Apple’s Announcement – First Impressions

nab-stage.jpgToday’s Apple event at NAB was heavily anticipated and turned out to be a real blockbuster. Updated versions of most of the major applications in FCP Studio were demoed and many represent breakthroughs either in capability or price or both. The company showed off a new media asset manager and collaboration tool called Final Cut Server, and it revealed a new color correction application, Color, included in FCP Studio.

Final Cut:

  • Multiple resolutions in same timeline
  • Multiple frame rates in same timeline
  • Support for a new compressed HD codec, called “ProRes 422,” via a $3,500 hardware encoder and breakout box from Aja called the “I/O HD”
  • Much better integration with Motion

Final Cut Server

  • Media management solution for $1,000 (10 users) or $2,000 (unlimited)

Motion

  • New 3D tools
  • New tracking tools
  • Paint tools

Soundtrack

  • Tracks changes in a sequence imported from FCP
  • Full support for surround (5.1 treated as a single clip, complete pan controls)
  • Spectral editing (look at a spectrum graph and remove pieces of it).

Compressor

  • More presets.
  • Much faster encoding using 8-core Mac Pro

Color

  • Sophisticated and easy-to-use color correction via technology that was presumably picked up when Apple acquired Final Touch.
  • Included in Final Cut Studio

What we didn’t see:

  • Final Cut Extreme — many rumors predicted a 4K hardware/software finishing solution for $10,000. The demo talked about 4K support on a laptop, but I see nothing about this at Apple’s FCP site.
  • Changes or additions to the basic editing model (translate — better trim controls). I’m really bummed about this one.

Of course, it’s early days on all of this. We’ll have to see how it shakes out in the real world of editing rooms, which no NAB demo will ever reveal. And the announcement covered so much ground that all kinds of details were missing. But Apple is taking direct aim at Avid in several ways.

Final Cut Server is positioned against Avid Interplay at a fraction of the price. I/O HD takes on Adrenaline HD, again for much less money. ProRes 422 competes with DNxHD. Motion integration into Final Cut aces all of Avid’s antiquated title generation tools.

Soundtrack offers 5.1 mixing, something you have to buy a Pro Tools to get on the Avid side of things, and change tracking between FCP and Soundtrack is something Avid should have offered long ago. The new Color application gives Apple the lead in low-cost desktop color correction.

It’s been almost two years since Final Cut Pro 5 was released and a year since 5.1 added Intel support. In that time Avid should have been innovating aggressively. We’ve seen some valuable improvements, certainly, but the changes have been relatively conservative, presenting Cupertino with what amounts to a near stationary target in some areas — and Apple has responded very aggressively.

Engadget has good early coverage with a lot of pictures. Apple’s site gives additional details.

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4 Comments on “Apple’s Announcement – First Impressions”

  1. Travis Finstein Says:

    Some excitement but some disapointment. I agree- no editing functionality update is a bummer. Also- whould it have been too much trouble to get rid of the ugly UI and get it on par with Motion and Soundtrack UIs.

    Always adding new bold features but leaving little importaint bugs and anoyances untouched- Avid does the same thing.

  2. Mark Burton Says:

    All very nice as usual, Color thrown in was a surprise, ProRes is a good steal from Avid, but needed, mixed format, framerate etc very good, Compressor multithread support good.

    Very, very disappointed by the lack of FCP UI update, amazed they didn’t do this, its one of the worst UI’s of any app, and coming from a company that produces some striking UI’s. Bring it up to the rest of the Studio’s level.

    Cinema Tools received some attention which is good to see, but they should just bundle its database into FCP and be done with it.

    Was expecting shared project support with a new project file format to suite – XML based bundle with Aperture like access. No Smart Bin’s in FCP. All in all FCP 6 has very little for a new version, its the Studio bundle which is the killer blow.

  3. editblog Says:

    I agree that the lack of basic editing functionality in FCP 6 was a disappointment. I think Apple still misses the point a bit but they did release some very impressive things otherwise. Mark says “no smart bin’s in FCP.” I would respond that with FCP’s tabbed architecture there has been FCPs own version of a smart bin from day 1.

  4. Mark Burton Says:

    A Smart Bin in an NLE should operate just as a OS X Finder Smart Folder does. This does not exist in FCP currently. I’ve been asking Avid to do this too, but first Avid need to figure out how to let us search closed Bins!!


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