MARCH 23, 2004
Final Cut Express 2
DV- only system for everyone?
Stephen Schleicher

I’ve been using Final Cut Pro for over five years now.  If you have read my previous reviews of this software or have used my Final Cut Pro Quick Tips, you know I love this application.  So when Apple released Final Cut Express 2, you can probably guess I was pretty hyped up about it.  After all, not everyone can afford (or needs) a $1000 Pro system – right?  After using it for a couple of projects am I still sold on Final Cut Express 2 as a viable option for DV editors?  You’re just going to have to read on…

When I first fired up Final Cut Express 2, the first thought that crossed my mind was, “Wow, this looks a lot like Final Cut Pro 3, but with Final Cut Pro 4’s interface enhancements.”

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What makes Final Cut Express 2 such a valuable product for the DV editor, is that the interface, keyboard shortcuts, and workflow is very much like it’s big brother, Final Cut Pro 4.  Apple made a great decision to duplicate the interface and workflow, because they realized that eventually, you the indie editor will want to upgrade.  And because you already know the system, migrating will be the easiest thing you’ve ever done.

Not that I condone “fooling” a client, but because of the look of the Final Cut Express interface, a quick glance will make anyone think you are using the higher- end system.

Final Cut Express 2 is targeted directly to the DV- only editor.  It does not have the support for uncompressed cards, Cinema Tools, and the like.  So all the editor has to do is plug her DV camera or deck into the Mac’s FireWire port and she’s off and running.  Final Cut Express 2 supports most of the DV25 formats, MiniDV and DVCAM, no matter if the footage was shot in NTSC or PAL (Final Cut Express 2 does not support DVCPRO 50).  Because of this, Final Cut Express 2 is a perfect editing application to use on your laptop without worrying about a lot of extra overhead brought on by the Pro system.

Since the only way to edit video is to digitize it, your first stop will be the Log and Capture window.  Here’s where you’ll find the first major difference between the Pro and Express systems.

To start, you will notice you don’t have a Log button.  What this means is the editor only has two options when he is digitizing footage.  Capture Now, which allows you to digitize directly from the current position of the tape, and Clip, which allows you to set In and Out points.  There is a Capture Project button, which allows you to do a batch capture, but since I’ve already established that you can’t log and then batch capture your clips, the only time I can see you using this feature is if the editor has deleted all of his media files and needs to re-digitize an archived project.  While batch capture is not imperative, it is one of the many features that have been stripped from the Pro application to make Final Cut Express 2.  Someone new to editing video on the Mac (or migrating from that horrible iMovie*) will really like the Log and Capture features in Final Cut Express 2, but those who have worked on Pro and have to move to another system that only has Final Cut Express, may find themselves pouting at the loss of this feature.

During the edit session, Final Cut Express 2 really shines.  Editing, trimming, and simple graphics are done exactly like Final Cut Pro.  Again, see my comments above as to why this was a great move on Apple’s part.  In addition to being able to perform all of the edits like the Pro system, all of the Pro Editing Tools are there as well – Ripple editing, Razor Blade Tool, Pen Tool, Slip and Slide editing, etc.  If any of these were missing, I would be scolding Apple, but instead, I have nothing but praise.  The Final Cut (Express and Pro) editing tools are, in my opinion, some of the easiest and most powerful tools found in any NLE system. 

Final Cut Express 2 can include up to 99 audio and 99 video tracks.  It also supports Nesting, sequences can be used in other sequences, reused, etc.  Final Cut Express only allows you to undo 32 times as opposed to Pro’s 99.  But really, when was the last time you needed to undo your edit more than 20 times?  I usually divert to an auto-saved project if I have to go more than that.

So far so good, right?  With the exception of the Batch Capture feature, it sounds very much like the Pro system.  Well, not quite.

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Source: Digital Media Online, Inc
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