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Final Cut Pro 4: Editing Professional Video

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Final Cut Pro 4: Editing Professional Video
A CreativeCow.net Book Review


Joaquin Gil reviews: Final Cut Pro 4: Editing Professional Video


Joaquín (Kino) Gil
Joaquín (Kino) Gil
kino, Los Angeles, California USA


©2003 by Joaquin Gil. All rights are reserved.


Article Focus:
Joaquin Kino Gil, noted film effects artist and host team leader of Creative Cow's Maya and Film FX forums, reviews Final Cut Pro 4: Editing Professional Video, by Diana Weynand and published by Peachpit Press. Kino concludes with ..."get this book if you want to learn FCP4. It will show you workflows besides the controls and their functions, so you learn a "live" application, including the attendant or auxiliary applications: LiveType, Soundtrack, Compressor, etc"


The Challenge

There is an alarming pattern with Apple. Every so often, they come out from their digs and totally eat the cake. Any cake. Or more properly speaking, the cake they have set their sights on. That was the way the Avid was born. Apple and Mac took the world by storm with a killer application. As time went by, Avid left the paternal nest to run in the oceans of Windows, but the really observant never forgot where did it come from. Same with Photoshop, for that matter. And now it happens again.

Final Cut Pro. That's the name of the new game. Already making important inroads in pro installations for SD and HD across the planet (there's two shows now officially edited with FCP for primetime), the program is no stranger to the home studios of hobbyists and DV. Exactly the kind of penetration pattern that Apple is so adept at, and one that bodes very well for Final Cut and Apple.

As an independent filmmaker I have always felt the need to learn to use the new tools of my trade. Now it is FCP's turn, but with a twist: I am no longer in school, with a guaranteed shelter. Any time I take to study I have to pay for. Also, I am adding High Definition edit capabilities to my shop's setup so I can complete what I set out to do in the first place: a complete digital film production pipeline from image generation and/or acquisition all the way to post, with production, effects, animation, editing and finishing in house. As a commercial project with few immediate returns this is incredibly expensive (even if it is a fraction of the service's street cost) so I cannot take things too easy or I will go broke before we start shooting.

So I have this daunting task: To learn FCP well enough to DO the work, against using a trusted Avid, of all things. I will be using CineWave to accelerate the workflow, but I need to know exactly where are the thousand things that can go wrong. I need to KNOW this app inside and out! Never mind the five-hundred setup windows in Final Cut and Cinewave and OSX that crowd my cinema display.


The Book

Enter Final Cut Pro 4: Editing Professional Video by Diana Weynand, a book of the Apple Pro Training Series, Level 1 Certification. That means that if your complete this coursework and take the Apple certification test, you will be recognized as a Level 1 Certified trainer. Just with that you could get a life in any city, so the book starts out on the right foot(note).

And also we are talking hefty here. Good paper, too. So around 850 pages, data DVDisk and soft covers included one finds that it makes for a respectable tome. I am reminded of Steve Martin's immortal line in "Little Shop of Horrors": " Nice plant... Big!". That applies to the book and the attending materials, supplied in a Data DVD, which are abundant: you need over 3 gigs of space in a hard drive for the class materials.

But they are totally worth it. Every blessed bit.

The layout is sensible, unlike so many "learning" books. The "tips" and "notes" system is coded in soft colors: it does not interrupt the flow of the explanation with garish boxes and color bands, but makes opportune reference. The chapters are clear and the progression of themes proposed actually makes sense as useful for someone taking FCP for the first time ever. As yours truly.


The Course

It was presented to me as "way better than the manual you did not get". No kidding.

It is a very, very well though-out work with a very clear pacing: Organized as a series of progressive courses (or chapters), it can be used as a class guide for a group or as a self-paced study guide.

Although not intended as a replacement for the manual, this work is capable of giving you a hands-on knowledge of not only the functions of the software and where the controls for it reside, but also suggest workflows that stem from the properties of the programs too.

The duration of the classes (indicated at the beginning of each chapter) makes this a practical manual for a week-long, intensive course in FCP. It also lets you know in advance what kind of time you need to set aside for the next, practical and immediate goal.

It is advisable to do each complete lesson in one sitting. As usual, you learn best when you dedicate serious effort to get "in the mood" of the lessons and do them complete from start to finish. They are designed so that going ahead actually builds upon the previous concepts, so you suffer no "glut" of information if you continue on with the next chapter.

Anyway, it is a book. Inherently non-linear. You can always go back and re-do the lesson at any time.

Each chapter/class is also very well organized in its contents and internal pacing. A list of the objectives of the lesson, the materials it uses and the estimated time to completion are the first thing. This is followed by detailed instructions on how to set the materials up and then the lesson starts in earnest.

Topics are grouped and paced clearly and consistently, and each task is identified and followed to completion. Every step is numbered, described and small screen-captures show in context the detail of the buttons and controllers that pertain to the task at hand.

Interestingly, since the explanations are so to the point and the FCP4 interface is practically a monochrome, black and white grayscale is used throughout for the illustrations. Color is not missed.

Every item in the procedures is numbered and notes and tips clarify the ramifications of the current actions without getting in the way. After an initial section dealing with the use of the interface, all the classes are followed by a review section where the tasks accomplished are put in perspective, extra practice assigned and the keyboard shortcuts relevant to each lesson.

The only problem I found is really a function of too much power: a glut of riches.

Let me explain: FCP is what I would call "the swiss army knife of edit software". It is eminently flexible and there are hooks in it for anything you care to name, from plugin structures to hardware cards. In order to manage this there are a good half dozen places you have to learn to juggle for learning-while-you-work use: in order to follow and do the lessons, one uses the materials referred to before: class projects and media materials. All of this coded as DV files.

My use of the FCP system is for HiDef and I use the Cinewave by Pinnacle Systems. Going back and forth between both configurations (the one for learning FCP and the one for learning Cinewave) required quite a bit of accelerated extra learning. Luckily for me the Pinnacle people are superb and have very complete manuals and configuration guides, so I had an idea of what was I doing.

The problems were with things in FCP4 Ms. Weynand does not touch in her presentation, such as the scaling boxes for the image in the viewers, which can snap to 0% without one's noticing. But I have the solution for that too: A call to Bart Harrison at the HD Suite (www.hdsuite.com)-- possibly the guy who knows more about conjunction of FCP and Cinewave-- cleared that one out, same as many other questions I had.

And let's face: editing is editing is editing. No matter who made the program, it's gotta do a few things which are established as bedrock foundations in the psyche of any editor worth his or her salt.

All you need is help in finding where are the knobs. And FCP has plenty of those.


The Materials

Having created training materials myself, I can appreciate the thoroughness of Ms. Weynand's work. She even changes the order of the clips in similar lessons in order to provide variation and also to keep you in your toes.

And let's face it. Editing cannot be taught or learned "in dry dock". You gotta jump right there in the water with them clips and sequences and audio channels and transitions and all the zoo of real life editing. Ms Weynand has supplied abundant, entertaining and useful materials in the DV (DV25) codec. This codec is dependent on processor power to run, not any specific card. Most G4's even the smaller ones, will have no problem with this excellent sample and choice. And you can take the course in any mac lap or powerbook strong enough to run FCP4


CONCLUSION

It works. It teaches, or lets you learn. It is decently detailed without bogging down in details. It's not boring, but neither is it flashy. It pretty much rocks, in a cool, Apple-ish sort of way.

We like the book, which now we keep open where we are and just work through any free time we get.

Only problem is that it requires having a "tabula rasa", freshly installed Mac and FCP, and that you basically do not mess with the G4/5 while you are using the course. This is of course a tad unrealistic for the self-student. It should have a bit more introduction about what is going on under the hood, but that if anything is a failing of the OLD, pre-OSX Apple attitude, which I don't expect to see survive far into this century. There is the tshell and anyone can awk and tsch to their heart's content.

That said, get this book if you want to learn FCP4. It will show you workflows besides the controls and their functions, so you learn a "live" application, including the attendant or auxiliary applications: LIveType, Soundtrack, Compressor, etc.



Final Cut Pro 4: Editing Professional Video
The training does not so much "follow" as "unfolds" and it does so effectively enough to get in your memory. Detailed enough for absolute beginners and flexible enough for seasoned editors new to the rig like yours truly. Excellent and clear content. Recommended, and one of my few unrestrained five cows.

--Kino Gil



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