There’s a quiet 360-degree battle being fought behind the scenes at Apple and Adobe when it comes to your favorite non-linear video editing tools, Final Cut Pro X and Adobe Premiere Pro. Some recent hires hint at an expanding 360-degree video portfolio at both companies.
First, a bit about the current state of non-linear video editing and 360-degree video. Adobe added a VR viewer and some basic VR tools to Premiere Pro last summer, but Apple’s been mostly quiet on the 360-video front with Final Cut Pro X.
To make even the most basic edits, such as flattening out text so that it doesn’t warp in 360 degrees, or reorienting a camera that starts off pointed the wrong way, you need extra software such as Mettle’s SkyBox Suite or Dashood Cinema Solutions 360VR Toolbox. This isn’t an ideal situation for 360-video editors. It’s hundreds of dollars more added to an already expensive workflow, and it requires installing and updating an entirely separate suite of software. In the case of the Dashwood tools, you have to download a whole separate storefront, FxFactory, just to get it up and running on Final Cut Pro X.
But all that could be changing soon. Within months of each other, both Adobe and Apple have taken two of the biggest players in 360-video tools off the board. Adobe acquired Mettle’s SkyBox Suite of 360-degree tools for Adobe Premiere Pro and hired away its co-founder, Chris Bobotis, to be a director of professional video in the company. Adobe hasn’t been shy about what this means for the company. In a June 21 news release the company wrote, “Adobe will integrate SkyBox plugin functionality natively into future releases of Premiere Pro and After Effects.” No ambiguity there.
Apple’s been a bit more stealthy about its plans. In April, the company hired Tim Dashwood, creator of the Dashwood 360VR Toolbox and 360VR Express plugins for Final Cut Pro X (and Premiere Pro), but hasn’t made any announcement about what it means, if anything, for Final Cut Pro X editors. Dashwood didn’t waste any time though — he dropped the price of his 360-degree tools to free. While that likely means those plugins won’t see any more updates, it’s also equally likely that they’ll be rolled directly into Final Cut Pro X. If Apple really wanted to make a play to fold people into its ecosystem, it could roll 360-video features into iMovie, a sort of carrot to get people editing on Apple software in the hopes that they would move up to Final Cut Pro X in the future. It would be a bold move from a company that hasn’t been making bold moves of late.
All of that said, neither company has made any moves yet. Adobe promises more 360-video tools to come in Premiere Pro by the end of the year, but for now, there’s information on the Mettle site about how to immediately access the SkyBox tools in their current, unintegrated state for Creative Cloud subscribers. If you’re a Final Cut Pro X user, Dashwood’s tools are a free download away. That means if you’re itching to get started in the world of 360-degree video, the tools are already available to you right now.
Final Cut Pro X lost a lot of hearts and minds in 2011 with such a radical change to its interface. Could the coming 360-video war with Adobe cause video editors to take another look?