Final Cut Pro used to edit 'Cold Mountain'

One of the most hotly anticipated dramatic movies this holiday season is Cold Mountain, the adaptation of Charles Frazier's book featuring Jude Law, Nicole Kidman and Renée Zellweger. Already nominated for eight Golden Globe awards, Cold Mountain is also one of the biggest-budget motion pictures ever to be edited using Final Cut Pro.

A new feature on Apple's Web site interviews the film's editor, Walter Murch. To find out more, MacCentral recently spoke with Apple's senior director of pro applications, product marketing, Richard Kerris.

"It's a 90 million dollar movie edited on a 900 dollar piece of software," said Kerris.

In his interview with Apple, Murch explained that he and his assistant collaborated with a post and design consulting company that used Final Cut Pro called DigitalFilm Tree. "When we told [DigitalFilm Tree's Ramy Katrib] that we were interested in using Final Cut on 'Cold Mountain,' he was very enthusiastic. But we had questions because it hadn't yet been used on a project of this scale," he said.

Kerris explained that Murch approached Apple, which offered him some initial consultation. Beyond that, however, all the tools used by Murch and his crew were off-the-shelf copies of Final Cut Pro and Mac laptops and desktop systems.

Murch lauds not only the cost-effectiveness of working with Final Cut Pro but also the benefits of working on a software-only editing system. "That means it almost completely eliminates the natural tendency of editing systems to develop bottlenecks," said Murch. Murch also told Apple that he was able to set up four Final Cut Pro editing stations for the price of a single Avid workstation. "It's good to have four burners on a stove when you're cooking dinner. You can put all of them to use," said Murch.

"This really proves how scalable a solution Final Cut Pro can be," said Kerris. Kerris explained that in addition to the full editing systems Murch and his crew used, several PowerBook systems were also set up with Final Cut Pro. Murch said in his interview with Apple that these PowerBooks were "satellite stations" that would be used when there was a lot of footage to edit.

Final Cut Pro, Power Mac G4s and PowerBook G4s weren't the only Apple products that figured into the production and editing of Cold Mountain, either. The crew also depended on DVD Studio Pro to burn dailies which were then sent to the Hollywood studio -- located 8,000 miles away from the shooting location in Romania. "Everyone had a library of everything that had been shot, organized by the date that it was shot, as a point of reference," Murch told Apple.

Kerris also told MacCentral that QuickTime was used for Cold Mountain as well -- the crew would use QuickTime to send shots that would later be used by the London-based special effects studio that worked on the movie, Double Negative. Double Negative could then visualize what they'd be working on once the actual production plates were delivered.

Kerris notes that Apple's pro video products are increasingly being used in both episodic television and in other major motion pictures -- recently the Coen Brothers used Final Cut Pro in their romantic comedy Intolerable Cruelty.

Kerris suggests that now's a great time for students of film to roll up their sleeves and get to know the present -- and future -- of digital film editing, thanks to Final Cut Express, Apple's mid-range video editing software that shares the same interface as its pricier pro cousin. "It's a very cost-effective way to get to know the software and then to migrate up," said Kerris.

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