Who says software doesn’t have material value? Flickr user spaunsglo grabbed this photo of the beloved suite.

iPhonewhat? Apple’s Pro Apps division unleashed an enormous upgrade to its Final Cut suite in May, and Macworld.com put up the full reviews on its site last week, just before the deluge of coverage of a certain consumer multifunction device. There’s a lot in Final Cut Studio 2: ProRes codec in Final Cut Pro, 3D and painting in Motion, HD in DVD Studio, conforming in Soundtrack, and a “new” (acquired) app called Color.

The reviewers for Macworld are people worth paying attention to. HD consultant and writer of one of our all-time favorite blogs, HD For Indies, Mike Curtis, wrote the review of flagship Final Cut Pro. The Color app was reviewed by none other than the technical chairman for HD Postproduction for the National Association of Broadcasters, Gary Adcock (who’s also a consultant out of Chicago). I’m humbled just to get my byline among people of this caliber. (I did the Motion and Soundtrack Pro reviews). Online is the only place you can read our full, detailed reviews, so while there are still great reasons to pick up the print rag, you’ll definitely want to go online for the Final Cut reviews.

The Reviews

The apps are all reviewed one by one. As of Final Cut Studio 2, you can’t purchase them a la carte, but they’re certainly worth looking through in detail individually, as they retain some standalone character.

Final Cut Pro 6

In terms of bang for the buck, the Final Cut Studio 2 package offers many more features and capabilities than previous versions of the suite … Apple has also made a slew of improvements and fixes to existing features: FCP 6 is better, easier to use, and faster than previous versions. -Mike Curtis

Motion 3

With Motion 3, Apple has focused on the major capabilities previous versions lacked: motion tracking and stabilization, painting tools, and a true 3-D graphical environment to augment speed and easy, improvisational control. Motion may not become your only motion-graphics program, but it could easily become your favorite tool for quickly creating visuals. -Peter Kirn

Color 1.0

Color 1.0 is a solid, best-in-class addition to the Final Cut Studio 2 suite, offering one of the most powerful color-correction tools available in video production … However, its complex, less-than-familiar interface will take some getting used to. And its lack of support for third-party codecs will likely deter some video pros. -Gary Adcock

Soundtrack Pro 2

Sound editors and video editors—the humans, not the software—often seem to live in different worlds. … Soundtrack Pro … seeks to bridge some of those divisions, at least within the suite’s workflows. Enhanced recording tools aid dialogue and Foley recording (which includes sound effects and incidental sound), and a new audio Conform facility promises to make reconciling video and audio edits easier. -Peter Kirn

Past Reviews

DVD Studio Pro 4 is unchanged in this release of Studio. Here’s legendary author/reviewer Jim Heid’s review from 2005:

DVD Studio Pro 4

DVD Studio Pro 4 is a jaw-dropping value, offering features that even five-figure DVD-authoring systems can’t match. If you’re setting up your first DVD-authoring system, look no further. But … If high-definition video isn’t on your radar, consider sticking with version 3.

Compressor 3 was not reviewed, but you can read the Compressor 2 review by Jim Heid and Anton Linecker from 2005.

Performance Tests

Macworld.com’s lab has been testing away on Apple’s latest hardware. The short version: the new MacBook Pro rocks in a very big way (a plain MacBook really won’t cut it with Final Cut Studio, particularly Motion), and while octa-Mac Pros are nice, the quad-core is probably what you actually need.

Macworld Labs Tests Eight-Core Mac Pro
Review of the new MacBook Pros

Strangely, this information isn’t combined on a single page on Macworld.com, so I feel I’ve done a small service there. Got opinions of the tools yourself — or of the reviews? Feel free to share here!

  • Hi Peter –

    Great reviews — I thought they were dead-on.

    But one thing — Motion is so slow! After struggling with After Effects for years and looking towards a future in Motion, I've finally got the hardware…or so I thought.

    When working on my 2.66 Mac Pro with 3 GB of RAM and the stock GeForce 7300 GT graphics card), Motion (and even Final Cut) are really struggling with the 720p footage I'm trying to work with. Kinda unworkable, actually.

    Was wondering if you guys might be able to help: what's the best way to upgrade my rig at this point? More RAM? x1900 graphics card? (Or any other suggestions on graphics cards?)

    Or am I just doing something wrong??

    Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated.

    Evan

  • get the graphic card, then up to 4 gb RAM you'll more than fine.
    7300s are crap.

  • get the x1900 graphic card, then later upgrade to 4 gb RAM, and you'll be more than fine.
    7300s are crap.

  • You need more, more, more of everything to run Motion well. The setup you have will just not perform well, esp. with HD comps.

    I just got a Quad-core 3Ghz Mac with the x1900 and 10GB of RAM. The performance is better, but not earth-shattering compared to my other dual G5 2.5 with an ATI x800 card.

    There's ways to work smart that will make Motion run faster (setting layers to fixed pixel dimensions, for example), and try letting it play between the in & out points a few times (it speeds up on second passes). But, it is a bit disappointing. It's great for quick explorations and titles, though.

    I like After Effects for more complex stuff; especially with Nucleo Pro – it's quite fast.

  • Wow, 10 GB of RAM. 3 seemed like a lot!

    Do you find that Final Cut is slow with HD footage as well? There's a lag every time I drag a clip around, etc…it makes working a really slow process.

    Cheers,
    Evan

  • I assume you all have updated to the .01 fix? For me, this made a difference with Motion, and provided some additional "working smart" options.

  • You might want to look at purchasing a Kona card if you're having problems with HD. Our Dual 2.5GHz G5 has no problems with HD and it only has 4GB of RAM.

  • Oh, and we run Uncompressed 10-bit 4:2:2 generally.