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Just drag and drop
As with the previous version of Final Cut Pro, installation and setup is practically a no-brainer. Once you double-click the installation icon, the program starts loading. After you've installed Final Cut Pro, just attach a DV camera to your Mac's FireWire port, and you're ready to start transferring video.
When you fire up Final Cut Pro 3.0, you'll notice a brand-new window that hosts the so-called Video Scope tools. There you'll find a variety of tools for gathering information about your video, from color strength to signal levels. Although a bit clunky to use, these tools give you a good idea of how to correct bad video images or color-match different video clips.
What sets Final Cut Pro apart from other video-editing applications is how fast it gets you from the first cut to the finished video. Unlike rival editing programs, such as Adobe Premiere, Final Cut Pro allows you to drag clips within the program from the Monitor window, where you preview the shots, into the Program window, where you assemble the video you want and perform one of six different types of edits automatically. Just drag the clip onto the graphic overlay that says Insert With Transition, and Final Cut adds your clip to the timeline with a nice dissolve (or another default transition) between it and the previous clip.
Real-time effects; real small video
One of Final Cut Pro's most touted new features is the ability to preview video transitions and filters in real time without having to render the image in color or view it in black and white. Unfortunately, you'll find that only 12 of Final Cut's 60 video transitions and 1 of its 75 video filters work in real time; the others need time to process. Also, your processor limits the number of effects and filters viewable at the same time. With a single G4 processor, for instance, you won't be able to use more than a couple of effects simultaneously. According to Apple and several professional video editors we talked to, Final Cut's real-time cross-dissolve, 5 wipes, and 6 iris transitions will be sufficient for most amateur editors. We'd like to see many more transitions added to the roster of real-time effects, including pushes, where one image is literally pushed from one side of the screen to the other.
Preview like a pro
The video previews are excellent, even when using Final Cut Pro on a relatively slow 667MHz G4 PowerBook. We especially like the Color Corrector three-way filter: a real-time filter that lets you adjust the white, black, and midtone levels in a video image. This is a great tool for correcting video images that do not match well because of different lighting or cameras.
Another feature, the Media Manager, allows you to convert any type of video file (from standard DV to HDTV clips) to Final Cut Pro's new OfflineRT mode. According to Apple, OfflineRT compresses your files to let you record more than five times more video material onto your hard disk.
Support for Final Cut Pro 3.0 is excellent. Besides two volumes of user manuals, you'll also find a separate tutorial manual, 90 days of free technical phone support, and online help from within the program. However, this app is definitively not for beginners. Apple's tech support handles almost any technical problem but doesn't cover basic editing techniques. The included tutorial and DV media, however, do explain most of the basics of filmmaking.
The winner and still the champ
Final Cut Pro's combination of robust tools makes version 3.0 the most powerful software-based video-editing program on the planet. Final Cut Pro 3.0 is the only software program to use if you are serious about editing video on the Macintosh.