Benchmark:Apple Final Cut Pro Bundle Turnkey Nonlinear Editing System
A Bundle of Final Cut Pro

Final Cut Pro Bundle

($5479)

Apple Computer, Inc.

1 Infinite Loop

Cupertino, CA 95014

(800) 795-1000

www.apple.com


Just two years ago, Apple Computers seemed like it was an endangered species. In other words, Macs were losing enough mainstream acceptance that they were entering the realm of an aficionados-only computing platform, much like Amiga and Silicon Graphics machines. Now, they are riding the wave of resurgence that has Silicon Valley turned on its side. Although much of the press has centered on the consumer-friendly iMac, Apple’s real ace is the line of Power Mac G3s with an efficient RISC (Reduced Instruction Set Computer) chip and built-in FireWire ports.

The real big Apple news for videographers, however, is that at the 1999 National Association of Broadcasters Convention, Apple introduced its new Final Cut Pro nonlinear editing software. Now, they’ve bundled Final Cut Pro with a well-equipped Power Mac G3 and a spacious and sleek 21-inch Apple Studio Display Monitor to create a turnkey nonlinear editing system that retails for less than $5500. Apple knows that a majority of videographers are planning to go digital with their next camcorder purchases. It is important to note that Apple only supports certain digital camcorders with the Final Cut Pro Bundle, so see the sidebar to check if your favorite DV camcorder is supported. Apple placed the Final Cut Pro Bundle in position to attract semi-professionals who are interested in plenty of editing power and hobbyists looking for an affordable NLE system that won’t leave them wishing they had kept their old linear suite.

First, the Hardware

By now, you’ve probably seen the new G3 towers on TV, in magazines (including this one) or maybe even in your dreams. There is no doubt that they are stylish, but inside those translucent blue cases is where the really cool stuff lives. First, the G3 in the Final Cut Pro Bundle is a G3 400MHz with 1MB of L2 Cache. L2 Cache is high-speed memory that the CPU uses to remember things quickly. It is different from system memory (which is usually just called RAM). It is important to note in these days when 128MB of RAM is common, that 1MB of L2 Cache is huge. It is twice as much L2 cache as standard Pentium II and Pentium III chips have, and as much as the ultra-expensive Pentium II Xeon chips. Bottom line, these new G3s are fast–like greased lightning.

Rounding out the hardware specs are 128MB RAM, a 16MB ATI Rage 128 graphics card, a 9GB Ultra2 SCSI drive, CD-ROM and an impressive 21-inch Apple Studio Display Monitor. The monitor is a sight to behold. Pumping out resolutions of up to 1600×1200 at 85Hz on a 19.8-inch viewable area screen, this display has plenty of visual real estate and doesn’t leave your eyes straining. In addition, the display has four USB (Universal Serial Bus) ports, allowing you to plug your keyboard and a host of other peripherals into the monitor for easy reach.

Although it has a fast processor, abundant RAM and awesome display, the new G3 hardware has a weak point; the mouse. The USB mouse has a short cable that can plug into either side of the keyboard, but unfortunately the mouse itself is tiny and round. Not only does an adult’s hand dwarf the mouse, but it is easy to get the mouse slightly crooked, making your cursor fly around the screen with little control.

Cut to the Pro

Apple’s new nonlinear editing software is as much of a treat as its new hardware. Using Apple’s QuickTime video format, Final Cut Pro is full-featured and easy to use.

Final Cut Pro is designed to use Apple’s built-in FireWire jacks, but Pinnacle Systems Targa 2000 series of analog capture devices are also supported. If you have an analog camcorder that you want to use with this system, you can do so by using the Sony DVMC-DA1 analog to digital converter box, which converts your analog footage to DV for capture.

Once you open Final Cut Pro, you’ll find a familiar timeline-based interface. Capturing footage is simple and straightforward. Batch captures are a snap. The ability to easily add comments like scene names and shot numbers for each clip is a nice touch.

Trimming clips in Final Cut Pro is a snap. In fact editing was simple and intuitive throughout the program. It supports three-point editing. Three-point editing allows you to edit to beats of music. Simply mark the end of first clip, the start of the second clip and the start of the third clip by tapping the marker key as you hear the music play.

Final Cut Pro comes with over 60 predefined transitions, and you can add more as you need them. Transitions are done inline, meaning that you don’t have to lay video on separate tracks to add transitions between them.

When it comes to filters and compositing effects, FCP really shines. It comes with more than 75 built-in filters and keying effects, and Apple included the FXBuilder for creating custom filters and effects. While most video editors won’t want to wade through the computerese of FXBuilder, the computer programmers out there that dabble in video will no doubt have a blast creating a plethora of new effects. Soon, you’ll be able to find all kinds of fun, new, FXBuilder scripts on the Internet.

You can render in any of four different quality settings in Final Cut Pro, so if you want to render a preview edit quickly, you can. Rendering time is reasonable, although it seemed a little sluggish, especially when considering the high-powered hardware in the Final Cut Pro Bundle.

It’s a Wrap

You don’t have to buy Final Cut Pro bundled with new hardware. If you already have a FireWire- or Targa-equipped G3, you can get the software for $999 from Apple, or any of its authorized resellers. All in all, the Final Cut Pro Bundle is one of the easiest ways to get a full-featured nonlinear editing system in your house, without having any setup headaches.

Camcorders and Decks Supported by Final Cut Pro

Apple publishes a list of camcorders and decks that are supported by Final Cut Pro (www.apple.com/finalcutpro/techspecs/io.html). Check it often, as Apple promises more camcorder support.


Canon XL1,
Canon Optura,
Canon ZR,
Panasonic AG-EZ30,
Panasonic AG-EZ20,
Panasonic PV-DV910,
Sony DCR-PC1,
Sony DCR-PC10,
Sony DCR-TRV7,
Sony DCR-TRV9,
Sony DCR-TRV900,
Sony DCR-VX1000,
Sony DSR-200,
Sony DSR-20 (Digital VCR),
Sony DSR-30 (Digital VCR),
Sony DVMC-DA1 (Analog-DV Converter Box),
Sony GV-D300 (Digital VCR),
Sony GV-D900 (Digital VCR)

Tech Specs – Final Cut Pro

Platform: Macintosh

Minimum System Requirements:

Processor: Power Macintosh G3 266MHz (300MHz required for DV)

Memory: 128MB RAM

Operating System: Mac OS 8.5 or later

Hard Drive: 6GB

Other: DV video source connected to an Apple FireWire port (built-in or on a PCI card) or an analog video source and a certified QuickTime-compatible video capture card (at press time, only the Pinnacle Systems Targa 1000, 1000 pro, 2000 and 2000 pro were certified)


Recommended System

Hard Drive: one or more Ultra2 LVD SCSI media drives

Other: dual-monitor support


. . . . . . . . . .

Tech Specs – Apple Power Macintosh G3

Processor: Apple PowerMac G3 400MHz

RAM: 128MB

Hard Drives: 9GB Ultra2 SCSI drive

Video Card: ATI Rage 128 with 16MB memory

Inputs/Outputs: 2x FireWire (IEEE 1394), 2xUSB, PS-2, Stereo Mini, Mini Mike, Monitor (VGA), 10-base T (Network)

Included Accessories: 21-inch Apple Studio Display

strengths

  • easy to use and works great
  • G3 hardware is screaming fast
  • easy to keep track of files

weaknesses

  • tiny round mouse
  • Targa series are the only supported analog capture devices
  • $5500 and no FireWire cable included

summary

Apple has a winner. The Final Cut Pro Bundle is one of the easiest ways to get started in nonlinear editing.


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