Soon: Build Final Cut Pro for iPad plugins in Apple Motion 5. What about distribution?

Final Cut Pro for iPad will be available on the Apple iPad App Store from tomorrow.

Apple’s product page states ‘Third-party content is coming soon.’ A future update coming soon will allow you to

Enhance your project with powerful content from leading developers.

…on the iPad.

Motion for Final Cut Pro plugin development

Motion, Apple’s single-purchase $50 real-time motion graphics application, has been able to build Final Cut Pro plugins since 2011.

Motion can make four kinds of plugins: Titles (for animating text over video), effects, content generators and even transitions between video clips.

It was a big change from the FxScript scripting system used to develop Final Cut Pro 1-7’s internal and third-party filters, generators and transitions.

The majority of the tools in the Final Cut Pro for Mac ecosystem are built using Apple Motion. I have made many free plugins and two commercial plugin packs for Final Cut using Motion. I’ve also made very many for the BBC for use in the UK and around the world.

As soon as the release of Final Cut Pro for iPad was announced by Apple on 9 May, I wanted to know if I could make my plugins available on the iPad.

I contacted Apple and they replied, “you will be very familiar with the creation process.”

I think this means I will be able to use the same creation process – building templates in Apple Motion 5 – to make Final Cut Pro for iPad plugins.

That answers my development question. What about distribution?

Selling Final Cut Pro plugins on iPad

As well as seeing that third-party content is coming soon, I saw that prolific Final Cut editing tool maker MotionVFX was namechecked on Apple’s product page:

Some Motion templates on this web page are available from and are subject to MotionVFX terms & conditions.

This is interesting from a distribution point of view. MotionVFX currently distribute their tools using mInstaller – an installer application for the Mac. It acts like an app store for their Final Cut Pro for Mac products. It ensures that MotionVFX tools will only work on Macs where people have signed in with the correct MotionVFX account.

If plugin makers like MotionVFX and me don’t use installers for our tools, our plugins can be easily copied from Mac to Mac. To install most Final Cut plugins, all you need to do is to drag the plugin to the ~movies folder. Motion cannot copy-protect Final Cut plugins.

FxFactory is post-production tools app store for applications such as Final Cut Pro, Apple Motion, Adobe After Effects and Adobe Premiere. They distribute hundreds of plugins and apps from many different independent post tools makers – using a single installer. One of it advantages is that if you move to a different Mac, download the FxFactory application, sign in with you FxFactory account, you can quickly install your purchases on the new computer.

Some installers of third-party tools for Final Cut Pro on Mac are third-party stores.

Apple have a rule that prevents developers distributing third-party digital content stores for iPads. This has been the source of much friction between Apple and some developers in recent years. Apple’s ability to prevent non-Apple app stores on all their platforms (apart from the Mac) has attracted interest from competition regulation authorities worldwide.

In recent months there have been rumours that Apple is preparing to allow app store alternatives on iPhone and iPad.

App plugins in iPad App Store

Apple pre-announced that the launch of Final Cut Pro for iPad will happen less than two weeks before their annual 2023 Worldwide Developers Conference. When considering the timing, some guessed that Apple must have so many announcements to fit into the WWDC keynote presentation that there will be no time to launch Final Cut Pro for iPad.

An alternative explanation could be that the arrival of Final Cut on iPad gives Apple a case study for how they will loosen their app store rules to help developers who want to encourage third-party ecosystems for their apps.

So in what ways might Apple’s App Store policy change to accommodate Final Cut Pro plugins?

Plugins could be a new class of product that will be available on the iPad App Store and Mac App Store. At the moment only applications can be sold on Apple app stores.

If plugins are allowed, users will be able to install it via the iPad App Store. The plugin would then be available on all iPads associated with the AppleID of the person who bought it.

That same plugin could be made available on the Mac App Store. The developer could decide whether a single purchase on either App Store would cover both platforms, or make the plugin a separate purchase on each platform.

In-app app stores

Apple’s app stores are very convenient. To buy an app, there’s no need to go to a specific site on the internet, create a new user account, add your payment details, download what you want and then run an installer. The iPad App Store is much simpler.

But if the tool you need only works in one or very few of the apps on your iPad, it would be much more convenient if the ability to use your AppleID to buy what you need was in the app you are using.

Final Cut Pro for iPad has a browser for effects, transitions, titles, backgrounds and objects. In the initial version, this browser will only show built-in tools. There is a search tool for these tools, because even in the first version there are too many to browse without search.

‘Coming soon,’ this browser in Final Cut Pro for iPad will also show installed third-party content. Imagine if Apple went further, and included unsinstalled third-party tools available in a Final Cut plugin in-app app store.

This would require Apple policies on plugin watermarking, trial periods, subscriptions, bundling and cross-platform bundling.

I look forward to finding out what Apple decide, how it will effect the Final Cut Pro ecosystem and also how it will effect third party developers who want more control over their ecosystems.

18th April 2023

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