Continuing on its apparent mission to put the tools of every professional trade into the hands of everyday users, Apple has produced the most powerful and easy to use video editing suite yet in Final Cut Studio 2.
It incorporates components for every aspect of your video post production process from the importing of your footage to the delivery of the final product as a movie or DVD. The programs in the suite are Final Cut Pro 6, where you edit and assemble your raw camera footage, Motion 3, a special effects and motion graphics tool, Soundtrack Pro 2, a full audio editing suite, Colour, for colour grading, Compressor, the suite’s encoding tool, and DVD Studio Pro 4 to make your home movies Hollywood studio-quality.
There have been changes across the board, the first of which is that Apple is following the convergence model almost to a fault. Not only does Final Cut Studio contain all the above software, you can no longer buy any of it separately. While it’s excellent value for money, you’re locked into a fairly regimented workflow so if for example you happen to like Maya, Avid or another footage editor or compositor and only need Soundtrack Pro, you’re stuck with a lot of extra stuff you may not have the money or disk space for.
If you do like everything Final Cut Studio has to offer, the additions and improvements within the suite are all good, many of them excellent.
Most of the changes have been designed to take you away from the fiddly technicalities of editing footage and sound and just letting you exercise your left brain. There’s no more encoding or repurposing clip formats when you bring them together in the Final Cut pro timeline, for example. The software adjusts every clip you add to the specs you specify when you start out, no matter what the file format, frame rate or a host of other variables.
There’s a lot more stitching of the data between programs as well. If you’re making changes to your sound mix in Soundtrack Pro and decide to go into Final Cut Pro to make a change to your video edit, the two are obviously going to be out of step. When you return to Soundtrack Pro, simply use the Conform tool to rescan the video edit and it’ll give you a list of sound clips likely to be affected, including suggestions on fixes you can ignore or apply at your leisure.
Many of the changes have been wrought to bring the suite into our time. The biggest thing to happen to video editing since digital is High Definition, and if you prepare video for any commercial or broadcast use, you can’t escape it. Using the new Apple Pro-res 422 codec, Final Cut Pro natively renders all your footage as HD even while working with SD file sizes and processing times. And Soundtrack lets you design a 5.1 surround sound set-up for every individual clip you import and work with, letting you design your sound mix for the biggest multiplex theatre if need be.
Almost every component has a huge array of freebies, from royalty free images, video and sound clips to custom motion behaviours and scene transitions. The intricacies of every little action you can apply to your work are (or can be) collected in a macro-based workflow — sound or video movement, things floating or flying or scenes changing all actionable at a click once created or enacted as a preset.
It won’t make you a great director, but Final Cut Studio takes all the mystery out of post production.