SEPTEMBER 25, 2002
Shootout: Final Cut Pro 3 vs. Avid Xpress DV 3.5
Here's one Avid has all over FCP. Undo. It's not that FCP can't undo. Both programs can have 99 levels of undo. The problem is, in Final Cut there is no indication of what's in your undo list. The only way you can know what your undoing is if you see it come undone in the timeline. Let me illustrate with a little scenario. You've been messing with a short shot sequence you're sure could be better. As you're scanning your b-roll, you find a nice little shot you know might fit well in another section of your timeline. You jump to that point and add the b-roll shot. Satisfied, you jump back to the point where you'd been having trouble. After a few more edits and trims you decide the shot sequence was better before. You begin to undo edits. Because there is no undo list, you accidentally undo that great little b-roll shot you added further down the timeline. An exaggerated circumstance? You'd remember? Maybe, but the timeline doesn't jump to the point of the undo. Half the time I use it I have no idea what's coming undone. There I sit, clicking away, trying to perceive tiny changes -- an audio level here or a luminance level there -- in hopes of getting back to one particular point in the past. Avid has this licked. There's a pull down menu under "Undo."
As long as I'm ragging on this undo issue, here's something that could use improvement on both these programs. You can eat up 99 levels of undo in a matter of moments if you're clicking away at a key threshold or clicking up a shot's luminance one IRE at a time. There really should be a way to suspend the recording of commands in repetitive situations like this. Let me hold down the option key and save my levels of undo for the big stuff.
The total number of audio tracks available on XDV is eight. The total number of video tracks is also eight. If you need more you can begin collapsing and mixing down to free up tracks.
In FCP you can add up to 99 tracks of video and 99 tracks of audio. What I might do with 99 tracks of either is beyond me. I would trade at least 30 tracks of each to have one function available on Xpress DV. That is the ability to solo audio and video tracks without losing render files. Hard to believe but, let's say I've done a composite of titles and boxes on tracks V2, V3 and V4 over a dissolve on V1. If I want to look at the dissolve on V1 without the overlays of V2, V3 and V4 I can solo V1 or simply turn off the visibility indicators on the other tracks. But, if I do, I will lose the render of those four tracks. The only way back is to use the undo command! The same holds true of the audio tracks. That's got to be fixed.
Avid's years of experience really show in information management. Their Media Tool is more useful. I like the pulldown menu choices of Select Offline Items, Select Unreferenced Clips and Select Media Relatives (not to mention Invert Selection). But the single Avid function I miss most in Final Cut is "Dupe Detection." This useful appliance alerts you to duplicate shots in your timeline. I find it invaluable when editing long form. I'm very glad XDV has it though I'm disappointed it's only available as part of the Xpress DV Power Pack and therefore won't be enjoyed by anyone who didn't spring for the full $2,500 package.
Xpress has only one resolution where Final Cut Pro offers a second, lower resolution called OfflineRT. This lower resolution capture jumps the storage capacity of your Powerbook from less than five minutes of video per gig to 40 minutes per gig. If you plan to edit on the road, this could be a powerful plus! Advantage FCP.
I know I'm going to catch heat here but I'll start right out saying this round has to go to Final Cut Pro. I know, I know, Avid claims 100 real time effects. Well, tell me, when was the last time you used a sawtooth wipe? I'd say there are a dozen real time wipes that could conceivably make it into an average production, but they are real time preview. That means, even if they play real time in the Composer box on my screen, they don't play real time on the client monitor. In addition, in order to push enough pixels to yield real time previews the quality level of the video is often dramatically reduced. So now we're talking about a low-quality, 5" diagonal box your client is straining to see unless of course, you stop and render.
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