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Interview: Final Cut Pro on Mac OS X

FCP product manager Tom McDonald on the future of video on OS X By Dave Nagel
Last week Apple introduced the first professional-level video editing system for Mac OS X--Final Cut Pro 3.0. They also very quietly showed off DVD Studio Pro running on OS X. Final Cut Pro 3 will be the first version of FCP to offer real-time effects in software only--on desktop models ranging from 500 MHz and upwards and PowerBook models running at 667 MHz--including the new titling software from Boris FX that's built into the new version. It will also integrate in some ways with the forthcoming release of DVD Studio Pro for OS X.

Moments after the Final Cut Pro announcement, Pinnacle Systems announced an OS X upgrade to the Pro and standard versions of its compositing application, Commotion 4.1. And earlier in the week, Adobe released details on the forthcoming debut of After Effects 5.5 for Mac OS X. Where once Apple's new operating system looked utterly impractical for video professionals, it now seems to be taking on a more viable form.

But hurdles remain. On the one hand, OS X is the most stable and robust Mac OS to date, and software seems now to be catching up. On the other, the OS still lacks drivers for some important professional-level hardware, and a couple of central applications still remain stuck in development, most notably Adobe Photoshop. While Final Cut Pro 3 for OS X is expected to have compatibility with all the FireWire devices certified to run with the OS 9 version, neither the Matrox RT Mac nor Pinnacle's CineWave are currently supported.

Nevertheless, last week's announcements, without question, marked a turning point for OS X as a platform for video professionals. Following the announcements, I had a chance to speak with Apple's product manager for Final Cut Pro, Tom McDonald, who had Apple's perspective to share on the whole situation, as well as a sneak peak at the forthcoming OS X release of DVD Studio Pro. Here are some highlights from our interview and follow-up correspondence.

DAVID NAGEL: How is OS X shaping up as a platform for video professionals?

TOM MCDONALD: Mac OS X is poised to become the most powerful platform ever for video content creation. The combination of the rock-solid Unix-based stability of Mac OS X, the G4 velocity engine, and the media-rich QuickTime layer combine to deliver a level of stability and performance for video professionals never before available.

Look where we are in just a few short months . . . the award-winning editing capabilities of Final Cut Pro and open QuickTime exchange with Alias|Wavefront's Maya, Discreet Combustion, Adobe After Effects and Pinnacle's Commotion--the power and flexibility on Mac OS X for creating video is just staggering.

NAGEL: What advantages does it offer at this moment?

MCDONALD: Stability, stability, stability. I have not rebooted my PowerBook all week.

Networking I/O and disk I/O.

Also, users of Final Cut Pro or any video application on Mac OS X will never have to assign memory to their applications again, nor worry about extension conflicts or memory hogging by extensions, but they still get all the things that were great about creating video on a Mac.

NAGEL: What are the hurdles still left?

MCDONALD: Final Cut Pro is quickly becoming the preferred choice for editing SD and HD formats. These formats require OS X drivers for the PCI hardware of our valuable third-party partners. Today our partners are still working on OS X drivers for these cards. However, Final Cut Pro 3 includes both a Mac OS 9 and Mac OS X version, and features are in parity. So those who are working in SD and HD still can get all the benefits of Final Cut Pro 3 by using the included OS 9 version.

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