One of the things I love most about Final Cut Pro is the vibrancy and resourcefulness of the third-party ecosystem. It is comprised of clever folk who have dedicated themselves to providing the tools we use everyday to extend and enhance the core functionality of the Pro Apps. FCP was built this way by design and over the last 12 years third-party developers of all shapes and sizes have worked to create a range of products that has grown to be quite staggering — the comprehensive Product Directory at FinalCutters is testament to this. It’s not outlandish to argue that the breadth and diversity amongst the third-parties is what made FCP a force within the industry. In this respect it’s true to say that Final Cut Pro has no peer. And for this reason, if nothing else, the ecosystem should be championed.

Amongst all the commotion this week the dearth of third-party tools for Final Cut Pro X is perhaps what I find most jarring about the release. While I might be interested and excited about some of the new tools, I don’t quite recognise FCP without the community of ancillary developers. Philip Hodgetts, who has managed to become ubiquitous in this story, makes several comments in his comprehensive “What are the Answers to the Unanswered Questions about Final Cut Pro X?” article. Perhaps most encouraging of all, he writes:

“[D]uring my direct briefing, the Apple folk made it abundantly clear that the ecosystem was very important to them, and that there will be a new, and much improved, replacement for the current XML workflow. That’s entirely consistent with what I’d heard pre-release that there would be a new form of XML and that it would be accessed by some sort of SDK (Software Developer Kit). This seems like encouraging news, even if it will mean a lot of extra work on our own software to ‘get back to where we are’. Unfortunately, access to these features is not available at today’s release, so we have to wait until Apple deem it complete enough to open to third parties like us at Intelligent Assistance.”

It may be very difficult to see envisage a happy ending today, especially if the absence of a specifc feature means you’re struggling to understand how FCP X fits into your workflow puzzle. I can only say that we’ve been here before. The web may not have been around to amplify the concern in the same way, or the pedigree of the existing product lead to such particular expectations, but the we ought to remember that the original FCP faced criticism and derision on release. Up until recently we were fairly sure we knew how that turned out.

As Philip suggests, I can’t imagine that it will be this way forever, indeed alongside the new features (Rigging, Publishing and FxPlug 2) in Motion 5, some third-party tools are already available and there are signs that developers are eager to move forward. Just how far there is to go and how long it will take is impossible to judge, but once this happens Final Cut Pro X might just emerge as an exciting and vibrant solution.

UPDATE: Paul Griffiths has written a thoughtful and provocative article, “Thoughts on FCPX after the London Supermeet”, in which he also raises the subject of thrid-party support. The comments are interesting too!

UPDATE 2: Jon Chappell of Digital Rebellion has just posted a fascinating article, “Final Cut Pro X from a Developer Perspective” in which he summaries some of the new features and opportunities available to third-parties with FCP X. It has to be a good sign when someone who has as much insight and experience is seeing positives. Jon also makes reference to the results of some digging by Chris Kenny. He also seems pleased with what he’s discovered


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