May 8, 2000
Unlocking the Secrets of Final Cut Pro
DV Companion: The Intelligent Assistant for Apple’s Final Cut Pro

by Tim Wilson
Man About Town

It's my great pleasure to discuss a product that is in the process of reshaping our world. This low-priced software is rapidly closing the gap between the highest-end professional and the enthusiast, bringing about changes that will expand well beyond the confines of traditional video production to potentially touch everyone who can use a computer and a video camera—and everyone who can see the work they produce.

Oh yeah, and I've heard some good things about Apple's Final Cut Pro, too. But the software that's going to light the fuse on this thing is the DV Companion.

FCP is tremendously appealing for a variety of reasons, of course. It successfully combines editing and compositing features and does so with a level of sophistication previously found only in very expensive workstations. FCP works dandily on most recent standard Macintoshes, including PowerBooks. (Macintosh only: How sweet the sound.) As a result, many new users are flocking to Final Cut Pro, many of them having never used editing software, many others having never used a Macintosh.

From another direction are coming editors who are excited about the possibilities of being liberated from "heavy iron" hardware and an endless cycle of expensive upgrades, without sacrificing editing power. Indeed, even many pro users may find FCP a step up in features. Yet precisely because of their familiarity with their own environments, pro editors can find themselves adrift in unfamiliar software. As a production-oriented editor myself, I wholly sympathize with the dread of learning yet another piece of software, especially under the gun of a deadline.

And herein lies the magic of the DV Companion ($149 from Inteligent Media, http://www.intelligentmedia.com), a product whose subtitle is "The Intelligent Assistant for Apple's Final Cut Pro." One of the world's foremost authorities on QuickTime and the host of the Final Cut Pro Worldwide User's Group, Philip Hodgetts, has a long history as an editor and a teacher as well. In creating the DV Companion, he has combined these various identities, using the power of Apple's QuickTime to create a teaching tool for editors of unprecedented and unparalleled power.

(Creative Mac users should note that the DV Companion is built on a variety of Apple-originated and Mac-only technologies. QuickTime is the obvious one, but AppleScript and Sherlock are just a few of the others.)

Most amazing to me is that the Companion lives in Final Cut as a standard Apple Help file. After installation, you'll find it in your FCP Help menu. What gets installed, however, is anything but standard: more than a thousand individual files, including the rough equivalent of 600 book pages, and an hour and a half of explanatory videos.

Like Final Cut Pro itself, the DV Companion requires a Power Macintosh G3 266 Mhz or greater and OS 8.6 or greater. The Companion has been updated for FCP 1.2 and is now compatible with OS 9. (Users of earlier versions of the Companion can download a patch to add the same compatibility, although they'll be missing out on 16 new sections, many updated pages, and a variety of new features.)

Although it's an application help file, you can also open the DV Companion outside of FCP, for those times when you want to explore at your leisure. The standard installation places an alias on your desktop; double click and you're good to go, even without opening FCP. It's unlike a book or video, though, which has to guess at your level of expertise and may force you to wade through large amounts of irrelevant material to find the one bit of information you need NOW, when you may or may not have that book or video handy. Philip's phrase is "just-in-time knowledge," easy to provide since the DV Companion lives inside FCP.

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