When Apple demoed their new Final Cut Studio application Color at NAB 2007 there were ripples through the crowd and the online community that it would change the look of video programming as we know it since professional color grading would be available to everyone at a low price. The average production could now afford high-end color grading that was only possible on a professional dedicated system like a DaVinci or a fully outfitted Final Touch room, both with an experienced colorist to work the magic they had been trained to do. We have seen Apple revolutionize post before. Final Cut Pro made everyone an editor. DVD Studio Pro taught a large number of us to author DVDs when we had previously refused to learn. Final Cut Studio put the who post-production process in one box and caused whole post facilities to be built around the software package.
There have been quite a few articles around the web on some of the bugs/issues/user experiences with Color. I have sat through several sessions on a Final Touch system and knew what to expect upon booting up Color for the first time. It looked pretty much the way I remembered it: a full featured, very powerful application. But Color just doesn’t seem to fit into the Final Cut Studio “mold”. One of the biggest successes of the Final Cut Studio applications (Final Cut Pro excluded) has been the ease in which you can accomplish tasks that would have taken a lot of time and a lot of steps before Apple’s implementation. Livetype gave us pre-animated fonts and text effects, Motion took that one step further with behaviors that can animate virtually anything. Soundtrack Pro gave us an easy way in which a picture editor could clean up a variety of audio problems with minimal effort. Using DVD StudioPro’s templates and pre-built buttons took DVD authoring a step above the “all or nothing” template mentality of iDVD and made customized DVDs easy to create with a minimum of effort. Compressor has presets for almost all formats one might need. And the interfaces amongst all these applications is somewhat consistent with Apple’s design.
Then comes Color. The interface was obviously not designed by Apple and has a much more specialized feel, not unlike that of Shake. Aside from the included preset looks that are applied via an effects tree there’s nothing really simple or automated about Color that puts it in line with the other FCS applications that “support” Final Cut Pro. The import and export from a FCP sequence has been simplified from the Silicon Color days so that is welcome.
While this post is titled “A Case Against Color” I really like the idea behind the application. Despite those bugs/issues that have been mentioned Color can do a fantastic job doing what is was designed to do; color correction and color grading. It seems like what might have been a more logical path for the application formerly known as Final Touch might have been the Shake approach to Apple software acquisition. Shake got some tweaks to integrate it with Final Cut Pro but it has largely remained its own separate product. The biggest change to Shake came in its huge price drop. Now the rumor is that Shake might be discontinued for a totally new app. It doesn’t seem that Color would follow this same path since it was integrated into FCS from the beginning. What might have been the best path for Color? IMHO, how about a scaled down color correction application with good (and easy) primary and secondary correction, a few nice preset looks and the ability to apply selective correction via some sort of drawing tool. Put that in a speedy interface and develop some new method for applying these color changes (after all, haven’t most FCS applications included easy and new methods for getting their specific job done) and you have another great Final Cut Studio application that fits into the Final Cut Studio mold. Then sell the much more full featured version of Color along side Shake. But even this path would neglect to provide the one thing that allows for the best color correction and color grading. That would be the professional colorist and the years of experience and colorist eye that he/she can bring to the table.
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