The updates we have been waiting for are finally here. We take a look a the new features of Final Cut Pro X, Motion and Compressor and put the software through some tests. We publish information on the new features, the test results, the recommendations and the gotchas.

Apple has released Final Cut Pro 10.4. Motion 5.4 and Compressor 4.4. All apps are a free update to existing customers, the prices on the store for new purchases stay at $299, $49 and $49 respectively.

Before we start with the list of new features, it's important to run over some advice about updating. 

Do we really need to tell you to have copies of everything before updating to the new versions? Or don't upgrade in the middle of an important project? Probably not, but we will reiterate the advice of making copies of Libraries for one good reason.

10.4 needs to update old Libraries before working with them. You’ll have a small wait whilst the new app runs through events and projects doing what it has to do.

But before even downloading the updates, it is a really good idea to zip up the old apps and put them all in a folder. Label it up as FCPX 10.3 and keep it somewhere safe.

Final Cut 10.3 and 10.4 cannot exist on the startup disk together, renaming or moving the apps doesn’t work.

Do you need to run MacOS 10.3 High Sierra? No, the updates will run perfectly on Sierra 10.2, but the HEVC features will not be available. You do need to be running 10.12.4 or later, the current version of Sierra is 10.12.6.

Having got that out of the way, let's take a look at the list of new features in the apps!


Final Cut Pro 10.4

There are three major new features in Final Cut Pro X 10.4

  1. Advanced Color Grading
  2. 360-degree VR editing
  3. High Dynamic Range Workflows

Other new features/Improvements

  • HEVC options
  • New Splash Screen with direct access to help documents
  • White Balance Picker in Balance Colour Effect
  • New Custom LUT Loader Effect
  • New HDR Tools plugin
  • Optical Flow now uses Metal for improved performance (See test)
  • Import iMovie for iOS Projects and Titles
  • New Retina Display GUI for Logic Pro Audio Plugins
  • New XML 1.7 includes colour grading, 360 and VR information.
  • NFS Protocol support for Libraries & Source Media
  • New camera import plugins from RED and Canon available 

Motion 5.4

  • 360 VR Support
  • Convert project types - Project/Title/Effect/Transition/Generator
  • New Photo Looks Filters
  • New Overshoot Behaviour 
  • Optical Flow now uses Metal 

Compressor 4.4

  • Support for 360 VR
  • Support for HEVC
  • Support for HDR
  • MXF Enhancements 


Final Cut Pro 10.4

As you would expect, FCPX has had the most new features added. No major GUI changes apart from the 360 viewer options and the new colour controls.

Is there a performance increase with 10.4? Yes and no.

We rendered out a short 1'15" sequence in 10.3 before upgrading to 10.4. It contained a chromakeyed 4K (not UHD) progressive video composited over a moving background with a drop shadow, all in 1080i. There was also a Broadcast Safe effect on an overall adjustment layer.

So there was quite a lot going on including repositioned and shrunk 4K material. This was all performed on a latest edition Kabylake MacBook Pro 2.9 GHz Intel Core 7, 16GB of RAM and a Radeon Pro 560 4GB GPU.

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We timed the render twice, clearing the render files and restarting the app every time. The results were 9 minutes 48 and 9 minutes 45 seconds.

We then loaded up 10.4 as per the instructions above and repeated the test.

The results were 9 minutes 39 and 9 minutes 40 seconds. So no real change when it comes to rendering. But...

FCPX and Motion now use Metal to analyse Optical Flow, so back to the test bench.

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A 12 second 1080p clip from a Canon 5D stretched to 50% using Optical Flow took 1 minute 7 seconds to analyse each time we tried with 10.3.

Using 10.4, the Optical Flow analysing took only 27 seconds. Less than half the time of before.  So major gains to be had there.

We like the new colour tools, in fact we like them a lot and our impression using them has been of a very, very grown-up version of the Premiere Pro Lumetri panel. It is obvious the moment you start to use the new controls that a lot of thought has gone into the design and operation.

The Colour Board still exists, will still work and will contain all the grades from previous projects. You will not lose any colour grading moving projects to 10.4. The new tools are in addition to the Colour Board and can be used in conjunction with the board and in any order.

The choice for the default colour tool to show when hitting CMD 6 can be found in the Editing Preferences.

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The new wheels are very easy to use, especially with the saturation control on the left of the colour wheel and the luminance control on the right. Holding down the Option key 'gears down' the control in use.

Apple spend a lot of time designing the GUI and have made the decision for the user to have the option to display all 4 wheels in a diamond shape.

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Or show only one wheel if space is limited, should you be editing on a laptop for example.

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We also like the temperature control, which is very handy to warm a shot up without having to negotiate the wheels. We would assume the numbers are a close match to the Kelvin scale, the range is from 2500 to 10,000. Handy for fixing footage shot under tungsten lighting for example.

Tint goes from a -50 green to a plus 50 magenta. The hue control will rotate all the colour vectors and can have multiple uses from correcting out of phase news feeds to subtly swinging all the colours by a few degrees when matching cameras in a multicam.

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If numbers are your thing and not dials and knobs, then the wheel values are duplicated in the settings which can be accessed by hitting the 'show' label on each panel.

All values can be fixed with one global keyframe! You will find that in the top right-hand corner of the Inspector.

Pretty impressive, especially if you have had to endure the Colour Board for 7 years, but Apple hasn't stopped there.

They have also added Colour Curves and Hue/Saturation Curves.

The Colour Curves display a master Luma and then RGB values in a line that can be modified by adjusting the line, FCPX will add a control point automatically. Final Cut Pro X will actually only add points to the Luma curve. Using the eyedropper on RGB curves will show you the value, but will not create a point. This is intentional, as sometimes you want to measure a colour you want to keep.

Again, you can either see all 4 curves at once or toggle the display to show just one at a time.

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Clicking on one of the colours enable you to load up any colour as a curve. Very clever that FCPX loads up one of 12 colour labels to follow. Hello Sea Foam!

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There is no limit that we found for adding control points. To delete a point, select it and hit delete.

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If that isn't enough control, there is another type of colour correction, they are the 6 Hue/Saturation Curves - or lines as they first appear.

By using the dropper and selecting a colour on the image, FCPX will add three points on the line. You can then add or subtractive value to affect just that range. Here you can see we changed the colour of the guy's jumper!

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One final note, the Colour v Sat control at the bottom is set to Orange by default as this matches up to skin tones.

As you can see, the combination of wheels and curves gives FCPX some very powerful colour correcting that's logically laid out and easy to use. We are sure that more editors will finish grading their projects in FCPX without having to roundtrip to another grading solution.

So what about performance using the new colour tools?

Back to our 12 second clip. With one colour correction applied using the wheels, it took 4 seconds to render.

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To prove the point we went mad and added 7 more instances of colour correction, one with a mask. The clip rendered in 11 seconds, so obviously some concatenation going on there which is good to see. The bottom line is you can stack as many of these up as you want!

Although you can reorder the colour corrections, the Balance Colour and Match Colour effects appear at the top of the Effects list by default.

Also the controls are independent, so you can still access the colour information for a mask if you have made the image black and white in a previous instance of correction.

It might help to assign the Effects On/Off toggle to a key so that the whole grade can be turned off and on. Here you can see the toggle assigned to F8 in the custom keyboard commands. Should you import projects from iMovie, you will have the option in the Inspector to turn off the iMovie colour adjustments.

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Remember the new shortcut CMD Left Arrow or CMD Right Arrow goes to the next clip with the same role, which will come in very handy when colour grading.

You might have wondered where the new auto white balance tool is in the panel. It isn't.

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The automatic white balance is an option in the Balance Colour effect which gets applied to media by selecting the magic wand under the viewer or hitting OPT CMD B on the keyboard. Dragging the eyedropper around on footage corrects the whites that should be whites.

This effect can be saved a preset and cut & pasted to other clips or put on an adjustment layer.

Have you been having to use a custom LUT loader plugin? Not any more as there is a new Custom LUT effect that can be found in the Effects Browser. These are not only available in the effect, but can also be applied on clip level in the Inspector.

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You can import 3D LUT files with the filename extensions .cube and .mga. You can select single files, multiple files, or a folder of files. One word or warning here, the LUTs do not follow the Library, so if you are handing a Library over, you need to copy the LUT as well. If a custom LUT isn't available, FCPX will show a yellow warning button.

There are a couple of new camera import plugins released. Canon has released a plugin for Cinema Raw Light (EOS C200) and there is a new updated plugin from RED.

However when it comes to new formats, HEVC (High Efficiency Video Coding) or H265 is now supported. H265 doesn't appear as an option in the export dialogue, you have to create a compressor preset to use within FCPX. Expect file sizes to be halved with the same picture quality.

Also supported are HEIF (High Efficiency Image File Format), a file format for still images & image sequences and RF64, an extension to the WAV file format that allows for files larger than 4 GB.

The second large feature update is the addition of 360-degree VR editing.

We have to confess here that we don't edit in 360, but we do see the immersive format having a niche within the industry, so it is good to see Apple supporting this in 10.4.

It is important to point out that the 360 tools are built-in to Final Cut Pro and these allow the editing of equirectangular footage right in the app. It can also handle large resolutions such as 8K and beyond. (Provided you have a fast disk drive attached!)

Playback can be independent onscreen whilst also outputting to a VR headset for viewing. (Which will follow the head movement) The currently supported HTC Vive gets a minimum refresh rate of 90 Hertz to avoid that seasick feeling.

There is also a new range of effects & titles for 360 editing that can be found in the Effects Browser and Titles & Generators sidebar respectively.

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Sadly, the 360 patch tool doesn't work on normal 'flat' footage. Maybe a project for a bored engineer to convert it over Christmas? 

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What should be stressed here is that Apple has made it very easy for the user to edit in 360. No fudges or workarounds, everything should just work. All the user has to do is select a new monoscopic or stereoscopic project.

Although FCPX is good, it won't do the stitching, that has to be completed before importing the footage.

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The FCP XML has had an update. XML 1.7 adds support for new color grading controls, 360 VR effects, and HDR. Will we see grades being transferred over to another app? Does that matter now that FCPX has excellent colour correction tools? 

It is also now possible to store Libraries and media on volumes using NFS. With the cost of 10GigE topology coming down, that will become more important with time.

Finally for FCPX we will mention the support for HDR workflows.

Agan, we don't do HDR yet at towers, so we are having to rely on supplied information. Although we are pretty sceptical about the uptake of 360 video, we can see HDR workflows becoming very important in the future. Especially with the proliferation of OTT suppliers such as Apple TV, Amazon and Netflix.

Final Cut Pro supports the two standard formats for HDR video—Rec. 2020 HLG and Rec. 2020 PQ for HDR10 output. 

  • HDR10 is most commonly used for streaming and for output on Blu-ray discs.
  • HLG is useful for broadcast and live TV. An advantage of HLG is that you don’t need an HDR TV to view the content. You can view it on a legacy standard-dynamic-range (SDR) TV that isn’t designed to work with HLG or HDR, and the image will have acceptable quality. However, if an HDR- capable TV detects the relevant metadata in the HLG file, it will play back the file in HDR

Everything with HDR in FCPX should just work, the scopes recalibrate to handle brightness up to 10,000 nits. The HDR output can be monitored by a third-party I/O device, such as an AJA Io 4K Plus, then attaching an external HDR display via HDMI or HD-SDI.

Should you not have pockets deep enough to afford an HDR display, you can monitor HDR as raw values within FCPX.

For converting clips on the timeline between formats, there is the new HDR Tools plugin

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We will finish the FCPX section by saying that you can import iMovie for iOS projects directly and the Logic Pro audio filters have had their GUIs updated for retina displays.

Sadly, the Multimeter LUFs display is so tiny, it is almost useless. A real shame now that so many of us broadcast editors spend the day adjusting everything for -23. Hopefully Apple could just build this in as a display option inside of FCPX without having to add a plugin.

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Motion 5.4

We will start with a Motion feature that not everybody will appreciate, but for plugin developers, it's huge. You can now convert Motion Projects into Effects, Titles, Transitions or Generators, or back the other way or in-between each other.

Before, plugin developers had to make sure they started off with the right type of file and making a similar transition of a generator for example wasn't just cut and paste.

Motion will add the necessary placeholders when converting between different types.

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Also new is an Overshoot behaviour. This can add 'springiness' to animations and can be applied to an object's many parameters. It animates a parameter beyond its defined end value, before springing back. If you've ever tried to keyframe bouncing or springiness, you will know how much time this will save. 

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There's a new set of Photo filters that you will find under Looks in Motion's Library. No control or parameters on these apart from a mix slider.

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As you would expect, because FCPX now supports using Metal for Optical Flow, Motion does the same too. We would expect the same magnitude of performance increase.

Motion also supports 360 content creation. There are new presets in the startup screen to choose from to create 360 content. Well when we say content, you can build not only projects, but Title, Transition, Effect and Generator plugins for use in 360 FCPX projects. 

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Just to give a hint of how powerful this could be, a 3D particle generator can emit particles into the 360 space. 

Motion can also be hooked up to a VR headset like the HTC Vive to view your Motion project in real time as you design it. Pretty cool and it opens up a lot of possibilities. Having said that, it would be nice to see the standard broadcast output make a return to Motion.

Compressor 4.4

Compressor often gets overlooked in reviews, but it has had a healthy update to keep up with FCPX and Motion.

4.4 now supports 360 VR and can share directly to YouTube, Facebook & Vimeo. It will also embedd spherical metadata on saving.

HEVC is supported. As we mentioned you be coming here to make an export preset for FCPX.

HDR is supported. HDR can be delivered as P3 D65 PQ, Rec. 2020 HLG, and Rec. 2020 PQ for HDR10 with industry-standard HDR metadata.

The MXF handling has been enhanced. There are new codec options including AVC-Intra, D-10/IMX, and XDCAM HD. Compressor also adds support for ProRes, 10-bit uncompressed video, and HDR video within an MXF container.


All round we are impressed. The new colour correction tools are fabulous on their own, but coupled with the new 360 and HDR capabilities, this is a great update. With the imminent release of the iMac Pro, this version of Final Cut Pro X will provide a very fast and capable professional workflow. It's also great for kids who just want to upload to YouTube!


peter wigginsPeter Wiggins is a broadcast freelance editor based in the UK although his work takes him around the world. An early adopter of FCP setting up pioneering broadcasts workflows, his weapon of choice is now Final Cut Pro X.

You can follow him on Twitter as @peterwiggins or as he runs the majority of this site, you can contact him here.