At the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) event on Sunday in Las Vegas, Apple revealed the latest lineup of its professional video and audio applications, Final Cut Studio. The suite contains Final Cut Pro 5, DVD Studio Pro 4, Motion 2, and a new application, Soundtrack Pro. The applications will be available separately or as the Final Cut Studio bundle beginning in May.
Although iMovie HD and Final Cut Express HD, announced in January at Macworld, can both handle the HDV high-definition video format, Final Cut Pro 4 curiously could not. This discrepancy is corrected in Final Cut Pro 5, which improves on HDV handling as well. The consumer applications can import HDV, but they transcode the footage to AIC (Apple Intermediate Codec) for working on the computer. Final Cut Pro 5, however, imports and handles HDV (and other HD formats) natively. It's also been updated with improved real-time editing, including Dynamic RT Extreme, a mode that automatically adjusts playback quality depending on the type of footage and the number and types of effects that are applied. But the most impressive-looking feature is multi-camera editing, which enables you to view up to 16 simultaneous video clips (which can be synchronized), and edit them into a movie simply by clicking each one as the footage plays back.
DVD Studio Pro 4 also gains HD support with its capability to convert standard-definition projects to HD easily, and also offers support for burning to HD DVD discs when the hardware becomes available. (Toshiba has a prototype HD-DVD burner at the show, which is interesting considering that Apple recently signed on to the Blu-ray Disc Association, which is pushing for a competing standard for authoring high-definition DVDs. However, both proposed standards rely on H.264 encoding, which is supported in Mac OS X 10.4 Tiger.) DVD Studio Pro 4 can also distribute encoding tasks to other machines on your network, and can incorporate mixed video and audio formats within the same project.
Motion 2, the company's motion-design program, boasts GPU accelerated 32-bit float rendering, which greatly improves the quality of video output. A new Replicator tool makes it easy to take an element and control lots of copies of it, and the intriguing MIDI support enables designers to control effects using a MIDI keyboard.
Soundtrack Pro builds on the foundation of Soundtrack (which is included with Final Cut Express HD, but no longer with Final Cut Pro 5) by expanding control over audio tracks and musical loops. Soundtrack Pro includes tools for isolating and removing offending sounds (such as pops or cracks, for example), including a feature to scan an audio file and highlight possible problem areas.
All four applications will be available as part of the $1,300 Final Cut Studio Suite, or sold separately (Final Cut Pro 5 at $1,000, DVD Studio Pro 4 at $500, Motion 2 at $300, and Soundtrack Pro at $300). Several upgrade pricing options are also available.