Apple released Final Cut Pro X, its newest video editing software, to the Mac App Store on Tuesday, promising more speed and improved efficiency.
The new software isn't merely an update of the previous Final Cut Pro 7 -- it's rebuilt from the ground up, Apple says.
For those who've used Final Cut before, the newness is apparent as soon as Final Cut Pro X is launched, with a darker-colored user interface, tool boxes replaced with iMovie-style buttons and new keyboard shortcuts (though older key commands can be remapped).
Among the most noticeable differences for many users probably will be the disappearance of the "render box" while editing and exporting a video project, as well as the new Magnetic Timeline, which is one of many features the new software has that looks a bit like Apple's consumer-level video editor, iMovie.
The Magnetic Timeline removes the familiar video and audio tracks that made up the timelines of past versions of Final Cut Pro and the now-discontinued Final Cut Express (a cheaper, stripped down version of Final Cut). With the old system, many editors would complain about getting video and audio clips out of sync -- a problem Apple hopes the Magnetic Timeline solves.
Whenever a video portion of a clip is moved, the matching audio clip moves with it. If a user selects multiple clips to move around, it'll push other clips down the timeline to make room for the rearrangement. Everything just snaps into place.
Users can also tag clips and add keywords to clips, which make finding video and audio files easier.
Multiple formats of video, from multiple sources -- DSLR cameras, pro-video camcorders, smartphones, flip cams -- all play nicely, without the need to convert file formats or render everything before being able to watch what is in the timeline. All the rendering, Apple says, takes place in the background, which should allow for faster editing.
Previously, Apple sold Final Cut Pro in a full suite of applications that sold for $999. The most recent Final Cut Studio included Final Cut Pro 7, Color 1.5 (for color editing), Compressor 3.5 (for compressing and exporting finished videos into a variety of formats), DVD Studio Pro 4 (for burning DVDs), Motion 4 (for adding computer graphics to a project) and Soundtrack Pro 3 (for audio editing).
Now all Apple offers is Final Cut Pro X and Compressor 4 and Motion 5, also newly released Tuesday. The three apps sell separately, only in the Mac App Store, with Compressor 4 and Motion 5 selling for $49.99 each. Altogether, the three apps would cost about $400.00 -- quite a bit less than $999.
The price drop was met with a very positive reaction in April, when Apple previewed Final Cut Pro X at the National Assn. of Broadcasters trade show in Las Vegas before journalists, filmmakers, TV producers and other creative professionals.
Apple says that DVD Studio Pro, Soundtrack Pro and Color no longer need to be standalone products since Final Cut Pro X has advanced features that replace the old stand-alone programs.
But already, some editors online have complained that Final Cut Pro X favors digital formats over DVD or Blu-ray friendly discs or exporting projects to tape.
And indeed, Final Cut Pro X is one more example of Apple pushing its users toward a digital distribution future -- the software isn't available in a hard-copy format.
Mac OS X Lion, the upcoming version of Apple's computer operating system, is set to release in July, and like Final Cut Pro X, it'll also be available only through the Mac App Store, at $29.99.
As of now, the only way to get the Mac App Store on an Apple computer is to have Mac OS X Snow Leopard (version 10.6) installed. Snow Leopard sells for $29 on disc and runs only on Intel-based Macs.
The reaction to Final Cut Pro X so far has varied, with some reviews saying that those who switch will be glad they did, while others express mixed feelings on the new software.
One good feature for those who tepidly decide to plunge into Final Cut Pro X -- installing the new app won't remove older versions of Final Cut, as the software did in the past.
So users can have both Final Cut X and Final Cut 7, or older, installed and use whichever they prefer or both until they get used to the new app.
Apple iCloud is free, iTunes Match is $25 a year
Mac OS X Lion will cost $29.99 in July, 250-plus new features
Steve Jobs announced iCloud in San Francisco at Apple's WWDC
-- Nathan Olivarez-Giles
Image: A screen shot of Final Cut Pro X. Credit: Apple