July 23, 2009

Apple Updates Final Cut

Apple has updated Final Cut Studio, apparently with more than 100 new features. New are: Final Cut Pro 7, Motion 4, Soundtrack Pro 3, Color 1.5 and Compressor 3.5 – and the fact that it will only now run on Intel-based Macs. However, the price is down (dropping £50 to £799 [$999 US]).

FCP has some 50% of the TV editing market, but it hasn't been upgraded for two years, while Adobe, Avid and Grass Valley have become more competitive, so the revamp is probably overdue – although there hasn't been a widespread clamour for more new features, more a desire for support for such things as Blu-ray that other systems have had for so long now it was getting embarrassing.

The headlines for Final Cut Pro 7 are:
  • New versions of Apple’s ProRes codecs – 4444 for very high-end use, 422 LT for mainstream broadcast use (at around 100Mbps), and 422 Proxy for offline and mobile editing (will there be an iPhone app for that? – probably not as this compression is still almost twice the data rate of DV)
  • Easy Export allows you to continue working on projects thanks to background encoding
  • iChat Theater support allows real time collaboration via iChat, even if they don’t have FCP
  • New speed tools allow you to change clip speed more easily, without losing audio synch
  • Alpha transitions for moving mattes
  • Native AVC-Intra support for the latest Panasonic broadcast cameras.

Compressor 3.5 takes care of FCP's Easy Export functions, for publishing to YouTube or MobileMe, or export to iPhone, iPod, Apple TV or mobile phones, although you can do most of this from inside FCP. It can also create Blu-ray discs – although DVD Studio Pro (which hasn't been upgraded) doesn't support Blu-ray, leaving Adobe Production Suite the better choice for Blu-ray authoring. Compressor has also been made easier and quicker to use, and is also part of the new Logic Studio.

Motion 4 has a few interesting new features, including the ability to adjust depth of field within a 3D canvas by selectively highlighting a single object or using multiple objects to create a racking focus effect (this will be particularly attractive to anyone shooting on lower-budget cameras who wants to get more of a film look); there is also a new tool that makes it quicker and simpler to create credit rolls and its 3D capabilities have been extended with the ability to add point and spot lights to cast realistic shadows or turn any shape, video plane or paint stroke into a reflective surface.

Color 1.5 works better with FCP, so that things like speed effects can round-trip between the two without completely falling apart. It now has 4K support, working natively with files from cameras like the Red One, and outputs directly to ProRes for HD or DPX for film.

Soundtrack Pro 3 (which is also part of Logic Studio) adds new audio editing tools, such as Voice Level Match (which extracts volume information from the vocal content of one clip and applies it to another without altering any other audio content, so you can quickly match voice levels). It is also simpler to target and reduce specific frequencies, such as rustling paper or a bump, without affecting dialogue. There is also a new Advanced Time Stretch that stretches and compresses audio with "incredible precision" and without pitch changes.

Apple has also upgraded Final Cut Server (asset management and automation) to 1.5, which adds support for offline editing using ProRes Proxy, production hierarchies to organise media, and support for still sequences to easily view and manage image sequences for graphics and effects workflows. It has also more than halved in price to £799 (unlimited client licence – which was £1999 previously – the limited licence was £999) or a £249 upgrade.

Logic Studio includes Logic Pro 9 and MainStage 2, with more than 200 new features. Logic Pro 9 gets new Amp Designer and Pedalboard plug-ins, and new Flex Time tools for altering timing and tempo quickly. MainStage (for live performance), includes new Playback and Loopback plug-ins for backing tracks and real-time loop recording. It costs £399.

David Fox

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