Issue: Volume: 23 Issue: 10 (October 2000)

Final Cut Pro 1.2.5

By Jim Perry

The initial release of Final Cut Pro, Apple's video editing, effects, and compositing software, met with a warm reception among Macintosh users. Version 1.2.5 includes a number of sophisticated features, including the ability to import, edit, and export in a 16:9 aspect ratio for HD-format work, as well as image processing and rendering in the YUV color space, which improves color fidelity.

The first thing you notice when you fire up Final Cut Pro is the elegance of the user interface, which also proves efficient and functional. The windows have a "snap to" feature that is great for maintaining the consistency of your work space and for reducing screen clutter.

I loaded Final Cut Pro 1.2.5 on a 500mhz G3 Macintosh with 256mb of RAM, after first making sure that I updated my OS to Version 9.0.4, and my QuickTime to Version 4.1.2, as suggested in the Final Cut ReadMe file. Since the G4 has built-in FireWire ports, I was able to connect a Sony DCR TRV-900 iLink equipped camcorder to the Mac and begin capturing clips immediately without additional hardware.

From there, editing was a simple drag-and-drop procedure in which I dragged clips from the browser window to the time line in order. The program's Log and Capture window provides an easy-to-use interface for viewing footage and marking in/out points of clips, then finally capturing all your selections in one session via batch capture mode. The logging tab allows a user to assign a comprehensive set of info such as "reel," "label," "scene," and "shot/take," as well as a "notes" field-useful for tagging a clip with a short description. All criteria are fully searchable with Final Cut's Boolean search features.
Final Cut Pro uses drag-and-drop functionality extensively to speed editing tasks. At the top far right is a pop-up target menu that appears when a user drags clips into the canvas window.

I was surprised at how cleanly Final Cut Pro was able to play back video on my 17-inch computer monitor set to millions of colors. It provided full-frame rate playback displayed in a window about one quarter the size of my screen with no stuttering.

Final Cut Pro also features a "jkl" control feature, in which those individual keys control the transport of your connected video device, where "j" is a "reverse shuttle" function, "l" is for "forward shuttle," and "k" is for "pause." Repeatedly tapping the "j" or "l" keys serves to incrementally increase the speed of their respective functions, while combining the "k" key provides a slow shuttle mode. This simple, easy-to learn key convention is a huge timesaver when shuttling through tapes.

Version 1.2.5 comes with a comprehensive assortment of transitions, special effects, and audio filters. Video effects are extensible through Adobe Systems' After Effects-compatible plug-ins, but unfortunately, Final Cut does not support Adobe Premiere- or Photoshop-compatible plug-ins at this time. The software does, however, provide a unique and powerful scripting feature called FX Builder, which users can use to ex tend and customize Final Cut's effects.

While Final Cut Pro is usually considered a direct competitor to Adobe's Premiere, it is actually more than a nonlinear editing package, since it offers integrated compositing features similar to, though not as extensive as what Adobe's own After Effects provides.

Final Cut Pro 1.2.5 ships with a suite of third-party tools appropriate for a range of digital video production needs. Media Cleaner EZ for QuickTime from Terran Interactive can batch-optimize and recompress videos for Web streaming or for publishing on CD-ROM.

Puffin Designs' Commotion DV video paint and effects program, a kind of Photoshop for moving images, provides the ability to paint onto a video clip while it is playing, and then play back the results without rendering. Finally, Maxon Computer's Cinema 4D Go software provides modeling, animation, and rendering for adding 3D elements and effects to productions.

Overall, I was impressed with Final Cut Pro. I encountered no unpleasant surprises apart from a lack of support for importing Adobe Illustrator files-which I hope will be remedied soon. I would expect that a seasoned editor migrating to Final Cut Pro-for its integrated compositing features, perhaps-would have an easy transition. And for those planning their first foray into video, I would also recommend Final Cut Pro as a top candidate for a nonlinear editing solution.

Jim Perry is a 15-year veteran of the printing and prepress industries. He is principal of Empower Direct, which provides consulting, training, and production services to digital content creators. He can be reached at

Price: $999
Minimum system requirements: 300MHz Power Macintosh G3; Power Mac G4; or 300MHz PowerBook G3 Series computer; Mac OS 8.6; 128MB of RAM; 6GB hard disk; (one or more separate Ultra2 LVD SCSI media drives recommended)

Cupertino, CA