Final Cut Express vs. iMovie

I’ve been working on my first Final Cut project on the new iMac since it came in on Monday, teaching myself how to use the new software along the way. I was hoping Final Cut would be as easy to pick up as iMovie, but was sadly disappointed in that regard: this is an application for which one really needs to read at least parts of the manual.

I’d estimate that the new software is probably 5x as difficult as iMovie, but 15x as powerful and flexible. Some things that it does that iMovie can’t include on-the-fly color correction, all kinds of interesting compositing (including chroma-keying), capturing a precise segment of tape using DV device control, and handling lots of audio and video streams at once. Some things it does better include transitions, organizing source media, slow motion (it generates extra frames to smooth things out), custom titles, and audio editing.

There are a few areas where it’s come up short: the manual doesn’t explain how to modify motion paths. While iMovie includes several animated title plugins, I haven’t been able to figure out how to do similar animations in Final Cut yet. It doesn’t play back MP3s well (though a quick conversion to WAV works around that issue), nor does it integrate with iPhoto nearly as smoothly as does iMovie.

Overall, however, it’s nice to have the added power that the program provides, and I’m enjoying the learning process.