The present and future of post production business and technology

Apple’s NAB announcements [updated]

Although no new applications were announced, Apple upgraded all the Pro Video Apps with new versions of Final Cut Pro, Soundtrack Pro, Compressor 2, Motion 2, LiveType 2, DVD Studio Pro 4 and Shake 4.

In their Sunday morning presentation at Paris, Las Vegas, Apple announced upgrades across the their Pro Video line, consolidating the tools in the $1299 Final Cut Pro Studio. With Final Cut Pro alone priced at $999, the Studio becomes the purchase option of choice if you want Final Cut Pro and any of the other applications. In depth articles will follow, but here’s the 20,000 ft view.

The suite features improved integration across the suite with automatic asset updating from application to application but no dramatic changes to workgroup editing.

Final Cut Pro 5
Key new features are Multicam, Multichannel audio input and support for HDV and P2 media natively. Multicam allows up to 128 angles to be switched in a Multiclip. 4, 9 or 16 angles can be displayed and switched at a time. Final Cut Pro 5 supports tapeless media from Panasonic’s P2 and native IMX support (and keep an eye out for Panasonic’s new camera – P2 media and DV tape for the best of both worlds). MXF media from XDCAM is supported with a 3rd party plug-in from Flip4Mac (Telestream). Final Cut Pro HD works seamless with almost any type of media. HDV media is supported natively. It’s not clear whether or not media can be mixed in a Sequence without rendering. Since it’s not featured, probably not.
RTExtreme has been extended with a new Dynamic RT architecture that adjusts the amount of real-time according to the processor and graphics card speeds – as speeds increase, more real-time will become available. During playback Dynamic RT looks ahead in the timeline and dynamically adapts rather than suddenly stopping playback. Real-time speed change with frame blending is new to version 5.
Final Cut Pro now allows simultaneous import of up to 24 channels of audio. Final Cut Pro audio can now be controlled on any control surface that supports the Mackie Control Protocol meaning that Final Cut Pro mixing can be done a hardware mixer.!
Motion 2
Motion had the most dramatic update with new features that bring the application up to a truly material application for motion graphic design. New interaction techniques – including controlling parameters with a MIDI controller (did anyone say VJ?) – and Replicator for building patterns of repeating objects like flocks of birds. Replicator gives more control than a particle generator and comes with 150 patters with controllable parameters.
Rendering depth has been beefed up to 16 and 32 bits per channel float for those who need it. 32 bit processing is done on the CPU. Motion on Tiger supports more than 4 GB of RAM.
Motion also gains the third dimension with a new 3D distortion filter that allows pseudo 3D with beautiful transparency and effects in real time. A new GPU accelerated architecture lets 3rd parties access the GPU acceleration so Boris, Zaxwerks and DV Garage plug-ins now display in real time.
Soundtrack Pro
Although it shares part of a name with Soundtrack, Soundtrack Pro is far more positioned for a "regular editor" replacement for Pro Tools than simply for scoring music for video. Soundtrack Pro retains the loop editing functionality of Soundtrack, but adds waveform editing, sound design (including a library of sound effects) and includes more than 50 effects from Logic.
Soundtrack Pro comes complete with "search and destroy" tools for most common audio flaws – clicks & pops, AC hum, DC offset, phase and Clipped signal, plus tools for ambient noise reduction and automatically fill gaps with natural sound.
DVD Studio Pro
With an upgrade to version 4, Shake is HD ready with built-in support for H.264 encoding (adopted by both Blu-ray and HD DVD camps) and direct encoding from HDV without intermediate format conversion. Distributed processing using Qmaster for encoding and built-in AC3 encoding (no need to use A.Pack) and enhanced transition support headline DVD Studio Pro’s new features.
On the technical side, DVD Studio Pro 4 supports VTS editing for greater playback performance by allocating menus throughout VTS folders to overcome 1GB menu limitations. GPRM partitioning enhances the scripting options for highly interactive DVDs, for example jumps to motion menu loops to avoid repeating introduction transitions.
LiveType remains part of the Final Cut Pro package and is at version 2. Visually the interface does not appear to have changed. Most of the changes are under the hood with changes to the LiveFont format to support Unicode and vector fonts.

More soon.






8 responses to “Apple’s NAB announcements [updated]”

  1. chinnr

    Thanks for the quick blog update Phillip! Overall, looks good. I’m excited about the multicam, as it looks like they have a really good and easy to use implementation of it.

    Soundtrack Pro and Motion updates sound good as well.

    Does the distributed processing only work within DVD SP, or does Compressor (I noticed on Apple’s website they are saying Compressor 2) also use the distributed processing? I do all of my encoding from Compressor, and would like to have that feature.

    I think some people may see this update falling a bit short without the presence of an updated/retooled media manager. I’m not necessarily one of them, but I’ll bet there are rumbles.

  2. My concern for FCP is that, being joined at the hip to Apple hardware, the OS aned QT, complex and dense longform timelines will remain sluggish and underpowered compared to Avid, whic relies on add-on boxes like Mojo, Adrenaline, et al. FCP will always rely upon the hardware division, the Quicktime department, for increases in speed and performance. And everytime they come out with faster ardware to beat the problem, they load it down with things like Multicam and “Dynamic RT”– again, scaled to the hardware.

    Beyond a nice simple keyboard action to naviage through the zillion window tabs, (overdue now for many moons) FCP needs to be snappy with short *and* longform projects to gain more major aceptance.

    And what about media management?

    (It’s still my favorite shortform editor!)

    Soundtrack Pro still doesn’t get it. We need real live Digital Foley control surface support, and they throw more loops at us and more ways to mix them rather than generate live effects against picture the way the big boys do it. I dunno. Can you at least load software instrument samples now? This is MusicTrack, a poor cousin to GarageBand. SOUNDtrack is a full audio design tool.

    IMHO, the most significant improvement in FCP5 is support for Mackie control surfaces for track manipulation, and I notice MIDI support for Motion, as well. Very wise.


  3. I have to reiterate the question Loren posed here. “What about media management?” I would have expected some great improvement in that area for this release. Is nothing improved? The new features sound pretty slick. I just want to know that they actually fixed problem areas before moving on to new features.

    FWIW, Loren, I use FCP for longform every day and I don’t have the sluggishness you describe. Perhaps you need some tweaking help from Philip or your VAR. Just a thought.

    Further, I do like the prospect of sweetening audio in Soundtrack. I wonder what the integration is like. I do hope it has the ability to batch process audio clips. That or, do it so quickly as to not wait for the final output.

    Looking forward to some post-NAB demos here in Tampa. Thanks Philip! Looking forward to more of your NAB comments.


  4. There appears to be no significant change to Media Management that I can discern. It will be one of the questions I’ll be asking today. Reconnect Media has been improved – faster at least.

    Other than that, nothing specific. Like Jeff said, there are a lot of people using FCP for longform, and frankly, Media Manager needs some good PR. There are traps to fall into (speed changes, freeze frames, capture now etc) but knowing them and avoiding them you can do reliable media management. People do.

    Cheers – now off to the show floor.


  5. I spoke to 2 different FCP engineers (at least they *claimed* to be FCP engineers :P), and specifically asked them about Media Mangler/Manager improvements/fixes in FCP5. Both of them said that there is nothing signifcantly new or improved in MM.

    When I asked them about specfic MM bugs, and if they had been fixed (i.e. incorrect recapture of freezeframes and speed changes, and incorrect consolidation of nested sequences), neither of them recall either of them being fixed. Like Philip said, there are workarounds to the broken MM (yes, *broken*–I know Philip hates it when people call it that, but a feature that requires its users to jump through a myriad of poorly documented hoops and hacks in order to work properly constitutues a “broken” feature, in my book), but if Apple is ever going to succeed at winning over Avid-ites, it needs to rewrite the MM so that it works intuitively and reliably, and us fellow FCP evangelists need to stop making excuses for Apple’s neglect of this much needed “professional” feature.

    Let’s call a spade a spade: the Media Manager sucks, and I tell all of my Avid colleagues that it does whenever we get into arguments about the merits of FCP. Sometimes I think that Apple doesn’t bother with fixing the MM simply because FCP users give Apple a pass because “workarounds” do in fact exist, and as such they dont bother holding Apple’s butt to the fire regarding it. It’s very frustrating.

    But I digress.

    There are no changes to the keyframing engine either. No copy/paste/move of selected keyframes, no hold keyframes, no dragging keyframes past the boundaries of other keyframes, no fixes to the wonky anchor point/center discontinuities, etc.

    No apparant improvements to color correction tools (i.e. no curves, source-side correction, regional mattes etc)

    I am INCREDIBLY disappointed that there is *still* no bezier masking tool in FCP. I had extremely high hopes for FCP 5, but it looks like Perry K. will end up getting our money instead (re: SilhouetteFX Roto)

    Calling FCP5 a disapppointment is a HUGE understantment, to say the least. I’m happy for all the new features (especially MIDI control surfaces!), but I was really hoping that they would address longstanding bugs and feature improvements with 5.0. From everything I’ve seen and heard, it seems that they haven’t.

    Of course, I’ll be first in line to buy 5.0 once it ships 🙂


  6. Avid must be the only NLE that correct recaptures freeze frames and speed changes because it’s a constant problem with every other NLE that I’ve worked with, of those that do batch capture. Neither worked with Media 100.

    MM works consistently but I agree not particularly intuitively. They could take a lesson from the 11 year old design from media 100.

    I’m disappointed in the lack of changes to keyframing and color correction, and would have liked a bezier masking tool native to FCP, but for the latter there are alternatives and I picked up Color Finesse at NAB.

    Of course, we have to realize that these are not “high ticket” features on the feature request list. 🙁

    BTW, Mel, I was within a couple of feet at one point and just couldn’t get free to say hello before you disappeared again. Pity.


  7. I love to edit with FCP. I hate Media Manager. My videos look great but backing up and consolidating a project is always a pain. For a long time I thought I was to blame, for not using MM correctly. Please, Apple, please keep everything else but trash MM and start over. Build something we can brag about. We are devoted, but disapointed.

  8. John, I’m mostly with your original assumption 🙂 Media Manager is actually very consistent. It’s nowhere near as intuitive as I’d like it to be – Media 100 was easier for uprezing but less useful for any other form of media management, including backup.

    Might I be so bold as to suggest “mastering Clips and Media” from Intelligent Assistance. Finally shipping this week.