Final Cut Express HD
The days of DV are numbered thanks to High Definition (HD). Final Cut Pro has been HD-capable for some time. Now, HD capability has filtered down to Apple’s consumer level products such as iMovie and now Final Cut Express (FCE).
Version 3 (known as FCE HD) is less of an overhaul: it’s more of a goody-bag for the same price. Besides the obvious inclusion of HDV support, this release comes as standard with LiveType for professional quality titles and Soundtrack for audio creation. It’s good to know someone at Apple listened to criticisms levelled at earlier versions.This iteration includes a printed manual – a vast improvement over the previous disc-based PDFs. We were also happy to see a quick-reference card included: a godsend for finding key combinations in a rush.
Using HDV is easy enough, the only really noticeable difference being that because footage has to be converted to Apple’s intermediate codec before editing can take place, import and export of footage doesn’t happen in real-time. One little thing that may catch some HDV users out is that there’s no FireWire HDV output when editing.It’s necessary to use one of the other video monitoring options available to see the footage.
With all Express has to offer, it’s important to note its limitations; HD support is limited to HDV format, Compression is absent along with Cinema Tools (both applications standard with Pro) and the numerous input and output options of Pro are also unavailable.
Therefore, Express remains an almost exclusively FireWire-port-based affair. Despite the ‘HD’ tag and all its pro level connotations, Express is a tool to professionally deal with consumer-level formats.
Although there is little in the way of feature innovation, FCE HD is now, more than ever, the best value-for-money editor available. For people making their first investment in Express here is an incredibly powerful application at a budget price. Current users meanwhile can invest the paltry upgrade price and alongside HD support bag two professional-level applications. Apple has been astute with the feature set of Express. It’s likely to attract both new and budget users while not infringing on the pro-only domain of film editing and uncompressed formats; both better served by its more expensive sibling. The minor niggles mentioned pale into insignificance considering the package Apple has put together for the price. Highly recommended.