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Final Cut Pro HD for Mac OS X: Visual QuickPro Guide

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Final Cut Pro HD for Mac OS X: Visual QuickPro Guide

A Creative COW Book Review

David Bogie reviews Final Cut Pro HD for Mac OS X: Visual QuickPro Guide

David Bogie David Bogie

©Copyright 2004 David Bogie and Creativecow.net. All Rights Reserved
Article Focus:
CreativeCOW contributing editor David Bogie reviews Final Cut Pro HD for Mac OS X: Visual QuickPro Guide, written by Lisa Brenneis, published by Peachpit Press, 792 pages, July 6, 2004, ISBN: 0321269187, and entices us to read why he would say..."When I was asked to review this book I thought it would be easy: find the good stuff, point out and whine about the bad stuff, and self-righteously nit pick the typos. No can do. Turns out I’ve got issues."

The Review

Final Cut Pro HD for Mac OS X: Visual QuickPro Guide

P
ros: Superb value at $30.00. Chock full of information, how-to instruction, and engaging sidebars. Conforms to the standard QuickPro Guide format where everything is explained at least two times, sometimes three. The repetition can get tedious but it's never condescending.


Cons: No media comes with the book but you really can’t expect any at this price. Besides, that’s not the format of QuickPro Guides. (Still, I’d like to see how Lisa's yoga movie turned out.) No color, which is a bummer since the FCP interface can be so confusing. Curiously huge amount of wasted white space and some tiny illustrations that could have easily filled it if they'd been larger.

The Issues

The first is that Lisa Brenneis is an expert - shoot, Lisa Brenneis might be The Expert - when it comes to Final Cut Pro. While her jacket bio does not include these items, I’m willing to speculate that Lisa is on the FCP advisory team, FCP beta evaluation team, and probably has espresso with the FCP documentation writers.

The other problem is that I have public attitude when it comes to Final Cut Pro and some other Apple products. There are things about this application I love and others I absolutely despise; features and methods that just piss me off. So I was hoping that I could use my prejudices to further judge Lisa’s book. You know, if she agreed with my point of view, good; if she didn’t, I'd get to rip on it. Stupid plan.

Then I found Lisa Brenneis mentioned in the introduction of Charles Koppelman’s way cool book, Behind the Seen: How Walter Murch Edited Cold Mountain Using Apple's Final Cut Pro and What This Means for Cinema. I am in awe of people like Lisa, women and men who cannot only claim to know an application fluently, but who can also teach. And write.

So I had to change plans. Looking for faults in Lisa Brenneis’ FCP expertise is a waste of time. Even if I could find them, it wouldn’t matter; you still need this book. How do I know? I used it for about three weeks to look up answers for questions you posted to the Cow and to the Apple FCP forum.

As an experienced — but not expert Final Cut user — I have no business at all attempting to critique Lisa’s book. But someone asked me to do it (and they gave me a copy of the book as a bribe) so here are my observations.

The Observations


Relationship-based Clip Types, Master Clip, Affiliate Clip, Independent Clip, Merged Clip, Subclip, page 142: Lisa tries very hard to explain this odd behavior, which is new in FCP4+, but I still don’t get it. I do not understand why Apple decided to complicate clips and I don’t understand what it does for me as a user. Where’s the benefit? Lisa doesn’t’ know either and she points out that you can't tell what kind of clip you’ve got just by looking at it. You will find more assistance for handling Subclips on page 202. Still, I’m not happy with Apple’s rationalization.

Photoshop Preparation, page 223: Lisa offers something new-to-me in the round trip to and from Photoshop. She suggests placing a single opaque pixel in each corner of each layer. Seems to work, just never seen it before.

Replace Edit, page 297: The protocol for the replace edit function in FCP baffles me after three years. I want it to work like it does in After Effects but Apple knows better. Unfortunately, people like me may never get it and Lisa’s book isn’t going to help. (Woohoo! I found a flaw! A subjective flaw, so it might not really count.)

Making a Timeline Track Invisible, page 357: You know how totally weird it is that FCP loses its mind whenever you disable or turn off a video track? All renders are lost. Say what? You know how we just accept this insanity without screaming? Lisa only confirms the silliness but she does so without making any editorial comment. I find this curiously conspiratorial.

Audio Mixer Quirks, page 472: If you use the onscreen mixer extensively, you probably have studied the FCP manual deeply enough to comprehend the finer points, those unexpected differences between how a real mixer functions and how a virtual mixer works. Making sense of the FCP mixer isn’t necessarily easy, especially if you’re trying to record fader movements across edit points. Lisa puts you straight.

Applying The Same Transition To Many Edits, page 481: A serious flaw in FCP is the inability to easily select multiple edits and apply the same transition to all of them. I don’t know if the method we’ve come up with is an accidental discovery, a screwball workaround, or if it was designed into the application and just waiting to be discovered. All I know is that it’s silly. Lisa explains the workaround here if you don’t already know it.

FCP4 Mystery Theater Variable Speed, page 555: Lisa offers helpful suggestions on how to use Variable Speed and how to deal with the weird Last Frame. I appreciated this sidebar’s insight tremendously and you will too if Apple’s bizarre decisions on how to implement speed adjustments freak you out.

Anatomy of the Color Corrector Tab, page 569: I could go on for many pages on this filter’s ridiculous interface … but I won’t. There are more than 40 controls, mutli-state buttons, and switches on this interface and only six of them are labeled. Lisa’s explanations are about as good as the manual’s. Nit picking. Sorry.

Creating Titles With Boris Calligraphy, page 601: I have a long-standing loathing for the Boris application interface. Not many people share this distaste, indeed, many have pointed out that if you can learn Boris once, you will be able to use any Boris product or plugin anywhere. Maybe. I don’t care. It’s a weird paradigm, difficult for me to grasp, and Lisa only advises her readers to peruse the Boris PDFs that come with FCP. Is Lisa copping out? No, the Boris plugs are not really part of FCP; they’re optional. Install at your own risk, er, discretion.

Creating Final Output, All of Chapter 19: Ever wondered how you’re going to get that thing of yours out of FCP and up on a screen where your investors can see it? This chapter is worth the cost of the book, Lisa offers plenty of practical debugging procedures and advice on how to accurately assess your output. If you use the Crash Record method of timeline output - don’t we all? - page 629 is for you.

Tips for Subclippers, page 701: I have major gaps in my comprehension of FCP’s many mysteries and they bother me, I don’t think they should be mysterious at all. I won’t bore you with my personal prejudices, you can read those in any of my longer posts on any FCP forum, but I will tell you Lisa tries, she really does, to make many of these mysteries less opaque.

The Index, starting on page 737: Woohoo! I get to nit pick again! Stuff just isn’t where you think it should be. I found this by trying to use Lisa’s book as my only reference for forum assistance. Did the publisher need to save paper? Aw, forget it, doesn’t really matter. If it’s in the book - not much about FCP isn’t n this book - you’ll find whatever you’re looking for in just a few minutes.




In Conclusion

I told you at the beginning of this piece to buy the book and I’ll tell you again: If you can only afford to spend sixty dollars on a Final Cut instructional resource, this is the book for you. For sixty bucks, you can buy two copies and give one to a friend.

5 cows




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