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The History of Final Cut Pro

written by: Shane Burley•edited by: Rhonda Callow•updated: 3/9/2010

From the classrooms of small universities to the studios of Hollywood, Final Cut Pro has jumped to the top of the non-linear editing market. How has Apple made this simple application into the new standard?

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    Choosing Favorites

    Since the inclusion of non-linear editing software the film industry has been reliant on popular computer software as the prime means of post-production. As the industry has been conducted as a customized market the large studios tend to share production tactics, a trend that has allowed certain editing programs to be favored over others. With the more recent upheaval of independent filmmaking what is demanded in editing has changed and a new standard for the entire field has emerged.

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    Catching Their Eye

    Much of the quick success of Apple’s Final Cut Pro can be attributed not to it’s superiority in film editing, but simply to Apple’s ability to draw attention both from the professional and consumer realms. As a way of attacking Adobe’s control of Macintosh software, Apple went strait after its editing suite, Premiere. Apple’s editing program had been available for years before, but the most important shift in product use came when Apple announced that it would allow owners of Adobe Premiere to upgrade their copy for Final Cut Express or receive a $500 rebate on Final Cut Pro 4 (Easy Switch). This was just a move to cement Final Cut Pro’s recent entry into the multi-faceted media markets. This public resurgence continued when certain web icon’s jumped on board, mainly Lawrence Jordon. Jordon is well known as a feature film editor and creator of the 2-Pop web forum. 2-Pop labels itself as a “Digital Filmmaker’s Resource Site," and really brings together a huge amount of information on technology, filmmaking tactics, and industry information. Their forums became famous for all sorts of independent filmmakers to share ideas and new tricks they figured out with their editing software. Final Cut Pro was pushed hard on this website, mainly because of Lawrence Jordon’s ties to Apple.

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    A Filmmaker Favorite

    The independent film and consumer markets were taking shape in this realm, which just helped to lubricate the recent attempt at larger studio funded projects in using this editing suite. In 2001 The Rules of Attraction, a film directed by Roger Avery based on the book by Brett Easton Ellis, was the first feature film to use only Final Cut Pro. It was put together on a beta version of Final Cut Pro 3, which proved that a “3:2 pulldown matchback to 24 fps" could actually occur with consumer based software. 3:2 pulldown is a process by which 24 frame material is converted to 29.97 frames. This is done by first slowing the frame rate down just slightly, then stretching what would normally be four frames for every five frames of NTSC video into an five frames. This is a form of Telecine, or the standard transfer of film into another electronic medium for post-production or exhibition. After this process was successfully used within Final Cut Pro, Roger Avery became one of its biggest proponents. This lead many more mainstream editors and filmmakers, notably Walter Murch, to believe that the software was ready for more standardized use within the industry. In 2002 Steven Soderburgh used it to edit his low-budget digital feature, Full Frontal. The following year saw Final Cut’s biggest spike when Anthony Minghella used it to edit Cold Mountain, which then received the Academy Award for Best Editing. Currently Final Cut Pro is being implemented for projects that employ cutting edge digital effects, like this year’s 300 and the upcoming Spike Jonze adaptation of Where the Wild Things Are.

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    Recognition

    In 2002 Final Cut Pro was honored with a Primetime Emmy Engineering Award for its contribution to television as a whole. By this point major networks and cable channels like NBC, CNN, ESPN, and Showtime are using the application to edit programs ranging from reality shows to feature-length projects. The recognition was the second for Apple, which was already recognized for its adoption of high-speed Firewire technology.

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    Marketing

    Apple used the same marketing strategy that it employed with products like its iPod, forcing the new technology before competitors had a chance to compete. With Final Cut Pro they created an application that was extremely user friendly, allowed it to infiltrate the consumer market with things like rebates and Firewire, and then used web resources to pitch the product’s use to small, independent filmmakers. Once a cross-over director, like Roger Avary, jumped on board the bridge between the small time and the large media conglomerates was made.

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    For The Future

    Today Final Cut Pro is the all-purpose editing package, ranging from major studios to your home computer. With the addition of Final Cut Express for an inexpensive price, Apple has made sure that it has dominated the digital video market in the same way it did with the mobile music field.