SEPTEMBER 25, 2002
Shootout: Final Cut Pro 3 vs. Avid Xpress DV 3.5
A head to head, toe to toe, head to toe comparison of Apple's and Avid's DV editing software
By Peter May
Page 8 of 9

Another minus for XDV: No 3D. None.

Another plus on the FCP side, transparency is controllable with your pen tool, right in the timeline. This shows a series of crossfades with Bezier handles (see screen shot below).

Click for enlargement -- Final Cut Pro transparency controls
Click for enlargement -- Final Cut Pro's transparency controls

One last point in favor of FCP is the fact that there is, available to anyone who wants to give it a shot, a feature called FXBuilder. This tool allows anyone the opportunity to write his or her own filters! And, people are doing it. And, some are posting the filters they've written on the Web… for free! I've downloaded a dozen and a few have become my absolute favorites.

I will give both programs points for including an effect called "Region Stabilize" on Avid, "Image Stabilize" on FCP. Pick something for the software to lock to and these effects will work to keep a shot steady, digitally overcoming shake, jitter and all the sins of weak camera work. Still, this round is Final Cut Pro all the way.
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Round 15
I do tons of crossfades-- little one, two, three and four frame crossfades just to get rid of pops and smooth out transitions. Unfortunately, though Avid has found ways to pass boatloads of digital video information, they still haven't found a way to (or choose not to?) offer real-time audio dissolves. Remarkable. So, let's say you're trying to make a difficult music edit. You're close but it isn't seamless. You add a crossfade. If you don't render it, you don't hear it. So you render, listen and decide it's a quarter beat off. You trim the transition, render again and listen again. Still too early? Trim, render, listen, trim, render listen, etc. Rendering audio only takes a second but, to me, that pause to render and restart the loop each time really breaks my rhythm. I've been saying this for years -- Avid's got to fix that. Final Cut crossfades audio in real time.

Xpress DV audio filters
Xpress DV audio filters

In Avid's favor, I like their audio filters, especially the very handy "Telephone" filters. I also like the "Automation Gain" function where you can designate a section of your timeline with an in and out then click "Record." As the audio plays you adjust sliders and hear your mix in real time. Click Record again to end your session and you'll find XDV has added keyframes at every point of adjustment. Once there are keyframes in your timeline you can drag them around -- adjusting position and volume. That's handy and the real time mixing is slick but, again, I have to take away points. Though the keyframes are adjustable, they resist fine adjustment. I've not found a way to drag a keyframe just 1 db. In addition, to access any audio tools you have to switch modes again. That just doesn't encourage a quick fix-it-and-move-on attitude. It's easy to forgive FCP's lack of real time mixing for the ease and advantage of working right in my timeline. Once again, you use your pen tool to add keyframes and drag them up and down, back and forth (constrained to 1 db increments by holding down the command key). And once again, Play Around Current allows an instant looped review of your adjustment.

Click for enlargement -- Final Cut pro audio energy plot
Click for enlargement -- Final Cut Pro's audio energy plot

Another advantage FCP offers is sub--frame editing. Expand the timeline all the way and you can zero out a single pop on a one one-hundredth of a frame scale. And, as with video effects, you can add audio filters or adjust the volume of raw clips. Any adjustments you make follow the clips as you cut them into your timeline.

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