Mediamakers rejoice. Today Apple introduced a new version of Final Cut Studio, which includes Final Cut Pro 7, Motion 4, Soundtrack Pro 3, Color 1.5, and Compressor 3.5. DVD Studio Pro had an incremental update from 4.2.1 to 4.2.2, and no, it does not yet have Blu-ray support (though Blu-ray disks can be burned directly from Final Cut Pro 7, Compressor, and Motion).

At first this looked like a minor update to Final Cut Studio, but now that I’ve spent time researching the new features, I see this as a very compelling upgrade.

Speaking as someone who uses Final Cut Studio on a near-weekly basis, I am happy with this update. It brings many new features and tools to Final Cut Studio that make working with video and motion graphics easier and more efficient. It also makes sharing and publishing projects much easier.

There are over 100 new features in Final Cut Studio. Here are a few notable new features and upgrades in each application:

Final Cut Pro 7

  • I’m a huge fan of Apple’s ProRes codec, which is a beautiful format to work with. In addition to the previous Pro Res and Pro Res HQ codecs, Apple has introduced ProRes 422 (Proxy) for offline editing, ProRes 422 (LT) for projects that require reduced file sizes at broadcast quality, such as news, sports, and events, and ProRes 4444 is ideal for compositing and digital workflows that require the highest-possible image fidelity. ProRes 4444 also has an Alpha Channel.
  • I bet FCP 7’s new Easy Export function will be extremely popular with editors everywhere. It introduces one-click delivery to web and disk. You can keep working while projects are rendered, compressed, and published to the web in the background. Files can be exported to iTunes for syncing with iPod, iPhone, and Apple TV; publish to YouTube or MobileMe; or burn a Blu-ray disc or a DVD, with a choice of Apple-designed menu templates without leaving the application. You can also create custom presets in Compressor for use in the Share window.
  • Background exporting and rendering, and improved render management –
    Render management enhancements reduce the need to re-render as you trim clips, move media, and perform a wide range of other functions. This means you can work more efficiently as you experiment with creative options.

  • Also, now you can keep editing in Final Cut Pro while using Compressor to render, export, and publish in the background. This means FCP won’t be unusable and locked up while rendering video and effects.
  • iChat Theater support. Send your Final Cut Pro video to iChat Theater to let everyone see the same footage while you view dailies, select shots, and make edits. You can instantly switch the iChat view between clips and sequences as you talk, and turn on a timecode overlay to help identify specific frames.
  • New speed change tools. A new option lets you make speed changes without rippling the sequence, which means you can experiment freely without affecting the surrounding clips.
  • Final Cut Pro now saves you setup time when you transfer clips from a wide range of file-based cameras including Panasonic P2 and Sony XDCAM. The files are automatically copied to your media storage volumes the moment your media is mounted. A new Log and Transfer option allows you to set up custom metadata and add it to all your assets in a single step.

Motion 4

Motion 4 has several new features that will bring extra polish to video projects. It also focuses (heh, bad pun) on more realistic 3-D support.

  • 3-D Shadows – When you set up a point or spot light in Motion 4, a single click lets you designate it as a shadow-casting light. Then Motion adjusts the shadow as you position objects, lights, and the camera.
  • Depth of field – Draw attention to one or more moving objects in 3D space by selectively setting the focal point. Motion 4 makes it easy to highlight or de-emphasize objects by defining a range of focus, with an interface that illustrates the near and far focus planes as well as the point of focus. Add a Focus camera behavior to lock focus to a single object, or create a rack focus effect by using multiple Focus camera behaviors. In Macworld Magazine’s review of Motion 4, they note that “Previously, it has been possible to simulate this effect by painstaking manipulation of manual blur settings. But with Motion 4, it is a “set it and forget it” type behavior—let the rampant rack focusing begin!”
  • Credit rolls – It’s easier than ever to create and edit even a long list of production credits with ease. Just import a text file or type in your credits using the new Scroll layout in the Text tool. An innovative graphical interface lets you jump to any location in the credits with a click.
  • ProRes 4444 support – With support for the new ProRes 4444 format, Motion 4 makes it possible to work with masks, alpha transparencies, and other high-resolution effects, maintaining pristine image quality at smaller, highly optimized file sizes. Fast, efficient decoding lets you take advantage of dynamic, real-time feedback as you work.
  • Easy Export – Just like Final Cut Pro 7, Motion now supports Easy Export. Use this shortcut to export your file to iTunes for syncing with iPod, iPhone, and Apple TV; publish to YouTube or MobileMe; or burn a Blu-ray disc or a DVD, with a choice of Apple-designed menu templates.
  • The Share window also gives you access to Compressor presets that let you export to other formats — including ProRes 422, ProRes 4444, and H.264 — with a click.
  • New preset Text Sequence behaviors – 149 new preset Text Sequence behaviors will help save time. Featuring a wide variety of playful or dramatic effects, such as Scramble In or Shimmer Out, for animating text onto or off the screen. Highlight effects include Scale Through, which makes the text look as if a magnifying glass is being passed over each letter in turn. You can use any preset as is or modify its parameters to get just the effect you want.

Note that the Live Type application has been dropped by Apple. Many Live Type features are now bundled in Motion.

Compressor 3.5

After spending untold hours working on a project, the final step of getting it to the web or burning in maximum quality to DVD can be torture. This is where are beautiful video can end up looking terrible. I’m nerd enough to admit the changes in Compressor have me very excited.

  • Batch templates – Compressor 3.5 introduces batch templates for automating end-to-end encoding workflows. For common encoding tasks, you can choose one of the preset batch templates that are similar to those in the Share window in Final Cut Pro 7 and Motion 4. Create your own templates for use in Compressor, using any combination of settings and destinations, as well as a job action.
  • Blu-ray disc and DVD burning – You can now easily burn a Blu-ray disc or a DVD directly from Compressor. Quickly add a menu to your disc by choosing one of the Apple-designed HD or SD templates included in Compressor. Because Compressor uses an open XML-based template format, you can import third-party or custom templates for a specific look.
  • Blu-ray compatible H.264 encoding – Compressor now includes a setting that allows you to create Blu-ray–compatible H.264 files that can be imported directly into third-party Blu-ray disc authoring software.
  • Auto-detect settings – Compressor 3.5 lets you create a custom transcoding setting from an existing file with a simple drag and drop. Just drag any QuickTime file into the Settings pane to have Compressor analyze the file and instantly create a preset with matching characteristics.
  • Enhanced droplets – Droplets allow you to create a standalone Compressor preset that you can use on your desktop. With the new droplet architecture in Compressor 3.5, you can create a self-contained miniature Compressor application that has just the options you need for a particular encoding task. Choose alternative settings at any time by double-clicking the droplet to reveal its interface. A set of Apple-designed droplets is available at no charge.

Color

Now with expanded support for digital cinema workflows, Color 1.5 lets you confidently create unique color grading looks and deliver at the highest quality.

  • Seamless round-tripping with Final Cut Pro 7. You can now send most long, complex sequences — including scenes with still graphics, speed effects, multicam clips, and other advanced functions — directly to Color from Final Cut Pro, with no preparation required. Speed changes render faster when you send your graded sequence back to Final Cut Pro.
  • Copy and paste in the Color FX room – You can create new looks faster than ever by copying and pasting Color FX nodes. Modify an existing effect by quickly duplicating elements, or bring a set of nodes into an entirely new effect.
  • New Apple-designed looks – In addition to more than 20 signature looks provided in Color, you can download more than 90 new Apple-designed color grades. The looks, reminiscent of your favorite films, include Glows, Sepias, Day for Night, Blues and Greens, and more.
  • Optimized rendering – Color 1.5 renders more efficiently by processing only the shots that have changed. The Add Unrendered feature automatically selects the shots you need to re-render when you make changes. The Add All Beauty Grades option ensures that you render only the grades you have flagged as the final, approved version. Open the Render Log to see at a glance a detailed record of your rendered jobs.

The price of Final Cut Studio has dropped from $1299.99 to $999.99. Back when Final Cut Pro was introduced in 1999, it sold for $999. Fast-forward ten years, and Final Cut Studio ships with six, high-end bundled titles – for the same $999 price. Pretty amazing!

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