NAB 2007 Report

Posted on by Larry

Apple just finished its event for NAB 2007 — where they announced Final Cut Server, Final Cut Studio 2 and Color!

I’m sitting in the hallway of the Venetian Hotel, just outside the ballroom, about an hour after their presentation, working on two articles for Edit Well and thought you might be interested in some more immediate observations.

Final Cut Server

First, Final Cut Server looks to be Apple’s answer to the many problems we’ve suffered with Media Manager, as well as the competitive pressure from Avid Unity. According to Apple’s press release:

“Final Cut Server provides media asset management and workflow automation for post production and broadcast professionals. A scaleable server application that supports workgroups of any size, Final Cut Sever includes a cross-platform client that enables content browsing, review and approval from within a studio or over the Internet. [It] automatically catalogs large collections of assets and enables searching across multiple volumes via an intuitive user interface. Final Cut Server is designed to manage the flow of work, as assets and projects move from producer to editor to artist through the entire production process.”

Server is priced at $999, for 10 licenses, and $1,999 for unlimited licenses. Apple says it will be available “this summer.” Here’s the link for all the hardware specs:

Last year, Apple purchased Proximity, a London-based firm that developed “artbox,” asset management and workflow automation. This looks like Apple’s initial implementation of the software since the purchase.

Final Cut Studio 2

The big announcement for me was that Apple announced ProRes 422 — a 10-bit codec that creates high-quality HD video in a fraction of the hard disk space and band width. The key phrase here is 10-bit — this allows greater color manipulation and image quality. DVCPROHD and the Animation codecs are both 8-bit, so ProRes improves on both of those. Sony, Panasonic, and Red all announced support.

However, for most of the rest of the world that isn’t fascinated by codecs, Apple announced a flock of new features for all it’s Final Cut Studio applications. You can find the complete list here:

For me, the key highlights so far, are:

Final Cut Pro 6
  • ProRes 422
  • “Open Format Timeline.” This means you can put any video format, any image size, any frame rate, on a Final Cut timeline and Final Cut will play it in real time with no rendering.
  • Motion tracking made easy
Motion 3
  • 3D workspace and camera moves
  • Vector paint
  • Audio behaviors (making video move based upon the audio)
Soundtrack Pro 2
  • Fades in the multi-track timeline (YAAY!)
  • Ability to edit audio based on frequency
  • Ability to automatically conform (or change) an audio mix based on editing changes in Final Cut sequences
  • Surround Sound mixing
Compressor 3
  • Revised interface
  • Drag-and-drop presets
  • Dynamic filters, such as timecode burn in and animated watermarks
  • SD, HD, 2K, 4K color correction integrated with Final Cut using the Send command.
  • Primary an secondary color correction
  • Vignettes and partial frame color correction
  • Professional scopes, including a 3D vectorscope
  • 32-bit float, 4:4:4 color space image processing

Color is bundled (BIG cheer) with Final Cut Studio 2. Pricing is $1,299 retail, $499 upgrade from Final Cut Studio, $699 upgrade from ANY version of Final Cut Pro.

Comments and Thoughts

The stars of the show were Final Cut Server, Soundtrack Pro, and Color. DVD Studio Pro was not demoed and barely mentioned (Apple does not mention any new features for it in its press release). There was also no mention of the current HD DVD wars — nothing about Blu-Ray or HD-DVD.

It’s interesting to see how Silicon Color (color correction) and Proximity (asset management) both of which Apple purchased last year, have made the transition to Apple products.

Based on what was shown on-screen today, Color has the most unusual interface and, I suspect, will take a great deal of getting used to in order to create good looking results. Parts of it remind me of Shake.

No new Final Cut interface elements were introduced today. Based on the screen shot provided by Apple PR, there are no major interface changes.

Tomorrow, I’m in briefings with Apple to learn more. As well, I’m researching two stories for the next issue of Edit Well. We will have a LOT more to say in the April issue. There is plenty more to learn — this is only the beginning!

As Apple said at the beginning of its presentation, this is the biggest group of product announcements in Final Cut’s history. I’m looking forward to learning more in the next several days and sharing it with you.

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