My Final Cut Express 4 Review at

January 7, 2008 — 33 Comments

I wrote a review of Final Cut Express 4 for Macworld, which is now available on the magazine’s Web site, giving it four mice and noting that iMovie HD users who aren’t impressed with iMovie ’08 might want to just move up to Final Cut Express instead.

I also included a screenshot that demonstrates the difference between iMovie ’08’s Large size of HD image capture and Final Cut Express’s capability to import full-quality HD. However, the image online is just a thumbnail. To view the screenshot at its regular size, click the image below:


33 responses to My Final Cut Express 4 Review at


    I listened to the podcast and came to check out your website here. I really liked the podcast and being a soon-to-be mac video editor (haven’t done any to this point) searching for information on what to use, I found it helpful.
    I’m going to go read your review at macworld now.
    Thank you!


    Your article is very informative but I still have a question. In relation to use and features, not cost,(for a new Mac user interested in more than basic video editing)would you recommend buying FCP express 3.5 and upgrade to 4 or just purchase version4? Can Garageband really replace Soundtrack and or are the Livetype extras worth it?


    I just wanted clarification on a couple of points you made in your MacWorld review. I have FCE HD and will be getting a new iMac. I’m considering upgrading to FCE 4. In order to use Soundtrack from FCE HD with FCE 4 and to keep the greater number of LiveFonts, would you recommend installing FCE HD first on the new machine then the upgrade of FCE 4 or would that FCE 4 install remove Soundtrack? I’m just trying to get advice on what’s the best way to install FCE 4 on my new iMac and still be able to keep Soundtrack and have more LiveFonts.


    Mark: For features, you’re better off buying FCE 3.5 and then upgrading to 4.0. Garageband is fine, but Soundtrack is better.
    Jim: Yes, install FCE HD first. Installing FCE 4 after that will not remove Soundtrack or the LiveFonts.

    MIller Mackenzie July 6, 2008 at 1:47 pm

    Is there some reason FCE 4 will not import sound from a sony dsc h5 digital camera? I am having issues with several digital camera vidoes whereby the sound does not appear to be transferred into FCE4


    Are you noticing that there’s no sound during the import process, or the clips are imported, and then in FCE4 you can’t hear any sound? If the former, that’s normal; FCE doesn’t play back sound during import.
    If the latter, what format is the DSC H5 using to capture video? If it’s MPEG, the video may need to be “de-muxed” using a tool such as MPEGStreamclip.


    We use FC Pro to edit our videos, but I want to do some editing on my own… and find iMovie impossible. From your comments above, it looks like I should get FCE 3.5 (OR) FCE HD first… and then upgrade either one to FCE4. So which would you suggest? Thanks!


    I’d start with FCE 3.5, which gives you Soundtrack 1.5, then upgrade to 4.0.


    Hi, 2 questions:
    1. Does Final Cut Express replace BOTH iMovie and iDVD?
    2. If so, is Final Cut Express much more stable? I’m having many crashes and burn errors using iMovie and iDVD.


    No, Final Cut Express only replaces iMovie; it’s a more advanced video editor, and does not have any DVD capabilities. You have to export video from Final Cut Express and then add it to iDVD or DVD Studio Pro to make a DVD.
    And, yes, Final Cut Express is more stable.


    Beside the limited features and plug-ins in FCE compared to FCS, what is the difference in the highest quality image both can produce? Is there a difference in the compression, or using using uncompressed video? Also, I read some reviews saying that FCE doesn’t really support AVCHD. You have to buy some additional software in order to do that. What can you tell me about that?
    Thanks a lot.


    Final Cut Express does not support editing uncompressed HD video and many pro-level codecs. It only works with DV, HDV, and AVCHD. The latest version does work with AVCHD, no extra software required.


    Any chance FCE will in the near future come out with a version that supports surround sound?


    With Apple, there’s definitely a chance FCE will support surround sound, but you never know. Since Final Cut Pro appears to support it, it’s possible Apple would unlock that feature for FCE (since FCE is roughly equal to one generation behind Final Cut Pro with some features disabled). But, it’s hard to say whether that’s enough of a Pro feature that the company would want people to pay the full price of Pro to get it.


    I had a couple questions for you.
    1) I currently have Final Cut Express HD 3.5 and am having problems with memory. Would you recommend purchasing an extra 2GB of memory. (I am constantly getting the message of “dropped frames”)
    2) Should I simply purchase iMovie ’09, it seems simpler and that, at the moment, is all I need to get started, or should I stay with FCE HD ??


    1. I always recommend buying more memory, especially now that it’s pretty cheap these days. The dropped frames problem might have to do with the speed of your Mac’s processor. Or, try changing the RT playback settings.
    2. Based on what I’ve seen so far, iMovie ’09 looks pretty darn impressive. I don’t know what kind of movies you’re making, but if you’re finding FCE overwhelming, then iMovie ’09 is a definite possibility. We won’t know about how well it performs until it’s actually released at the end of January, though.


    Hi Jeff,
    I’m an iMovie user (albeit a three-year-old version) and have been disappointed with the picture quality of the DVDs I’ve produced (colours can seem slightly washed out, frames seem to flicker slightly occasionally).
    I was just wondering if you thought I would see an noticeable improvement with Final Cut Express?


    Do you see the color problems and flickering in iMovie, or just on the DVDs you produce? I’ve not noticed any difference with the color quality of footage imported into iMovie versus Final Cut Express, so it could be that your camera is doing the washing out. (My old Canon Elura was like that.)
    If things look good in iMovie, then the fault could lie with iDVD; in that case, I’d try burning the disc at High or Professional Quality (if your version has the Pro quality; it may not, since that was added in iDVD ’08 I believe).


    After further investigation I think it may actually have been due to me choosing the wrong frame rate for an iMovie project (I’m hoping that was the cause anyway).
    Although it may well be worth me upgrading to iLife 08 to get the professional quality setting.
    Many thanks for your feedback.


    I am wondering if I should upgrade to FCE 4.0. I have FCE 3.5 right now. My equipment is mini-DV based – not HD. Are there improvements in this version that I wold find helpful? I am getting ready to start editing a project shot with two cameras – something new for me. I’d like to have technology on my side so if there are improvements in the upgrade, I’ll buy it. Thanks very much!


    Since you’re not using AVCHD, and it sounds like you’re always working with DV footage (not mixing HD/DV/whatever), then I’d say stick with FCE 3.5 for the time being.
    Another consideration is that it’s been more than a year since FCE 4 was released, and although Apple doesn’t always release updates every year, it wouldn’t surprise me if we saw a new version sometime this year. That may have features that would compel you to upgrade.


    your review is so good. i just read it and it was great.


    Final cut is world class! all my friends witha mac computer swear by it! So if you can afford it and you want to make serious film, I suggest you get it!


    Greetings all,
    I’ve used fce for awhile. I’m considering a complete jump into HD. I’m looking at a canon hf200(AVCHD flash cards only), FCE? & a new imac in the fall when snow… arrives. Will this set up work?
    What are the options for producing HD quality, edited movies. It seems the only way to watch movies is to save to a hard drive & hdmi into your HD TV since Blueray recorders are not yet on the scene. Please advise. Thanks, DNB


    Hi Jeff,
    I just started up my Father using FCE, he came from pinnacle studio windows.
    He absoluty loves editing on the mac with FCE.
    Now he asked me is there a simple way of transfering the sound to 5.1 surround sound with some tool. In pinnacle he had the option to assign tracks to the differrent surround speakers.
    I know it is not possible in FCE but maybe with some outside audio editor????


    I am using a Panasonic DVX100 camcorder that shoots 24fps.
    I heard that the Final Cut Express can’t work in 24fps.
    Is this true, does the new Imovie? or do I have to edit in Final Cut Studio?


    I just purchased a MacBook Pro, love it, it is running snow leopard and iLife’09. I am interesting in upgrading my video editing software to something more advanced then iMovie ’09. I have thought about FCE 4 but have read reviews that FCE HD 3.5 is better because of the features. I currently am using a Sony HDR-SR11 HD AVCHD HDD camera.So, my question is :
    1) What would I be better off getting FCE 3.5 or FCE 4?
    2) Will FCE 3.5 work with Snow leopard and iLife 09 software?
    3) Pro’s and cons 3.5 vs 4?


    I read your review on Macworld and it was very insightful. I can’t seem to however find a definitive answer on whether Final Cut Express 4 (FCE) will really produce a better HD result than iMovie 09 (iM9). I have a Canon HG20 (PAL). Full HD, AVCHD.
    I understand that for interlaced video iMovie 09 uses single-field processing (drops every other line on interlaced video).
    1 – Is this the case for PAL video as well, or does it use another trick like dropping every second frame or reduce the video resolution?
    2 – iM9 appears to import HD at full 1920 x 1080 pixels (from the import screen), but processes internally at 960 x 540 pixels. Is it not similar to working in a preview mode?. I.e. when you export using QuickTime and select best compressor and full HD won’t you get the same final quality result as in FCE and if not why?
    I expected the final export movie to be created using “reference” points in the iM9 project, and the original full HD file (saved as your iMovie event in Apple Intermediate Codec format) is used. I.e you work with a preview, but when exporting the source is still a full HD file, resulting in no sharpness and quality loss.
    3 – You mentioned that Unlike iMovie ’08, Final Cut Express ingests AVCHD footage at its full resolution. I assume that this is the same in iM9. What I don’t the understand is if iM8/iM9 don’t import AVCHD at full HD, how can you export this event / project to FCE later. Is the information not still gone? Does this not mean for optimal quality you have to do the import directly form your camcorder to FCE?
    I don’t really want to get involved in the complexities of FCE, and like the simple editing in iMovie 09. However if this mean that my end product consumer HD video using iM9 will have 50% less data (from iMovie uses single-field processing (drops every other line on interlaced video) it would make a difference to me.
    Thanks so much


    Sorry it’s taken me so long to get back to this thread.
    As you can tell from the review, FCE 3.5 offers more features in terms of getting Soundtrack and more LiveType templates. However, you’ll need to then upgrade to FCE 4.0 to import your AVCHD footage directly. (There are ways to import it indirectly, such as through iMovie ’09 or third party software; I’ve written other posts about it here on the blog.)
    I don’t know if/how well FCE 3.5 works with Snow Leopard (I haven’t tried it).


    Hey Jeff,
    I’m have a basic question. I’ve edited a project in Final Cut Express from my AVCHD camera. No problem. Now what are the steps I need to follow to export my project and then get it into iDVD on my iMac?


    You need to create chapter markers (if you want them) and then export the movie as a QuickTime movie. I detail the steps on page 11 of the free iDVD addendum PDF (linked at the top of the front page of this blog).


    Hi Jeff! Question for you! I have been using iMovie HD on my MacBook since purchasing it in 2008. I have just purchased a Canon Rebel t2i and feel it is time to upgrade my editing program. I was advised by Apple to upgrade my OS to Lion so that i could purchase Final Cut X, only to find my graphics card was incompatible with this new version of Final Cut. I would love to buy a new computer (and Final Cut X), but that is not in my budget at the moment. Would you recommend buying Final Cut Express 4 from Amazon as a solution? Would that work with Lion? How would it do editing .mov files from my new Canon?
    I appreciate your counsel tremendously!


    If you can get FCE 4 for a good price, then I’d say yes. It’s very different from Final Cut Pro X, and iMovie, so expect a learning curve, but it does give you much more editing power.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s