Apple Final Cut Pro X review

Price when reviewed

To trim clips, before adding them to the timeline, you drag them across the thumbnail, which animates to show the media contained within. iMovie users will feel at home, but Final Cut Pro 7 users will be reeling at the lack of precision compared to viewing and trimming clips on a monitor window. Precise trimming is performed on the timeline, but we don’t like being forced to make a sloppy edit first and then having to tidy it later.

The magnetic timeline

Apple’s big idea for Final Cut Pro X is the trackless, magnetic timeline. In practice, there’s a single main track called the Primary Storyline, which other media cluster around, stacking up as necessary when multiple clips overlap. There’s something subtly brilliant about this system, since video productions do centre on a key element, be it a series of video clips or an audio track. However, the inability to mute, solo or apply effects to an entire track is just as significant. We particularly missed being able to assign tracks to dialogue, music and sound effects to control each element as one.

Apple Final Cut Pro X

Clip Connections is just another name for grouping clips, but Compound Clips is smarter, collapsing clips into a single timeline object. Most serious editors – including Final Cut Pro 7 – can do that with nested sequences, though. We really like the Auditions feature, which embeds alternate takes or effects treatments into a single clip, and allows the user to switch between them with a couple of clicks.

Magnetic is Apple’s glitzy name for ripple editing – a standard feature in all editors whereby clips move to make space or close gaps when others are inserted, edited or removed. Its implementation here is a little more sophisticated than usual, thanks mostly to the Primary Storyline concept. We particularly like the ability to expand a clip and its soundtrack to allow staggered cuts, known as L cuts and J cuts, without having to break the link and risk losing audio sync. However, we found it infuriating that ripple editing can’t simply be turned off. It seems that users must either fully embrace Final Cut Pro X’s way of working or find another editor.

Colour grading

Colour grading is Final Cut Pro X’s best feature. Having analysed a clip’s colours, the software can match them to colours in another clip. A specific frame from the reference clip must be chosen, which can lead to overcooked settings – it’s a shame there’s no Mix slider to tone down the effect. Still, it’s a useful feature for when variable natural light creates discontinuity between shots in a scene.

Apple Final Cut Pro X

Manual colour grading isn’t up to the sophistication of Final Cut Studio’s dedicated application – but frankly, we’re glad to see the back of Color’s clunky interface. The usual trio of colour wheels for shadows, mid-tones and highlights has been replaced by a single rectangle for all three plus a master control. This allows colours to be cut as well as boosted, and the more efficient use of screen space gives greater fidelity to make small adjustments. We immediately felt comfortable working with it.

Colour grading can be applied to a specific area of the frame. Masks are defined either by a colour key or an area that varies from ellipse to rectangle. We’d have liked a little more flexibility to the mask shapes – keys lack a feather option to smooth their edges, so even small amounts of video noise produced messy results. Still, in most instances it performed well, and couldn’t be easier to use.


The 102 effects in the library include some impressive treatments, including stylish film-like simulations. However, even the simpler effects such as Tint and Sepia offer less control than we’d like. In truth, far greater control is available by opening the effects in Motion, whereupon the individual components are presented for unfettered access. That would be fine, except opening an effect in Motion doesn’t carry the footage with it, so settings are adjusted without being able to see the result.


Software subcategoryVideo editing software

Operating system support

Operating system Mac OS X supported?yes

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