Apple Final Cut Pro 2, Matrox RTMac

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Apple's Final Cut Pro 2, Matrox's RTMac
Although Windows users have been able to buy sub-£1,000 real-time editing solutions for the last 18 months or so, Mac users have had to wait for QuickTime 5 and both Apple's Final Cut Pro 2 and Matrox's RTMac real-time card. The Apple/Matrox combination costs more than Windows equivalents, and expectations are high - but can they be fulfilled?
This review is about two separate products - Apple's Final Cut Pro 2 video editing program, and Matrox's real-time video editing card, the RTMac - that combine to provide real-time video editing.
In truth, it's actually about three products, the third being Apple's QuickTime 5.0, which underpins much of the real-time capability that this pairing provides. Oddly, FCP 2 and RTMac are only sold separately, and are not yet available as a money-saving bundle. Until other software companies launch compatible editing programs (or real-time plug-ins), the RTMac can only be used with Final Cut Pro 2. And, until other real-time cards arrive, FCP 2 doesn't work in real time unless it's paired with an RTMac.
Final Cut Pro has made a lot of waves throughout the video editing world since its unveiling in early 1999. Many long-time users of established editing software - from Avid to Premiere - have converted to Apple's offering. Final Cut Pro featured a familiar interface and packed so much punch for a sub-£1,000 program that production studios couldn't ignore it, and Mac-owning hobbyists were willing to the pay the extra - above the cost of Premiere - for what they saw as a broadcast-quality desktop-editing solution. But Final Cut Pro 1.2 was not without its faults. Just ask any FCP user about the lacklustre title-generator, or the less than speedy After Effects plug-in support.
Version two was released with much fanfare in March to a highly expectant user base and a sideline of critical onlookers. The promise of new features and improvements always gets users excited - and the excitement was boosted by the expectation of real-time editing coming to the Mac. With V2, Apple appears to have answered most complaints and fulfilled many requests for improved features and support. For instance, After Effects plug-ins, such as DigiEffects Aurorix 2, now work considerably faster than they did before. However, new features can be found throughout all areas of the application and, in most cases, they aren't immediately evident.
Even without RTMac, FCP 2 is a weighty package - quite literally. Opening the box reveals why - the new FCP 2 manual is a staggering 1,435 pages, and big enough to cause a headache just looking at it sitting on the desk. That said, it's clear and concise and remarkably easy to digest, and seems to cover just about all bases. Apple also includes a separate 108-page tutorial booklet that is a great introduction to editing with FCP.
Final Cut Pro is a powerful editing application that just got much better. V2 is easier to use and has a bevy of new or enhanced features. The motion paths are unrivalled at this level, and many above. The new text generators and the Boris title creation plug-in should answer the criticism of titling within V1.2. The bundled software is varied and compliments FCP 2 well.
The Matrox RTMac is a dream come true for many. The prospect of working in real-time on a Mac is now a reality - but only for those with G4, AGP-equipped Macs. Analogue to digital conversion is excellent and the ability to preview edits live without an attached DV device is most welcome. Add to that the built-in graphics card capabilities and the £820 price tag almost seems justified. FCP and RTMac make a great combination, but a bundle deal at a reduced price would make them even better.
Apple, 0800 783 4846; www.apple.com
Matrox, 01793 441107; www.matrox.com

For the full review, see the July 2001 issue of Computer Video.

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