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Five Ways FCP X Beats Premiere

Check out our Final Cut Pro: Absolute Beginner's Guide course!

Introduction

You can use whatever you want, but read this with an open mind!

Before you read any further, I’d like to be clear that there are, indeed, ways in which Premiere is better than FCP X. Looking at only one side of an equation can give a false view of things, and indeed if you want built-in curves for color correction, built-in support for 360° VR viewing and editing, want to work on a PC, or want a closer link to After Effects, then those are all excellent reasons to go for Premiere instead of FCP X, or use both.

Cool? With that in mind, there’s enough pro-Premiere talk out there. Time to redress the balance, and look at why Final Cut Pro X is an excellent app for video editing. You can choose whatever you like, but the best choice is made with an open mind and accurate information.

Organization

Quick! Show me all the best bits of all the shots of water!

Quick! Show me all the best bits of all the shots of water!

This one shouldn’t be much of an argument: it’s much, much easier to find your footage in FCP X. Keywords let you tag clips as many times as you like, while a clip can only be placed in a single folder at once. Favorites let you mark the best bits of every clip, and then switch to a view where that’s all you can see. Combine the two, and you’ve got a killer system — a permanent database record of all the best bits, sorted into categories.

If you’d prefer to delete the parts you don’t want, that’s easy too. Long clips can be easily broken up by rejecting dud moments along its length (I, O, Delete) and you’ll be left with whatever’s between the breaks. Don’t like that either? Assign different keywords to different parts of a single clip, then view by Keyword Collections. The system is hugely powerful, and if you’ve started out by using folders in the Finder, folder names can become keywords on import to FCP X.

Smart Collections can let you take this further, collecting all your edits, all your stills, all clips with “Jeff” in the title), and there are many metadata fields you can include in your search terms. It’s extremely flexible, and all this metadata goodness is in the app because the team behind Final Cut Server is now working on FCP X. Nice doesn’t begin to cover it — if you’re working on larger projects, this is a huge deal.

Speed

Export speed comparison of 50 seconds of H.264 4K footage with fades but nothing else

Export speed comparison of 50 seconds of H.264 4K footage with fades but nothing else

Once you’ve organised your footage, you need to find the right parts of it, and the skimmer plus the flexible thumbnail display options mean you can very quickly narrow in on the right shot. You can see it all there at once, and you didn’t even need to click. Hovering is enough to see more detail, and using a mouse or trackpad for at least part of the process can often be even faster than using the keyboard alone. (Heresy, but times change.)

Editing performance is excellent, and if your Mac isn’t as fast as you’d like, the simple Optimized/Proxy options can create footage that’s easier to edit. The magnetic timeline makes the basic editing process much faster (once you’re used to it) and even for huge amounts of huge video, FCP X is the fastest thing around. Check out the amazing story of The Forever Project which looked at Premiere and Resolve, but settled on FCP X to edit and manage a mammoth collection of 3D 4K RedRAW files.

Exporting is very quick too, and a few quick tests on my own MacBook Pro (13” with Touch Bar, 2016) gave surprisingly obvious results. I created a 4K 25p timeline, with 5 10-second sections of 4K H.264 8-bit footage from my Panasonic GH5, then added 12 frame fades between the clips. All tests were under battery power, with the files stored on the very fast (2GB/s, not 2Gb/s) internal SSD.

On better quality, in full screen or regular modes, FCP X could play back the native 4K files without stuttering, but a few frames were skipped in the fades. Background rendering took a few seconds to render those, and then everything was smooth. To be fair, I then disabled background rendering, deleted the render files and then exported. It took just 42 seconds to export the 50 second edit to a 4K file.

Absurdly, in Premiere CC 2017, simple playback of the same timeline would start OK, but quickly slip back to just a few frames per second, even at 1/8 resolution, and that’s even before adding any fades. Adding dissolves made it predictably worse, and changing playback engines made no difference. Exporting was similarly woeful, and a “Match source - High Bitrate” export took 5m 8s but had visible artifacting, while moving to a higher bitrate (such as the YouTube 2160p preset) took 7 minutes and 37 seconds on one test, and over 8 minutes on another.

Sure, these results would be different on a more powerful computer, but FCP X will still win every time, and not by a small margin. 

 

And here’s yet another video from the young Oliver Leopold which claims a 750% rendering improvement.  

 

The gap is huge, and if you need to get work out quickly, you need to be on FCP X. If you’re used to Premiere’s playback and edit performance, switching to FCP X should be like buying a new computer.

Stability

No further comment required

No further comment required

All apps have stability issues from time to time, and you’re more likely to experience problems if you use a number of third party plug-ins. Still, FCP X rarely has serious stability issues, and the constant automatic background saving means that even if the app does crash, you’ll rarely lose any work. Automatic backups provide extra peace of mind even if something goes really wrong.

On the other side of the fence, Premiere — at least for some users — is generally less stable. Searching for reports of problems (e.g. “appname crashing”) will always come up with a page full of crash reports, so that’s not a great way to judge stability. 

Instead, simply look at the comments on the official Facebook post outlining the features of the latest CC 2017 release. A number of the top comments there are from unhappy users complaining of ongoing stability issues. To be fair, it’s easier for the Final Cut Pro team because they only have to make their app work on Macs, while the Adobe team have to deal with a much wider variety of hardware setups. That doesn’t help you if you’re unlucky enough to have an unstable system, though.

One brief example I can confirm personally is that the last version of Premiere Pro CC 2017 would repeatedly crash upon opening a project that used 10-bit files from the new GH5. The latest CC 2017 release didn’t fix the problem, but removed all support for these 10-bit files instead.

Motion workflow

This custom title has a number of exposed controls and renders in real time

This custom title has a number of exposed controls and renders in real time

I’ve said this before, but the FCP X/Motion integration is amazing, letting you design titles, transitions, effects and generators in Motion for instant use in FCP X, with as little or as much customization as you want. The newest release of Premiere does include a much better title tool (welcome improvements!) but it’s still a long way off feature parity. 

Even if you don’t want to build these templates yourself, the fact that it’s so easy with Motion means that many people (including, full disclosure, me) have created packs of titles, effects and transitions for FCP X users to buy — and they’re cheap. There is absolutely no need for an editor to expensively outsource title production, or to settle for static image titles that simply fade up. The built-in stuff is great, third-party stuff is great, and you can make great stuff yourself.

Price

If you’re a student, it’s even cheaper

If you’re a student, it’s even cheaper

FCP X, in the US, costs $299. Around the world it’s similar, though it’ll probably have landed on a round number in your local currency that includes local sales tax. Wherever you live, you can save money on FCP X by buying iTunes cards on sale at a local retailer, or by being a student and purchasing the Pro Apps Bundle for Education — FCP X, Logic Pro, Motion, Compressor and LiveStage for $199. https://www.apple.com/us-hed/shop/product/BMGE2Z/A/pro-apps-bundle-for-education

In both cases, that’s a one-off outright cost, with all upgrades free, like all Mac App Store purchases. I bought FCP X at release and haven’t paid another cent, plus I can use it legally on all my Macs.

Creative Cloud, in the US, costs $50/month, though if you don’t need After Effects, Photoshop or any of the other design apps, you could go for Premiere Pro alone for $20/month for up to two machines. That sounds cheaper, but you have to subscribe for a year to get those prices, and at the end of that year, your software stops working unless you keep paying. It’s a perpetual rental — not excessive, but a long term issue for many people.

How many users?

The recent announcement, thanks to Richard Taylor of FCP Radio [http://fcpradio.com]

The recent announcement, thanks to Richard Taylor of FCP Radio [http://fcpradio.com]

If none of those matter to you, and your research online has led you to believe that Premiere simply has more users, that’s probably not true either. Adobe talk about Premiere a lot, while Apple don’t, and that doesn’t help perceptions. Still, a couple of times a year, Apple do speak at conferences and trade shows, and they have just announced that FCP X has 2 million users, about as many as all versions of “classic” FCP ever sold. 

Creative Cloud had 9 million users last year and are estimated to grow to 11 million users this year, but there are an awful lot of apps in Creative Cloud, and many more users of Photoshop and InDesign than Premiere Pro. So, the number of real, actual, regular Premiere users is hard to pin down, but I’ve seen information from companies who sell products for both platforms that would indicate a roughly even split between the two.

Both apps are used widely, and yet Avid is still king of the heavily collaborative film and reality TV workflows. It’s been entrenched for many years, and the size and complexity of existing workflows means that while both FCP X and Premiere have been used for big-budget features, they’re still few and far between. At the end of the day though, there are far more editors cutting work for YouTube and corporate internal videos than for broadcast TV, let alone the tiny number of editors working on feature films. Film brings prestige, but not users, and Avid have been on the brink of bankruptcy for some time now.

Premiere Pro’s Lumetri is great — but is it enough?

Premiere Pro’s Lumetri is great — but is it enough? 

Conclusion

The recent years have shown that many professionals would rather stay with something familiar (like Premiere) rather than jump to something new (like FCP X). This isn’t a relevation; I tried to persuade my colleagues to switch from Quark Xpress to InDesign 2.0 about 15 years ago, but nobody was interested in learning something new to save time when they were paid by the hour.

Eventually though, times change. The new crowd moves in, sees a better way of working, and the old workflow slowly dies away. Many YouTubers (including MKBHD and Casey Neistat) use FCP X because it’s faster, or because it gets out of their way. Others just prefer the magnetic timeline, a paradigm shift that’s confusing if you treat it like a traditional tracked timeline, but which makes perfect sense otherwise.

Choosing FCP X is no longer a punchline, it’s a legitimate best-of-breed app used by award-winning editors. It speeds up your organisation, your editing and your exports. It makes your titles look better with less effort. It saves you money. And no, despite what you may have heard, you won’t be alone. Why not check out a free trial and a one hour crash course, right here?

https://www.macprovideo.com/tutorial/final-cut-pro-x-101-absolute-beginners-guide

 

Check out our Final Cut Pro: Absolute Beginner's Guide course!

Iain Anderson

Iain Anderson | Articles by this author

Iain Anderson is an editor, animator, designer, developer and Apple Certified Trainer based in Brisbane, Australia. He has taught privately and in tertiary institutions, and has freelanced for Microsoft and the Queensland Government. Comfortable with anything from Quartz Composer to Second Life and Final Cut Pro to Adobe Creative Suite, he has laid out books, booklets, brochures and business cards; retouched magazine covers and product packaging, shot and edited short films and animated for HD broadcast TV, film festivals and for the web.

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