Apple released Final Cut Express HD 3.5 last week, an update that brings Intel compatibility and a few welcome improvements to the company's intermediate video editor. Until recently, the Final Cut family wouldn't run at all on Intel-based Macs; Apple released Final Cut Studio 5.1 in April, which includes universal versions of Final Cut Pro, Soundtrack Pro, DVD Studio Pro, and Motion, but Final Cut Express didn't make the jump to Intel.
In addition to Intel compatibility, Final Cut Express HD 3.5 adds Dynamic RT, which enables real-time streaming of effects and edits that previously would require rendering. Performance is dependent upon the capabilities of the hardware you're running, but even compatible machines at the lower end of the scale can use it; Dynamic RT dynamically adjust the quality of playback to render video on the fly, so a low-end machine might see degraded image quality instead of choppy playback. Also new is more powerful keyframing for creating effects and moving objects (such as a floating title or picture-in-picture clip, for example) with more control; keyframing used to be one of the differentiating features between Final Cut Express and Final Cut Pro.
This new version also includes the updated Soundtrack 1.5 for audio production and LiveType 2.1 for creating animated text. Soundtrack 1.5 is a big improvement over Soundtrack 1.2.1 (which comes with Final Cut Express HD 3.0): instead of updating the previous version, Apple took Soundtrack Pro and removed features to make it more in line with the package's intermediate focus. (Final Cut Express itself is basically just Final Cut Pro with some of the professional features disabled.) This new Soundtrack adds real-time audio effects processing, real-time crossfades, and enhanced multi-take recording. LiveType 2.1 includes 10 GB of type effects, including new vector-based Live Fonts which scale well for HD-sized content.
Final Cut Express HD 3.5 is available now for $300; owners of any previous version can upgrade for $100. (For more on Final Cut Express HD, see my review of version 3.0 in Macworld.)