Final Cut Is Finally Here

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Apple Computer's decision last year to acquire Macromedia's Final Cut software raised a few eyebrows. The company that had so successfully narrowed its focus to Power Mac hardware and the Mac OS now appeared to be diverting its energies into the applications realm. The acquisition also seemed to place Apple on a collision course with Adobe Systems, whose Adobe Premiere dominates among under-$1,000 digital-video packages. But now that Apple has released Final Cut, its intentions are clearer: the company sees huge potential in digital video, and it wants to ensure that the Mac plays a central role in what is likely to be a booming market.

Middle Ground

Apple says that the $999 package occupies a middle ground between Premiere and high-end digital-video systems from Avid Technology and Media 100. In addition to offering basic video-editing functions, Final Cut provides many of the compositing and special-effects features found in Adobe After Effects. It also offers some productivity features commonly found in high-end video-editing programs, such as the simultaneous trimming of multiple tracks and sophisticated audio-syncing functions.

Final Cut also provides tight integration with the high-speed FireWire interface built into the Power Mac G3, as well as many–but not all–FireWire-equipped digital camcorders based on the popular DV standard. You can control DV cameras directly from Final Cut, copying audio and video to your hard disk for editing.

Explosive Growth?

Apple sees DV as one of several factors contributing to explosive growth in digital video. Tim Myers, Apple's senior product manager for video products, notes that video professionals and consumers alike now have access to relatively inexpensive digital-video-capture devices. In addition, opportunities for distributing digital video are expanding, thanks to the Internet and DVD. What's missing, he says, are affordable, easy-to-use tools that are well integrated with supporting hardware, a niche that Apple hopes to fill with Final Cut and special configurations of the Power Mac G3.

Adobe Systems, for its part, is touting Premiere's tight integration with other Adobe packages. The company has announced a forthcoming Premiere plug-in that will allow the program to take advantage of new functions in QuickTime 4, including direct control of DV cameras and the ability to produce "hinted" movies to reduce file size. Final Cut also competes with EditDV, a digital-video-editing pro-gram from Digital Origin (formerly Radius).

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