Motion, a bicycle for the mind. Or a tool for making faux 3D bicycles, at least. Image Courtesy of Apple.

Apple announced updates for both its pro suites today – Final Cut on the video side and Logic Studio on the audio side. And in short, we have lots and lots and lots of small updates. Of course, for loyal users, those are often the best kind. Here’s a quick overview, with more detail to come.

Final Cut Pro itself first – here are some of the features that caught my eye:

  • All About ProRes: Final Cut appears to be embracing ProRes as the codec of choice. Interestingly, this includes a ProRes “Proxy” for offline editing – one I hope will save editors from painful transcoding just to edit footage. There’s also ProRes 4444 at the high end.
  • Easier Export: Oddly, this answers a rallying cry I heard at the Open Video Conference last month from open source developers — find one-button export workflows, because even serious users find current export painful. Of course, it’s an Apple project, so a lot of those presets are Apple-centric, but Blu-Ray and YouTube make the cut, too. (Unlike at the Open Video Conference, you won’t hear any mention of OGG, natch.)
  • Collaboration over iChat.
  • Speed change curves – a welcome addition, though there’s still not the musical-style editing you get in Sony’s rival Vegas.
  • Alpha transitions
  • Markers now automatically ripple (why all video apps don’t work this way, I don’t know), and can be added during playback and color coded.
  • AVC-Intra support for new cameras. plus XDCAM and HDV (though no new additions on the AVCHD front).
  • Background export (again, why don’t all video editors do this?)
  • Multi-touch gestures
  • A quick command for joining all your razor edits (yeah, I do hope the competition is paying attention)

Motion continues with the 3D treatment, with some pretty striking results. Motion isn’t necessarily a replacement for a lot of popular tools, but it continues to do a lot of slick effects with far, far less work – now with shadows, reflections, depth of field, camera framing, and a number of new text and glyph tools. You can also do fake bad film settings. Couple that with the amusing new turntable simulation in Logic and, I swear, you’re ready to go work for MTV – cliches ready to go. (But seriously, this otherwise looks nice.)

It’s also nice to see 3Dconnexion SpaceNavigator support in Motion.

The biggest improvement in Motion by far, though, is that optical flow retimings work the way you want. Instead of calculating analysis for your entire clip, it focuses on the part of the clip you’re using. Having to analyze entire clips pretty much crippled this feature before, so this is a big relief.

Soundtrack Pro gets a number of improvements, including better time stretching. For video producers, though, voice-level match, noise reduction, and iXML data from the field (if you take the time to add such things, cough) are the big enhancements.

Compressor is called “3.5” but this is one of the bigger updates in the batch, with automation for batch workflows via templates and something called Job actions, drag and drop auto-detect for presets (nice), image sequence support, and Blu-ray compatibility, plus distributed encoding that can go even beyond a local network.

Here’s a guilty confession: I’m glad I don’t have a product briefing on Final Cut. There are just a huge number of little enhancements. But at the same time, it’s nice to see Apple this focused on refinement rather than whiz-bang features. We’ll know when it ships if they’ve pulled that off, but my inkling is that this may please existing users even if there’s no splashy headline (maybe because there’s no splashy headline).

What’s not here: 64-bit support, as covered here separately. (But, that is to say, we basically haven’t gotten a story from Apple on what their plan is for 64-bit creative apps.)

Final Cut users, what features are you happy to see? What do you think is missing?

  • I would also like to see background rendering along as export – from what I've seen the new export is really the current 'Export, Using Compressor' option improved significantly.
    The current issues when sending a job will be there though and timelines with unrendered transitions or effects will still cause a 'sending frames to compressor' dialogue that then stops the ability to use FCP. I hope not but I'm yet to see that shown fully,

    The problem is in these days of 'The Cloud' some 'in office' clouds would be great – sure our 8 core Mac Pro's can render lots but imagine if a deadline approaches and you could go 'Send Render & Encode to all available Macs'. BAM. Killer App.

    What compressor offers now is buggy and unreliable, not to mention the issue you end up with with missing codecs, plugins and unlinked media.

  • the seamless integration of Color/FC is great, we now got the best of bothe world, the powerful FinalCut edit tool and the amazing coloring tool- Color.
    i like the alpha transition, it will sae a lot of time in post prod.
    Ichat Theatre could be a nice feature for collaborative work, wait and see.
    it seems the improvement of Motion will probaly challenge AE for simple compositing projects.
    in general i'ts more a bug/egonomy release than a real revolution.
    A new version of Final Cut Server has also been released : (better production management, and better developper tools)

  • zach

    what do you mean by "musical-style editing" in Vegas?

  • @Zach: Vegas began as an audio app. So there's a very musical approach to time in Vegas; you can easily define things in terms of beats and bars and there's a lot of interchange between the two workflows. Translation: the FCP stuff is cool, but it doesn't threaten Vegas' position as the av editor king.

  • zach

    I see. Thought it had something to do with speed change curves (which for me is a feature I've been waiting forever for in FCP). I'll have to check out Vegas. Thanks!

  • Tim

    Think you said it pretty well. Nothing hugely exciting but lots of nice little tweaks. Things like rippling markers timeline markers and multicam support in color should have been in there previously, but I'm just glad they've been added. Reminds me of when the iphone got copy and paste… its great, but really should have been included earlier so its hard to get too excited about.

    The new pro res options look nice as well as the Compressor upgrades, but I'm a little confused by the Blu Ray encoding options. DVD SP didn't get any updates and it looks like encoding to blu ray happens straight out of Final Cut? Is this going to be the last version of DVD SP? How is Blu Ray authoring going to play out?

    I'm most hopeful for improved interoperability, stability, and efficiency (especially for Soundtrack) but again not real exciting.

    And Livetype is dead. Officially.

  • Video encoders often have too few settings (if they try to be simple) or are too complex. SUPER on Windows is an excellent example of horrible usability, a case that could be incredibly improved by having a few easy presets mapped to the maze of settings.

    Even in QuickTime Player, Apple could provide more up-to-date, optimized presets. So I'm glad to hear in Final Cut Pro, at least there's a step towards YouTube (which is a given since it's the biggest and most popular video site), but I wonder if those settings are also healthy for Vimeo and others.

    On Mac, I'm finding Evom very promising — it so far doesn't allow enough control, but for elegance, it picks up where VisualHub and iSquint stopped.

    Despite my Mac lovings, I've preferred Sony Vegas' editing. (To Peter's note.) It feels snappier and since it was borne on the back of DAW conventions, it flows better for me.

    I do wonder when there'll be a "motion graphics made easy" or even VJ equivalent to iMovie. There are some apps stepping towards this like aspects of BluffTitler and Kinemac, but much potential to be tapped. If I'm missing something out like "Quartz Composer for Kids", please enlighten.

    I've enjoyed my 3Dconnexion SpaceNavigator with virtual world Second Life, it really helps the 3D space feel more immersive and natural when positioning objects and using the camera to make machinima.