Final Cut Pro 5
With the release of Final Cut Pro 5, Apple addresses the balance of the application against its cheaper sibling Final Cut Express. The differences are clear in both the feature set and the physical package. Final Cut Pro sports over 2,000 pages of printed literature spread over four manuals. What’s more, opt for the ‘studio’ edition and receive a DVD tutorial that covers all the basic functions of each application. Installation, while lengthy if installing the LiveType media, was smooth on our Tiger-based testbed. Once loaded, previous users will feel instantly at ease, as the vast majority of the interface has remained unchanged.
Major new features in are native HDV editing, dynamic RT, multi-camera editing, audio control surfaces, native IMX editing, Panasonic P2 device support and Cinema Tools 3. Although there are others, these are the headline grabbers. At first glance, these don’t exude the same wow factor that real-time editing or HD capability added to previous versions. However, in all probability, they may prove even more useful.
Although HD editing in itself isn’t new to Final Cut Pro, this is the first Pro version to offer HDV support. HDV is the recent consumer HD format that uses long-GOP MPEG-2 compression to exist on standard DV tapes. What’s particularly impressive here is that despite HDV not having individual frames in the traditional sense it appears exactly like that to the editor. HDV behaves exactly like any other footage.
Final Cut Pro 5 also adds support for Panasonic P2 devices. Those lucky enough to be working with this tapeless hardware can import their footage faster than real-time and get cutting without delay.
Real-time effects have received a welcome shot in the arm. The new ‘Dynamic RT’ works along the same principals as the previous RT functionality but fixes any playback issues. This is a big improvement. Prior versions sometimes caused frustration when sequence playback ground to a halt due to insufficient machine power or by forgetting to render certain clips. That’s a thing of the past here as the video quality and/or frame rate are automatically scaled to compensate, mercifully leaving the flow of the sequence to be observed.
As impressive and useful as these new features are they pale into insignificance against the new ‘multicam’ tool. Many will assume this feature is only of use to studio-based users; those people are wrong. Typically one would interpret multicam editing as the ability to switch between live feeds from multiple cameras in a studio environment. While this may be the truest interpretation, in this instance the multicam feature is capable of so much more. For example, imagine editing a drama scene between two actors, covered by multiple angles. These multiple shots (the multicam feature can use up to 128 different clips/shots) can now be selected in the browser and turned into a multiclip.
The differing shots can be synchronised by in or out point or time code (non matching clips can be offset if need be). Double-clicking the newly formed multiclip opens the shots (called ‘angles’ within a multiclip) in the viewer. The viewer can be set to show 1, 4, 9 or 16 of the angles simultaneously. With a multiclip playing back on the timeline the user can click on the appropriate angle from the viewer in real-time. As each angle is clicked the canvas reflects the new angle.
Final Cut Pro now sports an almost mirror-like polish: just when it seemed there was nothing new to get excited about, the package delivers the trump card that is the multicam feature. However, the absence of the Soundtrack application in the standard package seems a slightly cynical choice for version 5. It seems obvious that the Studio edition of Final Cut Pro is where Apple wants most users to head. While the standard package offers Final Cut Pro, LiveType, Compressor and Cinema Tools, the Studio edition also includes DVD Studio 4, Soundtrack Pro and Motion 2. That’s £750 worth of applications for only £200 more. There are also minor, easily rectifiable interface niggles. For example, it still isn’t possible to visually shuttle through clips within the browser (as in Avid) when the clips are large icons. The browser can also be slow to scroll if it contains large amounts of media. Despite these minor gripes, Final Cut Pro proves to be an incredible package. Rock-solid stability, features unavailable elsewhere and an ever expanding user base make it impossible to ignore. Despite the absence of fashionable or gimmicky features, anyone who uses the application on a daily basis may well find this the most worthwhile upgrade yet.