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?