Final Cut Pro (FCP) has performed miracles for Apple, again giving the company credibility in the pro-video arena, and it’s reasonable to ask if there’s space for a serious competitor. Well, with Xpress DV available for the Mac, Apple may well have a fight on its hands.
For many users, the most important thing about Xpress DV is that it’s from Avid. It looks and works like every other Avid system in the company’s line-up – including the Avid system most editors learned to edit on at college. Apple has made headway into the education market, but many graduates still leave college with Avid-only experience – and for them this is a godsend.
The downside of this is for anyone from a Premiere background, who will find the learning curve steep. The two applications are significantly different – even down to the vocabularies of editing they use. Avid is aware of this, and has added features through the life of the Windows version (which is also in the box) to make the transition easier. These include the ability to use the source/record method of editing if a user wishes. FCP users, who are used to an interface that’s the bastard child of the two, should be fine though.
Compared to FCP, Xpress DV 3.5, is the finer product – although you do have to pay almost twice the price for it. The Windows version of Xpress DV 3.0 had the jump on FCP in all areas but one: colour correction. Real-time functionality, effects quality, robustness and even little details – such as customizable keyboard shortcuts – were better on Avid’s system. Version 3.5 replicates everything from the Windows version, including the reliability, and adds a colour-correction module that even manages to top FCP’s. It even includes Avid’s NaturalMatch technology, from its Symphony line, for automatically matching colour tones such as skin with a single click. A warning though – you’ll need a powerful Mac, and Xpress DV doesn’t let you get away with sloppy file organization.
Another split between Xpress DV and FCP is the integration with other tools and systems. Avid offers an upgrade path to a full Xpress system that allows you to buy the Meridian board necessary for a reduced price. This is good, but expensive next to an FCP and CineWave combo – and there’s nothing comparable to Matrox’s RTMac available for it. Better, is that Avid will release an update in the autumn to allow Mac versions of Xpress DV to join the Windows version (and any other Avid system) as part of the company’s Unity networking tools. This is some time off, but as Apple hasn’t yet even announced the mooted network system for FCP based around Xserve, it can’t count against Xpress DV.
Xpress DV 3.0 users can boost the suite with the PowerPack, which adds Boris FX and Graffiti, the Illusion FX pack of AVX filters, the excellent Image Stabilization AVX and the Filmmakers Toolkit – which takes on Cinema Tools for offline film editing and wins – largely because Avid knows a bit more about film editing than Apple does. Avid has the upper hand with DV-editing software, too.