Final Cut Pro, Logic Pro, iPad… Oh my!

This week Apple dropped a big one on its users. By the end of May, there will be new, mobile versions of Final Cut Pro and Logic Pro for the iPad. These apps feature interfaces optimized for touch and the Pencil. Both will also include some advanced features not yet found in the desktop versions. Presumably updates of those will also come in short order to maintain compatibility.

The other two Apple professional video applications – Motion and Compressor – have been left out of the loop. At least for now. System requirements for Final Cut Pro are somewhat different than for Logic Pro. FCP will require a newer iPad Pro or iPad Air. Logic Pro will run on any iPad with an A12 Bionic chip or later. Both require iPadOS 16.4 or later.

The timing of this announcement is curious, since it precedes WWDC 2023. The speculation is that it was designed to beat Google to the punch one day before the Google I/O 2023 event, where details of the Pixel Tablet have been revealed. It’s an iPad competitor, although not equal to the iPad Pro models. However, by making this early iPad-related announcement, Apple gains the attention of the tech press and might pull some attention away from Google. Hmm…

What does the competition look like?

I reviewed LumaTouch’s LumaFusion when it was launched five years ago. At a casual glance, I would say that Apple picked up design inspiration from LumaTouch. Of course, it could be argued that LumaTouch mimicked FCP in the first place. There’s also Adobe Rush and Blackmagic Design’s port of DaVinci Resolve to the iPad. Rush uses the same UI for mobile and desktop versions, but it’s completely different than Premiere Pro. Unlike the others, Resolve’s iPad application is largely the same as Resolve on the desktop.

Blackmagic Design’s expansive NAB booth had only one demo pod showing Resolve running on the iPad. It worked well, but didn’t feel optimized. I would imagine it’s still being refined. According to Blackmagic’s PR staff, they do have an idea of sales numbers, but not demographics. So they don’t actually know what sort of users have picked up this solution, unless they hear directly from them.

Toss in iMovie and GarageBand and you now have at least five NLEs and two DAWs running on the iPad. (Search the App Store and you’ll find more, but most are ones you’ve never heard of and are not marketed for high-end use.) I have no doubt that Final Cut Pro and Logic Pro will be the most fluid performers among these various options. The obvious question is what type of user are these really designed for? 

Although I routinely use both Final Cut and Logic, I will focus the rest of the discussion around Final Cut Pro. However, if your focus is Logic Pro, then check out this video by Nathan James Larsen for some thoughts and considerations.

Who is today’s professional?

Split the professional user market into two camps. In one camp, you have traditional editors who cut commercials, corporate videos, television shows, and films. In the other, you have content creators who produce much of the media seen on social platforms. Social media editors range from individual influencers to mini-marketing firms. They produce unboxing and review videos for a fee (or ad revenue) and populate multiple YouTube (and other) channels under various channel names. The needs of these two types of pros – traditional and social – can diverge wildly, but there is also some overlap. For instance, many of the larger social media content creators have made investments into traditional high-end gear – lighting, cameras, post infrastructure, etc.

There are many traditional pros who have adopted Final Cut Pro and Logic Pro as their apps of choice – more internationally than in North America. Apple has designed these products to appeal to the single user who wants to build out the software with third-party tools to be what they need it to be. Unlike Blackmagic Design, Adobe, or Avid, Apple has decided not to toss in everything and the kitchen sink. This has been very frustrating for traditional professional editors who might adopt FCP if Apple were more responsive to their requests. But these requests come from a niche part of the market. If all of the requests were addressed, would it move the sales needle for Final Cut Pro? I seriously doubt it.

Meanwhile, Apple has been looking at a different type of pro who is working the social media side of the market. After all, the needs of social media content creators are different than those of a feature film editor. Many up and coming video enthusiasts have their sights set on being the next big YouTuber rather than the next Walter Murch. The application that works well for this new type of pro and aspiring pro is more broadly applicable to a wider set of potential buyers. Furthermore, this demographic skews younger – meaning that they are less likely to rely solely on traditional desktop computers and laptops (“What’s a computer?”). They are also more open to not owning gear and software – i.e. open to subscription models.

Current US ownership of tablets is around 66%. Gen Z (those born in the late 1990s or early 2000s) is around one-fifth of the US population. From most studies, these younger users tend to use multiple devices, prefer mobile devices, and are less patient with technology issues, like slow or less-than-fluid operations.

Designing for the needs of the “new” professional

It’s into this market that Apple is now releasing Final Cut Pro and Logic Pro for the iPad. The iPad itself has always been a product that’s hard to pin down. Is it a creation device or a consumption device or both? For me, the iPad Pro models still don’t make me want to use them over a standard laptop or desktop unit. Maybe I’m too old, but I also don’t produce content on location. I’m also not a fan of the less accurate touch environment. I prefer the resources available from a traditional computing device. However, there are many users of all ages who travel and produce media along the way. For them even a small laptop is more than they’d like to carry. This is another group for whom the iPad Pro is ideal.

Whatever the ideal market may be, Apple still has the need to convince buyers that an iPad Pro is a comparable creative tool to any of its other computers. From this angle, shouldn’t a product labelled Pro also have software labelled Pro if it comes from the same company? Whether it really is or not.

To meet that objective, Apple has seemingly diverted the significant engineering and design resources of the ProApps team away from a big series of updates for the desktop applications in order to create Final Cut Pro and Logic Pro for the iPad. I have no inside knowledge, but it’s quite possible that this has helped drive some the recent leadership departures within the ProApps team. Or maybe that’s just coincidence. Whatever the case, it will be difficult to maintain parity between the two versions of these applications.


I have not tested either of these two applications. However, this iJustine “first look” video is a good place to start if you are curious. Based on the early videos that I’ve seen, I believe the claim that these versions will only differ slightly from their desktop siblings is hyperbole at best. These are a 1.0 version of a reimagined application.

One feature that has received positive response on forums is the Scene Removal Mask for FCP on the iPad. The demo shows a person on a solid white background. This is an easy replacement. The feature is much like Keyper by Sheffield Softworks (available through FxFactory). I have tested that and the use cases are minimal. Once you use a real-world background rather than a white cyc, it’s hard to perfectly refine the edge of a moving person. Keyper – and presumably the Scene Removal Mask as well – is fine when you want to place text behind a person or add some visual effect to the background, but not the person. In such situations, the edge refinement issue is less obvious. Maybe Apple’s in-house approach yields better results, but I’m skeptical.

On the other hand, there are two features that look intriguing to me. The first is Live Drawing, which takes advantage of the Pencil. Draw lines on the screen to highlight something and FCP will then “animate” those lines by stacking a series of connected title clips. The other is an elegant form of music retiming. Adobe Premiere Pro and Audition have had a similar feature for years. The FCP version “automagically” lengthens or shortens a music track to fit your video as you slide the end of the clip. It seems to work more elastically than Adobe’s feature. It’s not clear yet what the actual control variables are nor what audio artifacts occur when you do this. 

Things to consider before you leap

There are several things to consider, such as getting media in and out of an iPad and whether or not you can work with an external drive. According to iJustine, media is ingested and stored within the FCP library file on the iPad itself. If you intend to do serious work, you’ll probably want a 2TB model. Right now a fully loaded 2TB iPad Pro with Pencil, Smart Keyboard Folio, and AppleCare (2 years) is about $2,900, plus taxes and cellular service plan.

Then there’s your Apple iCloud plan. This is optional and not required for FCP or Logic to work on the iPad. However, how many iPhone and iPad users actually bother to manage their cloud back-up settings? Mobile devices like the iPhone and iPad are designed to back-up to iCloud. So, if you do intend to back-up a device with a lot of media on a 2TB internal drive, then you will likely also have to increase your Apple iCloud+ premium account. Apple has historically been stingy with storage, limiting free space to 5GB. While iCloud+ plans aren’t onerous, a 2TB plan in the US is $9.99/month. iCloud is also more of a consumer solution and doesn’t compare well to Dropbox or Google Drive in professional scenarios.

I imagine that Apple sees the ideal workflow this way. Start by shooting with an iPhone, the iPad itself, or a DSLR. Media is then brought into the iPad via AirDrop or an SD card. You do a preliminary edit in FCP on the iPad. Or even finalize it there. If you need to refine it further, transfer the FCP library file to your Mac or MacBook Pro computer and complete the project.

In this first iteration, you cannot move a project/library from the desktop version of FCP back to the iPad. There are also no third-party Motion templates or plug-ins available for the iPad, although that’s listed as “coming soon” by Apple. Watch Larsen’s video for Logic Pro. He also makes a good point about third-party audio plug-in development for the iPad.

The subscription pricing model

This brings me to the biggest change. Both Final Cut Pro and Logic Pro for the iPad are only available through subscriptions ($4.99/month or $49 annually for each) with a one-month free trial. It’s the first time Apple has used subscription pricing for any of its key applications. This indirectly brings into question how pricing will be handled going forward for any of the desktop applications and even macOS, iOS, or iPadOS. WWDC is coming up, so hopefully many of these questions will be answered.

I’m not sure the mechanisms and regulatory guidelines for the two Apple App Stores are the same. Subscription pricing for mobile apps was introduced a while back. If you are a Filmic Pro user, the most recent version is only offered though subscription. If you purchased Filmic Pro before this change, you can still use the legacy version on your device(s) without change. But if you want to update, then you shift to a subscription for the new version (free download with in-app purchases).

Final Cut Pro and Logic Pro users have become quite comfortable with the idea of buying the app once and getting free updates, including content in the case of Logic Pro users. Potentially Apple could shift to paid updates or in-app purchases instead of subscription. However, based on their experiences with the legacy version of Final Cut, this introduces complex tax implications in how a corporation realizes revenue. Ultimately such a move could impede the timely development of new features.

My understanding of the current App Store rules is that a developer (presumably including Apple itself) can only charge for an update if the changes are so significant that the application can be released as a new product. Pixelmator did this in the change from Pixelmator to Pixelmator Pro. In May, Pixelmator released Photomator as a new desktop application. It is a hybrid between Apple Photos and Pixelmator Pro designed specifically for photo editing, a la Adobe’s Lightroom. This is priced in a similar manner to the updated Filmic Pro. Download the application from the App Store for free, but then pay a subscription or a one-time charge via the in-app purchase mechanism.

Hypothetically, if a new whizz-bang version of Final Cut Pro were released – let’s say Final Cut Pro XI – then maybe Apple could legitimately charge you another $300 (or whatever). But this would be a completely separate application and not an update to your existing installed software. At the moment, what I’m discussing is nothing more than pure speculation and we’ll need to wait to see what happens.

Final thoughts

Will a shift to subscription – at least for mobile apps – stick for Apple and is it even a good move? As with any professional subscriptions, if you are making money from your work – as opposed to the hobbyist or student user – then application subscriptions are a cost of doing business. That’s typically how most Adobe customers have reconciled this. However, if you are only a casual user, why spend the money, especially when there are other options? Part of the reason Apple creates software is to showcase the potential of their hardware and generate hardware sales. For a mobile app, you may well spend $10 – $50 (once) to become an occasional user. By going subscription, I contend that Apple risks losing this tier.

As I said earlier, I’m viewing this through the lens of an older person. Apple is seeking a demographic that seems to be willing to rack up a large amount of cumulative monthly expenses, from Netflix and Apple TV+ to HelloFresh and software. This isn’t all bad and some of it can even be a trade-off in cost versus time savings. Also, this market segment’s view of owning perpetual software licenses is different than mine. Or as iJustine pointed out, cut out a couple of Starbucks trips a month and you’ve paid for the subscription.

Apple is also seeing that Microsoft, Adobe, and Avid have successfully made the switch to subscription pricing plans, so maybe they can do it, too. I would caution that a shift to subscription for a brand new product will probably fly. But if they intend to shift the existing products to subscription, then they may want to consult with Waves first. Just sayin’. In any case, I hope they leave the price structure of their desktop software alone.

I’ll close my thoughts with the issue of innovation. Will any of these changes – mobile versions, subscriptions, etc – spurn new and significant features in their professional desktop applications? I don’t know. All I can say is that for traditional professional editors, Apple is running a distant third behind Blackmagic Design and Adobe. Even Avid is picking up innovation awards for items that Final Cut Pro editors would love to see in their favorite tool. However, as I’ve been pointing out, Apple’s target user is different and Final Cut Pro and Logic Pro are positioned accordingly.

I do think this move is an interesting development that might expand the user base for the desktop applications as well. But, it’s not for users like me – traditional professional editors. I need access to more than just Final Cut Pro. I need my mobile editing applications to match my desktop applications. For me, that’s a powerful laptop and not an iPad. Ultimately the market will decide the path forward for both Apple and its customers.

UPDATE – May 24, 2023 – Yesterday Apple officially released Final Cut Pro and Logic Pro for the iPad. Alongside these, Apple also released companion/compatibility upgrades for the desktop versions of Final Cut Pro, Motion, Compressor, Logic Pro, iMovie, and an accompanying pro video formats pack.

If you want to understand the “who” and “why” of the iPad versions or these apps, then a good place to start is with popular indie musician and YouTuber, Mary Spender. Never mind the sales pitch aspect of this – I think it does a better job than Apple’s own marketing videos or any of the techie reviews. But if you do want a deeper dive, then check out these for FCP (desktop), FCP (iPad), and Logic Pro (iPad).

On a side note – if you are running these apps with macOS Ventura, then things have changed with Audio Units and some third-party audio plug-ins will no longer work in Logic Pro and/or Final Cut Pro. Unfortunately it’s different ones in each application. The reason is that AU validation will fail and, therefore, the offenders will be disabled. Of course, they work just fine in the Adobe apps or Resolve. Most of the time you can fix the issue by updating the plug-in to a newer version. On my system, this affected certain plug-ins from iZotope, Acon Digital, and Sonible. Updates will also be required for certain video plug-ins.

©2023 Oliver Peters

The Oscar. Now what?

Everything Everywhere All at Once dominated the Academy Awards night, including winning the Best Film Editing award for Paul Rogers. The team used Adobe Premiere Pro as their NLE of choice. By extension this becomes the first editing Oscar win for Premiere. Of course, it’s the team and editor that won the award, not the software that they used. Top editors could cut with any application and get the same result.

The Academy Awards started as a small celebratory dinner for insiders to recognize each other’s achievements in film. Over the decades this has become a major cultural event. Winning or even being nominated is a huge feather in the cap for any film. This can be heavily leveraged by the marketing teams of not only the film distributors and talent agents, but also the various products used in the process – be that cameras or software.

Avid’s dominance

When it comes to editing, Avid has been the 800-pound gorilla in the modern digital era. Ever since Walter Murch won for editing The English Patient using Media Composer, the specific NLE on an Oscar-winning film has become a hot topic among editors. This was never the case when the only options were Moviola, KEM, or Steenbeck.

Even this year nine out of the ten nominees for the Oscar for Best Picture and four out of the five nominees for Best Film Editing used Media Composer. Yet, Avid’s dominance in the winner’s circle has seen some occasional cracks from competitors, like Apple’s Final Cut Pro (legacy version) and Lightworks. Nevertheless, Media Composer is still a safe bet. And let’s not forget sound, where Pro Tools has even less competition from other DAWs among film and TV sound editors and mixers. All of the nominees for the Oscar for Best Sound at this year’s Academy Awards used Pro Tools.

There are, of course, many awards competitions around the world, including the ACE Eddie Awards, BAFTA, Golden Globes, and others, including various film festivals. Many of these don’t give out specific craft awards for editors or editing; however, a lot of these winning films have been edited with other tools. For example, many award-worthy indie films, especially documentaries, have been edited with Premiere Pro. Even Final Cut Pro (the current “X” version) has had wins in such categories. This includes wins for the short films, The Silent Child and Skin at the 2018 and 2019 Academy Awards.

Stacking up the NLE competitors

The truth of the matter is that today, there are seven viable applications that might be used to cut a professional feature film or documentary: Media Composer, Final Cut Pro, Premiere Pro, DaVinci Resolve, Lightworks, Edius X, and Vegas Pro. You could probably also factor in others, such Final Cut Pro 7 (now zombie-ware) and Media 100 (yes, still alive), not to mention consumer-oriented NLEs like iMovie or Movie Maker. Realistically, most experienced film editors are likely to only use one of the first five on the list.

Of those five, Blackmagic Design’s DaVinci Resolve is the app that most editors have their eyes on. Aside from its widespread use in color correction, Resolve is also a perfectly capable editing application. Although it has yet to pull off an Oscar win for editing, Resolve has been widely used in many aspects of the production and post workflow of top films. Owing to its nature as a “Swiss Army Knife” application, Resolve fits into various on-set, editing, and visual effects niches. It’s only a matter of time before Resolve gets an Oscar win for editing. But other Blackmagic Design products also shouldn’t be overlooked. In the 2023 Academy Awards, more than 20 films across the technical, documentary, short film, international feature film, and animated categories used some Blackmagic Design product.


When an application is used on an award-winning film, I’d bet that the manufacturer’s marketing department is doing high-fives. But does this really move the sales needle? Maybe. It’s all aspirational marketing. They want you to feel that if you use the same software as an Oscar-winning film editor used, then you, too, could be in that league. Talent is always the key factor, but we can all dream. Right? That’s what marketing plays upon, but it also impacts the development of the application itself.

Both Avid and Adobe have been fine-tuning their tools with professional users in mind for years. They’ve added features based on the needs of a small, but influential (or at least vocal) market sector. This results in applications that tick most of the professional boxes, but which are also harder to learn and eventually master.

That’s a route Apple also chose to pursue with Final Cut Pro 1 through 7. Despite a heralded introduction with Cold Mountain in 2003, it took until 2010 before Angus Wall and Kirk Baxter nailed down an Oscar with The Social Network. They then reprised that in 2011 with a win for The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. Even as late as 2020, the discontinued FCP 7 was represented by Parasite, winning Best Picture and nominated for Best Film Editing.

Apple and Final Cut Pro’s trajectory unexpectedly changed course with the introduction of Final Cut Pro X. This shift coincided with the growth of social media and a new market of many non-traditional video editors. Final Cut Pro in its current iteration is the ideal application for this market and has experienced a huge growth in users. But, it still gets labelled as being not ready for professional users, even though a ton of professional content is posted using the app. Apple took the platform approach – opting to leave out many advanced features and letting third party developers fill in the gaps where needed. This is the core of much of the criticism.

How advanced/complex does a professional NLE really need to be?

In the case of FCP, it’s certainly capable of Hollywood-level films along with a range of high-end, international dramas. Witness the many examples I’ve written about, like Focus, Whiskey Tango Foxtrot, Voice from the Stone, The Banker, Jezebel, and Blood Red SkyHowever, a wide range of professional editors would like to see more.

The internal corporate discussion goes like this. Marketing asks, “What do we have to do to get broader adoption among professional film editors?” Engineering answers, “It will take X dollars and X amount of time.” Top management asks, “What’s the return if we do that?” And that’s usually where the cycle stops, until the next year or awards season.

The truth is that the traditional high-end post market is extremely small for a company like Apple. The company is already selling hardware, which is their bread and butter. Will a more advanced version of FCP sell more hardware? Probably not. Avid, Adobe, and Blackmagic Design are already doing that for them. On the other hand, what is more influential for sales in today’s market – Oscar-winning professional editors or a bevy of YouTube influencers touting your product?

I’m not privy to sales numbers, so I have no idea whether or not going after the very small professional post market makes financial sense for either Blackmagic Design or Adobe. In the case of Avid, their dominance pays off through their ecosystem. Avid-based facilities are also likely to have Avid storage and Pro Tools audio facilities. Hardware most likely covers the development costs. Plus, both Avid and Adobe have shifted to subscription models (Adobe fully, Avid as an option). This seems to be good for both companies.

Blackmagic Design is also a hardware developer and manufacturer. Selling cameras and a wide range of other products enables them to offer DaVinci Resolve for as little as free. You’d be hard-pressed to find a production company that wasn’t using one or more Blackmagic products. Only time will tell which company has taken the approach that a) ensures their long term survival, and b) benefits professional film editors in the best way. In the case of Apple, it’s pretty clear that adding new feature to Final Cut Pro will generate more revenue in an amount that many competitors would envy. Yet, it would be small by Apple’s measurement.

In the end, awards are good for a developer’s marketing buzz, but don’t forget the real team that won the award itself. It’s wonderful for Paul Rogers and Adobe that Everything Everywhere All at Once was tapped for the Oscar for Best Film Editing. It’s an interesting milestone, but when it comes to software, it’s little more than bragging rights. Great to have, but remember, it’s Rogers that earned it, regardless of the tools he used.

©2023 Oliver Peters

Final Cut Pro + DaVinci Resolve

The concept of offline and online editing goes back to the origins of film editing. Work print was cut by the film editor during the creative stage of the process and then original negative was conformed by the lab and married to the final mix for the release prints (with a few steps in between). The terms offline and online were lifted from early computer lingo and applied to edit systems when the post process shifted from film to video. Thus offline equates to the creative editorial stage, while conforming and finishing services are defined as online.

Digital nonlinear edit systems evolved to become capable of handling all of these stages of creative editorial and finishing at the highest quality level. However, both phases require different mindsets and skills, as well as more advanced hardware for finishing. And so, the offline/online split continues to this day.

If you are an editor cutting local market spots, YouTube videos, corporate marketing pieces, etc, then you are probably used to performing all of these tasks on your own. However, most major commercials, TV shows, and films definitely split them up. In feature films and high-end TV shows, the film editors are separate from the sound editing/mixing team and everything goes through the funnel of a post facility that handles the finishing services. The latter is often referred to as the DI (digital intermediate) process in feature film productions.

You may be cutting on Media Composer, Premiere Pro, or Final Cut Pro, but the final assembly, insertion of effects, and color correction will likely be done with a totally different system and/or application. The world of finishing offers many options, like SGO Mistika, Quantel Rio, and Filmlight Baselight. But the tools that pop up most often are Autodesk Flame, DaVinci Resolve, and Avid Symphony (the latter for unscripted shows). And of course, Pro Tools seemingly “owns” the audio post market.

Since offline/online still exists, how can you use modern tools to your advantage?

If Apple’s Final Cut Pro is your main axe, then you might be reading this and think that you can easily do this all within FCP. Likewise, if you’ve shifted to Resolve, you’re probably wondering, why not just do it all in Resolve? Both concepts are true in theory; however, I contend that most good editors aren’t the best finishers and vice versa. In addition, it’s my opinion that Final Cut is optimized for editing, whereas Resolve is optimized for finishing. That doesn’t make them mutually exclusive. In fact, the opposite is true. They work great in tandem and I would suggest that it’s good to know and use both.

Scenario 1: If you edit with FCP, but use outside services for color and sound, then you’ll need to exchange lists and media. Typically this means AAF for sound and FCPXML for Resolve color (or possibly XML or AAF if it’s a different system). If those systems don’t accept FCPXML lists, then normally you’d need to invest in tools from Intelligent Assistance and/or Marquis Broadcast. However, you can also use Resolve to convert the FCPXML list into other formats.

If they are using Resolve for color and you have your own copy of Resolve or Resolve Studio, then simply import the FCPXML from Final Cut. You can now perform a “preflight check” on your sequence to make sure everything translated correctly from Final Cut. Take this opportunity to correct any issues before it goes to the colorist. Resolve includes media management to copy and collect all original media used in your timeline. You have the option to trim files if these are long clips. Ideally, the DP recorded short takes without a lot of resets, which makes it easy to copy the full-length clip. Since you are not rendering/exporting color-corrected media, you aren’t affected by the UHD export limit of the free Resolve version.

After media management, export the Resolve timeline file. Both media and timeline file can go directly to the colorist without any interpretation required at the other end. Finally, Resolve also enables AAF exports for audio, if you need to send the audio files to a mixer using Pro Tools.

Scenario 2: What if you are doing everything on your own and not sending the project to a colorist or mixer for finishing? Well, if you have the skillset and understand the delivery criteria, then Resolve is absolutely your friend for finishing the project. For one thing, owning Resolve means you could skip purchasing Apple Motion, Compressor, and/or Logic Pro, if you want to. These are all good tools to have and a real deal from a cost standpoint; however, Resolve or Resolve Studio definitely covers most of what you would do with these applications.

Start the same way by sending your FCPXML into Resolve. Correct any editorial issues, flatten/collapse compound and multicam clips, etc. Insert effects and titles or build them in the Fusion page. Color correct. When it comes to sound, the Fairlight page is a full-fledged DAW. Assuming you have the mixing chops, then Fairlight is a solid stand-in for Logic Pro, Pro Tools, or other DAWs. Finally, export the various formats via the Deliver page.

Aside from the obvious color and mixing superiority of Resolve over Final Cut Pro, remember that you can media-manage, as well as render out trimmed clips – something that FCP won’t do without third-party applications. It’s also possible to develop proxy workflows that work between these two applications.

While both Final Cut Pro and DaVinci Resolve are capable of standing alone to cover the creative and finishing stages of editing, the combination of the two offers the best of all worlds – a fast editing tool and a world-class finishing application.

©2023 Oliver Peters

New Plug-ins Bring More Spice to FCP

Continuum FCP Units, Hawaiki Keyer 5, XTheme Tech

All editing applications benefit from third-party video plug-ins. Two of my favorite developers are Boris FX and Noise Industries/FxFactory. Over the years Boris FX has evolved into a powerhouse plug-in developer offering the most comprehensive effects packages on the market. FxFactory takes a different route. They develop their own plug-ins, but also serve as a platform and marketplace for numerous partner/developers. The result is a product mix that’s both diverse and eclectic.

Boris FX Continuum FCP Units

Boris FX Continuum Complete has been their flagship product for decades. It runs in many of the popular post production applications, including Avid Media Composer, Adobe Premiere Pro and After Effects, Blackmagic Design DaVinci Resolve, and Apple Final Cut Pro and Motion. As I’ve previously noted, Continuum FCP differs from the other versions of Continuum and is sold as a separate product. Boris FX also breaks down some of the categories of Continuum effects into its Units products, which are subsets of the full version. These are packaged for editors and designers who don’t need or want all of what’s in the full version.

This summer Boris FX released the free BCC Looks package for Final Cut Pro editors. That was followed up recently with three new Continuum FCP Units collections: Stylize, Color Essentials, and Transitions. These are affordable collections sold with perpetual licenses. They include hundreds of presets plus Mocha masking with each effect. If you purchase all three, as well as pick up the free Looks plug-in, you’ll have a lot of what’s in the full Continuum for FCP bundle. However, you’ll need the full version for certain popular effects, like lens flares.

The installer you receive is for the complete Continuum suite. As you run it, you’ll be prompted for the activation code of each purchased Unit. You can opt to install only the licensed plug-ins or the full package, which means the non-licensed effects run in a watermarked trial mode. Adjust an effect’s parameters in the FCP inspector panel or open it in the FX Browser, where you can toggle through presets or customize the settings. Transition effects also use on-screen graphs for the effect’s velocity curves.

Boris FX has done a good job of curating the collections with plenty of useful effects. For example, Stylize features effects such as glitch, prism, gobo,  grunge, and more. Color Essentials includes many film effects, like film stocks, gels, bleach bypass, etc. Finally, the Transitions Unit offers a variety of zoom, glitch, glow, prism, and light leak dissolve effects. You certainly get a lot more with the full version of Continuum; however, the effects included within these Units collections are ones that you’ll use quite often. They complement Final Cut’s built-in effects palette, so you won’t feel like you’ve bought something that’s already in the native application.

FxFactory: Hawaiki Keyer 5

Virtual production has had all the buzz, but more often than not for budgetary reasons the fallback is green/blue-screen keying instead of a “volume” studio. To create a convincing composite, you need a top-notch keying plug-in. One of the best, just got better. The developers behind Hawaiki Keyer just upgraded version 4 to the new Hawaiki Keyer 5. This is offered through FxFactory and runs in Final Cut Pro, Motion, Premiere Pro, and After Effects.

The installation adds four plug-ins: HK5 (green), HK5 (blue), Comp Tools 5, and Slice 5. The first two are compositing effects specifically optimized for a green or blue-screen background. Comp Tools supplies all of the Hawaiki Keyer edge tools if you are using a different keyer. It will work as long as the keyer generates an alpha signal. Slice is an analysis tool. Green and blue-screen keying covers 99% of this type of compositing, but you can still use either keying effect if some non-standard background color was used. Hawaiki Keyer 5 offers a broad range of tools to adjust the key, edges, light wrap, and post-process color correction.

New features in version 5 are built-in cropping and shape masks with AI tracking. A common production situation is to shoot wide with the intent to isolate the subject on the green screen background. The shot often extends past the edge of the background cyc and may include crew or lighting or other elements that need to be removed. HK5 is optimized to even out the background for a cleaner key. It now includes tools to mask out all of the material other than what you are intending to key. No need to add additional masking and cropping effects, because these are built into the plug-in itself.

Shape masking uses AI tracking, which can be set to follow objects or faces (including multiple faces), using facial recognition. This is real-time and happens automatically without the need to first analyze the movement and generate a tracked path. As far as I know, it’s unique to have this function integrated directly into the plug-in. For my money, these new features along with the depth of the adjustments available make Hawaiki Keyer 5 the best green/blue-screen keyer plug-in on the market.

FxFactory: XTheme Tech

One major advantage to using Final Cut Pro and Motion is the ability to create your own effects and graphics templates based on the Motion Templates architecture. This has empowered a huge ecosystem of small developers to create free and paid graphics packages. Adobe’s Essential Graphics panel templates pale in comparison. There are many FCP templates, but few are designed with elements built to work together for a coherent look. The exception is idustrial revolution, whose XEffects plug-ins and tool kits are offered through FxFactory. These include professionally-designed social, sports, and news packages that are great for graphics-challenged editors like me.

idustrial’s newest is XTheme Tech, a set of titles, effects, and transitions. These matching elements are designed to be complementary and can be used as an elegant graphics package for any type of show. The tool kit is exclusive for Final Cut Pro and includes over 100 lower thirds, backgrounds, tracking callouts, panels, bars, transitions, and more. There’s also a demo project with examples of how to build looks. Elements from the demo timeline can also be copied-and-pasted into your own sequence.

The bundle includes 10 color swatch titles intended for inspiration. That’s pretty cool. Color accents and background colors can be easily modified in the inspector, which lets you experiment with your own color combinations. Copy-and-paste any of the colors from the swatches into the Mac color picker for use elsewhere. You can make parameter and text changes in the inspector panel, but also on-screen. That’s especially helpful when pinning control points for tracking callouts.

The type of plug-ins and effects that an editor might need can certainly vary from one production to the next. However, these newest updates from Boris FX and FxFactory are definitely worth looking into. As a collection, they form a versatile tool kit for any Final Cut editor and can elevate the quality of any production.

©2022 Oliver Peters

Free BCC Looks for Final Cut Pro

The Boris FX Continuum and/or Sapphire filters have traditionally been essential add-ons for many editors, regardless of NLE brand. The features of these filters are tweaked for the specifics of each host application, but in general, a BCC filter used in Media Composer can be expected to work and look more or less the same way in Premiere Pro.

Compatibility became more difficult for many Final Cut plug-in developers when Apple launched FCPX. For instance, the initial BCC version for FCPX was designed to closely mimic the other BCC versions, yet staying within the then-new Apple architecture. However, some filters never made it into the Final Cut version of BCC, because it wasn’t possible. Boris FX took a different approach in 2021. As I discussed in my review of Continuum FCP last year, the version sold for Final Cut Pro is a different animal than previous Continuum packages for Final Cut Pro, as well as other host applications.

This year Boris FX released the updated 2022 version of Continuum FCP for Final Cut Pro and Motion. Features of the 2022 version include GPU-acceleration for every effect, native operation on M1 Macs, HDR compliance, and more presets. However, the biggest new feature is the addition of Mocha and Pixel Chooser for planar tracking and masking within each effect.

The free Looks filter for FCP

While the update is nice, I wanted to look specifically at the free filter being offered. After all, most folks like free! Right? With the new update Boris FX decided to offer one of the filters for free, no strings attached. Sure, you can test out Continuum with trial versions, but this filter gives you very useful functions – and no watermark. It stands on its own, regardless of whether of not you get the full package. On the other hand, it also gives you a taste, which just may leave you wanting to get the rest of Continuum.

To start, simply register at the Boris FX website and you’ll be emailed a license code and a download link. The installer includes the full Continuum package. Read the installation prompts carefully if you only want to install the single free filter without also installing the others in a trial mode. Launch FCP and you’ll find the BCC+ Looks filter within the BCC Film Style effects category. Once you apply the effect to a clip, you can set up the parameters in the FCP Inspector pane or launch FX Editor, which is similar across multiple Boris FX products. There are 80 stylized presets in FX Editor’s lefthand browser pane, histogram and parameters are on the right, viewer controls for size and comparison spilt screen options at the top, and transport controls at the bottom.

Looks galore

The presets browser uses the current timeline image for each displayed look. Each time you move through the FX Editor timeline and stop on a frame, the preset thumbnails will be updated to the same frame as in the viewer. There are tons of variations from which to select. Once you find a look that you like, click Apply to close FX Editor. Now your FCP timeline clip is updated with that look. But it’s also easy to customize the look either by adjusting the preset or starting from scratch.

The BCC+ Looks filter is a full-featured color correction tool built around seven tabbed parameter layers within the plug-in. Processing is applied in this order, much like nodes in Resolve or layers in Lightroom: [primary] color correction, diffusion, color gradient, gels, [film] lab, grain, and post color correction. Each panel section uses slider controls, plus color pickers for gels and gradients. These parameters can be controlled in the FX Editor or directly from the FCP inspector pane without ever opening the FX Editor.

Let’s say you want a monochrome image with a color wash, diffusion, and some added film grain. If you used the native FCP tools instead of the BCC+ Looks plug-in, then this would require using several different effects in a stack. You still might not get results that look as good. Yet with Looks, it can all be done from a single pane straight from the inspector.

Although this filter is placed into the BCC Film Style category, it does not include any presets for specific Kodak or Fuji film stocks. You’d have to get the full Continuum FCP package to get those. However, there are some generic film emulation presets, like 8mm. If you open the lab tab, you do find options for bleach bypass and cross process settings. This, plus the grain tab, should be all you need to create some pleasing looks that emulate film. Quite frankly, I’ve worked with actual film in the past and most effects that claim to look like a specific brand of film stock never look right to me anyway.


Even though this is a free filter, it still includes a proper version of Mocha designed to work with these effects. Launch Mocha with the Mocha Mask button, which then opens the clip into the separate and familiar Mocha editor. Masking and planar tracking work the same as with all other versions. You might not use Mocha often with this filter, since you’re typically applying looks and color correction full screen. However, having Mocha at your disposal does make it easy to isolate portions of the image if you want to apply a look only to a region, such as a person’s face.

In closing, remember that BCC+ Looks is designed for stylized treatment of the image. It doesn’t include some of the other bells-and-whistles of the Continuum plug-in set, like gobos, glitch and damage effects, lighting, transitions, or titles. You can certainly buy the whole package and add those effects later if you find the need. But if not, BCC+ Looks is a great way to get your feet wet with Continuum and Mocha. Did I say it’s free?

©2022 Oliver Peters