Jumping the Adobe train with: Final Cut Pro

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Hello all! If you’re like me and are pissed by Adobe’s recent changes—not just the price hike, but the patronizing PR responses and support—then you may be looking for alternatives to Adobe Creative Cloud software. Here, I try to wean myself from Adobe Premiere by checking out Apple’s Final Cut Pro.

Quick note on this review: My intention for using this software is not a lot of glitz and glamor or special effects. I’m mainly looking for a solid, well-performing and fast video editor with multilayer visual and audio timelines that has convenient and fast exporting for web.

 

The Software

Final Cut Pro is a native Apple video editing software. It boasts an intuitive interface, incredible performance, and stellar effects.

It’s fairly expensive at a $300 cost, but do note that cost is one-time only. In this day and age of subscription services, that’s a benefit all on its own.

 
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Aesthetics

Final Cut Pro is made by Apple, so if anything, you know it’s going to look good. The interface is dark and streamlined. It’s actually more intuitive for people coming from iMovie than people coming from Premiere; I was quite confused at the layout at first. In this post, I’ll try to cover most of the basic features so that you don’t have to face the same confusion.

 

Performance

Within my current experience, Final Cut Pro is zippy fast and stable. I’ve had no troubles with running it. Premiere would often bog down my machine, but I find Final Cut to work excellently.

It took me a while to get used to the lack of saving from Final Cut, but it’s actually an awesome feature. Every action you take is automatically saved (as far as I can tell). Great for people like me who forget something as simple as pressing CMD + S.

 

Experience

Importing

Handling projects and importing media is a bit different from Adobe Premiere. Instead of projects, you have libraries, which can be divided into events or folders. I would love to tell you what the difference between events and folders are… but I don’t really know. Events seem to divide footage based on date, and you’re required to have at least one.

Once you have an event or folder selected, you can simply drag in footage, audio, or photos from Finder to import your media.

Where you manage footage.

Where you manage footage.

The library panel.

The library panel.

Libraries don’t require saving like projects; they auto-save every time you import media or make any changes. Closing the window or quitting Final Cut won’t close your library—you’ll have to do that by right-clicking on the library, then clicking “Close Library.”

How to close a library or “project.”

How to close a library or “project.”

 

Editing

Instead of using the term timelines like Premiere, Final Cut uses the term projects. Yeah, it can be confusing until you get used to it.

Go to File > New > Project… to get started with your first video!

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You’ll get a popup with a number of settings, like the name, video dimensions, and codecs. I usually just keep the default options and only change the dimension to what I need.

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You’ll get a blank timeline where you can drag footage and audio. Add footage by dragging through the length of clip you want in the Library panel. (It’ll be highlighted in yellow.) Then drag and drop the clip onto the timeline.

Final Cut automatically scrubs the footage on hover, which makes it very easy to select which part you want.

Portion of a clip selected, as shown by the yellow border.

Portion of a clip selected, as shown by the yellow border.

Clips and audio dropped onto the timeline.

Clips and audio dropped onto the timeline.

Note that you don’t manually create video or audio tracks like Premiere; more tracks are automatically created as you drag video or audio clips on top of each other.

Tools, effects, and transitions are at a very different layout than Premiere, so here’s a quick walkthrough of what you’ll need to know.

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Outlined in red: the Tools drop-down menu, where you choose the tools to select, trim, cut, zoom, etc.

Outlined in cyan: settings that manipulate the timeline, like toggling snapping, video skimming, and audio soloing.

Outlined in yellow: the Effects panels, where you can find audio filters, visual effects, and transitions like dissolves, pixelating, and wipes.

Let’s take a quick look at the Tools menu first.

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The Select tool is just what you’d expect. In most Adobe applications, this is the hotkey V. In Final Cut, its hotkey is A.

The other really important tool you’ll need is the Blade tool, which cuts clips where you click. Its hotkey is B.

Yup. Those are pretty much the most important two, so let’s move along. (This isn’t an in-depth feature look, after all. More of a quick start guide for those already experienced with Premiere.)

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The Effects panel is the other important feature.

On the Transitions side, you can find transitions like cross dissolves, blurs, wipes, and 3D transitions.

On the Effects side, you can find video effects like sepia, black and white, camcorder mode, color correction, keying, and masks. You can also find audio effects like compressor, levels, EQ, and distortion.

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The editing itself is a very intuitive process. Like Premiere, you can drag, trim, and cut with ease. One thing I like is that Final Cut automatically applies ripple edits, so if you drag the length of a clip shorter or longer, it automatically changes the rest of the timeline for you.

To make more video tracks, just drag one clip above another. To make more audio tracks, just drag one clip below another.

 

Exporting

The built-in exporting feature isn’t great in Final Cut and is pretty limited. It’s really meant to work with Compressor, which is another Apple application for $50. Compressor has a lot more exporting options, like exporting for web, mp4, mov, and more.

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The built-in exporting for Final Cut is under File > Share and allows you to export as:

  • Lossless 720p, 1080p, and 4K.

  • Direct sharing to Facebook, Youtube, or Vimeo.

  • Exporting to disk under Add Destination…

Sadly, it doesn’t provide enough options to export easily to a web-friendly .mp4 that isn’t a direct-to-site sharing method. So I ended up buying Compressor. The $50 price tag can be a disincentive, but I find Compressor to be fast and stable, so it was a worthwhile investment.

 

Summary

Final Cut Pro is a powerful post-production tool with a lot more features than what I cover, but my intent of this post is just to introduce you to a good alternative to Adobe Premiere. Some pro editor is probably rolling in their grave from all the features I’m ignoring, but oh well. I just want something without a cloud subscription, ya’ll.

So far, everything I’ve used Premiere for, Final Cut can do. It’s fast, solid, and easy to use. It took a little while for me to get used to everything, but the transition was absolutely worth it.