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How Final Cut Pro for iPad differs from Mac version

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After a long wait, Final Cut Pro, Apple’s professional video editing software, is now available for M1 or newer iPads. Editors accustomed to Final Cut Pro on their Mac can easily switch to their iPad as a portable editing machine.

However, before starting with Final Cut Pro on your iPad, you need to know how it differs from the Mac build. Both versions enable pro-level video editing, but they are understandably different in key ways.

Final Cut Pro: iPad and Mac versions compared

Final Cut Pro competes with Adobe Premiere Pro. They both deliver advanced nonlinear video editing and other features that make them the software of choice for professional film editors. With the new version of Final Cut Pro for iPad, Apple offers video editors a new, portable solution that it calls “the ultimate mobile studio” (alongside an iPad version of music editing software Logic Pro).

Despite the two versions of Final Cut Pro sharing a name, the experience of using Final Cut Pro on the iPad is not the same as the Mac version. On the iPad, the editing tool utilizes a touch-first interface, although Apple tried to retain a sense of familiarity for Mac users. However, due to differences between iPadOS and macOS, some weird limitations affect the app’s iPad version.

How iPad and Mac versions of Final Cut Pro differ:

Note: This is only the first build of Final Cut Pro for the iPad. Apple likely will address many of the below-mentioned limitations with future releases.

Library management

Media management on Final Cut on iPad is similar to iMovie.
Screenshot: Rajesh

Library management is vital when editing videos, as it ensures you can find the clips you are looking for easily. This is an area where Final Cut Pro for iPad vastly differs from its Mac counterpart. Every Final Cut library on a Mac can consist of multiple projects and events, which makes organizing your media library easier.

On the iPad, though, there’s no media library per se. Similar to iMovie, you create a project, and then import your clips into it. Then you can drag them to the main timeline for editing. While this approach is simpler, it is not an ideal solution when managing lots of video clips.

Also, while you can import media from external storage drives on Final Cut Pro for iPad, the app offers no support for keywords or roles. The ability to analyze a video or audio during import is also missing.

Any media file you import is automatically copied into the project bundle — you can’t leave them in place. So, good luck if you are trying to edit large videos on your iPad with 128GB or 256GB of storage.

Cannot detach audio from video on iPad

On Final Cut Pro for Mac, you can detach the audio track from a video with just a few clicks. But this is not possible on the app’s iPad version. You can expand or trim the audio track, but detaching it from the video file is not possible. This is a significant limitation and could affect your editing workflow.

On the flip side, Final Cut Pro for iPad provides all the handy audio editing tools, like fade in/out, loudness boost, noise removal and voice isolation. Plus, when you add music to the timeline, it is automatically trimmed to fit the video’s length. However, this only works for the built-in soundtracks.

Final Cut Pro for iPad lacks plugin support

One of the best parts about Final Cut Pro for the Mac is its vast library of third-party plugins. Unfortunately, the iPad version does not support plugins. So, you cannot use your favorite Final Cut Pro plugins while using your iPad to edit videos.

Depending on your editing workflow, this could be a bummer, especially if you heavily rely on third-party effects, titles and transitions in your videos.

What’s worse is there’s no support for custom lookup tables. This is a problem if you shoot using a particular log profile. While support for several LUTs is built-in, you cannot use third-party plugins to add support for more. So, if the log profile you shoot in is missing, editing videos on the iPad is a no-go for you.

Limited support for external display

On Final Cut Pro for Mac, you can make full use of a multi-monitor setup. While M1 and newer iPads support external displays, Final Cut Pro for iPadOS is lacking in this department. The app will mirror your iPad’s display to the external screen. You cannot set the timeline to appear on your iPad, with other components being visible on the connected screen.

Missing keyboard shortcuts

If you are heavily into video editing, you know how useful Final Cut Pro’s keyboard shortcuts are. They greatly help in speeding up your editing workflow. Although keyboard shortcuts are supported on Final Cut for iPad, some are missing.

For example, pressing V to enable/disable a clip does not work. Similarly, you cannot bring up the Export menu using the Cmd-E shortcut. On the bright side, popular shortcuts, and those you are more likely to use frequently, are supported in the iPad version of Final Cut Pro. This includes using J/K/L to control media playing, and I/O for jumping to the start and endpoints of your video.

One-way project compatibility

Final Cut Pro for iPad showing the Export menu option
You must export Final Cut Pro projects from the iPad before you can use them on your Mac.
Screenshot: Rajesh

Unfortunately, if you had plans to start editing a Final Cut project on your Mac and then move it to the iPad, you are going to be disappointed. You can open Final Cut Pro projects from iPad on the Mac, but not vice versa. This is because Final Cut projects for macOS are a lot more complicated, and the iPad version does not support them.

Plus, to open a Final Cut Pro project started on an iPad on your Mac, you must first export the library from the Export menu. Then, you can AirDrop or copy it over to your Mac.

Pricing

Apple charges a flat fee of $299.99 for Final Cut Pro for Mac. For the iPad version, Apple offers subscriptions only. You can get Final Cut Pro for iPad for $4.99 per month or $49 a year (after a free one-month trial).

Conclusion: Final Cut Pro for iPad vs. Mac

This is how Final Cut Pro's timeline looks like on an iPad Pro.
Final Cut Pro timeline on an iPad Pro.
Screenshot: Rajesh

Unsurprisingly, Final Cut Pro for iPad is not an exact replica of its Mac counterpart. And that’s a good thing. Apple has designed Final Cut for the iPad, keeping the touch-first interface in mind.

The iPad version’s jog wheel is an incredibly handy addition that lets you make minute adjustments to your clips much more easily. And, while the Final Cut Pro interface understandably looks different on iPad, it will still feel familiar to users of the Mac version. The learning curve is not big if you are coming from the Mac version. You can start editing a video within a few minutes of playing around with Final Cut Pro on your iPad.

As for the missing features, this is only the first version of Final Cut for iPad. Apple will continue improving its video editing tool for the iPad. Hopefully, it will only take a matter of time before Apple adds the features.



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