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Apple unveils new video-editing tools

The Mac maker unveils five new software packages for broadcasters and digital video editors, including new visual effects and editing tools for high-definition video.

LAS VEGAS--Apple Computer on Sunday unveiled five new software packages for broadcasters and digital video editors, including new visual effects and editing tools for high-definition video.

At the annual National Association of Broadcasters conference here, Apple introduced the latest version of its editing software, Final Cut Pro, which supports broadcast-quality HD video. It also unveiled new special effects software called Motion (a new product for Apple), which at a comparatively low cost to rival technology could change the market for video editing, which is dominated by the likes of Adobe.

"If we're not careful, HD could get stuck in the high end," said Rob Schoeben, Apple's vice president of applications marketing, referring to the typically costly hardware and editing software required to produce HD programming.

"We want to change the creative and production process so that anyone can create professional quality results in the video and editing world," he said.

Final Cut Pro, which Apple says is used by about 250,000 editors, can be upgraded free for those people with version 4. Otherwise, it costs $999. Motion, available this summer, will cost $299.

In another turn for the computer maker, it entered the enterprise market for media management with Xsan, a SAN (storage area network) file system. The software, which is in beta form now and will be fully available in the fall, is a solution for storing and filing media so that it can be accessible among different working groups in the office on systems using Windows, Linux or Unix.

At a price of $999 per computer, Xsan costs about a third of that of rival SAN technology, Schoeben said.

Finally, Apple upgraded its digital cinema software, known as Shake, to version 3.5, giving movie studios more tools to create special effects. It costs $2,999 for Mac OS X users, and $4,999 for Linux users.

Apple also updated DVD Studio Pro to version 3. The software, available in May for $499, is a professional DVD creation tool that now includes Apple's encoding and decoding technology to transfer HD to MPEG-2, the compression standard for DVD.

The software was well received by many of the hundreds of attendees at Apple's launch in Las Vegas and the first day of the NAB conference, which draws about 90,000 people.

During the past several years, the broadcasting industry has undergone a major shift, as media creation and distribution has become increasingly digital. Software now available has served to drive that shift because it's helped make media creation, editing, delivery and storage more efficient and inexpensive.

Apple's software may be evidence of that shift.

"They're changing the business," said Randall Tinfow, president of Image Plant, a media creation company, referring to new efficiencies afforded by Apple's Xsan product and its new partnership with Panasonic.

Specifically, Apple announced an agreement with Panasonic to incorporate compression technology that would deliver HD programming at greater speed and efficiency using Apple's FireWire from Panasonic's new HD recorder. During the event, Panasonic introduced the small HD recorder, called AJ/HD1200A, which costs about $25,000. It will make recording and editing in HD video seamless with the use of Final Cut Pro HD on both Apple desktop and laptop computers, the companies said.

Still, others marveled at Apple's Motion software, which lets editors animate text, graphics and video. Artists can drag and drop special effects, add natural-looking movements to type and graphics, and preview multiple HD videos in real time.

"It's for people who know what they want to see but don't know how to make it happen," said Robert Gubar, president of RMG Satellite Productions. "Before, (such programs) were mathematically based. Now it's creatively driven."

Another broadcast professional believes that Motion will be a direct assault on higher-end products like those from Adobe. "They're going to create the (Adobe) After Effects killer," said David Marcus, content director for Magnet Media, who attended the launch.

But other media executives said that After Effects is too deeply rooted in content creation systems for those using it. Apple's Schoeben said that the product will be complementary to Adobe's After Effects.

In a related customer win, Apple signed on BBC Technology and Thompson's Grass Valley group as customers of its Final Cut Pro HD.