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Mac and Final Cut Pro – worth it?

So have I gone to the dark side?

Apple MacBook with Final Cut Pro in a studio

Macs are made for creatives and creatives use Final Cut Pro on their Macs, right?

Years ago with my roots in the print & design industry, I recall walking into design studios and the lineup of Macs always looked, well, so damn cool.

Then as my life transitioned towards radio and the music business the same happened – every studio I went to all I ever saw was Mac after Mac.

I’m guessing it was that exposure that left me wanting to work on a Mac.

My first creative efforts on a Mac were graphic design using In Design and Photoshop which meant from almost the moment I bought my first Mac that I had an Adobe Creative Cloud subscription.

When I was on the radio I had to learn how to produce podcasts and as I was already used to how Adobe apps and shortcuts worked the obvious choice was to use the super-powerful audio app Audition.

The final piece of the Adobe jigsaw was put in place when I decided to make a go of it on YouTube. Of course, that would mean video editing (of which I had zero knowledge) but as part of my Creative Cloud subscription, I had access to Premiere Pro – it was a no-brainer.

I remember sitting there day after day trying to teach myself Premiere – being used to how other Adobe apps worked helped – there is a certain amount of the workflow that transfers between Adobe apps.

It didn’t take too long for me to get the basics in place – certainly enough to edit my first basic videos.

But of course, there is another side to my soul – the Apple side – the Mac user side and it’s that voice that has been nagging away at me recently.

Macs and me

I love working on Macs – which is lucky as I happen to spend many hours every day in front of them.

As you can well imagine doing what I do means I end up listening to podcasts, reading websites, watching creatives on YouTube or scouring Twitter (X) to make sure I’m up to date with what’s current in the world of Apple.

Indeed on my podcast, Minus Sixteen we chat over everything that is Mac and Apple-related and one thing that keeps coming into my ether – is Apple’s video editing software – Final Cut Pro.

Being the kinda guy that loves to learn and have new challenges the Final Cut Pro bug has been gnawing away at me recently – I’m intrigued to know more about it. My podcast co-host edits in it, and one of my best mates uses it and so to do some of the biggest names in the business.

Running an Apple channel on YouTube and writing about Apple and Macs I almost feel I owe it to myself to be working in Final Cut Pro.

Logic doesn’t have the same drive as I genuinely feel that Audition is better suited to podcast production for several reasons whereas Logic is better suited to music production.

But Final Cut Pro and Premiere have been adversaries for years now – let’s face it, they do pretty much the same job…you throw clips onto a timeline, chop, edit, add effects and at the end spew out a video ready to upload. I guess I’m now a reasonably experienced video editor so I wanted to be sure I wasn’t missing out – was there a better experience out there?

It’s all well and good knowing one app inside and out – and I can certainly churn out content at a fair old rate these days but to never try another program would surely be a mistake – maybe Final Cut Pro had the secret juice that I have never tried.

Last weekend I found I had a few spare hours so I downloaded the free 90-day trial of FCP and began to play around with it.

If you’ve ever been tempted to switch from Premiere to Final Cut read on…

If it ain’t broke

Straight off the bat let me defend Premiere Pro.

Whilst some argued that when Apple silicon first came out having to use the Adobe suite of creative apps through Rosetta made it slow, clunky and buggy. Although I never experienced many problems I know some did – but equally, those days are now in the rearview mirror. Premiere is super reliable these days and I can’t think of when it last crashed.

So onto Final Cut Pro – the first problem you couldn’t have scripted…it wouldn’t load and open!

The problem was plugins that I had installed. Over the years I’ve used a fair number of Waves plugins for audio production and FCP didn’t like them – well some of them at least. So I had to waste some time locating them and uninstalling them. Final Cut did finally open and then I could reinstall the problem plugins.

Final Cut Pro on Mac

Interestingly the basics of FCP immediately made sense to me – some of what I’d learned in Premiere transferred directly to Final Cut – but there were some notable differences.

With Premiere you get used to working with bins. Bins are a simple, quick way of keeping your project organised. Early on I didn’t use them as my projects were super simple – but as you progress you’ll find bins are priceless.

But in FCP you don’t seem to use bins as such. In Final Cut Pro, the organisation of your project starts before you open the FCP – it’s all to do with file management.

The best workflow I found was to create a folder on my desktop with subfolders covering the basic elements of your video – for instance a-roll, b-roll, music etc – you get the idea. In Final Cut Pro create a library called the same as the folder you just created and save it to that same root folder.

Creating a folder on the desktop is something I have always done anyway – the only difference being I would then import those files to bins whereas now I add them to the library- with me so far?

One lesson quickly learned was an import option in Final Cut Pro – you’ll want to tick the box to leave files in place otherwise it gets messy and duplicates will be made etc.

This is all trial and error – but it seemed to make sense to me so I wanted to share it. Highlight say the a-roll folder from your desktop and drag it to the dateline that you’ll see showing inside Final Cut Pro – that date is an event and an event is just a folder…but this is where the magic happens you’ll find that within that eventkeywords appear and that will group all those clips in the browser for you to scroll through – the FCP equivalent of bins.

The timeline will still be empty – so now is the time you create a new project give it a title and set a few basic parameters and settings such as frame rates and resolution etc. Now you can drop your footage onto the timeline – the famous Magnetic Timeline.

Getting to work

In the browser, one feature I loved was being able to go through the clips and mark them as favourites – so handy and something I wished Premiere had. As with Premiere, you can mark in and out points to speed things up in the edit.

The Magnetic Timeline is not as daunting or confusing as I had feared – broken down it simply means that clips are linked together which in essence is similar to Ripple Delete – clips move together.

I’m used to working on layers with text, b-roll, sound effects and music so it all looked fairly familiar – it made so much sense that I reckon I could edit my next video in it already. I’d need to buy a few plugins to finesse it and get used to using those but in essence, I’m good to go.

Final Cut Pro renders as you edit. The bonus is the timeline is quick, ever so quick and seamless – the downside is that it makes gigantic cache files. You’ll want to get on top of these quickly as otherwise, you’ll find that your Mac will come to a crashing end really quickly. These cache folders can be hundreds of GB even on a simple edit.

The workaround is with the library selected modify where the folder is saved – make sure both the media and cache file are saved to your root folder on the desktop. You don’t need the folder anyway, so if you keep it there you can delete it as soon as you are finished with your video before archiving.

I haven’t exported a video yet – but I am looking forward to it. One known weakness of Premiere is that the colours you see when you export look nothing like the video you see on YouTube. I’ve kind of gotten used to how to tweak it to overcome the problem – but it is still annoying. Final Cut is meant to be far better in this respect so I can’t wait to try it.

Final thoughts

As I mentioned I’m using the 90-day free trial right now which I think you can also use for the iPad version as well.

Adobe is subscription-based based whereas Final Cut Pro you buy outright – £299 for the Mac version which you can run on two Macs or £49 per year for the iPad option (or £4.99 monthly).

Because of the way I edit the Magnetic Timeline isn’t going to be the major benefit that I kept being told it would be – I have always been quite a neat, methodical worker anyway but that said, I still want to give Final Cut Pro a go.

I’ve taken the first steps – I’ve installed it and taken time to play with it – next, it will be time to work with it.

The next part of my day is editing – whether I dare to edit in Final Cut Pro this time around I don’t know…but I will pluck up the courage soon!

Watch this space…I’ll report back on progress.

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