10 Years with Final Cut Pro

It was a bit surprising to me, but I recently realized that I have been using Final Cut Pro for 10 years as of Fall 2010. I can see no better time to take a personal look back a this software that has been so influential on my life as well as an entire industry.

Final Cut Pro 1.0
My first exposure to Final Cut Pro was during my senior year in high school, back in 2000. The previous semester, the school had begun a Digital Media class and Final Cut Pro was the key component.  I signed up for the class as one of my many "slack-off" electives. We were shooting with Canon GL-2's and Sony VX-1000s and learning the basics of logging and capturing. I actually didn't spend too much time with FCP1.0 because the school uprgraded to 2.0 mid semester. One funny memory about 1.0 is that the Dither Dissolve transition would cause the program to crash instantly. It was fun to tell unexpecting classmates "Dude, check out the Dither Dissolve, its awesome!"

Final Cut Pro 2.0
This was the version where I really began to understand editing. I made a whole lot of bad films my senior year in highschool but with each one, I understood what I was doing a little bit more. I remember one project where we had to use at least 3 layers and some effects. My piece had 5 layers and at least two effects on each. One minute of DV footage took over 5 hours to render on our dual processor G4's (still on OS9). Now we can edit full HD on a laptop. It was also around this time, when our teacher had the OSX beta on one of the computers and when I decided that Macs weren't all that bad after all.

Final Cut Pro 3.0
Version 3.0 was the first Final Cut Pro that I owned. In community college I decided that I really did enjoy filmmaking and decided to buy the student version so I could experiment with my own projects. I also enrolled in an adult-education class in video production to continue my learning. It was around this time that I decided I wanted to go to film school. My knowledge of Final Cut Pro gave me a good head start at Brooks Institute of Photography. Final Cut 3.0 was the first version to include Cinema Tools which allowed for film workflows. I used this tool with the telecine material after some 16mm projects. I also saw Walter Murch speak about editing Cold Mountain using Final Cut Pro 3.0 at the LAFCPUG.

Final Cut Pro 4.0 and Final Cut Pro HD (4.5)
This was a marginal update for me and I didn't use it very much. I do remember that that changed the user interface in a little bit strange way. The free update to 4.5 added DVCPROHD editing capabilities, which by todays standards, is hardly HD. It was a good step forward in HD editing though. I wasn't editing any HD projects at this point in time however.



Final Cut Studio and Final Cut Pro 5.0
I was going to graduate from Brooks Institute very soon, so when Final Cut Studio came out, I took advantage of my student discount and bought it. Final Cut Studio was the first time they marketed a suite of software, the most notable addition being Motion 1.0. I saw a early preview of Motion at a LAFCPUG meeting and was impressed. I still think it is a great program, if not as fully capable as After Effects. I used this version of Final Cut Pro longer than any other version. My documentary H.R. Giger's Sanctuary was cut with it. The biggest feature in verson 5, in my opinion, was the ability to edit HDV footage natively. Which made working with cameras like the Sony Z1. Anyone who used this version dreaded the final render of a HDV project and the "Conforming Video" progress bar -- it was damn slow.

Final Cut Studio 2 and Final Cut Pro 6
Color was the big product addition to the Final Cut Pro suite, however the biggest upgrade, and probably the most important in FCP history was the introduction of ProRes 422. This "visually lossless", variable bit-rate codec allowed for editing full HD, raster video with the file size of uncompressed SD. The codec has had such an impact that AVID now supports it and the ARRI Alexa has the ability to shoot directly to this format. I use ProRes422 video every day.


Final Cut Pro 7
In this version, for some reason, Apple reset the name back to Final Cut Studio (it should be Final Cut Studio 3). Anyway, after suffering with FCP 5 at home for too long, I decided to buy FCP 7 for myself. Using ProRes at jobs made me really want that capability at home. I am glad I waited for version 7 though because Apple dropped the price significantly on this verson. None of the new features excited me too much, though the inclusion of new flavors of ProRes were quite nice. I use ProRes422(LT) all the time for VDSLR footage since their bitrate is lower than that anyway.

I am looking forward to whatever Jaw-dropping news Apple has coming this year. I am hoping for something big. We'll see.

This article was originally written for and posted to www.swissfilmmakers.com