MacDirectory Magazine

Fall-Winter 2010 (#43)

MacDirectory magazine is the premiere creative lifestyle magazine for Apple enthusiasts featuring interviews, in-depth tech reviews, Apple news, insights, latest Apple patents, apps, market analysis, entertainment and more.

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128 MacDirectory REVIEW FINAL CUT STUDIO > POLISHING APPLE'S VIDEO TOOLKIT WORDS BY RIC GETTER Breaking with a longstanding tradition, Apple kept mum about its upcoming release at NAB and chose mid-summer and a minimum of fanfare to release the latest version of its pro production suite. In spite of the quietude, Final Cut Studio offers some significant enhancements in usability and capabilities. Like its competitor in downtown San Jose, Apple has obviously been spending time with its users to find out about the kind of improvements they really want and need. The slick new suite adds more than a hundred new features distributed evenly between the innovative, the essential and the "what-took-them-so-long?" categories. However, with this version of Final Cut Studio, the inevitable break with the PowerPC platform has finally arrived. The entire suite is now Intel only. Final Cut Pro 7 After a half-century of analog NTSC with a slowly evolving population of tape formats, less than a decade has produced a dizzying array of digital options and formats with magnetic tape becoming a serious contender for the endangered species list. Final Cut Pro 7 is tackling these changes head-on with new capabilities that will appeal to users ranging from the humble event videographer to Hollywood-types moving to 2K and 4K acquisition. With a significant expansion of its proprietary ProRes codec family, Apple has managed to keep Final Cut Pro relevant to a wide gamut of high def production needs. Two new flavors of the 422 codec will help for offline and HD broadcast news shops while 4444 has the depth to handle the most exacting production needs reflecting Final Cut's ongoing popularity in Tinsel Town. Helping cope with another HD/SD issue is a very useful SD Safe Title Area marker. Regardless of the size (or lack of it) of your production budget, there are a slew of interface enhancements that will make life easier and can speed up your workflows as well. One of the most welcome for those working with clients at their elbow is the new floating time code window. This widget-like display can be dragged to any monitor and contains a variety of related information (take, scene, sequence, etc.). As is often the case in these days of limited travel budgets, your client or producer may not even be in the same time zone. iChat Theater is a great way to keep everyone in the post production loop and is a good deal more flexible (not to mention quite a bit classier) than posting your rushes on YouTube. The friendly time code overlay can also take part in your iChat sessions and the audience will be able to see the results of the changes in real time (and probably telling you they liked the way you had it before while you can still switch it back with the Undo key). If you like what you've been seeing TV sports for the past few years, you'll be happy to learn that animated alpha transitions are now part of both Final Cut 7 and Motion 4. Even though creating the actual media for the transition is not for the faint of heart, Apple has simplified applying the effect with drop zones where you can place the animations and alpha mattes. (A modest library is pre-built effects is available for download.) For better or worse, Matrix-like time remapping has gone from "popular" to "virtually mandatory." In response, Final Cut 7 has greatly simplified how they're handled. You can now manipulate time segments in the timeline as keyframes, lock the in and out points of a time-shifted clip to prevent the effect from rippling through sequence and apply ease-in and out buffering to the time-shifted clip. Motion 4 With Apple's decision to drop Shake from its line-up, Motion now has some very big shoes to fill and the Studio's significantly improved Motion 4 makes a very good start. It has been fleshed out with advanced 3D, layering and compositing features to a point where it is unquestionably muscling into territory that had been exclusively in Adobe's domain. The interface remains uniquely Motion, which may not be to the liking of After Effects aficionados. The benefit here is Motion's unique "heads-up" display, a floating palette that manipulates essential parameters of effects and behaviors. When applied, virtually all of these have a useful default setting to help you get familiar with what the function does. However, manipulating layers of effects on a given object remains a bit tricky. But the payback comes when you need to copy and reapply or globally readjust the behaviors. Motion 4 is now more text friendly, with a much-improved credit roll tool that has enough convenience features to bring some Boris fans into the fold. Motion's powerful 3D behaviors can be easily and logically applied to text.

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