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Final Cut Goes High-Def

Video professionals who haven't yet bitten into Apple were tempted with a tastier version of Final Cut Pro, the company's video-editing application. Clearly, Apple is ready to tackle the soon-to-be-growing field of high-definition video production with Final Cut Pro HD.

Users of the previous Final Cut Pro nonlinear editing versions can work in uncompressed HD but are unable to work with compressed HD formats. Uncompressed HD video takes up much more bandwidth than standard-definition, slowing down computer processing.

Apple believes its new entry overcomes those limitations with the help of its latest operating system, Mac OSX "Panther," and the G5 computer platform. "We need to do for HD what we did for DV and standard-definition in the past," Rob Schoeben, Apple's vice president of applications marketing, told a 2,000-member audience at NAB. The SD versions of Final Cut Pro increased the popularity of DV-based formats by giving users an affordable editing package. Many Apple devotees at the gathering cheered the new features and price points.

Such devotion is well-earned.

Apple is the major platform magnet for creative artists, given its strong processing power. The price of Final Cut Pro HD is also a reason: The software will cost only $999 and will be a free upgrade for users of the most recent version, Final Cut Pro Version 4. To upgrade from other versions costs $399.

Also, the new system is designed to work with Panasonic's DVCPRO HD format, a 100-Mbps version of DVCPRO that has enough bandwidth to capture HD images in all of the major HDTV formats (in either 1080-line interlaced or 720-line progressive) and can transfer the content via FireWire connections. Up to four HD streams can be viewed at once in native HD, up to 10 in preview quality.

"It offers real-time editing," notes Schoeben, adding, "We really wanted to nail HD to the wall." He also says the software can be loaded on Apple Powerbook laptop computers, allowing HD editing to be part of every editor's on-the-road arsenal.

While Final Cut Pro HD was the company's big announcement, it was Motion, a new real-time motion-graphics design tool, that generated the most response during the demonstration. Schoeben says the $299 package is designed to do for motion graphics what Final Cut Pro has done for editing: providing professional-style tools at consumer-level pricing. A real-time design engine allows users to interact with things on-screen.

One of the more interesting features is Motion Behaviors. It uses procedural animation techniques to create natural simulations, such as gravity and wind, with the object reacting to the changes. Behaviors saves time and effort by reducing the need to deal with multiple key frames when putting animation together.