Final Cut Pro X 10.3 was released on Thursday, and although I haven’t had much time to play with it, it’s immediately apparent that this is a huge update. In fact, I think Apple did itself a disservice by labeling this a dot release instead of just calling it Final Cut Pro version 11.0.
The addition of Touch Bar support for the new MacBook Pros was the headlining feature of Thursday’s announcement, but it’s all of the other enhancements that make Final Cut Pro X 10.3 the most noteworthy upgrade to Apple’s trackless NLE since the original release over five years ago.
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Redesigned flat interface
It might come as a shock when you first fire up Final Cut Pro X 10.3, because it looks drastically different than the previous version that you’re been using. Gone is the 3D look and feel, replaced by an all new dark, flat look. Buttons have been moved to different areas, options have been moved — it’s all very jarring initially.
But it won’t take long for your to settle in. I find that 10.3 is much more pleasing the eyes, and more functional as well. The changes don’t appear to be done just for the sake of change, but it’s obvious that a lot of thought has gone into this redesign.
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Apple has introduced a new Flow transition feature in Final Cut Pro X 10.3 that’s remind you of Adobe’s Morph Cut tool in Adobe Premiere Pro. Flow transition allows you to smooth jump cuts to make them appear as seamless transitions. This is a welcomed addition that will surely save editors a lot of time.
Finally, custom workspaces are a reality in Final Cut Pro X. Inside the Window menu, you’ll find a new Workspaces option for saving custom workspaces, and switching between workspaces.
In the Edit menu, you’ll find two new options: a new Remove effects option and a new Remove attributes option. Remove effects is the more drastic of the two, as it eliminates all effects applied to any selected clip in the project timeline. Remove attributes allows you to selectively remove specific effects.
Faster audio fades
In the Modify → Adjust Volume, you’ll find new Apply Fades and Remove Fades options for quickly managing fades for audio tracks. These effects pertain to the head and tail of the audio track. But if you assign a keyboard shortcut, you’ll notice options for Toggle Audio Fade In and Out inside the keyboard shortcut command editor.
Set default fade duration
If you navigate to the Editing section of Final Cut Pro X’s preferences, you’ll see a new option that allows you to set the default fade duration for audio. This is a great feature to use in combination with the new faster audio fade option mentioned above.
Full height Inspector
In Final Cut Pro X 10.3, the Inspector height is no longer limited. Simply double-click on the Inspector heading to get a full vertical view. This is great if you have a clip with multiple audio tracks and/or multiple effects.
Quick layout buttons
In the upper right-hand corner of Final Cut Pro X 10.3, you’ll find three new quick layout buttons. There’s a button for the Browser, Timeline, and Inspector. You can quickly toggles these different sections on or off via a quick button press. If you’re viewing the Browser by itself and click the Inspector button, the Inspector will automatically display in full height.
Enhanced Timeline Index with redesigned roles panel
The Roles panel in the updated Timeline Index is now much more powerful than before. You can now easily edit roles, including clip color. You can also change the arrangement of roles right within the Timeline Index and have them apply immediately to the project timeline. Another feature that you’ll enjoy is the ability to quickly apply focus to a specific role, which causes other clips assigned to roles to be minimized in the project timeline.
Final Cut Pro X lets users assign roles after import, but in version 10.3 you have greater control over what clips are assigned to specific roles prior to import. Needless to say, if you use roles in your editing workflow, you’ll be pleased with these new additions.
Audio lanes in Timeline Index
Another new feature that you’ll find in the Roles panel of the Timeline Index, is the new Audio Lanes button. Final Cut Pro X now essentially allows you to pull clips based on role assignment into designated lanes. This allows users to get a quick high level overview and work on like clips, which are organized and identified by the role meta data, together in one handy grouping. Once editing has finished, your clips magnetically go back to their original position, which may involve mixing and matching different roles together.
I’ve only been able to go hands-on with Final Cut Pro X for a few hours, and I’m still running the previous version until I feel completely comfortable with 10.3. To be honest, the completely redesigned interface appeared a little daunting at first. It felt almost as if I was starting over from square one. But after a few minutes, it’s obvious that these changes were well thought out and weren’t just randomly thrown together.
I’ve never been a big user of roles, just because my video work isn’t usually complex enough to warrant using them. But I am very excited about the new audio fade controls, the custom workspaces!, the full height inspector, and the awesome new flow transition. This is a very exciting update that all Final Cut Pro X users should be happy to have. It shows that Apple is still taking its professional NLE seriously.
I’ll be back in a few weeks with more comments on Final Cut Pro X 10.3 ($299 on Mac App Store | Free 30-day Trial), including my hands-on with the new Touch Bar enhancements made possible by the just launched MacBook Pros. In the meantime, please share your thoughts about Final Cut Pro X 10.3. What’s your favorite new feature?