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NAB Roundup

All four daily reports rolled up into one, and more By Charlie White
Now that the smoke has cleared from NAB 2003, and as it fades into distant memory, it's time to stand back and reflect on all we've seen and heard at the annual technology and broadcasting get-together. I've taken all the daily reports, compiled them here, and I've added commentary and analysis throughout. So if you weren't able to make it to NAB this year, come along with me and re-live the joy that was the biggest digital techno-fest of the year.

Starting the proceedings at a press conference at NAB in Las Vegas on Sunday, Apple laid out its plans for digital video editing and compositing for the next year. Center stage was an unprecedented peek at a late Beta version of Final Cut Pro 4 and an as-yet unstable version of DVD Studio Pro 2.

Final Cut Pro 4 was the star of the show at Apple's big unveiling at the Mandalay Bay Convention Center. The most impressive new feature of the 90 minute speech and demo was FCP4's new RT Extreme, Apple's re-written real time effects preview which adds the ability to see previews in an NTSC or PAL monitor. Apple demo artists showed the crowd a composite with four streams of video (three DVE boxes over a background) with a text layer keyed over that and color correction on all the layers, all playing back in real time. This sequence was able to preview smoothly, albeit at quarter-screen resolution, and of course, must be rendered when it's time to go back to DV tape. At full screen resolution through an NTSC monitor, only a text key was able to play back in real time, and this was only shown to the audience for a few seconds. Still, this represents a major improvement over what FCP 3 could preview in an NTSC/PAL monitor.

Final Cut Pro 4 screen shot

Another significant new feature is the new text tool, called LiveType. It's an advanced titling tool with each text character capable of individual animation. The demonstration included a variety of great-looking text effects, including a smoke-ring effect with text, a text effect made of flowers, all previewing in real time. Included with the new version of Final Cut Pro will be 8GB of canned animations and fonts, and each is configurable, too. So you'll be able to get started with LiveType's new features right away -- well, as soon as Final Cut Pro 4 is shipped this June.

Another big plus in this new version of Final Cut Pro is its improved quality, where it's now able to support DVCPro 50 and uncompressed video such as 8-bit and 10-bit in both standard definition and high definition. Enabling this new-found bandwidth is the implementation of FireWire 800, a full 2x faster than old-fashioned FireWire running at a paltry 400mbps. In fact, Apple is now offering FireWire 800 in all its notebooks, desktops and servers.

In addition, third-party developer AJA was at the Apple press conference showing its new hardware system that takes advantage of all of the new Final Cut Pro I/O features. Called iO, AJA's new $2290 hardware is capable of uncompressed output and capture of 10-bit video. Its main advantage is its absolute ease of use -- it's just a matter of plugging the thing in, and it starts working. More on that later in this article.

Another great announcement was the fact that now Apple will be including Cinema Tools free with Final Cut Pro 4. The company says Final Cut Pro 4 will be available in June for $999, with the upgrade price set at $399.

Less well-developed but still impressive was an Alpha version of DVD Studio Pro 2 demonstrated by Apple. Rebuilt from the ground up, it was written from scratch as an OS X Cocoa application and has a completely new user interface. It has an enhanced way of working, where just like the current version of DVD Studio Pro, you're able to drag and drop a clip onto the workspace, but now it has a context-sensitive menu that pops up as you drop the clip, and is smart enough to guess what you intend to do with it. All the elements in the workspace are live, so you're able to change each graphic and edit text without going out to an external application. And, if you move your mouse to the bottom of the screen, a timeline appears that lets you edit your chapter marks or trim your clips. The demo was marred by a couple of crashes, although the demo artist's explanation that the program had not reached even Beta status was understandable and well-received.

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Related Keywords:nab 2003, Charlie White, Opinion, editorial, Mac vs. PC. Final Cut Pro 4, Convention center, hardware, software

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