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February 28, 2012
By Chris Potter

Last year Apple released a new version of Final Cut Pro to cries that it had abandoned the pro market. Although we’ve seen steady (and much needed) improvements in FCPX, there are many who still think this is the case.

Recently, Apple did a couple of things that could further strike fear into the hearts of people that think it has abandoned the “professional market”.

  • First, it released a preview of Mountain Lion, the next version of the Mac operating system, that heavily borrows features from iOS. Some will construe this as the dumbing down of the Mac OS.
  • Second, Tim Cook has basically said that iOS and OS X could be further converged so that the Mac OS could run on ARM processors like those that power the iPhone/iPad.

Is this a sign that the Mac is going to be turned into glorified iPad with a keyboard? Is this a confirmation that Apple is further shifting away from the needs of the professional market? Will the rumored end of life for the Mac Pro come to pass?

Personally, I think Apple is wisely bringing the best of the desktop and mobile worlds together and that the frenetic pace of its Final Cut Pro X updates provide signs that it’s deeply committed to the professional market. Further, I think that Mountain Lion adds some features that could be of real use to the production community. The key ones follow.

AirPlay Mirroring – Great for Client Video Review

This is the main feature that I think has lots of potential in terms of video production. Much like how AirPlay works on iOS devices, you will be able to wirelessly stream 720p video that is playing on your Mac to an HDTV that is connected to an Apple TV (second generation).

Simply click the AirPlay icon on your menu bar while playing a video, select an Apple TV that is connected to the same Wi-Fi network, and video will start playing back on your television. Apple notes that setting your display resolution to match your Apple TV will create a sharper image.

Apple notes that you will be able to screen movies from iMovie directly to a high definition television (along with things like Keynote presentations). Given the mention of iMovie, it will be interesting what Final Cut Pro X integration is like. It would be very cool if users could stream full-screen video without having to export video first.

When we introduced AirPlay video support with ScreenLight in December, our clients saw first hand how great AirPlay can work for video collaboration. While this may not be a color calibrated broadcast system, adding AirPlay to Mac OS could be a really handy way to quickly review video with clients and colleagues.

Gatekeeper – Keep Malware from Messing with Your IP

This is a new security feature that will help protect users from inadvertently installing malware. The three default levels of protection seem sensible and should satisfy all types of use cases. Users can select to download and install:

  • Software from the App store only. This is the most secure option, as Apple closely scrutinizes everything that is distributed through the App store.
  • Software from the App store and Apps with a developer ID. This is the default setting, and the intermediate level of security. Apple will work with developers to digitally sign applications and ensure that they are secure. These apps can be distributed outside of the App store.
  • Software from anywhere. In essence, this is how things work today.

Given that security threats appear to be growing along with Mac usage, this seems like a great upgrade for professionals whose livelihood is tied to the intellectual property that resides in their computers.

This should do for software security what Time Machine did for backups.

iCloud

With Mountain Lion, Apple is integrating iCloud more deeply into the OS and applications. I love the idea that many of my documents will automatically be made available from my Mac, iPhone, and iPad. Updating once and having the changes synchronized across devices is awesome.

While I think that his area has tons of potential, I don’t expect this to meet the sharing needs of professional video producers. In an ideal world you would be able to send a clip from a timeline in Final Cut Pro out for remote viewing by your collaborators over the Internet regardless of where they are or what device they are viewing it on. Due to the complexity of encoding video for multiple devices, and the wide range of post-production work flows, this seems to be beyond the immediate ambitions of iCloud.

In the meantime this leaves a significant opportunity for companies like ScreenLight to help people easily collaborate on video production from anywhere, anytime, anyplace.

Messages

Personally, I’m quite excited about this one and I’ve downloaded the beta version of the application.

Essentially, Messages replaces iChat and integrates its functionality with the iMessage application from iOS (think free SMS between iPhone/iPad users), and FaceTime. It basically combines instant messaging, text messaging, and video calling into one application.

I’ve always been bothered that I can’t text someone and then carry on the same conversation when I sit down at my computer. With Messages I can do exactly that. I can start a conversation on my iPhone, keep the conversation going on my Mac, and then later continue it on my iPad. The full conversation is synced across all your devices. Cool.

Not sure if this provides any special benefit for video production or editing (other than the fact that anything that helps communication is good in my books), but it’s a great feature.

Mountain Lion – A Reason To Upgrade to Final Cut Pro X?

None of these OS features will be available to Final Cut Pro 7 users, who will likely be stuck using Snow Lion.

Is it worth upgrading from 7 to X just to take advantages of things like AirPlay Mirroring? For most users, probably not… Is it worth upgrading to FCP X in general? For many people, the answer is yes.

With 3 software updates in 6 months, Apple has addressed most of the major concerns with FCPX. In particular, the most recent release added multicam editing, broadcast monitoring, media relinking, and XML 1.1. With a $10 utility called 7 to X from Intelligent Assistance, Final Cut Pro X users can import legacy projects, thus removing a major barrier to adopting the new editing software (see our take here). In short, the reasons for not upgrading are disappearing as Apple reaffirms its commitment to support this market.

Unless there is something particular about your work flow that is not yet supported in FCPX, I think that the balance has tilted and that the benefits of the new software outweighs the costs. Final Cut Pro X, offers the advantage of access to more powerful hardware (without having to install an old version of the OS), 64-bit performance, background processing and powerful media organization (that takes some adjustment).

With the new OS features that will be part of Mountain Lion, the balance may shift a little further towards FCP X.

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