APRIL 06, 2003
Instant Eyewitness Account: Final Cut Pro 4
Big news on day 1!
by Charlie White

At a press conference at NAB in Las Vegas today, Apple laid out its plans for digital video editing and compositing for the next year, with an unprecedented peek at a late Beta version of Final Cut Pro 4 and an as-yet unstable version of DVD Studio Pro 2, as well as the new version 3.0 of Shake, its high-end compositor. Digital Media Netís Charlie White was there and filed this late-breaking report.

Final Cut Pro 4 was the star of the show today at Appleís big unveiling at the Mandalay Bay Convention Center. The most impressive new feature of the 90 minute speech and demo was FCP4ís new RT Extreme, Appleís re-written real time effects preview which adds the ability to see previews in an NTSC or PAL monitor. Apple demo artists showed the crowd a composite with four streams of video (three DVE boxes over a background) with a text layer keyed over that and color correction on all the layers, all playing back in real time. This sequence was able to preview smoothly, albeit at quarter-screen resolution, and of course, must be rendered when itís time to go back to DV tape. At full screen resolution through an NTSC monitor, only a text key was able to play back in real time, and this was only shown to the audience for a few seconds. Still, this represents a major improvement over what FCP 3 could do with an NTSC/PAL monitor.

Although a bit blurry, this grabbed shot from today's press conference shows the familiar Final Cut Pro user interface, where version 4's look is similar to 3.0.

Another significant new feature is the new text tool, called LiveType. Itís an advanced titling tool with each text character capable of individual animation. The demonstration included a variety of great-looking text effects, including a smoke-ring effect with text, a text effect made of flowers, all previewing in real time. Included with the new version of Final Cut Pro will be 8GB of canned animations and fonts, so youíll be able to get started with LiveTypeís new features right away, and each is configurable, too.

Another big plus in this new version of Final Cut Pro is its improved quality, where itís now able to support DVCPro 50 and uncompressed video such as 8-bit and 10-bit in both standard definition and high definition. Enabling this new-found bandwidth is the implementation of FireWire 800, a full 2x faster than old-fashioned FireWire running at a paltry 400mbps. In fact, Apple is now offering FireWire 800 in all its notebooks, desktops and servers. In addition, third-party developer AJA was at the conference showing its new hardware system that takes advantage of Appleís FireWire 800 feature. Called iO, AJAís new $2290 hardware is capable of uncompressed output and capture of 10-bit video, taking advantage of the FireWire 800 framework Apple has developed.
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Another great announcement is the fact that now Apple will be including Cinema Tools free with Final Cut Pro 4. The company says Final Cut Pro 4 will be available in June for $999, with the upgrade price set at $399.

Less further along in its development but still impressive was an Alpha version of DVD Studio Pro 2 demonstrated by Apple (see graphic below). Re-built from the ground up, it was written from scratch as an OS X Cocoa application and has a completely new user interface. It has an enhanced way of working, where, as with the current version of DVD Studio Pro, youíre able to drag and drop a clip onto the workspace, but now it has a context-sensitive menu that pops up as you drop the clip, and is smart enough to guess what you intend to do with it. All the elements in the workspace are live, so youíre able to change each graphic and edit text without going out to an external application. And, if you move your mouse to the bottom of the screen, a timeline appears that lets you edit your chapter marks or trim your clips. The demo was marred by a couple of crashes, although the demo artistís explanation that the program had not reached even Beta status was understandable and well-received.

I'll have further details forthcoming, along with more about Shake 3.0 in a later report. Now, itís off to see what Avid has in store for us, and after that, weíll see whatís up with Quantel at a Caribbean-style get-together.

Charlie White, your humble storytellerDigital Media Net Executive Producer Charlie White has been writing about new media and digital video since it was the laughingstock of the television industry. A technology journalist and columnist for the past nine years, White is also an Emmy-winning producer, video editor, broadcast industry consultant and shot-calling television director who has worked in broadcasting since 1974. Talk back -- Send Chazz a note at [email protected].

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