MacBooks the timeline always feels cramped. On the iPad though it feels open enough to be enjoyable to edit on.

Bear in mind though – that there is still no option for plug-ins which means that your final videos may miss that polish that using effects from MotionVFX brings to any project. I’ve heard that is something that may come to FCP for iPad sometime soon – I think Apple is aware of the need to look into that.

Using Final Cut on the iPad is a sign of how Apple is leaning into iPad OS rather than trying to bring macOS to the iPad – and I’m all for it. I’m a paid-up member of the Mac-loving crew – but the iPad is winning me over. Its potential is obvious – love the iPad for what it is and not for what it isn’t.

Is the M4 iPad too powerful?

People buy fast cars but don’t drive them at their maximum speed all the time – the same is true of the iPad. Will you use the power available all day every day? Probably not – but it’s sure as hell good to know the grunt is there if you want to take it to the next level – and that’s what makes this M4 iPad Pro a cut above the rest.

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