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Apple unveils Final Cut Pro X

NAB News: Apple provided a sneak peek at a beta version of an upcoming 64-bit Final Cut Pro X, costing just $299, during the FCP User Group’s SuperMeet at Bally’s Hotel in Las Vegas on Tuesday night.

NAB News:Apple provided a sneak peek at a beta version of an upcoming 64-bit Final Cut Pro X, costing just $299, during the FCP User Group’s SuperMeet at Bally’s Hotel in Las Vegas on Tuesday night. Carolyn Giardina and David Fox report.

“We think we have something as revolutionary as when we unveiled version 1.0 in 1999,” said an Apple spokesperson unveiling a Final Cut that owes something to the latest version of Apple’s consumer-oriented iMovie, in user interface as well as ease of use, but retains all the functionality required of a professional application.

The upgrade should be eagerly awaited by most professional editors – given that Final Cut has about 55% of the broadcast and post-production market (compared to under 20% each for its biggest rivals: Adobe and Avid), with more than two million users worldwide and a reported 94% user satisfaction rating. Final Cut sales are reportedly growing at 15% per year, compared to about 7% for the non-linear edit market as a whole.

The new, lower price should win more users, although it is unclear if the $299 takes in the whole Final Cut Studio that FCP was only available with previously. Until Apple says otherwise, it should be assumed that the suite will cost extra. What is happening with the rest of the applications wasn’t mentioned at the SuperMeet, although it is likely that they will also undergo a complete revamp. More likely is that the low price of FCP X will mean an end for the cut-down Final Cut Express.

Highlights of the new version include support for image quality as high as 4K within a resolution-independent playback system; no need to transcode any formats; a collection of new organizational tools; and a new interface that includes tools built into the timeline.

There is no longer any need to wait until material is ingested to begin editing, and as it is being transferred video can automatically be assessed for stabilization, including any rolling shutter effects, and corrected. It will also do shot and people detection, adjust colour balance (non destructively) and clean up audio during import. There is also a smart collections feature that will categorize media types (stills, audio, etc.), how the shots are framed (close up, mid shot, etc.) and how many people are in a shot.

Metadata handling has been much improved, and users can apply keywords to part of a clip rather than the whole clip, with no need to create a subclip.

Primary audio and video is locked together, and the new “magnetic timeline” means that it can’t be knocked out of sync when you drag another clip onto it. It can also create compound clips, so that multiple clips can be treated and moved together. It will also auto-sync matching audio waveforms, in the same way as the PluralEyes plug-in does now, for adding audio from an external recorder. There is also much more accurate audio alignment, audio scrubbing is pitch corrected so you get a better idea what people are saying, and audio level adjustments are much simpler.

Saying that the new software is “built from the ground up on modern technologies,“ FCP architect Peter Steinauer suggested that the 64-bit application means that users are “no longer hamstrung” and can now work with “things ridiculously memory intensive.” The existing version is limited to accessing 4GB RAM, but FCP X will work with whatever you’ve got, making maximum use of multiple processor cores and graphics cards.

New tools include a feature called “auditioning,” which essentially allows the user to cue a bunch of decisions, and the ability to do localized adjustment, such as only to a single face (something that would have required export to another program previously).

Editors who had seen the beta before NAB were enthusiastic. “I love the new interface. The Magnetic Timeline is a huge advancement, which lets me focus on editing instead of worrying about sync. Editors just want to make great cuts and Final Cut Pro X makes that easy,” commented Scott Ivers, Post Production Supervisor, Trailer Park Post Production.

“Once again Apple brings us a game changer. This program represents the beginning of a new era in digital editing,” added producer/director, Dean Devlin, Electric Entertainment.

The new version of Final Cut is slated for availability in June.