Final Cut Pro 4

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Final Cut Pro 4

Version 4 takes Final Cut Pro to new heights - and some of the new features will make users dizzy

With the introduction of version 4, Final Cut Pro has become more of a suite of applications. At the centre is FCP itself, which allows users to capture, edit, add special effects, create composites (and animations, too), and export to a variety of formats. The program requires Mac OS 10.2 or newer and, for real-time effects, needs a fast G4 Mac. Last year, Apple introduced Cinema Tools, a separate program costing the same as FCP alone, which added 24fps film-friendly editing and database management to all the other formats that FCP was capable of handling - such as DV, DVCpro, SD, HD and BetaSP. Feature film editors were impressed, especially on discovering that they could buy a handful of G4 PowerMacs equipped with FCP for the cost of one Avid system.
With FCP 4, Cinema Tools 2 is included free, and so, too, are three further Apple applications - Compressor; Soundtrack and LiveType - plus Bias's VST-compatible sound editor, Peak Express. The Apple programs all integrate with FCP, but are fully-featured applications in their own right, and give a further value-for-money boost to those upgrading or buying for the first time.
Compressor encodes FCP sequences and QuickTime files into various formats for delivery via the web, CD-ROM or DVD. Apple has added a shortcut in the Export menu to invoke Compressor directly, but the program can run standalone, too. Soundtrack, a spin-off of Apple's acquisition of music software developer eMagic, is used to generate music tracks for video projects and comes with 5GByte of music files on DVD.
From its earliest version, FCP had been criticised for its inadequate titling capabilities. Making things worse, the only simple but effective third-party title programs available were Windows-based. The only professional options for FCP users were plug-in solutions from the likes of BorisFX or Digital Anarchy, or a major investment in Adobe After Effects.
LiveType is the answer to these justified criticisms. The program is simple to use and offers advanced animated title effects. To go with it, Apple has developed a new type of animated font called LiveFont, and supplies a healthy selection of typefaces with the application. Also supplied is a library of presets, customisable animations and project content, making up 9GByte of files across two DVDs.

Apple has hugely improved audio control with FCP4. Compressor, Peak Express and the excellent LiveType greatly increase the program's value for all users - the more so with FCP 4's price drop. Editors of 24fps film will welcome the inclusion of Cinema Tools 2 and the pulldown options, which we haven't even explored. The fact that Compressor prevents work being carried out in FCP while encoding is going on, though, needs to be sorted out, and quickly.
Being able to preview effects in real-time via FireWire is a major enhancement, and the Unlimited RT mode opens up real-time possibilities on slower G4 Macs and maximises the number of effects that can be played back - at the expense of some dropped frames. Being able to preview motion effects, transitions and filters without rendering is a boost for creativity and a big time-saver.
Overall, FCP4 is a major advance, and can be warmly recommended.

Steven Hood

Read the full feature in October 2003's Computer Video magazine.


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