This Week's Sponsor:


Ensure that if a device isn’t secure it can’t access your apps.  It’s Device Trust for Okta.

First Impressions: Final Cut Pro for iPad

Today, Apple released Final Cut Pro for iPad alongside Logic Pro. I’ve been testing the app for about a week with sample projects from Apple and some drone footage I shot with one of my kids during the winter holidays. Like Logic Pro for iPad, Apple has packed a lot of sophisticated features into Final Cut Pro for iPad, but with one crucial difference. Whereas Logic Pro projects can be sent back and forth between the iPad and Mac versions of the app, Final Cut Pro projects cannot.

Managing Final Cut Pro for iPad projects.

Managing Final Cut Pro for iPad projects.

Final Cut for iPad projects can be opened in Final Cut for Mac, but once they’re on the Mac, they can no longer be opened on the iPad. Nor can projects started in Final Cut Pro for Mac be opened on the iPad. That will be a significant downside for people who already work in Final Cut Pro for Mac, but for creators with a mobile-first workflow or who want to try Final Cut Pro for the first time without paying the Mac version’s steep price, compatibility will be a non-issue.

My early experiments with Final Cut Pro for iPad with some drone footage I took in December.

My early experiments with Final Cut Pro for iPad with some drone footage I took in December.

That’s the camp I fall into. I don’t edit a lot of video, and except for testing Final Cut Pro for iPad, I would probably have dropped my drone clips into iMovie, added a few transitions, and called it a day. That sort of editing is absolutely possible in Final Cut Pro, too. However, the app allows you to do far more, as the two sample projects I’ve been studying make clear.

Final Cut Pro's default layout. Source: Apple.

Final Cut Pro’s default layout. Source: Apple.

Like Logic Pro for iPad, Apple has done an exceptional job designing a complex app in a way that feels at home on the iPad. The screen is divided into three parts:

  • A preview player, which can be taken fullscreen or moved to picture-in-picture
  • A browser for selecting video clips, effects, transitions, titles, audio, and other assets
  • A timeline for editing your video

Each section of the app is adjustable, allowing users to hide what they don’t need and shrink or enlarge them as needed, making the best use of the iPad’s limited screen space.

Final Cut Pro's inspector panel.

Final Cut Pro’s inspector panel.

There’s also an inspector panel that can be displayed along the left side of the screen with details about the clips in your timeline, along with volume, animation, and multicam elements that can be toggled on and off in the timeline section of the app. A jog wheel can also be displayed along either edge of the screen. By default, the jog wheel is a tiny floating element that stays out of the way until it’s tapped and expands in a semi-circle along the edge of the screen. It’s possible to really crowd the iPad’s UI, but by resizing and hiding elements until you need them it’s easier to focus on one aspect of your video at a time.

Having used iMovie in the past, I immediately felt at home in Final Cut Pro for iPad. Of course, there are many more features and options in Final Cut Pro, but the overall structure and editing process are similar, which made it easier to get started.

Final Cut Pro's jog wheel is an incredibly natural feeling way to review clips.

Final Cut Pro’s jog wheel is an incredibly natural feeling way to review clips.

The jog wheel and Apple Pencil hover support are two of my favorite features of the app. When the jog wheel is expanded, it’s incredibly fast to select a precise edit point, moving quickly by spinning the wheel with a fast swipe or slowly advancing the frames one by one. There is an extensive list of keyboard shortcuts for navigating your timeline, too, which is often a better approach when using an iPad in a Magic Keyboard. The neat thing about hover is that you can skim through your timeline footage quickly without moving the playhead. When you find what you’re looking for, simply tap the top of the timeline to jump the playhead to that position, and then zero in frame-by-frame using the keyboard or jog wheel.

Final Cut Pro's multicam support. Source: Apple.

Final Cut Pro’s multicam support. Source: Apple.

Final Cut Pro for iPad takes advantage of Apple silicon’s machine learning capabilities to enable several features. The app supports the following:

  • Multicam editing, allowing users to sync multiple camera angles, edit them, and switch between them
  • Scene Removal Mask for pulling subjects from the background of a clip and placing them against a different backdrop
  • Auto Crop, which crops a project to social media-friendly aspect ratios while preserving the important parts of a shot
  • Voice isolation to clean up noisy audio

Another fun feature is Live Drawing, which lets you write on top of a video using the iPad’s familiar drawing tools. What you write is automatically animated, appearing on the screen as though you were writing it live. Your handwriting is a separate layer in the timeline, which you can edit just like any other part of your video.

Exporting from Final Cut Pro for iPad.

Exporting from Final Cut Pro for iPad.

In addition to editing, Final Cut Pro for iPad can be used for capturing footage too. The app’s camera interface includes manual controls for focus, white balance, an exposure offset, and a zoom dial. There are also overexposure indicators and grid overlays. Finally, when it’s time to export your video, Final Cut Pro supports popular social media video aspect ratios and resolutions outputting to Apple ProRes, HEVC, and H.264.

I have mixed feelings about Final Cut Pro for iPad. As someone who hasn’t done a lot of video work, the app strikes me as a great place for someone to start who wants to go beyond what apps like iMovie can do. The $4.99/month or $49/year subscription with a free one-month trial also makes advanced video production accessible to a wider audience than the Mac version, which costs $299.99. The app is also perfect for anyone whose workflow is primarily on mobile devices too.

Am I saying that Final Cut Pro for iPad isn’t a ‘pro’ app? Not exactly. There are plenty of people for whom the iPhone and iPad are the sole devices they use for making videos.

However, not having the option to move a project back and forth will hamper the ability for users to get the most out of both apps, which is a negative to anyone who wants to use both. I’m sure there are plenty of people working with Final Cut projects in offices on Macs who would like to take those projects project home with them on an iPad instead of on a laptop but won’t be able to. The same goes for students using school Macs during the day who want to edit on an iPad after class. Whatever the roadblock to round-tripping Final Cut Pro projects between a Mac and iPad is, I hope it’s resolved because until it is, the lack of flexibility will likely mean most users will stick to one hardware setup or the other and view the iPad version as the lesser of the two.

Final Cut Pro for iPad is available on the App Store with a free one-month trial, after which the app is $4.99/month or $49/year. Final Cut Pro for iPad requires an iPad with an M1 chip or later and iPadOS 16.4 or later.

Unlock More with Club MacStories

Founded in 2015, Club MacStories has delivered exclusive content every week for over six years.

In that time, members have enjoyed nearly 400 weekly and monthly newsletters packed with more of your favorite MacStories writing as well as Club-only podcasts, eBooks, discounts on apps, icons, and services. Join today, and you’ll get everything new that we publish every week, plus access to our entire archive of back issues and downloadable perks.

The Club expanded in 2021 with Club MacStories+ and Club Premier. Club MacStories+ members enjoy even more exclusive stories, a vibrant Discord community, a rotating roster of app discounts, and more. And, with Club Premier, you get everything we offer at every Club level plus an extended, ad-free version of our podcast AppStories that is delivered early each week in high-bitrate audio.

Choose the Club plan that’s right for you:

  • Club MacStories: Weekly and monthly newsletters via email and the web that are brimming with app collections, tips, automation workflows, longform writing, a Club-only podcast, periodic giveaways, and more;
  • Club MacStories+: Everything that Club MacStories offers, plus exclusive content like Federico’s Automation Academy and John’s Macintosh Desktop Experience, a powerful web app for searching and exploring over 6 years of content and creating custom RSS feeds of Club content, an active Discord community, and a rotating collection of discounts, and more;
  • Club Premier: Everything in from our other plans and AppStories+, an extended version of our flagship podcast that’s delivered early, ad-free, and in high-bitrate audio.