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Desktop Video (part 4)

The last, and so far unmentioned, link in the chain is software to edit your masterpiece into a finished work, capable of transfer back to DV, printing onto film (it can be done), or conversion to an Internet friendly format such as QuickTime...


Final Cut Pro

The last, and so far unmentioned, link in the chain is software to edit your masterpiece into a finished work, capable of transfer back to DV, printing onto film (it can be done), or conversion to an Internet friendly format such as QuickTime. Computer based video editing systems have been around for some time now but have always relied on specialist hardware. Off-line systems have been on the threshold of affordability, but their end product would be an EDL that required finishing in an expensive on-line suite. Nevertheless the existence of such high end systems has allowed developers, editors and producers to work hand-in-hand to provide techniques that deliver the goods, These techniques have been refined over and over during the past decade. Good old Apple Computer have obviously been in the sidelines watching developments, cheering as their hardware became the platform of choice, booing when Windows NT systems started to eat into their market. But while this was going on, Apple were hatching their plans for a complete proprietary hardware and software solution. What’s more, they have come up with a family of products that span the range from first time amateur to fully fledged pro, although we still await the ability to deal with film editing requirements - surely just a matter of time.

I don’t intend to dwell on domestic products, except to marvel at what can be done for so little money these days. Let me just mention the fascinating iMac DV which with the bundled iMovie software is a one-box editing solution. Following the recent practice of supplying software that is so simple to use you don’t need a printed manual, just a session with the supplied tutorial, iMac and iMovie are an ideal introduction to video editing. The most amazing thing is that the results are DV quality, which for most people equates to broadcast quality. So you want to be a video producer? What’s holding you back?

The real ground breaker however is the current top of the range 500MHz G4 ‘supercomputer’ which provides ample horsepower for a video editing suite. Add Apple’s industrial strength (their words) Final Cut Pro editing software and you have a solution not just for DV editing but, with additional hardware, all the way up to real time effects and compositing and full bandwidth SD and HD quality.

At this stage it’s worth looking at the components of Final Cut Pro, starting with the Viewer (Fig. 1). In days of old a video editing suite would have at least two monitors, one of which - the source monitor - would display the pictures from the original camera reels. The Viewer is the source monitor in Final Cut Pro where you would view your raw material and mark in points and out points, and apply effects also. In the modern style, the Viewer is a tabbed window with options for video, audio, filters (visual effects) and motion effects. The Canvas (Fig. 2) is the record monitor and is used to display the edited sequence as it is built up. Clips can be dragged and dropped onto the Canvas whereupon a semi-transparent menu (Fig. 2a) appears in the same window which allows a number of editing options, such as whether the dragged clip should overwrite the existing one, insert into the sequence or perhaps even overlay it as a composite. Clips are listed in the Browser window (Fig. 3). The Timeline (Fig. 4) will be familiar to everyone, showing both video and audio as segments, the length of each segment representing its duration. Multiple tracks of audio are of course allowed, depending on available processing power. And since Final Cut Pro handles compositing, multiple tracks, or layers, of video are possible too. Each layer can be scaled, rotated or have a motion path applied.

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By David Mellor Thursday January 1, 2004

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