Thoughts on Final Cut Studio 3

We’ve got about six months to go before NAB 2009, so I figure it’s time to start making baseless predictions. So, here’s my take.

First off, if we don’t have FCS3 or some other major video announcement from Apple around the time of NAB (whether they attend the show or not), I think it’d be time for some serious questions about Apple’s commitment to the product line. I don’t think there’s much truth in the occasional rumor about Apple shopping around Final Cut, and I assume that the big FCP shops already know the road map, but it’s time to move the platform forward.

There are a few big areas that I see as logical steps for improvement.

GPU Acceleration in Final Cut

Motion already makes heavy use of the GPU for effects, and Final Cut Pro already has the capability for GPU accelerated effects as part of its FXPlug architecture. However, the bulk of the filters in Final Cut are currently running on the CPU, and the realtime effects architecture is achieved based on CPU speed alone.

Unified Solid State Camera Support

Importing video into Final Cut has gotten to be a bit of a mess these days – you’ve got “log and capture” for tape, “log and transfer” for P2 and AVCHD, plus XDCam and DR60 importers from Sony, plus standalone apps for RED, and a handful of others. It’d be nice to see an importer plugin architecture that allows different importers to plug in to the “log and transfer” framework, so that we could have a unified interface and workflow.

Native AVCHD

Premiere Pro CS4 does it, so Final Cut should too. I know it’s not a “pro” format, but that doesn’t mean people won’t be creating compelling content with it. Transcoding to AIC really hobbles the support.

Kill LiveType

Please? It’s already Schiavo’d, just end it.

BluRay in DVDStudio Pro

This one I’m a bit less certain of – Steve called BluRay a “bag of hurt” at a recent event, but Encore is doing it. If DVDSP isn’t going to get BluRay support, it might be time to officially start phasing it out.

Better Roundtrip Support

Roundtripping is one of those ideas that works great in demos, but never seems to quite live up to expectations in real life. Final Cut -> Motion -> Final Cut tends to work ok, but FCP->Soundtrack->FCP is like russian roulette. Every now and again it’ll work OK, but usually it just blows up in your face. It’s not sexy or fun, but it sure would be nice if it worked.

Make Color Pretty

Nobody expected FinalTouch to get beautiful in one version, but for Color 2, it’s time to get an Apple interface and a refined workflow. Better Quicktime integration would be nice, and again, improved roundtripping.

OpenCL Accelerated Codecs

This one is a bit more “out there,” and the WWDC NDA prohibits me from talking about some of it, but OpenCL would provide some great opportunities for hardware accelerated video codecs. Not just for encoding, but also decoding of formats like HDV and AVCHD. Now, whether this will happen is a bit more uncertain – it’d be a pretty sharp departure from Final Cut’s reliance on Quicktime. It’d also likely be Snow Leopard only, though perhaps OpenCL can be integrated into an app, the way Core Animation showed up in Motion before appearing as an OS component.

Script Sync

Avid and Adobe are doing it now, so it only seems logical that Apple will add some sort of script-sync feature. Is this something people use in real life, or is it just nice for demos? I’m not sure.

Real Final Cut Server Integration

It’d only be logical to start building in Final Cut Server integration, to really start putting a bit more pressure on Avid in that space.

Other Crazy Stuff

If they were going to make it Snow Leopard only, there’s lots of other interesting stuff that could be done – grand central scheduling, proper soup-to-nuts 64bit, etc. Maybe for Final Cut Studio 4.

Motion Pro

Hey, whatever happened to the Shake replacement?

6 thoughts on “Thoughts on Final Cut Studio 3

  1. For starters, fix the bugs. Make it faster and more responsive. GPU accel not necessary for this if they just wrote tighter code.
    Steal these Avid features:
    1. Ability for multiple editors to work on the same project (eg edit sequences, import, log, digitize) AT THE SAME TIME.
    2. ScriptSync is v. useful, yes
    3. Make OMF outputs as solid as Avid.
    4. DNxHD36 – eg a low-bitrate version of ProRes for offlines
    As for Color… asking for a prettier interface should be secondary to getting it to work reliably.
    Bruce Allen

  2. Right now, FCP only gives two codec options for importing AVCHD-ProRes and AIC. Both are HD codecs that take forever to import (3 times slower than real time on my May’06 20″ iMac). It would be great if they added a DV (standard definition) option as well, allowing us to do offline edits or even ‘Same Day Edits’ that we event videographers like to do.
    Thanks for listening, Santa (Steve).

  3. Hi – stumbled across your list when I was searching to see if I could find out when the new Final Cut suite would be released.
    I agree with a lot of what you suggest – particularly the log and capture/transfer comments and the GPU stuff … native AVCHD would be nice though not essential for my work as such.
    Rather than kill off LiveType, it would be nice to see it refined and standardised like the other apps you mention … Sometimes all you need are some simple titles – LiveType provides that capability – admittedly not with the world’s best GUI or interface at the moment.

  4. 1. Color does not need a different interface. For any colorist, the interface needs to be gray and flat — so that it never distracts the colorists eye.
    3. RED Native support – I hope they create a platform that supports 4K editing without the need to render the footage.
    4. Rountrip support between FCP and Logic would be a huge help.

  5. I’ve been using FCP since version 2, and currently work on version 6. They’ve never been able to solve the “General Error: Out of Memory” bug that is the bane of my existence. I’ve lost several projects to that death-sentence, and were it not for my diligent backing up & auto-save, I’d still be suffering today. Really, Apple? In 4 revisions and 7 years, you can’t fix the bug that completely wipes out your project and renders the project file unusable? Really? And you can’t come up with a more descriptive error message than “General Error?” Really? You get one more shot, or it’s back to Avid.

  6. 1. A better, better media manager
    2. A better deinterlace filter
    3. Use the Shake’s retiming features to make the slomo
    4. Fix the DPX bug in Color!!!

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