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Apple's Final Cut is dead. Long live Final Cut.

APPLE'S Final Cut Pro is the leading video-editing program. It's a $1,000 professional app. It was used to make "The Social Network," "True Grit," "Eat Pray Love" and thousands of student movies, independent films and TV shows.

According to the research firm SCRI, it has 54 per cent of the video-editing market, far more than its rivals from Adobe and Avid. Did I use the present tense Sorry about that. Final Cut was @the industry leader.

It ^did cost $1,000. But that's all over now. Recently, Apple pulled a typical Apple move: It killed off the two-year-old Final Cut 7 at the peak of its popularity.

In its place, Apple now offers something called Final Cut Pro X (pronounced "10"). But don't be misled by the name. It's a new program, written from scratch. Apple says a fresh start was required to accommodate huge changes in the technological landscape.

Apple veterans may, at this point, be feeling some creepy deja vu. You've seen this movie before. Didn't Apple kill off iMovie, too, in 2008, and replace it with an all-new, less capable version that lacked dozens of important features It took three years of upgrades before the new iMovie finally surpassed its predecessor in features and coherence.

Some professional editors are already insisting that Apple has made exactly the same mistake with Final Cut X. They say the new program is missing high-end features like the ability to edit multiple camera angles, to export to tape, to burn anything more than rudimentary DVDs and to work with EDL, XML and OMF files (used to exchange projects with other programs).

You can use a second computer monitor, but you need new TV-output drivers to attach an external video monitor. You can't change the settings of your exported QuickTime movies without the $50 Compressor program.

Apple admits that version X is a "foundational piece." It says that it will restore some of these features over time, and that other companies are rapidly filling in the other holes. For non-professionals, meanwhile, Final Cut is already tempting - especially because the price is $300, not $1,000. It's the first Apple program that's available only by download from the online Mac App Store, not on DVD.

All of the programs formerly called Final Cut Studio have been rolled into Final Cut except Motion and Compressor, which are sold separately. Final Cut Express and DVD Studio Pro are gone.

The new Final Cut has been radically redesigned. In fact, it looks and works a lot like iMovie, all dark gray, with "skimming" available; you run your cursor over a clip without pressing the mouse button to play it. Once you're past the shock of the new layout, the first thing you'll notice is that Apple has left most of the old Final Cut's greatest annoyances on the cutting-room floor.

First - and this is huge - there's no more waiting to "render." You no longer sit there, dead in the water, while the software computes the changes, locking up the program in the meantime, every time you add an effect or insert a piece of video that's in a different format. Final Cut X renders in the background, so you can keep right on editing. You cannot, however, organize your files or delete clips during rendering.

Second, in the old Final Cut, it was all too easy to drag the audio and video of a clip out of sync accidently; little "-1" or "(PLUS)10" indicators, showing how many frames off you were, were a chronic headache. But in the new Final Cut, "sync is holy," as Apple puts it. Primary audio and video are always synced, and you can even lock other clips together so that they all move as one.

In fact, an ingenious feature called Compound Clips lets you collapse a stack of audio and video clips into a single, merged filmstrip on the timeline. You can adjust it, move it and apply effects as if it were a single unit, and then un-merge it anytime you like. Compound Clips make it simple to manage with a complicated composition without going quietly insane.

In the old Final Cut, if you dragged Clip A so that it overlapped part of Clip B, even briefly, you wound up chopping away the covered-up piece of Clip B. But now, the timeline sprouts enough new parallel "tracks" to keep both of the overlapping clips. Nothing gets chopped unless you do it yourself.

There are new features, too. The Auditions feature lets you compare alternative shots in the timeline, trying them out without having to place them individually. This is great if you're sitting with a client or director, asking for input. Colour Match does an impressive job making the overall colour cast of one clip (a broad-daylight shot, for example) match the lighting of another (say, a sunset scene).

You can adjust the playback speed of a clip - slow-mo, fast-mo, whatever - just by pressing a key and then dragging the clip's right edge, so that it occupies a longer or shorter chunk of the timeline. It's visual, immediate and render-free.

The new Timeline Index presents a tidy, clickable chronological list of everything in your movie: clip names, markers, clip keywords and so on.

Like iMovie, Final Cut can analyse newly imported video and figure out which shots have people in them - one person, two people, group shots - and put them into virtual folders automatically. You can also apply keywords to any portion of any clip - "Closeup," "Grandma," whatever; the program puts keyworded clips into appropriately named virtual folders, too. Final Cut can also stabilise shaky footage during the import process, and even eliminate hums or hisses in your audio.

The bottom line: The rewritten Final Cut is much, much easier to use than the old one, and its immediacy keeps your creative flow going.

But not everyone will fall in love. Switching to the new Final Cut from the old one is like coming home from college to discover that your parents remodelled your bedroom. Long-time Final Cut jockeys, in particular, may grind their teeth for a few days - and not just because they have to pay $300 for the "upgrade," same as newcomers.

Here's one example. The new "magnetic timeline" works like iMovie's; your clips always snap to the left, leaving no gaps. You can no longer freely park clips temporarily off to the right, using the timeline as a workspace. Also, the fact that Final Cut is much less intimidating may be a bitter pill to swallow for professionals who have sweated blood to master the old version. Online, some early adopters are already cursing how "consumer-y" the new program looks.

Muscat Press and Publishing House SAOC 2011

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Publication:Times of Oman (Muscat, Oman)
Date:Jul 11, 2011
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