Why Final Cut Express matters

Often it’s hard to get fired up about the younger sibling versions professional content creation tools. I’ve been on a multi-year tear ripping Avid’s Xpress Pro for being a needlessly and excessively hobbled version of Media Composer. So when Apple announced Final Cut Express 4, I yawned. Having been on Final Cut Studio 2 for some time, there wasn’t much to be learned running Final Cut Express through the paces.

Final Cut Express 4

Apple sent a review copy, so what the heck? Let’s see what FCE can do. The short answer is it doesn’t do much more or less than expected. It’s a nearly fully featured, Firewire-only version of Final Cut Pro. It lacks batch capture and logging, some compositing and keyframing features, and time code display for sources in the browser.

Limitations noted, Final Cut Express is an impressive piece of software for $199. For the pro, already using Final Cut Studio, FCE is a great satellite station since all the above-noted features reappear once an Express project is opened in Final Cut Pro. Final Cut Express captures time code info and includes it in the QuickTime metadata, so FCP reads it, and accesses it.

For so many video projects, Final Cut Express is a fine solution — Firewire in/Firewire out, or Firewire in/QuickTime out. Just enough power, and none of the bloat. Installing FCE on an older PowerBook took only a few minutes. The package contains FCE and good, old Live Type — not a bad throw-in for a $199 package.

The beauty of Final Cut Express is not the application itself, but where it fits into Apple’s video ecosystem. FCE 4 — why not just call it 6, so the Express numbers match the Pro? — can import iMovie ’08 projects. Apple has created a seamless path from pulling the Mac out of the box all the way up to Final Cut Studio 2. This is something Avid and Adobe can’t do. Pros can scoff, but Apple’s virtually guaranteed every student, every mid-career creative professional looking to get into video, and every corporate user who has outgrown iMovie is likely to migrate to Final Cut Express before trying something else.

Academic discounts and “lite” packages such as Premiere Elements and Xpress DV Free don’t have that hook into the crowd that learned iMovie first. Apple’s strategy with Final Cut Express is longterm. It often takes several years to get from iMovie to Final Cut Pro, but for those just beginning to explore video editing, the path is clear.

Adobe has a clear path as well, all those Dreamweaver, Flash, and Photoshop pros will surely consider Premiere Pro first. And Adobe’s products work on the other 95% of all desktop computers. That’s not a bad starting point.

Where does this leave Avid? Can Avid appeal to the next-generation of editors? I can’t help but notice that the apparent median age of members of the various Avid communities I participate in and visit is roughly 10 to 12 years older than the FCP communities. Pinnacle was going to be that bridge to the consumer/prosumer. What happened?

2 Thoughts on “Why Final Cut Express matters

  1. Thanks for the article. it confirms my decision to move from FCP to FCE to edit my wedding videos. I use very standard effects and transition in my work. Special backgrounds are provided by third party vendors and nice titles are a product of Live type. Why spend $1500 for FCP when I can accomplish what i want with FCE. (See samples in my website.

  2. Victor,

    Going forward, consider the value added in the FCS suite by DVD Studio Pro (DVDs) and Compressor (web videos) — possible upsells in your vertical.

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