Richard Townhill Interview About Final Cut Studio (3)

Posted on by Larry

[ This article was first published in the August, 2009, issue of
Larry’s Final Cut Pro Newsletter. Click here to subscribe. ]

The afternoon that Final Cut Studio (3) was released, July 23, 2009, 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:

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.


In my conversation with Richard Townhill the day Final Cut Studio (3) was released, we also discussed other applications in the suite. Here are his comments.

Adobe made a big push with CS4 to support metadata – that is, data about your files – throughout all their programs.

Without looking at the specifics on a file by file basis, Richard couldn’t provide details. However, if the metadata is inside the QuickTime file or a industry standard side-car file (a separate file linked to the main file containing metadata), FC Server can read it. FC Server still does not read inside a Soundtrack Or Motion project.

The biggest new feature, for Richard, is the support of ProRes Proxy to create very small, high-quality versions of your clips for long-term storage within the program.

The workflow is:

Soundtrack and Motion projects can be stored as objects, but, unlike Final Cut, assets inside them are not readable by Server.

Final Cut Server is now sold for $999 and provides unlimited licenses.

The big feature in STP is voice level matching for dialog between clips.

More than just normalization, this adjusts equalization levels between clips, so that the voices sound the same, but the background remains unchanged. I haven’t had time to test this, but I am very interested to see if this works, because I could use this in almost every project.

Richard also told me we can extract dialog using the frequency spectrum view which could also be useful in improving the understandability of our audio.

Apple has improved the ease-of-use and integrated it more tightly with Final Cut Pro. (However, as a note, as of when this newsletter is written, there is a bug in Color that causes it to improperly handle effects created in the Motion tab of Final Cut Pro. For this reason, be sure to test a clip before committing your entire project.)

We didn’t talk about all the programs – you’ll notice Motion is missing from his comments – simply because we ran out of time.

However, I found Richard’s perspective interesting and wanted to share it with you. Thanks, also, to Richard Townhill for sharing his time for this interview.

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