It has taken 24 long years, but Apple’s Final Cut Pro is finally available on the iPad. It is the closest to professional quality editing ever available on Apple’s tablet computer.
It is not the same Final Cut Pro that been on Apple’s Macintosh for the past three decades. The new iPad version has a touch interface that allows the user to record, edit, finish and share content. But it is different and does not duplicate the feature set of the more powerful Mac version.
Clips are assembled in a timeline, which adjusts to eliminate gaps, collisions and sync issues. Clips can be trimmed using a finger, Apple Pencil or pro keyboard shortcuts. A jog wheel on the right side of the screen allows clips to be nudged frame-by-frame.
The primary storyline can lock cutaway shots, superimpose titles and sync sound effects. Four camera angles can be edited into a single multi-cam clip. There is control over white balance, exposure and focus in portrait or landscape orientation. Subjects can be instantly removed from the background without using a green screen or rotoscoping.
A range of 4K and HD images can be accessed, including those recorded with the iPad or iPhone’s built-in camera. Log processing can be applied by importing video footage using built-in, pre-set LUTs for ARRI, Blackmagic Design, Canon, Nikon, Panasonic and Sony digital cameras. However, you cannot use custom LUTS. Another omission is there’s is no image stabilization.
Audio can be recorded with USB-C microphones or Bluetooth-connected AirPods. But when using Bluetooth headphones, there is a slight latency that can be distracting. This means using wired headphones with a USB-C to phone adapter. The software can analyze audio and fix common problems like excess hum or loudness. Included is a set of basic audio processing tools.
One neat feature can add professionally composed music to any project from the included group of free soundtracks. The soundtracks dynamically self-adjust to fit the length of your video. But you are limited to the included soundtracks.
A couple of major issues haunt the first generation of FCP for iPad. First, users can transfer a project from the iPad to FCP for Mac, but not vice versa. It’s a one-way trip. There is no way to convert a Mac project to iPad. This seriously limits interoperability between the two platforms.
Another problem is outboard storage. You cannot edit off of external drives like you can with the Mac version of Final Cut Pro. To edit, all complete media files have to live on the iPad inside the Files app. This means the iPad is not only clunky to use but needs a massive amount of internal storage for long videos.
A late model iPad Pro powered by an Apple M1 or M2 chip is required for FCP. With 2GB of memory, Apple Pencil and keyboard, this package can cost more than $2600. That’s more expensive than many Macs with much more memory and ease of use.
Apple’s new subscription model has angered some potential users. Apple is selling FCP as a subscription at $5 per month or $50 per year, with a free first month. It’s makes economic sense to test this software’s limitations first to make sure it meets your needs.
If you’ve used FCP on a Mac, the software looks similar. Project media is now on the right side, while the inspector is on the left side. It’s a bit tricky at first using your finger to find start and end points. I found this was best with done with the Apple Pencil, but it’s a personal choice.
The built-in video effects, transition and backgrounds are excellent. Masking and color-keying allows the editor to automatically isolate a foreground subject to swap to a different background. Effects can be animated over keyframes. Titles, bumpers, lower thirds and credits are easy to set in motion. One feature unique to FCP for iPad is using the pencil to hand-draw text or doodles over video.
Once a project is complete, the finished file can be exported to a variety of professional formats, including Apple ProRes. Projects can also be directly shared with all popular social media services from the app.
Final Cut Pro for iPad will especially appeal to users creating short social media videos in mobile environments. It is the only device where the in-board camera can be imported directly into the editing app. You cannot do that with a Mac.
If you want to do all your editing on one device in the field and you can live with the limitations, Final Curt Pro for iPad is a very good, full-featured editing application.
As for professional editors who like FCP for the Mac, this new limited version will be a much harder sell. Though it operates in a similar manner, some features are missing. This will probably change with later versions, but right now it is not as capable. The interface is easy to use, but it’s different enough from the Mac version to require a bit of practice.
The two real showstoppers for me are the lack of ability to edit off a hard drive and lack of interoperability with Macs. If Apple would correct those two issues, it will have a real winner.
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