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Apple Brings Out the Big Guns at NAB

New versions of Final Cut Pro, DVD Studio Pro and Shake highlight offerings By Dave Nagel
Macintosh creative professionals have clearly been anxious about Apple's presence at the 2003 convention of the National Association of Broadcasters, hoping for at least some inkling of movement in Apple's professional lineup. With announcements of full-version updates and significant enhancements to the company's full range of professional-level offerings--Shake, Final Cut Pro and DVD Studio Pro, not to mention the previous weeks' announcements of updates to Logic Audio--the company did not disappoint.

While none of the offerings are available immediately, Apple has gone to the extraordinary measure (extraordinary for them) of pre-announcing the new versions, as well as cutting in half the prices of current and future versions of DVD Studio Pro, down now to $499. In addition, Final Cut Pro 4 will be offered complete with the hithertofore separate Cinema Tools package for film editors for the same price as the old version. And Shake 3 will make significant strides on the Mac OS X platform, while continuing to support Linux and Irix platforms. The Windows version will not, apparently, make it to version 3.0.

Final Cut Pro 4.0
The most significant advances in Final Cut Pro 4.0 include a completely new real-time engine, which Apple says supports "hundreds" of real-time effects, scalable with the processing power of the host system. The new version offers more than 300 new features in total and, as mentioned earlier, incorporates Cinema Tools, which itself gains new functionality. Cinema Tools is a package of enhancements for working with film in Final Cut Pro and was previously available as a separate package for $999.

Final Cut Pro 4's new real-time engine, called RT Extreme, is a software-based real-time effects architecture that scales with processor speed to support an increased number of simultaneous real-time video streams and "hundreds of real-time effects." Apple says RT Extreme allows software effects to be viewed in real time on an external broadcast monitor when connected via FireWire or an external breakout box.

The software also offers new 8- and 10-bit uncompressed formats and 32-bit floating point processing. And it includes support for HDR render technology for generating film-quality output with all elements rendered in 32-bit per channel floating point color. Other new features include:

  • LiveType, a new titling application for creating dynamic, animated titles. It uses a technology called "LiveFonts," in which every character of a font is a separate animated movie, according to Apple. It comes with more than 8 GB of media, including LiveFonts, pre-configured effects, customizable templates, backgrounds, animated textures and objects.
  • Soundtrack is a new music creation tool for creating royalty-free music scores. It automatically matches audio loops regardless of tempo and key and offers real-time arranging and mixing. Soundtrack is integrated within Final Cut Pro 4 and supports the program's new score markers and includes a library of thousands of music loops and sound effects.
  • It also includes Compressor, a batch transcoding tool that comes bundled with both Final Cut Pro 4 and DVD Studio Pro 2, which lets users batch and export directly to multiple formats, including MPEG-2 or any supported QuickTime format.
  • It offers new customization options, including more than 600 tools and commands, a mappable keyboard, custom interface buttons, custom window layouts and enhanced screen layout options.
  • It's extensible through a new XML interchange format and FireWire-based I/O framework.

The new software also includes new trimming and timeline tools; enhanced media management; full Unicode support; and Enhanced audio editing. And it includes Cinema Tools, which was previously sold separately. Cinema Tools is a collection of enhancements for working with film. It now offers new support for change lists and ink numbers for filmmakers working with 35mm or 16mm film.

Final Cut Pro 4 will be available in June for $999. Upgrades will run $399. For more information, visit http://www.apple.com/finalcutpro.

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