Apple Rolls Out Final Cut Studio 2: First Impressions

Apple Rolls Out Final Cut Studio 2: First Impressions

If you’re interested in high-end video production, you’ll want to take a look at Apple’s Final Cut Studio 2. It’s chock full o’ apps, included a smooth new update to Final Cut Pro, now in version 6, Its main coolness is its ability to crunch HDTV video down to manageable sizes, made possible by ProRes 422, a codec for compressing video that Apple claims to be able to do the video equivalent of stuffing a basketball through a garden hose.

We watched a lengthy demo of the new software, and found it to be a remarkable polyglot, able to handle all kinds of footage all in one big bucket, something that’s really important to broadcasters and filmmakers these days. When there are dozens of varieties of HDTV and regular TV to deal with, this is not a new feature, but welcome by Final Cut users.

Check out a few of our pics in the gallery below, and read more about Final Cut Studio 2 on the next page.

At the same time, Apple showed up Motion 3, a special effects application that can stack up more layers of video than you can shake a stick at. A competitor to Adobe’s After Effects, we noticed a lot of the same features aboard this third iteration of Motion, but the thing just looks dope-easy to use, and has tons of canned effects on board. Leave it to Apple to make the complicated task of video compositing a bit easier.

The there was a neat demo of the next version of Soundtrack Pro, now version 2, which brings some cool editing features to the Apple mid-range sound editor. More intriguing was the 3D representation of a sound wave, and the ability to precisely cut out a particular noise without losing the other sounds around it. Sure, we’ve seen a feature almost exactly like this in Adobe’s Audition sound editing app, but now it was Apple’s turn to catch up.

Then there was Compressor, an expanded compression tool with a simplified interface and more power than before. We were impressed with its batch processing capabilities and added support for one of our fave codecs, H.264. It also encodes video for iPods and Apple TV as well as pro formats, and takes advantage of that new mofo Octomac that heard only one or two mentions in the presentation. But it does cut processing time, crunching video 2.8 times faster on an eight-way processor than was ever possible before.

Next was Color, a colour correcting software tool that looks a lot like $100K software/hardware systems we’ve seen over the years. Colour correction is what made films such as O Brother Where Art Thou? look so warm and old, yet beautiful. Colour correction is a big part of TV and movie production these days, and to really get in there and fix weird colors that weren’t shot properly, as well as warm up scenes and add style, up until recently you needed a seriously expensive system, meaning it would cost you scores of thousands of bucks. But the hall-full of TV production wonks was gasping when Apple flacks told us all this power would be included in Final Cut Studio 2.

And they didn’t even have time to show us DVD Studio 3, which gives you a great way to make sophisticated DVDs.

Pricing was reasonable for all theses apps you get, too. The full price of the whole suite will be $1299, available next month. To upgrade from Final Cut Studio 1 will be $499, and an upgrade from any version of Final Cut Pro since its beginning (1999) is $699. Not a bad deal, not bad at all.