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NAB Report: Day 1

Apple Intros Final Cut Pro 4, Avid Stuns Press with Powerful New Family of Editors By Charlie White
At a press conference at NAB in Las Vegas Sunday, 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. And, Avid unleashed some of the most powerful editing systems ever built. Digital Media Nets Charlie White was there and filed this NAB report for Day 1.

Final Cut Pro 4 was the star of the show today at Apples big unveiling at the Mandalay Bay Convention Center. The most impressive new feature of the 90 minute speech and demo was FCP4s new RT Extreme, Apples 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 its 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. Its 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 youll be able to get started with LiveTypes 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 its 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 Apples FireWire 800 feature. Called iO, AJAs new $2290 hardware is capable of uncompressed output and capture of 10-bit video, taking advantage of the FireWire 800 framework Apple has developed.

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 well-developed but still impressive was an Alpha version of DVD Studio Pro 2 demonstrated by Apple. Rebuilt 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, youre 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 youre 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 artists explanation that the program had not reached even Beta status was understandable and well-received.

Avid President and CEO David Krall
Avid President and CEO David Krall
Next stop on the pre-NAB meeting circuit was the Avid event, where the company set up an elaborate showcase in a large meeting room in the Hard Rock Hotel. With a magnificent flourish, lights and sound were perfectly synchronized (thanks to Avid technology), along with drawer-like display cases which opened on cue, sticking out like tongues with computers on their tips. What were these taunting technological devices? They were a new family of three Avid products known as DNA, which stands for Digital Nonlinear Architecture. These are specially-built hardware boxes with Field-Programmable Gate Array (FPGA) technology and custom ASICs developed by Avid to accelerate video well beyond what Avid (or any other company, for that matter) has offered up until now.

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Related Keywords:press conference, NAB, Apple, digital video editing, compositing, Beta, Final Cut Pro 4, DVD Studio Pro 2 Charlie White


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