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Weekly Wisdom from Bob Levitus
Final Cut Pro Turns You Into Pro Videographer

Dr. MacI recently had the opportunity to test Final Cut Pro, Apple's first entry into the video editing software category and it knocked my socks off. This $999 program can perform tasks -- fast, interactive editing, direct proxy-free compositing, and a ton of great-looking and easy-to-use special effects -- that used to require an expensive non-linear editing systems such as those sold by Avid and Media 100.

But the big news is that everything you need to create high-quality video productions -- Final Cut Pro, a Power Macintosh 300 MHz, a 17" Apple monitor, a digital camcorder, a small NTSC (i.e. television) monitor, and a VHS recording deck -- will run you as little as $6,000. And, of course, if you already own some of the components, it could cost you a lot less to become a full-blown video producer! An Avid or Media 100-based solution with similar capabilities could cost you anywhere from 2 to 10 times that amount.

So I put it to the test. Using Final Cut Pro I created a high-quality 6 minute video, complete with music, transitions, titles, and special effects, in less than a day. Here's how I did it:

I brought my trusty digital camcorder (a Canon Optura, around $1,300) on a recent family vacation to Universal Studios and recorded almost an hour of video footage and stills.

When I got home, I dumped the footage from the camcorder to the Power Mac using the included FireWire cable. Then I marked the sequences I liked with Final Cut Pro's excellent logging features and "batch digitized." In a few moments I had 5 gigabytes of digital video on my hard disk and was ready to begin editing. This step took less than an hour.

Next I organized my clips into the rough order I wanted them by dragging and dropping them from Final Cut Pro's "bins" onto the "timeline." It was quite easy and actually a lot of fun. I arranged and rearranged several dozen short clips until they told the story I wanted to tell. This step took roughly 90 minutes.

Now came the fun part. I imported the song California Girls from a Beach Boys CD and dragged it onto the timeline, to serve as my background music. Then I added transitions between the scenes -- cuts, fades, dissolves, 3D cubes, and more -- sound effects, and opening and closing titles. I spent about 5 hours on this step and would have finished sooner if I hadn't been having so much fun.

Finally, I "printed" my 6 minute video to tape. It looks great! This step took 6 minutes.

Bottom line: With Final Cut Pro I created, from scratch, a 6 minute video presentation complete with titles, music, and transition effects in less than 8 hours. And had a blast doing it. If you're interested creating pro-quality video with your Mac, Final Cut Pro is definitely worth considering.

Final Cut Pro Requires a 266-MHz Power Macintosh G3 computer (300 MHz required for digital video), Mac OS 8.5 or later, 128MB of RAM, 6GB hard disk (one or more separate Ultra2 LVD SCSI media drives recommended) plus one of the following video capture systems (optional): A DV digital video source connected to a computer equipped with an Apple FireWire port (built in or on an Apple PCI card) or an analog video source and a certified QuickTime-compatible video capture card or device.

Final Cut Pro. SRP $999.
Apple Computer, Cupertino, California
408-996-1010 or 800-795-1000.
http://www.apple.com/finalcutpro/.

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Bob LeVitus is a leading authority on the Mac, the author of 22 computer books, including "Cheap & Easy Internet Access," "WebMaster Mac," and "System 7.5 for Dummies." Bob is also a contributing editor and columnist for MacUser magazine. E-mail comments and suggestions to boblevitus@boblevitus.com. Dr. Mac / Bob LeVitus has a new "vanity" web site at http://www.boblevitus.com/.
 
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