For years, iPad Pro owners have complained that the “Pro” is certainly evident in the hardware, but the software is consumer-grade, making the high-end tablet just a very expensive way to run iPad apps that already run as fast as you could want on far more affordable iPad models. That has improved in small steps over the past few years, but the iPad Pro still doesn’t feel like a Pro device, and it’s a software problem.
The most obvious example has been the lack of Apple’s own professional content creation software on the platform. Now, with the release of Final Cut Pro and Logic Pro for iPad, it’s a little easier to justify the “Pro” in iPad Pro.
Real professional software
I am in no way a professional video editor or sound engineer, so I can’t tell you whether the iPad version of these apps will fulfill the needs of those types of content creators. But I know enough about both of those things to plainly see that, after several days of using them both, these are a far cry from iMovie and GarageBand.
Final Cut Pro requires an iPad with an M1 processor, and it’s easy to see why. It has no problem chewing through multiple layers of 4K HDR footage and includes nifty features such as real-time multicam editing controls and the ability to shoot new footage with the iPad camera right in the app (with new controls for resolution, frame rate, white balance, and exposure).
Slick features that rely on Machine Learning include Scene Removal Mask, which can pull the subject from the background so you can easily layer it on top of titles and such without a ton of masking work, Voice Isolation to clean up audio with a lot of background noise, and Auto Crop to produce video in different aspect ratios (like vertical video for social media) while keeping subjects in the frame.
Logic Pro is a lot more forgiving, only requiring an A12, meaning it will run on even a basic 8th-generation iPad. Still, it’s got a lot more to offer than GarageBand. Ten minutes in I found myself starting to get out of my depth and marveling at all the little options and tools buried behind simple icons and toolbars.
These are definitely not just the Mac versions running on iPad. As familiar as they may be, there are some serious differences, especially when it comes to plugin support. But there’s plenty of room between “real professional app” and “does literally everything the Mac version does” and the initial releases of Final Cut Pro and Logic Pro fall somewhere in between.
Touch-first requires an adjustment
Those who are used to editing audio or video on a Mac will probably find the touch-first interface a little odd at first. If you have a keyboard attached, you’ll find many of the most common keyboard shortcuts work just as they do on the Mac.
But for newcomers, directly touching content to manipulate it will seem natural. This seems especially true of Logic Pro, where directly editing waveforms and samples is faster and more obvious, and you can tap out a quick melody or beat with a few taps using an on-screen keyboard, guitar strings, or pads.
We’ve all seen videos of engineers sitting at a huge mixing board, pushing several sliders at once–multitouch makes it possible to do that right on your iPad screen. I get the impression that, with a bit of practice, some old-school Logic Pro fans will start to prefer using touch for a lot of their workflow.
Of the two apps, Logic Pro is probably going to be the most fun as a “toy” for non-professionals to use. It is less reliant on creating your own starting content, with a big library of hundreds of instruments, effects, beats, and so on, and a really fast and easy way to preview them. You could easily make dozens of unique tracks without ever importing or recording your own samples.
The best feature is the price
I’m as tired as the next consumer of subscription push for all digital content, especially mobile apps. But I have to admit, despite only being available via subscription, the pricing for these apps is maybe their best feature.
Each of these apps is $4.99 a month or $49.99 per year, with a one-month free trial. You would need to subscribe for four years to equal the $200 price of Logic Pro for Mac or six years to match Final Cut Pro’s price.
If you’re a student working on a project, or just building a special video for the company retreat, the idea that you can pay just $5 to use a serious professional tool for a month and then cancel is a huge boon. There’s a case to be made for hefty one-time-purchase pricing on professional software, but an equally good argument for affordable subscription pricing that democratizes access to these tools.
Some companies (looking at you Adobe) have subscription prices for professional creative apps that do more to keep the plebeians out than welcome them in. If you don’t commit for a full year, Premiere is $31.49 a month! Apple’s pricing presents a low barrier to entry for newcomers and makes for a reasonable “upcharge” for those who already have the Mac apps and just need to get a little work done on the go from time to time.
I can’t believe I’m saying this, but I kind of wish the Mac versions had the same $5-a-month subscription pricing.