LAS VEGAS — Apple Computer kicked off the National Association of Broadcasters show here this week with an invitation-only event featuring three product updates and two new products for the professional video market. The demonstrations drew rousing applause from video professionals in the crowd of almost 2000.
The headliner is a new Apple product called Motion, a $299 motion graphics design package scheduled to ship this summer. Motion allows the animation of text, graphics, and video; instant previewing of multiple filters and particle effects; and “Behaviors”–natural movement of type and graphics with effects like gravity and wind, without depending on keyframes.
Motion integrates with Apple’s other professional applications, including Final Cut Pro HD, Shake 3.5, and DVD Studio Pro 3–all also refreshed here–as well as Soundtrack and Logic Pro 6.
New in DVD Studio Pro 3 are Alpha Transitions, a new graphical view, DTS 5.1 audio support, and bundling of Compressor 1.2, Apple’s digital media encoding and compression tool. The program is aimed to give professional digital video professionals DVD layout and design capabilities. It is scheduled to ship in May priced at $499, with upgrades priced at $199.
Final Cut Pro HD now supports the DVDPRO HD format, and works using FireWire without requiring any additional hardware. It is available as a free upgrade to current registered users and will cost $999 retail.
The updated Shake 3.5 adds new shape-based morphing and warping capabilities to Apple’s compositing and special effects tool for cinema and video. Apple says it has improved the Qmaster network render manager, and updated the Rendezvous-enabled system to handle distributed rendering tasks for both Shake and Alias’ Maya 3D rendering and animation software. It also now supports 16-bit RGB and 10-bit YUV QuickTime formats. Shake costs $2999 for Mac OS X (with unlimited render licenses) or $4999 for Linux and Irix (with annual maintenance fees of $1499). Registered Shake 3 users can upgrade for $799.
Apple expects some people will use Motion as a standalone application. But it also fills a void in the company’s high-end video applications that will close the circle for many current customers.
“Motion fits snuggly between Final Cut Pro and DVD Studio Pro,” says Rob Schoeben, Apple’s vice president of applications marketing. “Someone can use Motion alone, but it arrives on the scene as a member of a family that work really well together.”
Integration with all of Apple’s high-end product line is an ongoing theme. Apple is also emphasizing its capability to produce high-end applications that are scalable and easy to use.
“It all comes together and allows the individual creative professional to have the tools they need and work in a familiar way, Schoeben says. “All the concepts are real-time; you just drag concepts on top of it and stuff just happens–it’s the way professionals want to work.”
Apple product managers did enthusiastic demos of the “new products, showing off features that had some in the crowd cheering and whistling. During the demo of Motion, a beaming Dion Scoppettuolo, Motion product manager, turned to the cheering crowd and said, “No, wait, there is so much more,” which only got them cheering louder.
During the event, Apple made its goal for Final Cut Pro very clear.
“What we are committed to do today is nail HD to the wall,” Schoeben said. Apple called on several of its partners, including the BBC, Panasonic, and Grass Valley, to talk to the audience about their choice of Final Cut Pro for their business.
“Final cut pro has struck a chord in this industry,” Schoeben says. There are over a quarter of a million people editing with Final Cut Pro today.”
Besides the integration with other high-end products in its professional market, Apple is emphasizing Final Cut Pro’s scalability.
“That’s the beauty of Final Cut Pro–and this will be equally true for Motion–it scales,” Schoeben says. “With a Mac and Final Cut Pro you can do a range of things from a school project to a full-featured motion picture. We built an application that can serve a variety of markets without forcing people to learn anything new as they progress.”
DVD Studio Pro 3 has become regarded as much easier to use, making it a better jumping point for the midrange authoring professional than earlier versions. DVD Studio Pro 2, introduced at last year’s NAB, featured themes and easier navigation to give people who outgrew iDVD a place to go, while maintaining the high-end features for the professional authoring houses.
“It’s definitely based on feedback from the customers, but it’s also about using the Apple DNA in the best way possible,” Schoeben says. “We are able to develop very sophisticated technology that does amazing things, but we are also able to mask that and make it be intuitive and easy to use.”
One of the surprise announcements from Apple was Xsan, a Storage Area Network file system aimed at users in video and other businesses looking for high-speed access to central, shared data. Apple is pricing Xsan at $999 per node, claiming this put it at about a third of the cost of competing products.
Schoeben says Apple wanted to solve a problem for the customer and bring SAN to the masses, instead of selling a few expensive solutions.
Apple introduced many new features today that it says are directly related to customer and industry feedback to its products. Integration, scalability, ease of use, and giving the market the creative tools they need were all high points in the company’s presentation.
“The computer is now too full of itself,” Schoeben says. “It needs to be about the end customer and the desire to make art or produce a project. We live in that community; we’ve served that community for a long time and we get it. We know that professionals want great technology, but they don’t want it to sit higher on the pedestal than them.”