At a special event in Las Vegas on Sunday, Apple Computer launched Final Cut Studio, a suite of new applications designed to give its professional users a firm grip on the burgeoning HD market. The suite includes upgraded versions of Final Cut Pro, DVD Studio Pro, Motion and a new application called Soundtrack Pro.
“We are leading the charge,” Rob Schoeben, Apple’s vice president of Applications Marketing, told MacCentral. “Many people looked at HD support in iMovie this year and said, ‘that’s a little ahead of its time,’ and the reality is, they are absolutely right. But, now the moment it [HD] takes off, every Macintosh is ready.”
Schoeben said that Apple liked to think of 2005 as the year of HD and the company’s consumer and professional product strategy is going full force behind this belief. Typically when you think of HD, Apple’s movie products come immediately to mind, but Apple says it goes beyond that.
“We are not just talking about HD in Final Cut Pro — it’s a complete solution,” said Schoeben.
Final Cut Pro
Final Cut Pro 5 supports working in DV, SD, film or all major HD formats including HDV, DVCPRO HD and fully uncompressed HD. Perhaps the biggest new feature for Final Cut Pro is multicam support, which brought enthusiastic cheers from the assembled crowd. The multicam tools allow editors to cut from up to 128 sources, with simultaneous real-time playback of up to 16 angles at a time.
In typical Apple fashion, multicam support can be achieved by simply clicking on the camera angle the editor wants to use and it is instantly added to the timeline. Crossfades and other effects, as well as adjustments to current clips can also be achieved straight from the timeline. Like the other applications in the suite, there is no need for rendering, everything is done in real-time.
“What we found from our Final Cut Pro experience is that people have fallen in love with a new way of working that has got as much of a ban on rendering as possible,” said Schoeben. “You have real-time editing, real-time motion graphics and you want your audio to be real-time too — everything follows that theme. It draws a pretty stark contrast to some of the ways they are being asked to work on other platforms with other products.”
This is possible in Final Cut Pro with the addition of Dynamic RT, an intelligent system that automatically adjusts image quality and frame-rate during playback, allows editors to see more real-time effects at the highest possible quality. Apple has also added new audio capabilities in Final Cut Pro 5, which enables users to capture up to 24 simultaneous audio channels at high-quality 24-bit 96kHz and use audio control surfaces.
The new application included with Final Cut Studio, Soundtrack Pro takes elements from its namesake, Soundtrack, and Logic Pro. Soundtrack Pro includes full multitrack editing and mixing, over 50 professional effect plug-ins from Logic Pro 7 and more than 1,000 professional quality sound effects.
“Pro Tools approach is to try to be one tool for everything,” said Schoeben. “We took a lot of time to decide what the right way to solve the audio issues out there — the answer was two tools. With some shared tools, but a great music creation tool in Logic Pro 7 and an audio for video tool that is first and foremost about creating the perfect soundtrack.”
Soundtrack Pro also includes useful utilities that fix common problems with audio files including Find-and-Fix, which identifies and repairs background noise, pops, clicks and hum.
Integration with Soundtrack Pro and Final Cut Studio is very tight according to Apple. This allows users to seamlessly move between other Final Cut Studio applications and Soundtrack Pro for quick audio touch-up and creation. Entire sequences from Final Cut Pro 5 can also be taken to the Soundtrack Pro multitrack editor for larger scale, audio post production.
Motion First introduced at last year’s NAB, Apple today introduced Motion 2, the company’s real-time motion graphics software. Among its new features is Replicator, a new automated design tool that lets editors animate any number of duplicated movies or graphics along user defined grids and patterns.
Motion 2 also includes over 130 accelerated filters such as 3D rotation, vignette and caustics, and more than 50 new particle effects that automatically generate spectacular animations like sparkles, bubbles and space clouds.
Apple has also given third-party developers a way to write their own effects with FxPlug, a professional plug-in format that takes full advantage of Motion 2’s real-time GPU accelerated performance and 32-bit float rendering.
In addition, new MIDI support allows Motion 2 to be “played” like a musical instrument with animation changes triggered by playing a keyboard or using faders or knobs on a MIDI controller.
DVD Studio Pro
Finally, DVD Studio Pro 4, Final Cut Studio’s DVD authoring program, is the first commercially available DVD authoring software that lets users burn their HD projects to high definition DVDs based on the latest HD DVD specification, according to Apple.
Schoeben said that, for now, HD DVDs could only be play on a Macintosh using the new movie player application included with Mac OS X Tiger.
DVD Studio Pro 4 will be demonstrated at NAB with a prototype consumer HD DVD player from Toshiba set to debut later this year.