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October 2014
Issue: November 1, 2009

REVIEW: APPLE'S FINAL CUT PRO 7

By: Chip Eberhart
PRODUCT: Apple Final Cut Pro 7

WEBSITE: www.apple.com

PRICE: $999, lowered from previous price; upgrades are $299
- Additions to ProRes family
- Output to Blu-ray
- iChat Theater

In late July, Apple updated its Final Cut Studio package with improved versions of Final Cut Pro, Motion, Soundtrack Pro, Color and Compressor. Sadly, DVD Studio Pro has succumbed to the realm of “also included” and has not received any attention this time around. For this review, I will focus Final Cut Pro 7.
Here’s why FCS 3 may be less expensive ($300 less) than previous versions... Apple requires an updated dongle. Ok, you’re saying, “there’s no dongle for Final Cut Studio,” but there is. It’s called a Mac computer. You need a Mac to run Apple software, and with FCS 3, you’ll need an Intel-based Mac. Apple’s developers took advantage of the faster, more efficient Intel platform and delivered improved performance.
 
WHAT’S NEW

While there are over 100 new features in Final Cut Studio 3, I’ll focus on the top seven  feature upgrades for Final Cut Pro 7.
7. Global Transitions. My first thought was, “I don’t use transitions that much...and when would I want to use the same transition everywhere?” Well, for wedding and event videographers (billion dollar industries) this is great, but film editors rarely use the same exact transition. The exception to the rule is with audio. I really like the ability to select all of my audio edits and painlessly add a five-frame cross-fade to each edit.
6. Improved Markers. I think of the Saturday Night Live skit where the producer says, “more cowbells,” but sometimes more markers are a great thing, especially when they can ripple with your sequence. Now I can add color-coded markers, using eight different colors, and leave messages for my assistant in one color, the colorist in another, the composer in another and the producer can have his/her own color.
5. Alpha Transitions. Sure, you don’t use a lot of transitions, but the ability to easily create your own alpha transitions may change your mind. It may not become as popular as a cross dissolve or fade to black, but you can get some pretty interesting effects if you have an active imagination.
4. New Additions to the Apple ProRes family. Apple ProRes is an incredibly efficient and clean format that maintains the quality of the footage, the frame size and the frame rate of your source media. In addition to the previous ProRes 422 and ProRes 422HQ, there’s a ProRes 4444 that handles alpha channels; ProRes LT with a target bit rate of 100Mb/s, which is great for broadcast workflow; and ProRes Proxy creates tiny files (still full frame and frame rate) allowing you to edit your 1080i project on a laptop, with a 1TB external drive storing hours of HD footage.
3. Output to Blu-ray. When you’re working in HD, wouldn’t it be nice to be able to show your client the edit in full HD, without them coming to your suite...or having an HD capable video deck? Now you can create your own Blu-ray discs. If your project is small enough, you can even output a Blu-ray disc using a standard SuperDrive, with standard DVD-R media, that will play on other compatible Blu-ray players. This is only part of the update to Apple Compressor. There’s also options for iPhone, iPod, DVD, MobileMe, and even a YouTube option that will store your login info and upload the video to YouTube after it’s been processed.
2. New Speed Tools. If you’ve ever tried doing speed ramps in FCP 6 and decided it would be more fun to stick nails in your eyes, you’ll love the new tools for controlling speed — simple to use and very intuitive. Once you reveal the speed graph, and understand that closer ticks mean faster speed and distant ticks mean slower speed, you’ll feel like a speed ramp wizard.
1. iChat Theater. Some might wonder how iChat Theater is my favorite enhancement. It’s one that I personally asked Apple for (I’m sure others did as well...but I’d like to think this is MY baby). Here’s the scenario. If your client isn’t sitting next to you, and you need to send them a video to review, you had to do the following: A, create QuickTime movie from your timeline. B, compress it into a size small enough to e-mail, FTP, or send to a store and alert service. C, wait for them to review it. D, wait for them to send you their comments. E, decipher their comments. F, repeat process until they’re happy. With iChat Theater, you simply go to the View menu, select iChat Theater Preview — Start Sharing, contact your client (they must be on a computer running OS X 10.5 or higher), begin an iChat video session with your client, and you can now show your client your timeline or anything you place into your viewer in realtime. What could take days is easily resolved in minutes, in realtime, on iChat Theater Preview.

ROOM FOR IMPROVEMENT

I am a bit disappointed that there weren’t any new “way cool” filters or enhancements to filter GUI design. If I hadn’t seen truly cool filters and GUIs like in the CoreMelt.com tools, I might have been satisfied, but after you’ve been to the city, it’s hard to be satisfied with just the farm. Take for instance CoreMelt’s HSV Levels and Curves plug-in that gives you realtime curves on your canvas. CoreMelt’s new Lock & Load filter for motion tracking and stabilization, has been benchmarked at 6x the speed of Apple’s native Smoothcam filter.

FINAL THOUGHTS

If you already own Final Cut Studio 2, the $299 upgrade price is a no brainer...as long as you have a new “dongle.” If you’re still on the fence about switching to FCP for your editing needs, there’s no better time.

Chip Eberhart is an Apple Certified Trainer/ Apple Certified Pro Editor based in Chicago. He can be reached at: chip@highlevelproductions.com.