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iPontificateFirst Hand Look at Final Cut Studio New Features & Demo


- May 20th, 2005

At a post-NAB demonstration on Wednesday the 18th, Apple System Engineer Charles Mayer presented the new features and functionality included in Apple's Final Cut Studio, which started shipping on Tuesday. To a house of about 40 attendees, the demonstration took place at Austin's Omega Broadcast Group, a rental and post-house specializing in Final Cut Edit bays, mobile multi-cam production, and the Panasonic Varicam.

I was excited to see all the new bells and whistles included in Final Cut Studio (previously sold as the Production Suite), the new moniker of the bundled box set that includes Final Cut Pro 5.0, Soundtrack Pro, Motion 2, and DVD Studio Pro 4.0. Apple really out did themselves in addressing the needs of the public and have really added tons of value to the new bundle that will surely be adopted widely by the filmmaking public if not based on the suite price alone.

Final Cut Pro's user interface has remained the same, but under the hood, FCP has really been beefed up to compete in a growing high-definition (HD) editing market. Everything in the updates are centered around HD, including the native editing of HDV material.

HDV Factoid

Speaking of native HDV material, an interesting fact that came to light about HDV editing at the demo is the way FCP constructs the timeline. Essentially, FCP requires at least 1GB of free RAM caching to re-assemble an image based on 7 frames forward and backward from the HDV media.

Due to the media being squeezed onto a DV tape, the camera breaks the frame into use able chunks that are incomplete without the other 6 frames, and in order to shuttle through material on the timeline, the computer forecasts the playhead video sequence directly in the cache. Apparently, this poses problems when using heavy graphics and filters, which can bog down the real-time (RT) playback support forcing a render for viewing. Another interesting piece of info is that a project will lose one generation of quality when the HDV edit is outputted to another format.

Multicam support

One killer feature included with Final Cut Pro 5.0 is the multi-cam support for live events and multiple camera feeds. In the demo, a new Black Eyed Pea video was played in HD from 5 camera sources, and the cut from the shoot was effortlessly constructed in real-time by simply selecting the segmented video feeds from a live camera palette.

By clicking on the various camera angles in the pared-down viewer slug, the edits were immediately reflected on the timeline. By pausing the video feeds, fine cutting the edit points were done with simple timing adjustments to the timeline. You press play again after adjusting, and the video feeds jump to life for continuation as an on-the-fly cut. Camera sync is done using either a visual marker using a sync manager or using straight timecode as a sync reference.

By way of comparison, synching multicam feeds was pure torture in older versions of FCP, as they lacked the multicam windows and sync manager included in this new version.

Soundtrack Pro

Soundtrack Pro is a new addition to the Studio bundle, replacing the limited Soundtrack plug-in previously found in the older Production Suite, and it is totally different from that version. Borrowing heavily from Logic Pro, Soundtrack Pro really ups the ante for the audio processing powers of the bundle, providing tons of features usually reserved for Pro Tools or other third party audio apps.

Using a video clip with standard documentary-style audio flaws such as audio pops and camera operator flubs (an off-screen sneeze in this case), Soundtrack Pro easily and automatically recognized the audio pops and corrected them with about 4 mouse clicks in all. Re-cloning ambient audio was used to cover the loud nasal "ahh-choo" from the operator, isolating the background audio and mixing it directly into the audio sequence. In addition, a viewer window plays the video that is connected to the audio timeline directly within the application...Halleluyah!

External monitor support

External monitor support is available for playback of the video on another monitor if a larger picture is required for audio sound design. Sound effects are also simply modified using cut and paste directly onto the timeline. This is a huge advantage over previous versions of Soundtrack which often caused a lot of frustration due to the ham-fisted modification and lack of finite control over the timeline and sequence.

Other improvements

Additional enhancements have been made to Motion and DVD Studio Pro including support for HD media and burning HD DVD discs. Although burners for this format are currently unavailable. Apple has taken the next step by being ready for the next wave of digital cinema by addressing the needs that will undoubtedly come.

On the whole, the new Final Cut Studio totally delivers to current users and would-be video switchers. There is so much to explore in the new bundle that I mentioned to a colleague that I might have to find another brain to truly master all the new functions.

I will, however, have to totally upgrade my G5 to handle all the video requirements and memory needs in order to run these apps at the recommended levels. The necessary requirements are pretty hefty, but when all the applications come together in a bundle that retails for US$1,299.00, all the money saved can go to the purchase of additional RAM, a, NVIDIA graphics card, and (if my wife lets me) a glorious 30-inch Cinema display. Fingers are crossed...

In short, Final Cut Studio is dressed and at attention, ready to air drop into an edit suite near you.

With five years in the entertainment industry, and three years writing for The Mac Observer, works passionately on various genres of film, including documentaries, narrative features, and shorts. He has two feature films under his belt as Director of Photography and Camera Operator, and his current role at TMO is to cover digital media and the film industry.

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