The present and future of post production business and technology

What about Final Cut Pro 7?

I was prepared for a “small” release this time round, as I assumed that the Pro Apps Team would be working hard to convert to Cocoa and would have to release a smaller “interim” release, but Final Cut Pro 7 is definitely more than I was expecting.

Having iChat Theater built-in means no more workaround with remote collaboration using two Macs! It also suggests the Pro Apps folk “get” that remote collaboration is booming and they know they need to adapt to that world.

Likewise the new publishing palette is going to be great for a lot of editors who need to routinely provide progress updates and deliver them on the web. That it runs in the background while you continue working is even better. You could have saved a reference movie and sent that to Compressor and added an upload action to the preset, but this is just so much simpler, and gives direct access to the most popular sharing sites, and Mobile Me!  MobileMe might be the best choice for many editors – files can be private and certainly not as public as YouTube!

My all-out favorite features, while a small one, is that Markers in a Sequence now move with the Sequence as clips are inserted or deleted. Colored Markers are great and I’ll use them a lot to identify a type of marker. For example, one color could mean “more work needed here” another color would be a locator just you jump quickly to part of the Sequence, and so on.

The technologist in me is very impressed with the new ProRes codecs. Those that work at the high end will love the ProRes 4444 codecs (and those that want an alpha channel will use it anyway). The Proxy version at 36 Mbit/sec parallels Avid’s own DNxHD offline codec and Apple needed something similar for HD offline. The most interesting codec is, however, the 100 Mbit LT version.

Clearly aimed at acquisition I expect we’ll see camcorders and other devices, like maybe the Ki Pro, supporting this data rate, which is co-incidentally the same as AVC-I at its highest setting. AVC-I up against ProRes 422 LT would be very, very similar in quality, both 4:2:2 and 10 bit and using similar compression strategies. It would be a perfect data rate for the Ki Pro if AJA want to support it. (I can’t help but wonder if the last-minute-delay of the Ki Pro wasn’t to wait for this announcement, but I’m just guessing.)

The Pro Apps team have thrown a “sop” at those who want Blu-ray authoring with the ability to create a Blu-ray compatible H.264/AVC file in Compressor that can be burnt to Blu-ray or standard DVD media. Nothing that Toast 10 hasn’t been able to do for some time now but nice to have it included in the lower-cost Final Cut Studio.

Many have interpreted the inclusion of this feature as an indication that Apple are going to get “more serious” about Blu-ray, but I’m not sure. I think it indicates the opposite. If there was going to be a big Blu-ray push the these features would be added to DVD SP, which received almost no update in this version. I think we’ve got Apple’s “solution” for Blu-ray in Final Cut Studio. Who know, only the future (and probably a Product Manger at Apple) will tell. (The PM won’t ever tell, that’s for sure!)

As to the loss of LiveType. It was probably inevitable as it was increasingly obvious that Motion was taking on many of the roles previously done by LiveType. By adding in the LiveType glyph animation features to Motion (adopted directly from LiveType) most of the functionality is now in Motion. My only concern is whether Motion now recolors LiveFonts correctly (i.e. the way LiveType did). I’ll test as soon as I have a copy in hand.

Finally, the price. Who can complain about Final Cut Studio being the same prices now as Final Cut Pro was alone for the first couple of generations.

Certainly, on the surface, it’s a good release.

On the timing – I notice that all Pro Apps products – Studio, Server and Logic (Pro Music) all came out together for the first time. Does it mean anything? It’s Apple, who knows and I’d rather not drive myself crazy trying to second guess them!







9 responses to “What about Final Cut Pro 7?”

  1. Hello Philip,

    good to hear that at least you are happy about the update. In fact this is the most positive article about the release that I read online.

    I myself will not upgrade but stick with FCS2. If I look at the new features they are certainly interesting and some should have been in there for a while.

    Why not Cocao native and why not an updated GUI ? I guess they are afraid to break it in a similar way they broke iMovie.

    Need to read more.

  2. “Why no Cocoa native”?

    There simply has not been time to do the work from the time they knew they had to. (July 2007 at WWDC).

    Look back at my previous Snow Leopard and FCP article for a full explanation.


  3. Jeff Handy

    Philip, I agree about ProRes 422 LT. I was just doing the math and I think that works out to 12.5MB/sec – is that right? If so, it makes HD much more feasible from a storage perspective in our shop. Our 40TB SAN may be able to handle that. We were previously considering doubling that size for the transition. Now, hmm…

  4. Indeed Jeff, that’s 12.5 Mbit/sec or 46 GB an hour. That’s at 1080i60 but the data rate varies considerably from 41 Mbits/sec for 720p24 to 204 Mbit/sec for 1080p60.

    That’s quality comparable to AVC-Intra (10 bit 4:2:2)


  5. Jeff Handy

    Well, our current SD content is compressed at 50 mbps. We were looking at HD being around 200-300 mbps. Seeing as how we add 10% more storage per year, I think we can keep up without doubling it straight away. It’s really good news for us. Funny thing is, I’ll probably upgrade at home much sooner than we will at work. Se la vie!

  6. Allan

    I like this update, just got my copy this morning. Will be installing soon, as I’m in the middle of project that is working and I don’t want to screw it up.

    Personally I think this is an interim release. It quells all the talk about apple not being in the pro apps business anymore (this release will make them $300+ million in software alone) and gives them some time to put the finishing touches on the next major release for SL. I think the improvements will make it much better to work with. The codec’s aside, its like they spent some time going how can we make it work better. I like that. Sure there are and will still be issues but I think this bodes well for the FCS3.5 release in the new year after everything is ported over to SL (my guess based on ZERO inside knowledge and the past FCP4 – FCP4.5 update)

    I don’t get the bad press. It did everything I needed it to do before, now it does it better. The upgrade price is reasonable. Sure there are things that I wish it had, but I certainly have no intention of switching to another app.

    The next few months should be telling as I find its always the little things that make your life as an editor all that much easier, not the big changes. Until there’s an app that you just hit the ‘easy’ button and it assembles and edit for you…oh wait, that already exists.

    1. I think if you expect a Snow Leopard release in the new year you’ll be very, very, very disappointed. Before any SL work can be done the application has to be almost completely rewritten in Cocoa from Carbon. See my Snow Leopard and FCP post a few weeks back. Earliest we’re likely to see a SL enabled version of FCP is some time in 2011. There just hasn’t been enough time to do the work before that. (Porting to Cocoa and QA testing will take 2-3 years from July 2007 when the FCP team found out it would be necessary.

      Think 2011 for the next release and you won’t be disappointed. If it’s earlier, so much the better.

  7. While I understand Apple’s reasoning, I’m bummed that FCP7 will only run on Intel Macs, effectively adding thousands of dollars to the upgrade cost. There’s still lots of life left in my G5 PowerMac.

    1. Search or! All the Final Cut Studio 3 apps still appear to be Universal Binary. The installer (alone) prevents them installing. Now, there’s been no testing, afaik, for PPC so you’d be totally unsupported, but there are apparently people working with FCP 7 on PPC.