Apple Final Cut Studio 3 review

£799
Price when reviewed

422 LT is the codec we’d imagine using most often, and we were astounded by its real-time preview performance. We were able to play back 14 simultaneous 1080p streams on a top-specification Mac Pro fitted with two 2.93GHz Xeon processors, with the footage split over two hard disks. Premiere Pro came nowhere near this on the same computer. It’s worth noting only a few of Final Cut Pro’s video filters are multithreaded, so applying a single effect created a bottleneck even on a top-spec Mac Pro. Fortunately, the most important filters such as Color Correction, Gaussian Blur and Chroma Keyer don’t suffer this limitation.

Support for other video formats has its ups and downs. It’s well equipped for professional standards such as DVCPRO HD and XDCAM EX, and for certain consumer formats such as AVCHD and HDV. AVCHD isn’t supported natively, but the Log and Transfer function made light work of capturing from an AVCHD camera and converting to ProRes. We weren’t able to import AVCHD and HDV files previously captured to a Windows PC, though. This could make migrating from a PC-based editing system tricky.

ShareOther new features include the ability to stream the timeline preview to another Mac via iChat, providing an easy way to show works in progress to clients. A Share command lets users define multiple export destinations including YouTube, Apple TV and Blu-ray disc, albeit with very limited control over disc menus. Macs don’t come with Blu-ray writer drives, but there’s support for external drives plus an option to burn AVCHD discs, which writes Blu-ray-quality video to DVD media.

Motion

Motion is very similar to After Effects, specialising in compositing tasks involving multiple elements such as title sequences. As with After Effects, it can generate particle effects and create 3D animations, although only by arranging 2D laminate objects in a 3D space.

Version 4 adds support for shadows, reflections and depth-of-field effects, which make its 3D animations look considerably more convincing. Other new features include improved handling of credit rolls, plus parameter linking for creating dynamic relationships between animated objects.

Despite being much more affordable than After Effects, Motion is generally just as capable. It’s certainly more approachable, with a cleaner interface that allows users to work on a timeline or a Photoshop-style layers palette. Its Behaviours commands for treatments such as random motion or objects that repel one another are just as sophisticated as After Effects’ Expressions, but much easier to get to grips with.

Motion reflectionsMotion’s keyframe animation tools aren’t as elegant as After Effects’, though. It’s frustrating that animations along curved paths are separated into three discrete motion axes; as a result, adjusting the timing of an animation sometimes also alters its path.

There’s an excellent library of stock content, including realistic particle presets such as smoke, dust and fire, plus some fantastic animated text effects. There’s also a substantial collection of elegant Motion animations available from within Final Cut Pro. These can be dropped directly onto Final Cut Pro’s timeline and with basic controls to customise the text, or sent to Motion for full editing.

Details

Software subcategoryVideo editing software

Operating system support

Operating system Windows Vista supported?no
Operating system Windows XP supported?no
Operating system Linux supported?no
Operating system Mac OS X supported?yes

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