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Is Final Cut Pro finally better on the M4 iPad Pro?

by xyonent
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For the past two weeks, I’ve been editing in the latest version of Final Cut Pro for iPad. For many professionals, the original release of the app last year was a disappointment, with too few tools for everyday use. The new version doesn’t necessarily change that, but I’m finally discovering the joys of using the app, despite my many gripes.

The new version of the app, confusingly named “Final Cut Pro for iPad 2” (for all current iPads, not just the iPad 2), was released this week, and perhaps the biggest new feature in this year’s release isn’t just Final Cut Pro features, but an entirely new app that integrates with Final Cut Pro.

The new Final Cut Camera is a standalone app for iPhone that gives you advanced camera controls. If you’ve seen the Blackmagic app or the recently released Kino app, you can expect features like peaking, manual focus, audio meters, etc. You can’t add custom LUTs like the other two apps.

The Final Cut Camera app works with Final Cut Pro on iPad to record live multi-cam sessions with streaming footage from up to four iPhones or iPads. With Final Cut on iPad, you take on the role of director, monitoring the footage coming from your iPhone, zooming in and changing white balance, focus mode and more on the fly. We think this new feature will be especially popular for video podcasts.

Final Cut Camera is telling me that the red is too overexposed and that the background needs to be adjusted.

The preview you see is compressed, but still looks great. When you stop the recording session, the full quality file is transferred to the iPad running Final Cut Pro and rendered. The whole process is much faster than you’d expect; a 10 minute session using three iPhones was editable after just a few minutes. A new transfer indicator window at the top of the UI shows the progress.

One thing I’d love to see as a future upgrade for this feature is live editing – currently you have to finish recording first before you can sync all your files and start editing.

Multicam support is a great new feature, but it contrasts with how little else Apple has done to improve the Final Cut Pro for iPad experience. The standout feature in this year’s update is support for external hard drives. This is important; the feature was curiously absent last year. But its addition quickly reminded me just how poorly Final Cut Pro for iPad (and iPadOS) handles file management.

All media files must be stored inside an FCP library file, and the same library file must be stored on either an internal or external drive, meaning that you cannot split your media across multiple drives or cloud storage. One side effect of this approach is that you will always be duplicating files from one location to another.

The M4 iPad Pro comes with support for Thunderbolt 3 and USB 4 connections.

And some issues remain the same from last year: For example, you can’t import entire folders into Final Cut Pro, only individual files, and once imported, you can’t organize your files into separate folders or bins like “A-roll,” “B-roll,” “Music,” and “Graphics.”

Another new feature unique to Final Cut Pro on the iPad is Live Drawing. With the Apple Pencil, you can draw animations directly onto your clips. Apple’s latest Pencil Pro tricks are supported here, but other than that there’s not much you can do with the Pencil Pro itself. I’d love to be able to program haptic squeezes to do more on the editing side, like selecting multiple clips while hovering the mouse or even right-clicking. I think this will be useful and speed up working with the Pencil.

There are still a lot of serious video editing features waiting for Apple to add: compound clips, folders, adjustment layers, post stabilization, coloring tools like curves, cross-machine project sharing, the ability to add new LUTs, 360-degree video support, object tracking, linear keyframes, the list goes on and on. Read my review from last year and you’ll find the exact same list.

These missing elements really surprise me when things are going smoothly. In the end, I find myself making creative decisions based on bad limitations in the software.

Meanwhile, the market for mobile video editing apps is more competitive than ever. CapCut is hugely popular among TikTok users. My YouTube feed is flooded with “Why switch to DaVinci” videos. And people still root for the OG iPad app, Lumafusion. In fact, three of the features I desperately need are already in DaVinci’s iPad app.

M4 iPad Pro running Final Cut Pro for iPad 2.

But even after trying all of those other apps, and despite my frustrations with missing features, I still find myself coming back to Final Cut on my iPad because there’s one thing Apple is getting right here: the overall experience.

Apple calls it a “touch-first” app, and now I finally understand what they mean. Once you get past the learning curve, get used to it, and realize its limitations, you actually start to enjoy using it. Apple isn’t trying to recreate the Final Cut desktop experience, they’re going for something new. You can see this in the way the jog wheel works and the way the sidebar appears so you can edit with your left hand.

I’ve found that working with my hands in Final Cut Pro is the most immersive way I’ve ever edited – literally everything is at my fingertips. While it’s not as efficient as a mouse and keyboard, I’m starting to find this more tangible approach appealing.

If Apple can achieve these easy wins, its vision of a high-performance, touch-first Final Cut Pro could truly take off.

Photo: Vjeran Pavic/The Verge

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