May 23, 2005

FCP 5 and Soundtrack Pro at LAFCPUG
(Q and A with the FCP and STP Team)

By Michael Horton


Close to 800 people braved the traffic and parking problems of Hollywood to watch Apple's Alec Little, Brian Meaney and Paul Saccone show off FCP 5 and Soundtrack Pro. The show took place at the historic ETC/Pacific Theater on Hollywood Blvd and it must be said right at the top, that if there is a better venue on this planet to show off these two applications I'd like to know where it is.

With HUGE thanks to Gefen we were able to run DVI, HD-SDI and digital audio from the Dual 2.7 PowerMac to the ETC's 2K Digital Cinema projector and THX sound system, a distance of more than 200ft. The result was a crystal clear image projected onto the theater's 37ft screen with audio that can only be described as jaw dropping and seat shaking.

Show began with a demo of the ETC's state of the art Digital Cinema projection system by ETC Theater Manager Paul K Miller. The demo included clips from 2D, 3D and HD movies as well as movies shot on film. It's hard to imagine a better movie experience than digital cinema projection. If you have the choice, for goodness sake go see Star Wars at a Digital Cinema.

Ted Schilowitz of AJA was next up and as is always the case with Ted, entertained the crowd with humorous anecdotes gathered from his first hand experience supporting the engineers and editors working with FCP and the Kona Card at the 2004 World Series and 2005 Super Bowl. Needless to say everything worked flawlessly but was a knuckle grinder nonetheless.

FCP Product manager Paul Saccone then took to the podium mic to show a brief overview of the new products announced at NAB 2005. Now since most of you reading this article already know what products were announced, I'll skip that part and merely tell you what Paul listed as the NEW "big ticket items" in each one.

Native HDV
Dynamic RT Extreme
Multichannel Audio
Panasonic P2 support
Native IMX
Enhanced Xsan Support
Cinema Tools 3
(Many more enhancements covered later in this article)

32-bit Float Rendering
Midi Behavior
After Effects support
Enhanced Keyframing

Soundtrack Pro
Written from the ground up
Action Based Editing
Find and Fix
multitrack Editing and Mixing
DSP Audio Processing
Sound Effects
(Many more enhancements covered later in this article)

DVD Studio Pro 4
Support for HD DVD and Blu-Ray
HD Authoring
Distributed Encoding
Integrated Dolby Encoder
GPRM Partitioning
VTS Allocation
Digital Cinema Desktop

Soundtrack Pro's Product Manager Alec Little was next up, and despite the similarity in name with Soundtrack that shipped with FCP 4 and 4.5HD, Soundtrack Pro is a completely different application written from the ground up and based around precision audio editing and sound design. The app includes over 50 effects plug-ins from Logic Pro and over 5000 sound effect and music Apple loops.

Now since we were able to hook up to the theater's THX sound system (thanks in no small part to Gefen), Alec began the demo showing off a few of the included sound effects such as explosions, crashes, and Bear Roars.
Whispers of "Oh Yeah. Sweet!" were heard often from the audience during this demo. Yes, it's nice to have a big sound system.

I won't go into much detail about the Soundtrack Pro demo as you can find much of what Alec showed over on the Soundtrack Pro web site. Instead, I'll concentrate on the highlights and later in this article, the Q and A.

Highlights of Soundtrack Pro (STP)

A very powerful browser that includes the ability to manage multiple libraries of sounds.
Customizable tool bar
Different Timeline View options from mini to maxi
Ability to have multiple multitrack projects opened at one time via tabs at top of window
Multitrack and audio file projects can be opened at same time
Favorites tab to store favorite sounds across all projects
Find and Fix is a "SoundSoap" type feature that finds and analyzes problems such as pops and clicks and background noise and fixes the problem. Includes a history palette of your fixes you can turn on or off
Roundtrip workflow with FCP 5 is as simple as doing a "Select ALL" of your FCP sequence and selecting "Send to STP Multitrack." Your FCP sequence will appear in the STP timeline exactly as it appears in your FCP timeline
Totally Non Destructive sound editing or you can choose to make it destructive.
Intelligent Voice Over tool:
Alec recorded three takes of VO on a "loop region" he created on an audio track. Now, I'm not sure here but what happens is that all three takes appear as one with "take three" labeled on the clip. However if you click on the clip (control click maybe?) all THREE takes appear on the pop up menu allowing you to choose and listen to whatever take you want. You can easily take parts of take 1 and combine with parts of take 2 and 3.
You can use Digital Cinema Desktop with STP
Sound Design includes Paste/Mix which allows you to layer one sound on top of another with a simple "Copy" then "Past/Mix." You can choose what percentage of the copied sound you want to add to the mix.
Time stretch tool works without changing the pitch.
Control Surface support with any external audio unit that supports Mackie Control Protocol.
Applescript support

Next up were FCP Product Designer Brian Meaney and Paul Saconne. Paul began showing off uncompressed HD on the 2.7 GHZ Mac with everything set at High Quality. This included cross dissolves, Color Corrector filter, lower third and a Title 3D text. It played back flawlessly. Of course your milage may vary depending on the speed of your Mac, but what we saw played back without a hiccup. And on the 37 foot screen it was stunning.

As in the STP portion of this article I will just highlight a few of the things new in FCP 5 to save space for the Q and A below.

Native HDV editing
Edits and looks exactly as though you were editing DV. Same frame rate as DV. Scrubs in real time just like DV. Edit HDV on a Powerbook using a FW drive. You can send out HDV to your Digital Cinema Desktop or with a Kona Card, out HD-SDI. Separate capture window that is specifically for HDV. Will break up your clips based on TC breaks or Start/Stop" detection. Supports the Sony HDV camera's embedded TC when going out to tape via Print to Video.

Dynamic RT
Incredibly powerful tool that will allow you to play back multiple streams of video. It works by "looking ahead," adapting on the fly and adjusting the frame rate of each series of multiple streams" and then determines what the optimum frame rate might be in order to play back the sequence. For the purposes of this demo Paul and Brain played back from 1 to 16 streams and back to 1 of DVCPro HD video. Amazing. No more do you have to choose high quality, low quality or medium quality. FCP does it for you and very intelligently from the looks of it.

THE big ticket item and the number one lafcpug top ten feature request 2 times in a row.
Grab a bunch of clips (128 angles with 16 playing back at same time (with Dynamic RT)) and choose "Make Multicam" and up pops a window asking you how you want to sync them. Timecode? In/Out points? You choose.
Make Multiclip Sequence
Cut video with audio locked or audio with video locked.
Drag and drop up to 16 angles into Multicam Viewer window.
Don't like how the angles are arranged in the window? Command click on one angle and drag it to where you want it.
Intelligent render management with "Collapsing Multiclips" if you find yourself going past your RT budget.

Capture up to 24 channels of audio in a single pass. You can group capturing say, 4 tracks or mono and 2 tracks of stereo.
24bit, 96 kHz audio native inside FCP.
Control surface support with any external audio unit supporting Mackie Control Protocol

The "small" things
"Search folders" is a new concept whereby if you are forced to reconnect your media you can now tell FCP what folder or what drive to search in first, rather than the old way of FCP looking EVERYWHERE for your media.

You can now control+Click on a clip in the browser and select "Reveal in Finder."

Large icon view in browser now has duration of clip. You can arrange the large icon clips various ways with various commands

When you want to match frame to an item, simply select the clip, hit match frame and it will match to whatever item is selected overriding auto select.

Better scaling and rotating which, looking at the demo, virtually eliminated "artifacts."

Cinema Tools 3 is the largest upgrade in the History of Cinema Tools.

Text in browser and time line now can be made LARGE, Medium or small

Time for a break so we took 15 minutes to digest all we learned and then came back for the Q and A.

Author and FCP Guru Lisa Brenneis asked the world to send her their FCP 5 questions and after pouring over the hundreds of responses. picked what she considered the Top Ten. So let's start of with those, shall we?

Q.) Does the timeline playhead scroll with playback?
A,) No

Q.) Can you copy and paste multiple Keyframes?
A.) No

Q.) Are Scratch Disk Preferences be saved with individual projects
A.) No

Q.) Have you added a UNDO Action or History palette yet?
A.) No. Its in Soundtrack Pro though.

Q.) Any improved performance for Large projects?
A.) Yes. Long sequences will open much much faster with little chance of "Preparing video for display" window. Zooming and scrubbing timeline is much more responsive.

Q.) Any improvements to Time Remapping feature?
A.) No

Q.) Any improvement with Media Manager handling of speed modified clips?
A.) Yes. It has been solved in this version.

Q.) Time code display in Log and capture window during digitizing?
A.) No, but in the HDV Log and Capture window there is a display. (Note: Cant verify the accuracy of this answer as we didn't open the HDV L and C window and the answer to this questions was a bit drowned out by coughs from the audience.

Q.) Does FCP 5 support multiple resolutions in same timeline without rendering?
A.) No. Not with software only.

Q.) Does your graphics card make a difference in RT performance
A.) Not like Motion does but yes it helps. One example is Gamma Correction

Q.) What are the functionality differences between FCP 5 running on 10.3.9 and 10.4.
A.) None

Q.) what is absolute minimum system I need to edit HDV?
A.) One GHZ processor, and 1 Gig of ram and the faster the Mac the better the performance. CPU is still of vital importance to editing on FCP. Dynamic RT helps in keeping system requirements down.

Q.) What other than audio can external controls that support the Mackie Control Protocol, control?
A.) Basic navigation such as In/Out, forward/reverse. mute, solo etc.

Q.) Is there anyway to add markers to an individual angle in a multiclip?
A.) Yes.

It was now time to take a few questions from the audience

Q.) Do we have Network rendering with FCP 5?
A. No. But with Compressor and QMaster you can network Macs for batch encoding. Also the AC3 encoder is incorporated into Compressor so you no longer have to go out to A-pack. You must buy FC Studio or DVD Studio Pro 4 in order to get the "distributive" version of Compressor.

Q.) Is there OMF export from Soundtrack Pro?
A. No.,

Q.) Is there an audio change list function in STP?
A.) No, but this feature is open to third parities and the data are available to them.

Q.) Are the loops we have in Soundtrack compatible with Soundtrack Pro?
A.) Yes. All of the loops in Soundtrack are in Soundtrack Pro plus more.

Q.) Can you view HDV out to a an External monitor or the cameras view finder?
A.) No. But you can play it out to Digital Cinema Desktop or use a Kona Card

Q.) Bezier Mask?
A. No change

Q.) Is there anything in FCP that will give us a color sync using FCP's Color bars if we are using the Cinema Display?
A. No, but there is a calibration tool in Shake 4.

Q.) What if anything has been done to improve match back to tape (Edit to tape) audio and video sync?
A.) There is actually been HUGE improvements in ETT so your edits should be dead on. Workflow is same but accuracy is now there.

Q.) I'm getting this color shift (a kind of flash) in my transitions when using DVCPro HD. Has this been addressed?
A. Yes.

Q.) It worked in FCP 4 but now in 4.5, when using the the range selection tool, you can no longer copy a portion of a clip and have only that portion of the clip you copied show up when you paste. The whole clip now pastes. Has this been addressed?
A. No. It's not been addressed.

Q.) Feature Request: Real time tool displays such as RT meters, vectorscopes out to tape?
A. Darn good feature Request.

Q.) I want to buy a G5 and have heard that maxing out my Ram is not a good thing.
A.) FCP will recognize only 4 gigs but Motion will take advantage of the entire 8 gigs. The OS will also take advantage of the entire 8 gigs.

Q.) What is this integration between Shake and FCP 5?
A.) Simply select your your clips and from the File Menu then select "Send to Shake." Render.

Q.) Has there been any improvements with merge clips and match frame?
A.) I'm not sure

Q.) Can you map your Keyboard to the Multicam layout?
A.) Yes. Also includes a bunch of buttons in the button bar.

Q.) I have a dual G4 and I want to run Motion but ny video card is not on the supported list. Can I still run Motion maybe without the RT effects?
A.) No

Q.) Does Spotlight in Tiger affect performance in any of the Apple Pro Apps?
A.) You should not see a performance hit once your drives have been indexed. Also you can turn off Spotlight functions for certain drives or folders. Brian broke in and stated that Capture Now performance under QT 7 and FCP 5 has vastly been improved where Capture Now should start almost immediately.

Q.) Have you done anything to improve render time?
A.) We have addressed it but the bottom line is Just get the fastest Mac you can afford and you will see improvement.

Q.) If I have an educational version of FCP, can I upgrade to a retail version?
A.) No. You cannot upgrade a EDU version of FCP to a retail version. You must pay full price.

It was clear that Soundtrack Pro was the hit of the evening, hitting the "sweet" spot with the crowd numerous times. Alec Little's demo was interrupted with applause on several occasions and it was no wonder; This app has a lot of "wow factor" inside and out. Plus it didn't hurt to demo an audio app in a theater designed to show audio off.

If "Find and Fix" is half as good as it looks in the demo, and if the sound design interface is as easy as it looks, and if the ADR and VO tools work as we saw them work, then the price of Soundtrack Pro is below cheap. It really does look that good. No, this is not a Pro Tools killer and no it doesn't support 5.1 Surround Sound (yet) but watching this app in action makes you want to run to the nearest store and bring it home and play with it. Doesn't matter that you may not be a gifted sound designer or audio editor, this app is sure going to do its best to help you try.

Our favorite NLE, Final Cut Pro, finally earned its Pro name with Cinema Tools 3. Cinema Tools isn't sexy like Multicam or Multichannel audio support, so it didn't get the demo time of the so called "Big Ticket" items, but I'm sure that film editors will be very pleased with this version. As Brian Meaney said, "About time."

Multicam was worth the wait. It is simply brilliant in its simplicity. Hell, I don't need this for no music video. I could of used this for that 7 character dinner scene I struggled with last month.

I'm betting that Dynamic RT will end up being the most useful and loved new feature of Final Cut 5. Think about this for a moment. Apple makes software to sell hardware, right? Well that's what we all think, right. Well here is a gift from Apple for those of us who can't afford new hardware and still want a bit of the RT the fast Macs are giving the rich boys. This Dynamic RT is wickedly intelligent if the demo doesn't lie. Yeah, yeah, it will work much better the faster the Mac, but still - a gift? From Apple? I can wait a few more months to buy that G5? Cool! I'll take it. Thank you.

While FCP 5 didn't include everything we wanted, it did include (in my not so humble opinion) most of what we need. What it still lacks is what we can tolerate, and keep working for and working around. And it is clear to all who were there that night. that the boys from the FCP team want what we want too. So keep giving them your feedback, and do as Paul Saconne asked all of us re: the Media Manager. "Kick the tires for a awhile and then let us know SPECIFICALLY what it is you want. So let's kick the tires for awhile.


Special thanks again to Gefen for their support and especially to Gefen tech support guru, Khasha Roholahi. Honestly, without him and all the Gefen gear, nothing would of worked. Not in this theater with this projector.
Also, Paul K Miller of the ETC, Lisa Brenneis, all of the tireless ticket takers, and Brian Gary who taped the show. And huge thanks to Alec Little, Brian Meaney and Paul Saccone for taking the time to fly down here and show off the Apps.

Damn good show guys.


This article first appeared on lafcpug and is reprinted here with permission.

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