What a nasty and ugly scene on the Internets, after Apple announced the new Final Cut Pro X. You would think that someone killed an industry or something. I have to admit that I'm surprised the user base around Final Cut was as big as it was! It seems like just a few years ago that the only thing "serious editors" used was Avid (and I have a thing or two to say about "serious editors").
I got my first non-linear editing system in 1998, I think it was. It was a Media 100 system, which came in way cheaper than a comparable Avid system, and frankly I thought the interface was better. It was awesome to be free of tape, even if I could only keep one or two projects on it at a time. That 20 gig hard drive array was expensive! Glad it wasn't my money.
After I left the broadcast world, Avid eventually came in with an "affordable" software-only system, a little over a grand, and I bought into it. The hardware requirements were stupid-strict, and it would only run on Windows 2000. But honestly, there was nothing else that quite worked the way I expected at the time. Later on, when Macs went Intel, I bought a Mac, and Final Cut Pro came soon after. Adobe finally got serious about Premier Pro around that time as well, so I got that "for free" with Photoshop and such. Never used Premier much, but frankly it was about the same in terms of capability as the competitors.
There's an important thing to note about this 13-years of experience with this variety of software. While the hardware requirements went down, and the resolution of the video went up, the user interface for these apps was not that different, and really just evolved in little ways. No one really said, "There's a better way."
Apple, however, did. The company has a long history of chucking one paradigm and replacing it entirely, often inflicting some pain in the process. For example, they tossed floppy drives before anyone else would, and that freaked people out. They've cycled through a number of different ports and connections for peripherals. They famously ditched the computer tower. In the end, many of these changes were the right thing to do, and generally people fell in line. They even managed to create wholesale change between versions of their operating system, something Microsoft would never dare to do.
But sometimes, they also get it wrong. When Steve Jobs introduced the iPhone, and said that "apps" were just things that lived in a browser, it pissed people off. I still believe that, games aside, he was absolutely correct. The market wasn't having it, and eventually every phone platform included an app store of sort, with tens of thousands of things you'll never use.
The question with Final Cut Pro X, then, is whether or not they got it wrong this time. What they've done is dramatically change the way you work with video. They chucked the old paradigm, and people are pissed. I think some of the complaints are valid, but my gut says it's not as bad as "professional editors" are making it out to be. Admittedly, I don't have the software. As I'm not currently editing anything, I'm not sure I need it. Much has been made about what it doesn't do instead of what it does.
Here is a summary of the "missing" stuff, and my reaction:
Those seem to be the biggest issues. I've seen a few complaints about lack of plugin support and no solid color grading tools, but I'm not sure I buy those, as the demos I've watched show very robust grading tools, including keys. Getting stuff in and out for use in After Effects also is apparently tedious.
My bigger impression is that the new software isn't full of missing stuff as much as it's full of different stuff. Again, I could be talking out of my ass, because I haven't used it. Some of the toxicity toward the product seems more rooted in its similarity to iMovie, which mostly paints "professionals" as snobs more than anything else. Anyone can learn software. It's a tool. Knowing how to use it doesn't make you an artist.
It will be interesting to see how this all plays out. I think fundamentally, Final Cut Pro X has some powerful tools set around a different way of thinking. I can't quite write that off as bad. The problem is that people don't always like new ways of thinking. That said, I think the easy solution is to keep selling the old version for now.
By the way, there's a huge lesson here that the best people in software development already know: Deliver your stuff early and often. Apple's secret bullshit can sometimes bite them in the ass. You can plan and plan, but until you get something in front of people, you never truly know if it's the right thing for the people who will use it. Get it out early, even in an incomplete form, and it's a lot easier to change and adapt.