Apple posts a Final Cut Pro X FAQ, but why did it take so long?

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Apple has apparently decided that the poor reception of Final Cut Pro X by many professional video editors isn’t going away on its own, and has released a special FAQ page to address commonly voiced concerns about its editing software. Arguably, it’s a step Apple should have taken before the FCP X release, not once opinion is starting to galvanize against it.

As digital media consultant and Final Cut expert Larry Jordan notes, Apple botched this launch. It did so by not recognizing that change, especially major change to a platform essential to how people make a living, often isn’t welcomed with open arms. That doesn’t mean Apple should just stick with what’s comfortable and give FCP customers a slightly tweaked version of what they already had. But it does mean it should have done a better job of anticipating sore spots for pros making the move to FCP X, and provided transition aids to make those changes less jarring — like the FAQ that arrived Wednesday, for instance.

The FAQ also reveals where Apple missed the mark with FCP X, and where it still needs to address concerns. It addresses some complaints, like the ability to support multi-cam editing, XML export, and audio track exporting, by promising the features will arrive in future updates. If these are big enough pain points to address now, however, it likely means they would have been relatively easy to anticipate and prepare for prior to release.

The FAQ describes other issues as things third-party add-ons should — and will — handle. It’s true that third-party developers need some time to cope with a new release, but again, it seems like Apple missed a trick by not making better use of its closed beta program to head these complaints off by working more closely with third-party devs.

The biggest issue many editing pros will probably have with this FAQ is that Apple doesn’t plan to offer project importing from FCP 7 to FCP X. It’s the first question Apple addresses, and it’s a complaint I’ve seen often. Apple says “there is no way to ‘translate’ or bring in old projects without changing or losing data,” due to FCP X’s completely redesigned project architecture and trackless editing. This may be one of the biggest problems for editors going forward, even after other issues are addressed with updates and third-party plugins.

I still think the strength of the reaction to FCP X has a lot to do with the shock of encountering a dramatically different program than people are used to, but there’s no doubt that Apple overestimated the willingness of users to jump on board a new way of doing things. If Apple had already identified problems like multi-cam support during the limited beta, it should have delayed the FCP X release until fixes were ready. And if it didn’t, it needs to rethink how it approached pre-release testing and who was included, since it seems like it might have been an excessively approving crowd.

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