|Final Cut Pro 3 and the Art of Filmmaking was released in 2002, just after FCP3 hit the streets, and is the work of two experienced filmmakers and editors, brothers Jason Cranford Teague and David Teague. They have sprinkled the second half of the book with fascinating sidebars -- stories about FCP in practice in the real world -- contributed by Kyle McCabe. The book is divided into five logical and linearly progressive parts. A DVD containing most of the materials to complete the exercises is included. Corrections and updates for the DVDs many flaws are said to be available at the Sybex web site. The book is both an application tutorial for beginners and an examination of the effects on the modern filmmaking aesthetic of tools such as Final Cut Pro. The reader naturally expects a complete guide to Final Cut Pro 3 that will boost his/her confidence and efficiency with the application making it more fun to use -- for the most part, the Teagues come through.
Here are the short answers to the question everyone wants to ask: Should I spend my money on this book? These questions are followed later by observations to support my opinions.
- Are you launching a nonlinear video editing application for the first time in your life?
- Graduating from Apples iMovie to FCP?
Then, yes, you want this book and you will certainly get your moneys worth. Go to the Dairy Store right now and buy it.
- Are you an experienced editor who is perhaps switching nonlinear platforms?
Buy it. No, wait, dont buy it. You will benefit from the practice but you will not need the background material. That unnecessary content makes it an expensive and therefore optional resource. I think you would get more out of Apples FCP3 manuals.
- Do you already know how to fly FCP3?
Save your money, you can skip this book; it is too elementary. However, consider that anyone who uses FCP3 on a daily basis tends to develop usage habits. You might get a new perspective on your workflow or learn some new keyboard shortcuts by working through these tutorials designed for beginners.
The exercises you will follow and the files you import from the DVD are designed to be assembled into a brief documentation of memories and experiences shared at New Yorks Coney Island amusement park. The linearly progressive tasks become more complex and you are encouraged to explore variations on the techniques. I found most of the tutorials imaginative and relevant to the video piece under construction. With others I was frustrated by missed opportunities to expand beyond the artificial confines of the mini-documentary. Some exercises simply fell short of the excitement generated by the descriptions in the preambles.
Part One: Getting Started (Great stuff here! 4 Cows!)
If you dont know how to set up all that weird video gear youve acquired, this section is for you. It works, just follow along and youll have your components assembled into a functioning edit system in a few hours. The advice on how to shoot better video and acquire better sound is excellent. Ditto the advice on keeping shot logs and the subtle importance of continuity. You get a basic introduction to the FCP user interface and are shown how to log and capture your first bins full of clips.
Part Two: Editing Your Movie (Great stuff here! 4 Cows!)
No way to stop now! Youre immediately plunged into clip mechanics, trimming, linking, and assembling them into a timeline. Here the Teagues start throwing stuff at you that makes you wonder if upgrading to Final Cut Pro from iMovie was a good idea. They will force your vocabulary to expand to encompass types of edits and editing types, styles of edits and editing styles, effective transitions and transitional effects. You also get introduced to audio transitions and the concept of rendering media files.
Part Three: Adding Special Effects (Not so good stuff. 2 Cows.)
Things start to get more interesting now with static and moving titles, importing Photoshop documents. The sidebar on formatting your Photoshop documents for FCP is probably the most valuable part of this section. But the authors strike only a glancing blow at helping to make the interface useful and they stoop to tautologies in trying to explain the meanings of the numerous buttons, dropdowns, flyouts, submenus, and function options.
The Advanced Titles chapter attempts to introduce text tools from Boris but falls short of the obvious opportunity to tantalize with the infinite possibilities. Boris products are incredibly deep and flexible. Boris is capable of drop dead beautiful effects but you cant tell from this book.
The image controls and filters sections annoyed me because I wanted concrete and appropriate examples applied to clips that are going to be used in the program under construction. Most of the exercises for image filters are gee-whiz-type silliness instead of legitimate problem solvers.
Part Four: Advanced Techniques (Fairly good stuff but mostly not so good stuff here. 2-1/2 cows.)
This is among the better explanations of alpha channels and transparency ever written, even for the advanced beginner. This brief section alone could change your motion graphics and compositing life if those extra 8 bits have been driving you nuts. The Teagues get extra bonus points here.
The next section on Motion Controls left me wondering why they bothered. Like the image filters examples in the previous section, I did not find the examples of distortion and movement justified in an otherwise elegant little production.
Likewise the next sections on keying. In the sample project, luminance, color, and difference keying techniques are explored using the same two weird little clips. The results are impressionistic but I just did not get the point. The text introductions to these effects allude to spectacular possibilities but the results are only silly. Like it or not, budding filmmakers need advanced special effects to do chromakeying or difference matting and this section does not deliver the goods.
On the positive side, Part Four also includes an extensive and helpful section on using FCPs audio features followed by an excellent chapter called Laying Down The Edits, practical advice on program construction.
Part Five: After The Editing is Done (Great stuff here! 4 Cows!)
This is all about managing the media that FCP has created and getting your project printed out to tape or compressed for other uses. I found this section to be particularly helpful in getting me past many of my Media 100 hang-ups. Apple made some truly strange decisions when they designed Final Cut Pro. I wish the Teagues had explained why some basic functions are so dang goofy. But maybe they just dont know.
The book ends in a thorough index that is thoroughly mechanical. It appears to have been constructed by a word processing subroutine and the results are predictably literal. Many oddball entries should have been cross-checked by humans. The cheap binding is a complete disaster; my copy fell apart after only a few days. (See picture at right for a view of my book after a few days of use.) That is completely inexcusable for an expensive tutorial text that by definition should lay flat next to a computer. The DVD accompanying the early edition shipped with some bad files which is not unforgivable but it points to a deeper quality-control issue.
I tried to like this book. I tried really hard. I read it cover to cover three times because I like the way it reads. These guys can write. And thats unusual among our industrys tutorial and supplemental application literature. But the marketplace is chock full of capable, if not compelling, books about digital media and all of the applications that make it happen.
The challenge in todays application support marketplace is to come up with a book that is overflowing with excellent information, bursting at the seams with competent instruction, and chock-a-block with enough engaging war stories to inspire the reader to put the books content into practice.
The Gold Standard for Macintosh support materials is unquestionably maintained by the likes of Team Meyer, Brian Maffitt, David Pogue, and many others far too numerous to list here. Any publisher can look at the existing marketplace and know instantly whether the manuscript in progress can compete or needs lots of work. The Teagues are not going to get four or five cows but they are definitely in the competition. If you are one of the FCP users I think would benefit form the book, buy it from the Dairy Store right now. Do you know anyone who is a beginner? Buy a copy for them! If these boys can sell enough copies of their current book, who knows what theyll be able to do with a sequel?
Bogiesans rating: 3 Cows -
Hits: Written by guys who can write. The book has an engaging prose style and it delivers on most of the promises implied in the title and preface.
Misses: Quality of instruction is uneven. They failed to give aspiring filmmakers the tools to do Star Wars send-ups. Overpriced by half, the included DVD is flawed, and I have major issues with the books binding.
Buy it if youre a beginner, neophyte, novitiate, or a Macintosh media maven who wants to play with the big dogs by moving from iMovie to Final Cut Pro.
Forget it if you already know how to use FCP or you have career-level experience with any comparably complex editing platform such as Avid or Media 100.
-- David Bogie, Boise, Idaho USA
©2001 by David Bogie. All rights are reserved.