Final Cut Pro 3
Because digital video devours hard-disk space at such an astonishing rate, Apple has provided the new OfflineRT Codec, and made improvements to Final Cut’s Media Manager – to facilitate working with low-res proxies when editing. The OfflineRT Codec captures DV-compressed video at 320-x-240 pixels, and compresses it using an AltiVec-optimized PhotoJPEG Codec. The result is an amazing one hour of video per GB. For documentary editors, or users who edit on a PowerBook, the OfflineRT Codec offers a great alternative to buying more storage. FCP 3’s new Media Manager can easily create a duplicate of the sequence, as well as automatically recapture footage at full resolution into that sequence. That sequence can then be rendered to create the finished piece. OfflineRT offers decent image quality – certainly good enough for cutting – and FCP 3’s real-time effects are available when editing an OfflineRT project. However, you’ll want to save for the later part of your workflow colour-correction work, special-effects work such as compositing, and other edits that require a high-quality preview. Three-point colour correction
Colour correction is a big part of any editing job. Whether it’s creating a unique “look” for your project, or trying to match the colour of scenes shot at different locations, colour correction can be what separates a professional-looking video from a home movie. Though Final Cut has always had a comprehensive assortment of colour-correction filters, version 3 adds substantially improved colour tools. The new colour correction three-way filter provides three virtual “trackballs” – for shadows, mid-tones, and highlights. Each displays a standard colour-wheel, and, as you move the wheel toward a particular hue, colours shift accordingly. Eyedroppers and auto buttons are provided for automatically analyzing and setting black, white, and mid points. Below the trackball controls are colour ramps that can be used to limit the range of the colour-correction tools. These let you target specific colours in the image, allowing for the colours of a particular object in a given scene to be adjusted, for example. While the controls for most Final Cut filters appear in the Control tab of the Viewer window, controls for the new Colour Corrections filters appear in their own tab. As with other filters, special keyframe controls are provided for animating colour effects over time, and Apple has added new Copy Filter controls that let you automatically copy colour corrections from the previous or next clips into the current clip. This feature makes it easy to apply consistent colour-corrections to a series of cutaways that are interspersed between other shots. We’d love to see this feature added to all of Final Cut’s filter operations. These tools alone give Final Cut respectable colour-correction power, and the fact they’re real-time effects makes them even more attractive. However, Apple has added several other features to ease those colour-adjusting chores. FCP 3’s scopes don’t update in real time while video is playing – rather, they present a view of the current frame. For colour correction, though, this is really all you need, and the scopes are a handy addition to the program’s new correction tools. For adjusting saturation and white points, a new zebra display is available in the canvas window. Just like a zebra display on a camera, the FCP 3 display shows animated diagonal lines in areas that are overexposed or oversaturated. Additional warning icons appear in frames that have colours that are blown-out or illegal. Speak up
Final Cut 3’s new Voice Over tool allows you to record voice-over narration directly into current sequences. Aimed at documentary filmmakers, the Voice Over is a great way to quickly throw a commentary track into a project. The Voice Over tool records directly into RAM, so the recording duration is limited by available memory. Any standard Mac input-device – USB or FireWire-based microphones, for example – can be used for recording. You simply record the audio and wait a few seconds for FCP 3 to process it. The program automatically sticks the finished audio in a free audio track in the timeline. Though voice-over recording isn’t a revolutionary feature, it sure is handy, and can save you from constantly going out to an audio app when editing. Other new features include the excellent new QuickView feature, that renders a half- or quarter-resolution preview into RAM. Because of the low resolutions, rendering is rapid, and the QuickView feature makes it easy to get a quick preview of an edited sequence – filters, transitions, and all, provided you have some RAM to spare. In FCP 2, if you chose to turn off a track you’d lose all render files – a maddening prospect if you wanted to view one track of a complex project. Fortunately, in version 3 you can now “solo” a track. Dozens of other tweaks and improvements have been made to version 3: render windows now show an estimated rendering time; timecode overlays let you see a timecode display for all layers under the playhead; a new chapter feature provides better integration with DVD Studio Pro 2, by letting you set chapter markers within Final Cut; and the program’s titling controls are greatly improved by the addition of Boris Calligraphy, a scaled-down version of Boris Red’s excellent titling tools. So what’s missing? For the most part, not much. There’s still no multi-camera support in Final Cut, and the audio controls have not been changed at all from version 2 – level controls and filters are still underpowered and poorly implemented.
FCP 3 is a very impressive upgrade. While version 2 has already been accepted as a serious editing tool, version 3 makes the product even more compelling. If you’re a current Final Cut user, this upgrade is a must-have, although you may not wish to switch in the middle of a project. If you’re a new user looking for an editing system, FCP 3 should be at the top of your list.