Friday, July 01, 2005

Final Cut Studio, with Final Cut Pro 5

Demonstrated at Moviola Digital Education Center

The best that can be said about FCP 5 is it does a lot of things. The worst that can be said is it tries to be everything for everyone, so fails to be really good at any one thing.

Sponsored by Moviola Digital, the demonstration of the latest Final Cut Pro was attended by about 40 people, including some ACE members. It covered the latest suite of applications, which also include Soundtrack Pro, DVD Studio Pro 4, and Motion 2. It was an excellent presentation, as it was done by an editor (Andrew Balis) who was not an Apple salesmen. He showed the new features, but didn’t shy away from its flaws.

This isn’t a review of features. That is being done elsewhere. This is my evaluation of the presentation.

As if set up by an Avid salesman, within the first 10 minutes of the demonstration FCP5 did something completely unexpected, which lost all the work to that point. And that to me has always been the essence of Apple’s move into the filmmaking world: add lots of features that sometimes work as expected, where sometimes you can find the answer to a problem… but maybe not. Consistency, as in sync, is the hobgoblin of a small mind.

See the review of FCP 4.5 from earlier in this web log. Many of the consistancy issues are the same. Also the same is the programs complexity and intricacy, which give more options but make it easier to make critical mistakes.

One of the strongest complaints about FCP is that it lacked a multi-cam ability. This seems to be the major new feature of version 5. But it was the demo of the multi-cam function that failed the two times video / audio clips were linked to a master audio (music) clip. It seemed to baffle the editor to the point of dropping that part of the demo.

Improved, we were told, is sharing media and file management. These are areas FCP has been very weak. Experience can only tell if this is workable in a pro film setting.

The Soundtrack Pro module allows you to move a sound clip from FCP to this audio editing platform, where you can add numerous plug-ins (gain, noise reduction, echo, etc.). The same was true for Motion, where a video clip could be effected.

The design problem with this suite is that the more you do within these outboard programs, the more you are stuck within the suite of programs. Nothing in the sound program can translate into ProTools, for example. Nothing in Motion can translate into an EDL for an on-line. You could end up with a timeline of processed sound and VFX that can’t be output as OMF or EDLs.

I’ve come to believe the Apple philosophy on FCP software is “Release it: then fix it”. They are so anxious to add features and compatibility, that nothing seems to be tested in a real setting, and the results are always unpredictable. It didn’t seem to surprise the editor when various commands gave unpredictable results. More than once he had to Force Quit the application. I remain very skeptical that FCP 5 is viable for a high pressure, shared media television show, for example. But there are other projects it would be great.

But one cannot fault Moviola Digital. The presentation was extremely concise and informative. I must say, as I am on their e-mailing list, I’m looking forward to any other future presentations.


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