When Apple‘s revolutionary Macintosh came out in 2004, I bought one of the first models to arrive in Washington, getting it from the computer department from the now-defunct Woodward & Lothrop department store.
The computer was so new that I had to wait six weeks for a Serial 422 cable to use the printer that came as part of the Mac package.
The Mac became my computer of choice. As a chief of staff on Capitol Hill at the time, I put Macs in our office — the first one to adapt to Apple — and MacWorld magazine sent a writer and photographer to capture the event.
When Photoshop came along, I started using it for my photography. Amy and I got into documentary filmmaking in the late 1980s and — the the time — we had to invest heavily in a dedicated and expensive editing system for videotape.
Final Cut Pro — developed my Macromedia and acquired by Apple — changed video editing for professionals. It offered an affordable editing platform that ran on a Mac and produced results good if not better than some more expensive dedicated system. We started using it with version 1 shortly after the new century again.
Over the years, we edited all of our projects — large and small — on Final Cut Pro. We were in good company. George Lucas used Final Cut Pro for Star Wars. In fact, more than half of broadcast and film professionals cut their video shorts, documentaries and feature films on Final Cut. I built an efficient video workstation using Final Cut Studio 2, an Apple PowerMac G5, dual cinema monitors and multiple disk arrays.
But Apple changed the game in two ways.
First, the company switched their operating system away from the Motorola chips used in the G5 PowerMacs to an Intel-based system. We saw no reason to change over because the G5 had all the power we needed and the software we used ran well. Unfortunately, as more and more updates to Apple software were released, we found that newer versions would no longer run on the G5.
Second, Apple decided backward compatibility was no longer important.
We were using Final Cut version 6, which ran well on the G5 and I was thinking about upgrading to an Intel Mac and version 7 when Apple announced Final Cut X — jumping three version numbers — this summer. Version 10 wasn’t an upgrade — it was a complete rewrite of Final Cut Pro and it not only left out features that many pro editors need, it wasn’t backward compatible with projects produced with earlier versions of the software. Apple also discontinued version 7, which left me stuck with version 6 and the hundreds of projects edited with it and earlier versions.
Professional videographers and editors reacted — for the most part — with shock, anger and disappointment over Final Cut X. Apple promised to restore features through updates and two updates since the program’s release this past summer have answered a few of the complaints but the program still — in my opinion and the opinion of many other pro editors — fall well short of the needs of the professional market.
Yes, Final Cut Pro X is slick, it is relatively cheap — $299 for the program and $50 each for the the Motion and Compressor add-ons — compared to the $999 for just an upgrade to Final Cut Studio in the past, but it still ignores the needs of many professionals.
Fortunately, I had a a copy of Adobe Premiere Pro 1.5 lying around from a project that I did several years ago. I was able to upgrade to Premier Pro CS 5.5 for less than the cost of Final Cut X. However, the version I had ran on a PC, not a Mac and I upgraded to the latest version and installed it on a Gateway PC.
The program not only runs faster than Final Cut Pro did on the Mac, it handles the newest HD video formats seamlessly. Apple has problems with some of the new formats and editing them requires transcoding or conversion. Even the new Final Cut Pro X requires importing a lot of extra files, for example, to handle AVCHD files but Premiere Pro edits the files natively.
Bottom line: After 27 years of using a Mac, I’m back on a PC for the bulk of my video work.