Today is a big day for creative professionals in the Apple ecosystem. Not only does it mark the launch of the new iMac Pro, a powerful all-in-one beast specifically built with professional creatives in mind, but it also marks the launch of the next major version of Final Cut Pro X.
Although this latest Final Cut Pro X update brings it to version 10.4, don’t be fooled into thinking it contains only minor features or bug fixes. On the contrary, Final Cut Pro 10.4 contains several new major features and/or enhancements, along with a slew of other additions, making this one of the biggest releases in the app’s six-and-a-half year history.
After visiting with Apple in New York for a demonstration of the update, we’ve been testing Final Cut Pro 10.4 to learn all about what’s changed. In this hands-on post and high-level video walkthrough, we showcase many of the newest changes and features, including 360° video editing, enhanced color grading, HDR updates, iMovie for iOS support, HEVC, custom LUTs, and more.
The best wireless keyboard for the Mac?
Here’s a brief bullet-point overview of many of the new features found in Final Cut Pro 10.4
- 360° VR
- Advanced color grading
- Custom white balance
- High Dynamic Range (HDR) workflows
- iMovie for iOS import
- Custom LUT effect
- HEVC support
- Canon Cinema RAW Light
- Redesigned Logic Pro-plugins with Retina display support
- XML 1.7
- Optical flow with metal
- NFS support
- Motion 5.4
- Compressor 4.4
Note that all testing was performed on a 2017 5K iMac with a 4.2 GHz Intel Core i7, 32 GB RAM, Radeon Pro 580 8 GB, and 1 TB SSD. Outside of a 2TB SSD and an extra 32 GB of RAM, this is the most capable 5K iMac that Apple currently sells.
As you might expect, the presence of 360° VR support is one of Final Cut Pro 10.4’s tentpole features. Back at June’s WWDC 2017 keynote, Apple first established its plans to support certain VR workflows, even going as far as to sell developers an External Graphics Kit with a GPU enclosure and Radeon RX 580.
Final Cut Pro X is Apple’s first customer-facing attempt at such support, and it succeeds in that it allows users to drop 360° video into a project, and view it directly within a VR headset.
360° VR support in Final Cut Pro X includes a complete toolset to let you import, edit, and deliver 360° video in both monoscopic and stereoscopic formats. The software is smart enough to figure out the type of video that you’re using, and will automatically adjust the 360° projection and stereoscopic modes. Users also have the option of going in and manually adjusting these parameters with the inspector.
HTC Vive VR headset
Final Cut Pro 10.4 supports high resolution 360° videos — HD, 4K, 8K, and higher footage. Apple provides several tools to help streamline 360° video editing efforts, including a special 360° Viewer for monitoring a connected HTC Vive headset in real time. This allows Final Cut Pro X users to see how their creations actually look when viewed in VR.
I utilized my Mantiz Venus external GPU setup to connect the HTC Vive to my 5K iMac. From there it was just a matter of installing SteamVR, and going through the typical configuration steps associated with setting up the Vive.
Apple Motion 5.4
Launching alongside Final Cut Pro 10.4 is Motion 5.4, which has also been upgraded with 360° features in mind. Users can create custom 360° motion graphics content, including particle effects, and add them directly to a project.
As you might expect, there are also dedicated 360° video effects built into Final Cut Pro X for adding blur, glow, and sharpness to video content. Along with that, there are additional 360° generators and titles.
Advanced Color Grading
In prior versions of Final Cut Pro X, those who wished to modify color had access to the Color Board, along with a few other basic tools. With Final Cut Pro 10.4, Apple has significantly upped its color game with a brand new suite of tools that’s sure to make editors happy.
The new Color wheel interface combines traditional hue, saturation and brightness controls into a single interface. Previously users had to rely on third-party software or plugins for this type of control.
Likewise, Color Curves were previously a feature that you would only find on third-party plugins like the excellent Color Finale. With Final Cut Pro 10.4, Color Curves are just a click or keyboard shortcut away. Besides providing you with fine-grained control over color and luminance, Color Curves also let you take advantage of control points to target specific color ranges or luminance levels.
Along with Color Curves, there are also Hue/Saturation Curves. This handy tool lets those doing post production work sample a color and instantly change the hue, saturation or luminance of that specific color within the final image. Be sure to watch our hands-on video above for a brief demonstration of why this is such a powerful tool for those wishing to modify the look of their videos in post.
Have you ever shot a video and slapped it on the timeline only to find out that the white balance was way off? We’ve all be there, and while there are ways to go about fixing the issue with prior versions of Final Cut, I usually had mixed results.
In Final Cut Pro 10.4 you’ll be happy to know that there is now a built-in white balance feature that makes it easier than ever to adjust white balance in post. Simply select the eyedropper tool after applying Balance Color, sample the pixels in the viewer that you know should be white, and you’re provided with a precise manual white balance. You can then easily use the Paste Attributes command to quickly deploy white balance values across multiple clips in the timeline.
Making color grading easier
In addition to all of these new color-centric features, Final Cut Pro 10.4 is designed in a way that eases some of the friction associated with color grading. For example, there is now a dedicated button in the inspector to show and hide color tools.
The Color inspector will automatically open when a color effect is applied, and users even have the option of saving the current state of the inspector as a part of the Custom Workspace feature introduced in Final Cut Pro 10.3.
Since there are now many more tools associated with color grading, you’ll find a brand new option in the app’s preferences to select which color tool appears by default. Users can select from the traditional color board, or the new color wheels, curves, or hue/saturation curves. Of course, it’s still super-easy to switch between all of the color tools on the fly and you can utilize keyboard shortcuts to apply wheels, curves, and toggle color effects.
The software engineers behind Final Cut Pro 10.4 have obviously thought about the different types of displays that will be used when editing, and understand that not everyone has the luxury of sitting in front of a 27-inch 5K iMac with tons of spare display real estate. With that thought in mind, there are various layout options to choose from as you go about adjusting the look of your footage. Users can choose between a traditional diamond layout to display four color wheels at once, or opt to show a single wheel at a time.
High Dynamic Range (HDR)
The final big tentpole feature to make it to Final Cut Pro 10.4 is support for High Dynamic Range (HDR) workflows. This affords users the ability to import, edit, grade and deliver a final product destined for theater, 4K HDR televisions, and other valid destinations.
To help assist with HDR workflows, you’ll find new scopes that automatically adjust to reflect HDR brightness levels, and tone mapping that lets users toggle between HDR and SDR output for broadcasts.
Final Cut Pro 10.4 supports two standard HDR video formats: Rec. 2020 HLG and Rec. 2020 PQ for HDR10 output.
To help monitor brightness levels associated with HDR, you’ll find a new HDR-centric waveform monitor that’s capable of indicating brightness levels up to a whopping 10,000 nits. That’s 20 times the brightness of the display on Apple’s iMac Pro.
And of course, it’s possible to monitor HDR video directly from Final Cut pro 10.4 using a third-party display. In instances where you don’t have access to an HDR-enabled display for real time monitoring, Final Cut Pro 10.4 includes the option to view HDR as raw values.
AJA’s lo 4K Plus lets you connect to a HDMI/SDI-enabled 4K HDR display via Thunderbolt 3
Other key features
iMovie for iOS import
With Final Cut Pro 10.4 it’s finally possible to produce a rough cut of a project in iMovie on iOS, and send that project directly to Final Cut Pro X. Previously, such a workflow was only available between the mobile and desktop versions of iMovie. This is a great feature for quickly conceptualizing a video before performing more advanced edits, audio, and color work.
Custom LUT effect
Final Cut Pro 10.4 also brings Custom LUT support to the table, allowing users to add Custom LUTs to clips in the timeline. And since this is a standard effect in Final Cut Pro X, it’s easy to drag and drop a Custom LUT on to the timeline, and swap its order in the effects stack.
If you use an iPhone 7 or later, and are running iOS 11, you have the option of shooting 4K video using the new HEVC (H.265) codec. This codec is more efficient than H.264, but prior versions of Final Cut Pro X did not support it. With this latest update, it’s now possible to edit videos shot in HEVC directly via Final Cut Pro X without any sort of conversion.
Canon Cinema RAW Light
Canon C200 owners will like the fact that you can now natively edit video shot in Canon Cinema RAW Light directly in Final Cut Pro. It’s even smart enough to automatically apply the correct gamma LUT to convert LOG footage to Rec. 709 when editing.
Updated Logic Pro plug-ins
Logic Pro Plugins have long been a feature in Final Cut Pro X, but they’ve yet to receive a significant update until now. Many of the existing Logic Pro plugins in Final Cut Pro 10.4 has been updated for Retina displays, and also feature resizable layouts. It’s a small detail, but one that is nonetheless appreciated.
XML 1.7 support
XML is a key way to interact with third-party apps for things like color grading, media management, etc. XML 1.7 provides the needed hooks to support 360° VR, enhanced color grading controls, and HDR.
Optical flow with Metal
Optical flow — a retiming feature that lets you build super-smooth slow motion by analyzing footage and generating new video frames when necessary — is now built on Metal, making it faster to create high-quality retiming effects.
Final Cut Pro X now officially supports storing libraries and source media on shared storage devices that utilize the NFS protocol. NFS support lets multiple users access media assets when working on the same material.
Compressor is a must-have app for anyone who regularly produces videos with Final Cut Pro X, because it allows you to customize the way videos are delivered. With it you can customize the output down to the bitrate value, and deliver content automatically to popular platforms like Vimeo and YouTube.
Version 4.4 of Compressor is there to support the new features in Final Cut Pro 10.4. It allows you to encode VR content for sharing directly to YouTube, Facebook or Vimeo, and supports HEVC encoding to save on file size while preserving the same visual fidelity.
Compressor 4.4 also lets you deliver HDR video as P3 D65 PQ, Rec. 2020 HLG, and Rec. 2020 PQ for HDR10. Delivered content includes all of the necessary industry standard meta data needed for HDR. And if you’re deploying video to the iTunes Store, Compressor 4.4 lets you easily convert HDR to SDR and include HDR files with the iTunes Store package.
It goes without saying that this is an absolutely massive update for Final Cut Pro X, and arguably the largest update in the app’s six-and-a-half year existence. The most useful new feature, in my eyes at least, is the enhanced color controls.
Prior to Final Cut Pro 10.4, color management served as an obvious deficiency that made relying on third-party plugins like Color Finale a necessity. With the app’s updated color control features, Final Cut Pro X takes a major leap in the right direction.
The HDR and VR aspects of the update are also very important, especially as these workflows become more popular in the mainstream. Having the ability to edit and manage motion graphics for 360° VR video is a big deal as users look for new and unique ways to differentiate and diversify their content. And with more people adopting 4K HDR televisions, being able to import, edit, grade and deliver HDR content will inevitably become a must-have feature for any modern NLE.
And the smaller aspects of the update, such as HEVC support (finally), and the ability to create rough edits on an iOS device and then transfer them directly to Final Cut Pro X, are welcomed new additions.
All in all, Final Cut Pro 10.4 is a amazing new update, and one that was certainly worth the wait. It’s only right that it gets to launch alongside Apple’s new iMac Pro, an all-in-one powerhouse for creative professionals, that’s primed for complex video workflows.
What are your thoughts on Final Cut Pro 10.4? Are you satisfied with its new features? Sound off down below in the comments with your thoughts and opinions.