Apple Production Suite
Issue: Volume: 28 Issue: 4 (April 2005)

Apple Production Suite

A bundle of the company’s high-end products for the Mac, Production Suite is truly more than the sum of its parts. It’s a synergistic environment in which professional postproduction applications work together seamlessly to increase productivity and creativity.

Final Cut Pro HD non-linear editing software, Motion for creating sophisticated motion graphics, and DVD Studio Pro 3 for professional DVD authoring are at the core of the Suite. Also included are Apple’s Soundtrack audio tool, LiveType 1.2 for resolution-independent animated titling, Cinema Tools for 35mm and 16mm filmmakers, and QuickTime Pro and Compressor 1.2 for encoding to HD and importing/exporting projects for various delivery mediums.

Production Suite is a serious set of advanced SD and HD tools in an integrated, inexpensive package.

It’s clear that Apple has fully embraced high definition. In his keynote address at Macworld Expo, Apple CEO Steve Jobs defined 2005 as “The year of high definition.” Final Cut Pro HD works in standard definition (SD) and, for those with a high-definition (HD) device, in HD using a FireWire cable. The ability to capture, edit, and output broadcast-quality HD video over a single FireWire cable is, in and of itself, worth the cost of this bundle.

Final Cut Pro HD offers 150 new effects for DV, SD, and HD with real-time functionality and a new timecode display, generator, and reader. More filmmaker-friendly, the HD version enables you to take a 25 fps PAL video and export an EDL for 24 fps, transferring your video project to motion-picture film. The Digital Cinema Desktop feature lends to viewing in HD on Apple Cinema HD displays. Thanks to its DVI, the Apple Cinema 30-inch flat liquid crystal HD display is one of the best-looking RGB displays I’ve ever seen.

From a video-editing standpoint, there’s nothing Final Cut Pro HD can’t do. Its familiar timeline approach and customizable user interface, as well as the ability to work on a single project in several programs, make this professional media creation tool the cornerstone of Production Suite.

If you’ve ever envied the sophisticated multilayer look of titling on television, Motion is your application. Its powerful animation design engine provides real-time previews and procedural behavior animation. With minimal effort, I was able to create and import into Final Cut Pro a layered sequence with animated titles and images.

Motion’s Behavior tool automatically generates simulations of fluid motion effects, such as rain and wind, the actions/reactions of items like billiard balls, or the effects of gravity. Hassling with keyframe animation is not necessary; Motion does it for you as you work interactively with elements and layers in real time. Using Motion’s advanced particle engine, I was able to create realistic-looking fire, smoke, and welding sparks. I even gave a blocky title a neon glow. Better yet, I used the Dashboard menu to select an element on the screen-a logo, title, or picture-in-picture box playing live video-and animate it on an x, y, or z axis. Spinning logos are a breeze. Using the 25 prebuilt motions, which Apple calls Gestures, I created professional-looking content quickly and easily. I viewed all the layers, filters, effects, and objects within a project in the Project Pane. Every Mac user who is serious about animated graphics for professional video or the Web should have Motion.

When outputting a finished project with DVD Studio Pro 3, Apple’s high-end authoring program, you can use prebuilt templates or opt to label chapters with LiveType, create menu objects in Motion, and produce background music in Soundtrack. The program includes transitions, enabling blur, wipe, or other effects between chapters and during title selection without building a separate effects track. DVD Studio 3’s Graphical View tool provides a look at the whole project, including the hierarchy of the chapters and the flow. I was able to open Final Cut Pro HD files and Motion projects in the application; add menus, transitions, and sound; and burn a DVD. All things in life should be so easy.

I put Production Suite through its paces on a PowerMac G5, creating a 22-minute video documentary. During the process, I found the applications to be intuitive and seamlessly integrated, even more so than similar bundles. I saved time and produced a video with a high-end look that was easy to achieve. With its unprecedented integration, serious features, and flexibility for moving a single project easily between applications, Production Suite is a coordinated, complete postproduction package at a great price.

Tom Patrick McAuliffe is a writer, award-winning video creator, and former member of the US Navy’s Combat Camera Group.

Apple Computer
Price: $1299 ($699 as an upgrade)
Minimum System Requirements: Requirements, listed on Apple’s Web site, vary by application and include a Macintosh computer with a PowerPC G4 or G5 processor, Mac OS 10.3.5 or later, a high-end graphics card, 512mb of RAM, 20gb of disk space, and a DVD drive.