The New Final Cut Studio
Three new ProRes codecs, background rendering, one-light grading and AVC-Intra and RED support make this suite well worth the price of admission
Today, July 23, 2009, the much-anticipated “new” Final Cut Studio arrived. It includes Final Cut Pro 7, Motion 4, Soundtrack Pro 3, Color 1.5, and Compressor 3.5. Apple is also releasing a new version of Final Cut Server (1.5) today, sold separately from the Studio bundle.
Apple has added three new versions of the Apple ProRes codec to the original two, still inside this version. I was glad to see the two new lower resolution versions for offline, ProRes 422 (Proxy) and ProRes 422 (LT), for working with reduced-file-size broadcast-quality clips for, say, news and sports. There is also a new codec for more demanding compositing and higher-end workflows, ProRes 4444 (yes, that extra 4 is part of the name).
Ã¢Â€Â¢ New Output and Compressor Options
The upgraded Compressor features will really help your workflow. You can now send a file to Compressor from a new window in FCP 7 called the “Share” window. You can export files for Apple TV, iPod, or iPhone, publish to YouTube or MobileMe, or burn a Blu-ray disc or a DVD directly from the FCP 7 interface. The rendering, compression, and publishing takes place in the background, so you can keep working in Final Cut. Nice!
Ã¢Â€Â¢ iChat Theater
More window sharing-specifically your desktop and UI views-takes place when you launch iChat. Think how much time you could save with a real-time meeting in iChat, where everyone logged in can see your edits in real time while you discuss the project. There’s a very nice large timecode overlay view that helps. It’s big enough to see from anywhere in your edit suite, even if clients are sitting across the room on a couch.
Ã¢Â€Â¢ New Speed Change Tools
FCP 7 has a much-improved variable and constant speed-change features that include presets for easing retimed clips in and out. For constant speeds, the new Speed tool adjusts the speed as you drag to shorten or extend a clip. You can control variable speeds by entering keyframes directly in the timeline.
Ã¢Â€Â¢ Native AVC-Intra /RED Support
Using the Log and Transfer window, Final Cut Pro 7 can ingest P2 AVC-Intra and REDCODE (up to 4K) files. The software converts natively ingested AVC-Intra files to ProRes 422 (HQ) for editing by dropping a clip into a new sequence and letting the sequence settings match the clip settings. The AVC-Intra codec doesn’t support encoding, however, so ProRes becomes the editing format. If you’re doing 4K work, you can edit RED files in real time in ProRes 4444 (or any ProRes codec) or as native files (a 2K sequence using native 4K files, at reduced resolution). You can then export your edited sequence to Color via an Edit Decision List (EDL), and relink it to the original archived REDCODE media using a Cinema Tools database. At that point you can do color grading in Color with access to the full REDCODE data. Take note: To get at that full REDCODE data, the limitations of Color apply. That means you can only work with one video track, there is no audio support, and cross-dissolve is the only supported transition. From there, you output to a DPX file for film output or ProRes 422 or ProRes 4444 for videotape. (The REDCODE codec does not support encoding either.)
Other new features include precise new time-stretch tools, improved multi-track editing and direct recording to the multi-track editor, noise reduction enhancements, new navigation tools, new editing capabilities, improved normalization functions, waveform-zoom in the timeline and other timeline improvements, the ability to read XML metadata, and greater support and integration with third-party control devices.
If you are working with RED footage, you’ll be in Color a lot, and it’s nice to know that it supports round tripping with Final Cut Pro 7. That includes complex sequences with stills, speed effects and multicam clips. Color can also read Cinema Tools databases and relink to original media files if proxies have been used for editing, something you may be doing more of with those handy new offline ProRes codecs. There are a number of other minor workflow improvements inside Color that you’ll appreciate, especially the ability to do one-light grading, where you grade one clip and apply it to the entire scene. If you work with hardware control from Tangent Devices or Euphonix, the new version plugs right into those devices.
David Leathers is a writer, producer and musician in the Los Angeles area. Reach him at email@example.com.