Apple made media headlines a few years ago by buying a video editing suite from Macromedia. Then they bought eMagic and the famed Logic audio application. All the pieces have finally arrived in one huge (17 pounds) package in Final Cut Studio. Prepare to be impressed.
I would prefer to give you an in depth study of Final Cut Studio. Frankly, a good review would take about a dozen pages just to describe all the highlight features and what they do. So, squeezing it down to less than 1,000 words is a major challenge.
How about, “Oh, My Freakin’ Gawd!’ Prepare to be impressed.
If you’ve used Garageband and iMovie HD in Tiger and think it’s nifty, you’d be totally overwhelmed with Final Cut Studio. If you’ve used Logic Express, Logic Pro, Final Cut Pro HD, or Final Cut Express, you’ll be amazed at how how well all these pieces work together.
If you’ve seen how iDVD, iMovie HD, iTunes, and iPhoto all work seamlessly together, then you’ll get the idea.
Apple’s latest release of Final Cut brings all the pieces together and together they’re nothing short of miraculous.
OK, $1,299 is not for the faint of heart. However, hear me out. If you’ve longed to do classy video and audio production on a budget, this is where you start. Oh, get a PowerMac G5 with all the RAM you can afford.
First, Final Cut Studio is really four, five, six, or seven special applications that work seamlessly together. Mostly. The number depends on how you count. I prefer the number six. Think of it a six-pack of production tools.
1 – Final Cut Pro
I’ve been an FCP user since version 1.2.1. Each version was better than the last. Some versions more stable than others. In every version, Apple upped the capability, all the way to 4.5 HD which provided for integrated High Definition video editing.
Final Cut Pro HD users will not be disappointed with version 5.0.
There’s multi-cam editing. That’s right. Shoot on multiple cameras. Bring the video into FCP5 and switch from shot to shot, live, on the fly. Or based on time code. Real-time effects are more abundant than ever. Of course, there’s multichannel audio.
Integration. That seems to be Apple’s mantra these days. FCP5 integrates with Shake, LiveType, Motion, and SoundTrack, and outputs perfectly to DVD Studio Pro 4.
Most impressive is the output to Motion and SoundTrack.
2 – Soundtrack Pro
I’ve always liked Soundtrack but it just didn’t fit well. Logic had more capabilities. It crashed too often. Editing was painful. But it was fun.
Now you can take an audio track (or all the audio) from FCP5 and send it over to Soundtrack for true audio sweetening. Add loops from your loop collection (it uses the same loops as Logic Pro, GarageBand). Add special audio effects to your audio clips.
Built in to Soundtrack are special audio filters which let you take out background noise, hums, clicks, blips, static from your audio. The whole process would take hours in other applications and that effort is reduced to a few minutes in Soundtrack.
When you’re done, you’re done. The audio is updated automatically in your FCP5 project. Soundtrack Pro has arrived and the integration with FCP5 is like the integration between iPhoto, iMovie HD, iTunes and company. Click. Things move back and forth.
3 – LiveType
I gave LiveType (integrated into FCP5) it’s own number because it’s truly a very special application. Character generation within FCP has always been considered so-so. Add on products like Graffiti from Boris improved quality, but increased cost.
Now, LiveType adds motion to character generation (the type you see floating around over video) and an interface that’s relatively easy to master, yet holds a lot of complex coding.
LiveType isn’t “integrated” in the sense that iPhoto, iTunes, iMovie, and iDVD integrate. LT produces standalone QuickTime files which can be instantly dropped into FCP, so it’s not like a kludgy or klunky “add on” application.
If you want high resolution type that moves wherever and however you want (right over any video), it’s already built-in to FCP5. LiveType.
“Depending on what equipment you choose, about $10,000 would get you the latest PowerMac G5, a new Cinema Display, a Sony HD camera, and Final Cut Studio.”4 – Motion 2
While complete integration between LiveType, Motion, and FCP5 isn’t quite the same as Apple’s dedicated consumer iLife suite, it’s very good and won’t slow down the professional. The wannabe-professional will think he or she has died and gone to media production heaven.
For the right production user, Motion is an astounding collection of tools which bring motion graphics to your video. There’s over 500 integrated effects and motions and animations.
Motion is optimized for Tiger and the PowerMac G5. If you’re planning to run Final Cut Studio on anything less than a dual high-end G4 or a new PowerMac G5, think again. Plan again.
These applications need horsepower and RAM. Still, Motion lets you create motion graphics with ease. Very complicated graphics require a bit of time and the necessary hardware, but you probably won’t be disappointed even on an older PowerMac.
Text animation. Live fonts. Particle generator. Filters and effects. After Effects plug-ins. All stuffed into an intuitive “professional” interface that means once you’ve used one of the applications in the Final Cut Studio suite, you can move more easily to the others.
5 – DVD Studio Pro 4
The 5th can in the six pack is for DVDs. You won’t be disappointed. DVDs are comprised of audio, video, motion, graphic elements that need to be blended to create the perfect interactive media.
DVD Studio Pro does not disappoint.
You’re greeted with 3 levels of interface: beginner (fewer tools), intermediate (more tools), advanced (the whole she-bang).
Integrating all the pieces of FCP5, Soundtrack audio, Motion graphics is Apple at its’ best. I’m not going to bore you with another 5,000 words that list all the features and capabilities. Apple’s web site does a better job.
If you make DVDs and find iDVD somewhat sophomoric, make the move to DVD studio. You’ll stop grumbling about lack of capability for awhile.
6 – Other Applications
The 6th can is really all the other goodies in the Final Cut Studio package. It’s a grab bag. Compressor 2 for compressing your finished product to the right bit rate, stream rate, file size.
For the heavy-duty producers, there’s Apple Qmaster and Qadministrator so you can combine the processing power of multiple Mac or Xserves.
To give you an idea of the bulk in the Final Cut Studio package, the whole thing weighs in at 17 pounds (shipping). It took over 90 minutes to install Studio on a PowerMac G5 with a fresh Tiger system.
The included DVD walks you through some basic features in each major application. Another DVD is included which contains work files; audio, video, graphic, etc.
Depending on what equipment you choose, about $10,000 would get you the latest PowerMac G5, a new Cinema Display, a Sony HD camera, and Final Cut Studio.
That’s a lot of media production horsepower. Lots.
Quibbles. I have a few, but not many. The first is that FCS is overwhelming, even for those of usewho’ve used FCP and Soundtrack and DVD Studio before. There’s not enough training material even with nearly 17 pounds of manuals. More DVDs that go deep into each product would be beneficial.
Second, Apple’s “professional” look graphical user interface (different than iPhoto, iDVD, iTunes, Garageband, iMovie HD) has a distinct look and layout. However, there’s so much being accomplished by all these applications that sometimes you can’t find certain tools. Simple tools like the transport buttons are in different locations within different applications.
But that’s a quibble.
Assuming you want to move beyond iLife and deeper into audio and video production, get the hardware horsepower and get Final Cut Studio. Then take a couple months off from work so you can learn it all. First, you’ll open it up, install it, and then say, “Oh my gawd!” You’ll be the top dawg in the media production neighborhood.