SEPTEMBER 25, 2002
Shootout: Final Cut Pro 3 vs. Avid Xpress DV 3.5
Both systems have the ability to compare your project to broadcast standards and alert you to problems. In FCP this is called "Range Check." When enabled, Range Check subjects your video to the CCIR 601 engineering standard. If you run afoul, a little caution sign appears on the screen. Bring the color or luminance within spec and you get a happy green check mark.
Avid takes Range Check a step further with "Safe Color Limits." Safe Color doesn't limit the evaluation to the 601 standard. You (or that finicky guy in engineering) can set your own standards. Color outside the lines and a five-by-three attenuator tells you whether you're high, low or right on in composite, luminance, red, green or blue. If you've ever had to meet PBS broadcast specs you know this is a big win for Avid.
MasterCard will check with me if they notice I've bought $3000 worth of live goats before noon in Rangoon then dinner at my local Applebee's that same evening. My wife will say, "You're not going to wear that are you?" I don't want constant adult supervision but I do value the occasional intervention on my behalf. In that spirit I appreciate a few functions FCP has built in.
For instance, if I attempt to drag and drop a V1, A1 clip further down the timeline and encounter another V1, A1 clip in my way, I'll drag my V1 up to V2. Final Cut will jump the associated A1 to A2. A little thing but nice.
If I leave the "Linked Selection" function enabled and drag a shot away, the sync audio will follow.
If I didn't have the Linked Selection button punched and I drag the video 5 frames out of sync with the audio, a little red box appears with the number 5 in it. The same number 5 would appear in XDV. The difference is that in FCP, if I right-click on that red box I'm given the choice of slipping or sliding the audio or video back into sync. Clips in FCP want to stay in sync. Nice.
I'm willing to bet this has happened to every Avid editor: You're editing an audio-only clip, there's no video associated with it. You mark your ins and outs, patch your audio channels and click Overwrite. Unfortunately, you didn't notice you had V1 highlighted as well. So the audio edit is made but so is a video edit! Since there was no video associated with your clip, black is laid over to V1, covering whatever was there before. I don't know why in the world the Avid makes this bogus video edit. Final Cut Pro disables the video track if there's no video on the clip. It just makes sense.
Now, I don't want you to think FCP is restricting. It's not. Try this with Avid. You notice you didn't digitize quite enough of a shot in your Browser. You highlight the shot, choose "Take Offline" from the right-click menu. Change the timecode number of the logged shot and, again using the right-click menu redigitize the lengthened clip. Even if you've edited some part of that clip into your sequence, FCP will take the redigitized footage and relink it to the shots already in your sequence and any other sequences.
FCP has found a nice balance between what it'll allow you to do and what it won't.
In the category, "Saving me from myself" I give the nod to Final Cut.
Dragging and dropping shots I again favor Final Cut Pro. In Xpress DV, you can only drag and drop shots to predetermined locations. As you drag, the clip will jump into alignment with other edits, keyframes, an in-cue or the position of your play head. If you want to be able to drag and drop like a Media Composer, go with Final Cut Pro.
Slipping and sliding, unlike the dragging and dropping compared in Round 7, are trim functions. Slipping allows you to keep the "hole" in your timeline constant while you adjust the in and out cues of the shot(s) that fill(s) the hole. Sliding allows you to keep the ins and outs of a shot (or shots) constant while the "hole" moves.
In slipping and sliding, I give the edge to Xpress DV. In Final Cut Pro you can only slip or slide one shot at a time, disappointing if you'd like to slide a short shot sequence down the timeline. I will note one thing I like about slipping and sliding in FCP. When the Slip or Slide tool is chosen, the moment you click on a shot in the timeline, a ghost representation of the full length of the shot appears as an overlay on the timeline. At a glance, you can see exactly how much material you're working with.
I consider navigation the collection of functions that allow you get to where you need to be while remaining oriented in your timeline. Navigation is easier in Xpress DV.
XDV lacks what Final Cut calls "Play Around Current." If you place your playhead and click Play Around Current, FCP will back up two seconds (you can set it to anything) and play four seconds forward. If you've got "Loop Playback" turned on, it'll keep looping until you stop it. This is not only useful for the evaluation and review of shots, effects and audio and video edits, you can actually, using keyboard buttons, trim edits in the timeline while this continuous loop plays. Of course Xpress has the "Play Loop" button, but hitting it jumps you to the trim mode negating its usefulness as a navigation tool.
FCP offers more useful information in the source and record windows. Timecode at Position and Duration In to Out are always visible. Xpress DV allows the choice of a dozen pertinent pieces of information including Total Duration, Duration In to Out, Timecode at Position, Time Remaining, and Timecode of any clip on any track but only one value can be displayed at any time.
Both programs offer a "Match Frame" function which allows you to work back from a shot in your sequence to the clip it came from but only Xpress offers the "Find Bin" command that takes you back from the clip you've located into the bin from which it came. I miss that on long form FCP projects.
One of the things I do constantly when editing is to zoom the timeline in and out. Both systems allow the expansion and contraction of the timeline through keyboard commands. FCP uses Option + and Option - while Xpress DV simply uses the up and down arrows. XDV's much more convenient but, as far as I can tell, that little keyboard shortcut is entirely undocumented!
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