[ This article was first published in the August, 2009, issue of
Larry’s Final Cut Pro Newsletter. Click here to subscribe. ]
Apple released the latest version of Final Cut Studio on July 23, 2009, which they, in their marketing wisdom, called “Final Cut Studio.” No version number.
This bit of marketing foolishness is supposed to reassure us that Final Cut is… what? Accessible? Always current? A way to save money on printing ink?
From here on out, I’m calling it Final Cut Studio (3).
By now you’ve heard of the update, read stuff about it online, and probably seen some of the demos.
Over the last month, I’ve worked extensively with Final Cut Pro, a great deal with Compression, a fair amount with Soundtrack, played with Motion, and haven’t touched Color at all. DVD Studio Pro is a long-time friend, but, as it hasn’t changed, I haven’t spent much time with it – except for creating projects to make money — which it does very, very efficiently.
So, in this article, I’ll present an an interview I had with Richard Townhill, Senior Director of Product Marketing, on the day that FCS (3) was released.
Then, I’ll wrap up with some thoughts on what other experts are saying and whether the update is worthwhile from my point of view.
RICHARD TOWNHILL INTERVIEW
The afternoon that Final Cut Studio (3) was released, I spoke with Richard Townhill, Director of Video Application Marketing for Apple, and the public face of Final Cut Studio. In fact, Richard is responsible for all the ProApps in Apple, including Final Cut Studio, Aperture, and Logic Studio.
Probably no one in Apple has more direct control over the future of the product than he does. For this reason, it was good to get his take on the latest release. What follows are my notes from our conversation.
Apple’s goal for this upgrade was to integrate user requested features, improve performance, and increase stability for all the applications.
From his point view, the key big features are:
* New versions of ProRes at both the high and low end, including support for alpha channels
* Improved export options from Final Cut Pro
* Blu-ray support within Final Cut Pro and Compressor
* Improved collaboration tools with iChat Theater
* And over 100 new features
One of the questions I ask Richard every year is whether Apple has improved the interface. This year, Richard’s answer was the same: they did not change the interface “It works great just the way it is.” However, I finally realized that Richard and I are thinking different things when it comes to the interface. I suspect when Richard hears that question, he’s thinking about the look of the program; while I’m thinking usability. And, from what I’ve experienced they’ve done a lot to improve usability.
The new version runs an Intel-only systems, requiring OS X 10.5.6 and QuickTime 7.6.2. So, this rules out using my trusty G-5 for editing. I’m already shopping for a new MacPro.
As a note, I have a hard time recommending purchasing the new MacBook Pro 15″ for Final Cut, principally because Apple has removed both a FireWire port and the Express-Card/34. Yes, you can connect a FireWire external drive, but nothing faster. Why should I limit myself to data rates that AT BEST hover around 50 MB/sec, when an eSATA drive is almost double that and a PCIe drive is four times faster? I see no reason to reward short-sighted hardware development with my money.
I asked Richard whether this version supports Snow Leopard. Richard said: “I can’t comment on unreleased products.” I then asked, does that mean that editors should hold off upgrading until Snow Leopard is released in two months? Richard then said: “We have been testing this version of Final Cut Studio with current builds of Snow Leopard and we don’t anticipate any significant problems when the new OS is released.”
According to Richard, DVD Studio Pro remains an application that creates Standard-Def DVDs. They have not added Blu-ray support to it. However, FCP and Compressor can create Blu-ray discs — with some limitations. If you need multiple movies and full motion menus, you’ll still need to use Adobe Encore. However, to export and burn a sequence out of Final Cut – say for a client review – you can now do that easily.
Richard made a point to describe how you can create a Blu-ray-playable disc using the red laser burner in every Mac. Apple calls this an AVCHD disc – a DVD that is burned using a red-laser (such as in a SuperDrive) yet, contains fully compatible Blu-ray media.
The ease of getting files out of Final Cut – what Apple calls “Easy Export” – is very exciting. It is now a single click to publish your project to YouTube, or Blu-ray, or the web. You can even establish post-encode options that compress a file, then FTP it to the website of your choice.
Much to my personal sadness, LiveType did not make the cut. However, it is not completely dead. The text effects in LiveType were integrated into Motion – FCP 7 will support existing Livetype project, but Motion’s text has been beefed up in this version. This means that if you now own LiveType, you’ll be able to create animations for the new version. However, new purchasers of the system won’t have access to LiveType. Richard tells me that when you install the new version, existing LiveType files are not removed.
There is no change in rendering or the video processing engine in Final Cut. FCP 7 does not take advantage of the GPU, though Motion 4 does. What I learned is that FCP rendering is codec-dependent and most codecs don’t support GPU rendering.
However, ProRes has been optimized for multi-core processing. Where possible, transcoding video formats like AVCHD, HDV, XDCAM HD, or XDCAM EX to ProRes will significantly, according to Richard, improve both speed and quality. ProRes now supports both YUV and RGB video, along with 4:4:4:4 (uncompressed Red, Green, Blue, and alpha channels) color sampling.
Apple has done significant work inside Soundtrack, which is a program I use daily, as well as all the other applications inside Studio. However, I’ll save that for another report at a later time.
THOUGHTS ON SNOW LEOPARD
The day before Snow Leopard shipped, I sent Apple an email asking if they would provide a statement regarding Final Cut and Snow Leopard. They declined. So, here’s my take.
The reason Apple released Final Cut Studio (3) BEFORE Snow Leopard, I believe, was that it did not support any of the new features in Snow Leopard. FCS is not 64-bit. It is not Grand-Central Dispatch aware. It does not support GPU-based rendering.
In other words, upgrading to Snow Leopard will not significantly improve or change the operation of Final Cut Studio. For that, we will need to wait for a future release.
So, as you are weighing whether and when to update to Snow Leopard, be sure to make the decision for the correct reason: there is something in it that you just can’t live without. Because Final Cut 7 will still be essentially the same.
Ben Balser adds:
I’ve been running FCS (3) on Snow Leopard for a few days now doing some serious work with it. Very interesting. Installed both as “upgrades’ to see what happened. No problems at all, except for the weird lacking of features in QuickTime X. If anyone installs Snow Leopard, be sure to check off the option to keep QT7, as QTX will not give you any of the Pro features we all very seriously depend on. I find QT X a huge let down, the only negative with these FSC/OSX updates.
UPDATE – Aug. 30, 2009
Grant Harrington adds:
If you have a copy of QuickTime Pro already installed, Snow Leopard installs a copy of QuickTime 7 in the Utilities folder as well. There may be a setting (I didn’t notice at the time of install if there was) too, but found it there and it works as it did in Leopard.
- QuickTime X (Applications)
- QuickTime 7 Pro (Utilities)
Larry replies: Thanks, Grant.
THOUGHTS ON LIVETYPE
I was saddened to see that LiveType did not make the cut. However, according to Richard Townhill, it is not completely dead. The text effects in LiveType were integrated into the latest version of Motion. Motion’s text has been beefed up in this version.
Even better, however, is that FCP 7 will support all existing LiveType projects. Even better, Richard tells me that when you install the new version of FCS (3), existing LiveType files are not removed.
This means you can use your existing version of Livetype to create projects for the new version. However, new purchasers of the system won’t have access to LiveType.
Dick Osso sent me an email asking:
I bought some very usable fonts for Live type. If I upgrade to the new SUITE, Live Type is gone (?). If so, if I make the upgrade, is there any WORK AROUND that I can retain the LIVE TYPE I have?
The same day, Ben Balser sent me the answer:
If you do an “upgrade” to FCS 2009 LiveType is still there. If you do a fresh install, LiveType disappears totally. Now here’s what kills me. Apple actually states somewhere I read that all LiveType functions have moved to Motion. This is half true. LiveFonts have moved to Motion, and that’s it. The text behaviors, many of which Motion did not have, are gone totally. The motion background loops are totally gone. The graphic elements are totally gone, as are the really awesome templates. Templates are important, as I work with many wedding videographers, and LiveType had some great wedding templates that Motion sorely lacks. Well, with a fresh install of FCP 2009, they’re gone, completely vanished.
Larry adds: Ben, I’m a fan of LiveType as well. My suspicion is that updating it to support Snow Leopard was not possible. It will miss it.
THOUGHTS ON ACADEMIC PRICING
With the latest release of Final Cut Studio (3) Apple has lowered the retail price to $999, but RAISED the academic price to $899.
Since the academic version can not be upgraded, there is very, very little reason to purchase the academic version when, for $100 more, you can purchase the full version. Both are identical in terms of functionality. While it can be argued that the academic version is cheaper, my feeling is that if you can’t afford $999, you probably can’t afford $899 either.
UPDATE – Aug. 30, 2009
Carl Sundermann adds:
I wanted to comment on something you said about the academic pricing of FCS 3. You mentioned that they raised the Academic pricing to $899, which is true, but ONLY for personal purchases by teachers/students/etc. It’s still $299 for purchases by academic organizations, like the K-12 school district I work for. When on Apple’s site and clicking “Education Store”, you have to use the “Purchasing for your institution” link, and that gives the $299 pricing. I just did this last week and ordered two seats for $598.
Just thought I would pass the word.
Larry replies: Thanks, Carl.
UPDATE – SEPT. 2009
After working with the lastest version, I like Final Cut Studio (3). If you have an Intel-based system, are between projects, and the price is affordable, there are a number of useful improvements in the new version that make it a worthwhile upgrade. I’ve been using it with no significant problems.
I am not yet ready to recommend upgrading to Snow Leopard. The latest update – 10.6.1 – was just released. It fixes a number of problems, including one with Motion 4. However, we still need to wait for the third-party community to catch up.
For now, I still recommend waiting before upgrading to Snow Leopard.
UPDATE – OCT. 2009
Roger Watling writes:
I found an issue with opening a sequence in FCP 7 that was created in 6.
All was well except for the -100 speed changes, I just used the field reversal plug in which fixed it.
I’m sure this is a simple basic thing but one that could easily be overlooked when an old project is re-exported.
Larry replies: Thanks!
The elimination of LiveType as a standalone is a big mistake. More Apple arrogance.
I love LiveType. It’s footprint is small and it runs fast.
I like using it for FCP and it’s less intimidating to lower end users that I tutor.
The other thing is that it is faster than Marquee and that makes it a nice quick title animator for Avid.
(I am amused that nearly 20 years after Avid’s introduction, FCP now let’s you name the markers. Not impressed.)
The rest, well if you still have to re-render in order to view element composites on the timeline then you’re still in the stone age which is why I prefer the faster Avid to editing HD. For SD I consider it a wash.
Larry replies: Thanks, Marcus.
Here’s my thought on LiveType. It’s a great program, but it was written so long ago that re-writing it to fully support Snow Leopard is not worth the effort it would take Apple. So, they decided to let it die a slow death now, by supporting it in FCP 7 but not including it in the package, rather than kill it abruptly in the next release.
Just speculation, but that’s what seems to make sense to me.
Philip Hodgetts adds:
I think it ultimately simply became redundant when they added the glyph animation features to Motion and fixed the way Motion dealt with color change on LiveFonts (the main reason I continued to champion LiveType over Motion for LiveFonts). But Motion 4 deals with it right (to my thinking) so ultimately LIveType didn’t really have a future. Nothing much unique left for it. The technology all lives on, just inside Motion.
And I’ve been a big LiveType fan.
Larry replies: Sigh… me, too.
[ Go to Top. ]
Alan Day writes about running FCP 7 on OS X 10.6.1:
I have had duplication of Audio automation data from one track (Music) onto another track (Narration) where it was not supposed to be! Using Edit > Remove attributes on the narration zeroed out the rubber banding. However, despite the Automation being visibly unchanged on the MUSIC track (NOT having done anything to it) playback sounded as if it too was zeroed out! Clicking once on the Music track then caused the Automation (Rubber bands) to visually jump what I had just heard – i.e. zeroed out.
I have also had times when video clips, played back in the time line even AFTER they have been removed or “covered” with another clip on a higher layer!
Sometimes they simply don’t play in the canvas after being edited into the timeline … this “feels” like a render engine problem as I have seen this problem emerge right after a clip refused to render.
Soundtrack “Pro” is still as unstable as it ever was. Zero improvement noticed with existing (reported) STP2 faults still unfixed!
Here is one for the newsletter! When outputting a program in ProRes I got this helpful little message. (attached screenshot) … about 90% through a 3 hour render. Nothing at all was found to be output. Tried 7 times so far …
I tried relinking the media to find and illuminate unused files and templates but that didn’t help either. Nothing was off line – I checked.
Larry replies: Alan, thanks for the update.
By the way, while I am not yet running Snow Leopard, I am using Soundtrack Pro almost every day with no problems. I remain very uncomfortable recommending running FCS (3) on Snow Leopard.
And I agree, that your dialog box is somewhat less than helpful…!
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