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Apple releases Final Cut Pro X

It’s finally here. Apple has released Final Cut Pro X, a brand new version of its flagship professional non-linear video editing software. It should be available as a $300 download from the App Store at some point after 5:30 a.m. Tuesday, though Apple warns that it might take "some time" for it and companion apps Motion and Compressor to be visible.

First previewed to great fanfare at the NAB 2011 Final Cut Pro Users Group SuperMeet, Final Cut Pro X has been completely rewritten, offering 64-bit support, a revamped interface, and a slate of new features. The software takes advantage of Mac OS X features like Cocoa, Core Animation, Open CL, and Grand Central Dispatch to speed up and refine performance. It also features a new floating point linear color system, support for resolution-independent footage up to 4K in size, and full background rendering.

Also available separately are two upgraded companion applications: Motion 5 and Compressor 4. Motion 5 features tools that let you customize titles, transitions, and effects. Compressor 4 offers a wide range of delivery codecs, sizes, frame rates, and encoding parameters. Both are $50.

All three applications were part of the previous Final Cut Studio suite, but are now available separately. In consolidating and simplifying its professional video editing package, Apple has eliminated some of Final Cut's previous suite mates, SoundTrack Pro, Color, and DVD Studio Pro. Final Cut Pro Server is also gone, and some of its most popular media management features—such as Smart Collections, custom metadata, and proxy workflow—are now built into the main app.

Over time, Apple observed that users disliked switching between apps, so for this release, it brought all applications related to the editorial process into the main program, eliminating the need to switch interfaces or paradigms. The processes for Motion and Compressor however, are sufficiently different to keep them as separate programs, though they are completely interoperable with FCP X. Compressor can be used for media encoding even without FCP X.

Final Cut Express, too, is history. Apple says that given the power, approachability, and affordability of Final Cut Pro X, it should be a great product for Final Cut Express users, as well.

With this release, Apple has eliminated packaged software of its pro video apps. Now, all Final Cut Pro X and companion software is available only from the App Store—no boxes.

Apple says it is working with third-party developers to deliver additional media asset management and automation options to Final Cut Pro X. While at launch, there are no third-party hardware products or plug-ins available, Apple says that such announcements will be forthcoming in the near future. Because of the shift to 64-bit, plug-in vendors have to update their applications and Apple says it is helping to bring them up to speed.

New editing features

Final Cut Pro X offers an abundance of new editing features designed to let you add and connect clips throughout your project, streamline complex segments of your timeline, refine edits, and test out alternate takes.

The new Magnetic Timeline, a trackless canvas for editing footage, lets you add and arrange clips wherever you want, as other clips automatically slide out of the way. Clip Connections facilitates links between primary clips and secondary elements—such as titles and sound effects—so they stay in sync when you move them. The Compound Clips feature goes further by letting you group related story elements into a unit that you can edit as a single clip.

The Precision Editor enables editing in the timeline by expanding your view of an edit point so you can see used and unused portions of your clips. You can then skim clips and adjust edit points with a click. The Auditions feature provides a one-click visual way to test alternate shots.

Media organization

Keyword tools let you scan, tag, and sort your media, so you can locate the clips you want. Built-in libraries let you browse and preview photos, music, and sound effects. Automatically generated proxy files let you easily travel with your project.

A Content Auto-Analysis function scans your media on import and tags content with information such as camera data, shot type, people, and more. Range-based keywords let you tag specific sections of clips with custom keywords. The Smart Collections feature allows you to dynamically organize your media with automatic and custom metadata.

Direct access to iTunes, Aperture, and iLife libraries makes it more convenient to preview and search for photos, music, and sound effects from within the application.

Upgraded performance

Final Cut Pro X is built on a 64-bit, multithreaded engine. That means you can access all the RAM in your system and work with larger, more complex projects. As an inherently scalable application, the faster your computer, the faster FCP X will run. The program offers real-time playback, speedy background processing, and a ColorSync-managed color pipeline for accurate and consistent color.

Grand Central Dispatch allows for distributed processing across all Mac cores, while GPU utilization provides real-time playback of effects. Background processing lets the software use idle CPU cycles to drive a range of tasks without interruption.

New post-production workflow

Customizable effects now let you easily adjust the look of your project as you work, with real-time previews and instant feedback. The program's integrated audio editing features let you work on your soundtrack within Final Cut Pro.

Color grading offers both single-click improvements and fine-grained controls for advanced adjustments. Enhanced delivery options facilitate good results when exporting to Apple devices, publishing to the web, and burning DVDs and Blu-ray discs.

Motion 5

Motion 5 lets you customize titles, transitions, and effects in Final Cut Pro X to assist in creating real-time animations in 2D or 3D within a new single-window interface.

Smart Motion Templates with Parameter Rigs allow editors to adjust multiple parameters with a single slider, pop-up menu, or checkbox and switch quickly among options in real time. The darker look of the new interface is designed to enhance user color perception, and many filters now include onscreen controls for direct effects manipulation.

New intelligent templates let you work efficiently with high-quality effects, titles, transitions, and generators as you edit. The new Keying filter makes it easy to create high-quality chroma keys with a simple drag and drop.

Compressor 4

The new version of Compressor augments Final Cut Pro X’s export capabilities.

For custom export options, you can send your Final Cut Pro project directly to Compressor and choose from an assortment of codecs, sizes, frame rates, and other parameters. Once you save your settings, they appear in the Compressor Settings menu in Final Cut Pro. You can share these settings with other Final Cut Pro editors, even if they don’t have Compressor installed.

Compressor now supports HTTP live streaming, with new export settings that let you encode your media in a single step for streaming web playback on Apple devices and Macs. Distributed encoding uses available capacity in other cores and other computers to make encoding faster.

System requirements and availability

Final Cut Pro and Motion are available worldwide in U.S. English, French, German, and Japanese. Compressor is available worldwide in U.S. English, French, German, Japanese, Spanish, and Chinese.

When purchased and downloaded from the Mac App Store, Final Cut Pro X, Motion 5, and Compressor 4 are installed alongside previous versions of Final Cut Studio. Existing media and earlier versions of software are not affected during installation. Final Cut Pro X is not backward compatible for projects created in Final Cut Pro 7. Apple's view is that projects are self contained and that users would not switch or upgrade their video editor in the middle of a project. Nonetheless, you can view and access the original media assets from previous projects.

To run the new apps, you need Mac Core 2 Duo or better with at least 2GB of RAM—4GB of memory is recommended. You must be running Mac OS X 10.6.7 or later, with 2.4GB of disk space for Final Cut Pro, 2GB of disk space for Motion, and 685MB of disk space for Compressor.

Systems should have an OpenCL-capable graphics card or Intel HD Graphics 3000 or later with 256MB of VRAM. Displays should have 1280-by-768 pixel resolution or higher. A Blu-ray recorder needed for burning Blu-ray discs.

Additional information on training, support, and more is available on Apple's website.

Be sure to check out our First Look at Final Cut Pro X.

* Story was updated at 6:50 am to add information about backward compatibility, 64-bit support, and third-party suppliers.

 


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