Apple grabbed the director’s chair at the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) event in Las Vegas last weekend, announcing updates to its professional line of video editing applications. Headlining the news is Final Cut Pro 4, featuring RT Extreme (real-time compositing and effects for Macs that support it), high-quality 8- and 10-bit uncompressed formats, and 32-bit floating-point-per-channel video processing for higher-quality rendering. Apple plans to ship three stand-alone programs with Final Cut Pro 4: LiveType, for creating animated titles; Soundtrack, for creating music; and Compressor, for batching and exporting to multiple file formats (such as MPEG-2, used in DVD creation, with support for one- or two-pass variable bit-rate encoding). Apple has also thrown in Cinema Tools, a high-end database for managing cut lists, which previously sold for $1,000. Final Cut Pro 4 will also support more advanced audio mixing, offer a customizable interface, and include a host of other improvements. Look for it to be available in June of 2003 for $1,000, or as a $400 upgrade for registered owners of previous versions of Final Cut Pro.
Apple also announced DVD Studio Pro 2, a new version of the company’s high-end DVD authoring program. It features an improved interface that Apple claims makes it easier to build DVD content, including a new menu editor and timeline-based track editing, a library of professionally designed templates, and the Compressor application that also comes with Final Cut Pro 4. DVD Studio Pro 2 should be available in August of 2003 for $500; as of 06-Apr-2003, you can purchase DVD Studio Pro 1.5 for $500 (down from $1,000), and if you do buy version 1.5, you will be able to upgrade to version 2 for a shipping and handling fee of $30 through Apple’s Up-to-Date program.
Finally, Apple announced Shake 3, advanced compositing software used for professional special effects and production. Apple expects to make version 3 available in June of 2003. Shake 3 adds new Qmaster network rendering management software, which uses Rendezvous to handle rendering operations across multiple machines, plus features that promise to speed the compositing process. Shake 3 for Mac OS X costs $4,950, includes unlimited render licenses, and must be purchased through an Apple Authorized Pro Film Reseller. Shake 3 is also available for Linux and Irix platforms (where the original program ran before Apple purchased it), but at a cost of $9,900 plus an annual maintenance fee of $1,485.
Apple has been aggressively muscling into the high-end video and film market for the past several years. Even if you’re not involved with these fields, it will be interesting to watch how Apple’s current lineup of beefy professional applications affects the computer, film, and video industries at large.