July 21, 2024

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Is Final Cut Pro finally better on the M4 iPad Pro?

Is Final Cut Pro finally better on the M4 iPad Pro?

For the past two weeks, I’ve been editing in the latest version of Final Cut Pro for iPad. For many professionals, the original release of this app last year missed the mark. Her tools were too limited to be used on a daily basis. The new version doesn’t necessarily change that – but despite my many frustrations, I’ve finally discovered the joy of using it.

The new version of the app, confusingly named “Final Cut Pro for iPad 2” (it’s for all current iPads, not the iPad 2), launched this week. Perhaps the biggest new feature in this year’s release isn’t the entirety of Final Cut Pro: it’s an entirely new app that integrates with it.

The new Final Cut Camera is a standalone app for your iPhone that offers advanced camera controls. If you’ve seen the recently released Blackmagic or Kino app, you’ll know what to expect: peaking, manual focus, and audio metering. You won’t be able to add custom lookup tables like you can in the other two.

The Final Cut Camera app can be used in conjunction with Final Cut Pro on iPad to record Live Multicam sessions with footage streamed from up to four iPhones or iPads. In Final Cut on iPad, you take on the role of director. You can quickly monitor shots coming from iPhones, zoom in, change white balance, focus mode, and more. I can see this new feature being especially popular in audio video files.

Final Cut Camera tells me that all the red stuff is overexposed and I should adjust the backgrounds.

The previews you see are compressed, but they still look great. Once you stop the recording session, the full quality files are transferred to your iPad running Final Cut Pro and viewed. The whole process is much faster than I expected. My 10-minute session with three iPhones was available for editing minutes later. The new transfer indicator window at the top of the UI shows you progress.

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There’s one upgrade I’d like to see for this feature in the future: live editing. For now, you’ll still need to finish recording first before syncing all the files and moving on to editing.

Multicam support is a nice new feature, but it belies how little Apple has done to improve the Final Cut Pro experience for iPad. The standout feature in this year’s update is external hard drive support. This is important, as this feature was strangely absent last year. But adding it immediately reminded me of how poorly Final Cut Pro for iPad (and iPadOS) handles file management.

All media files must be located within FCP library files, and the library file itself must be stored on your internal or external drive. This means you can’t split your media across multiple drives or cloud storage. One side effect of this method is that it means you are constantly duplicating files from one place to another.

The M4 iPad Pro comes with Thunderbolt 3 and USB 4 connectivity support.

There are other issues that have not changed from last year. For example, you still can’t import entire folders into Final Cut Pro, only individual files. Once imported, you still cannot organize files into separate folders or boxes such as “A-roll”, “B-roll”, “Music”, or “Graphics”.

Another new feature unique to the iPad version of Final Cut Pro is live graphics. With Apple Pencil, you can draw animations directly on your clips. Apple’s latest Pencil Pro tricks are supported here, but apart from that, there’s not much to do with the Pencil Pro itself. I wish there was a way to program the touch tap to do something more on the editing front — perhaps selecting multiple clips while scrolling, or just right-clicking. I feel that this would be useful and would speed up working with the pencil.

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There are still plenty of serious video editing features I’m waiting for Apple to add: composite clips, folders, adjustment layers, post stabilization, coloring tools like Curves, project sharing between devices, the ability to add new lookup tables, and 360-degree video. Support, object tracking, linear keyframes – the list goes on and on. If you read my review from last year, you’ll find the exact same list there.

All those missing things surprise you when you’re in flow. Eventually, I found myself making creative decisions based on poor software limitations.

At the same time, the market for mobile video editing apps is more competitive than ever. CapCut has been very popular among TikTokers. There are “Why I Switched to DaVinci” videos all over my YouTube feed. And people are still rooting for the OG iPad Lumafusion. In fact, three of the features I need most are already in DaVinci’s iPad app.

M4 iPad Pro running Final Cut Pro for iPad 2.

But even after trying all the other apps I just mentioned, and even with all my frustration with the missing features, I keep coming back to Final Cut on the iPad. Because there’s one thing Apple is doing here, and that’s the immersive experience.

Apple calls this a “touch-first” app, and I finally understand what that means. Once you get past the learning curve, once you master the controls, once you realize its limitations, you start to enjoy and enjoy it. Apple isn’t trying to replicate the desktop Final Cut experience, it’s moving toward a new experience. And you can see the way it interacts with the jog wheel and the way the sidebar comes up so you can adjust with your left hand.

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I’ve found that using Final Cut Pro in my hands is by far the most immersive way to edit. Everything is at your fingertips, literally. There’s something about this tactile approach that I’m starting to find charming, even if it’s not quite as efficient as a mouse and keyboard.

If Apple can achieve these easy wins, its vision of a touch-first capable Final Cut Pro could really blossom.

Photography by Vieran Pavic/The Verge