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iMovie vs Final Cut Pro X | What should you choose? Should you upgrade?

Updated: Apr 18, 2021

iMovie vs Final Cut Pro X | What should you choose? Should you upgrade?

Are you using iMovie and thinking of upgrading to Final Cut Pro? Or do you want to compare iMovie and FCPX to see which one is best for you? I'm going to give you the pros and cons of each and my recommendations for when to choose each program. If you want to watch the video version of the tutorial you can do that above or on my YouTube channel here.

If you have an Apple computer and you're doing any kind of video editing, two main programs that you may consider using are iMovie and Final Cut Pro. Now, of course, there are plenty of other video editing software programs out there that do work on the Mac, but these two are optimized for it and are very popular, so I'm just going to focus on them for this post.

The first main difference that we have to talk about is the cost. iMovie is completely free and comes pre-installed on all of the new Macs or MacBooks. Final Cut Pro will set you back $300. It's hard to argue with free, so we're going to start out talking about the benefits of iMovie, and then I'll move into Final Cut Pro. There will be a little bit of back and forth as we go, but that'll be the general flow of this post. If you're just getting started or you're new to video editing, iMovie is a great place to start. It's got a very simple, intuitive, easy-to-use user interface. Final Cut Pro is going to be a lot more robust. There's a lot of more you can do with it, but it does have a much bigger learning curve. So that's just something to consider.

If you’re comparing the two, another great benefit of iMovie is that there’s not only a desktop app version, but there are versions for the iPad as well as the iPhone, so you can continue your project on all of the platforms. Final Cut Pro is a desktop-only software. iMovie does have quite a few built-in effects, basic color correction, titles, transitions, things like that. If you want to dive deeper into that, you’re going to need to switch over and upgrade to Final Cut Pro, especially for things like advanced color correction, color grading, etc. One of the benefits of iMovie having a little bit more of a simple set of effects is that it is a little bit faster than Final Cut Pro. It's not going to take nearly as long to render those effects.

One you’ll see in Final Cut is that some of those render times can slow things down just a little bit as you're working in the program. So, Final Cut Pro, is it worth the upgrade? I definitely think so. And I’ll give you my reasons as to why. If these resonate with you and you're ready to make that jump, I definitely recommend getting the 90-day free trial, which is still currently available as of this filming. You can get your feet wet, you can give it a try and if it works for you and you like it, then at the end of that, you'll be able to make that upgrade and you have 90 days to save up for that $300. So that's a really great way to go.

One great benefit of switching from iMovie to Final Cut Pro, if you're ready to make that upgrade, is that it does have a similar user interface. So, it's not like you're going to be starting from scratch. It's easier to make that transition than if you were coming from, say a completely different software. One of the big reasons that I chose to make the switch and the upgrade from iMovie into Final Cut Pro was the number of video tracks that you're able to have in iMovie. You are limited to two video tracks, and I just found myself constantly trying to find workarounds and things to get the effects and the looks that I wanted in my videos. In Final Cut Pro you can have an unlimited number of video and audio tracks, so you can do pretty much anything you want with your videos. And this was a huge, huge upsell for me. Final Cut Pro also comes with a ton of built-in effects, transitions, and titles and text effects.

Another big reason that I switched was the ability to load in third-party plug-ins. If you get bored with the ones that are built in, in iMovie there's really nothing you can do. You can't add external plug-ins. In Final Cut Pro, if you see something you like in a movie or in somebody else's video, you have the ability to go to a third-party website and just pay for it and download that plug-in and load it and work with it yourself. And that was another huge reason that I wanted to do this upgrade.

In addition, as I mentioned before, Final Cut Pro just gives you a lot more control over pretty much all aspects of your video - in all of your effects, your transitions, your text, you have just a lot more control over all of the different elements of it, specifically your color grading, and fixing all those little tiny elements of your video that you may want to tweak. You're just going to have a lot more control over that in Final Cut Pro.

Final Cut Pro also gives you full control over your project settings - things like the frame rate and the aspect ratio. That's a huge one iMovie. You’ll notice that you pretty much only have the ability to do that widescreen look, and if that's all you need, that's fine. But if you're going to, say repurpose your content from YouTube to Instagram, to Facebook, to all these different platforms, it's going to be really hard to do in iMovie. You're going to have to do those black bars on the side and things like that, or do different workarounds. In Final Cut Pro you can actually have multiple projects within your library, different events, etc. File structure is a whole other video, but basically you can control all those aspect ratios and you can get all the different looks that you want, within that program. So that's another great feature for Final Cut Pro if that's something that you need.

And then a couple of things that I haven't used yet, but I know are features that Final Cut Pro has that iMovie really doesn't. And if these are important to you, then it's definitely a reason to choose Final Cut Pro over iMovie. One is multicam editing - if you're doing interviews and things like that. Final Cut Pro is definitely the way to go, for natively editing those. Another is key frames and animations - there's really no great way to do that in iMovie. And Final Cut Pro gives you complete control over that feature.

So, which one's right for you - iMovie or Final Cut Pro? If you're just getting started with video editing, you're not doing super complex videos... I'd say definitely start with iMovie. It's a great way to get the hang of video editing and it's probably going to serve you really well. If you're ready to level up your videos, do some more advanced effects and things like that... Final Cut Pro is a great way to go, especially right now, when there's a 90-day free trial, you really have nothing to lose. There is a little bit of a learning curve, but I think it is definitely worth it. I hope this was helpful for you! Let me know in the comments, which one are you going to choose iMovie or Final Cut Pro?

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