By Mike Curtis Macworld.com | on July 24, 2009
Price: 695 . 216
Pros: New ProRes flavors; time saving and automation of Easy Export; convenient iChat Theater; plethora of genuine productivity enhancements.
Cons: Some glitches still not fixed; limited Blu-ray support; mediocre progress after two years since previous version; Redcode still not optimally supported.
Easy Export will probably be the favourite new feature of most editors for its ease of use and time savings. Found under File->Share, it replaces Export Via Compressor. At first glance, it looks like Apple has just lifted a page from the Share interface of iMovie '09, but there's more to it than that. There are three new aspects of the Easy Export feature that significantly enhance productivity and flexibility.
You can assign settings for target outputs such as Web, iPod, AppleTV, or DVD, directly in Final Cut Pro without having to launch Compressor, thus keeping the editor in the friendly and familiar confines of Final Cut Pro. You can assign multiple settings right from this interface, as well.
You can assign post compression Job Actions to any of the queued targets, which are more extensive than the options you could to assign in Compressor in the past. You can, for instance, do any of the following (or more) with the click of a button: Post directly to MobileMe upon completion of compression; import into iTunes to sync to AppleTV, iPod or iPhone; publish directly to YouTube; burn a DVD or Blu-ray disc directly from this interface without going to DVD Studio Pro; or create your own post render process within Compressor, even launching Automator scripts. Then of course, you can make them available via the Share interface.
That's right -- you can burn a Blu-ray disc directly from within Final Cut Pro 7. The downside is that Apple (as of this writing) still doesn't sell a Blu-ray capable SuperDrive, so you have to get a third-party drive. You can, however, burn AVCHD Blu-ray content to a standard recordable DVD disc in your SuperDrive via Share, and that will play in a Blu-ray player. DVDs and Blu-ray have a limited slate of templates to choose from, but you can at least assign custom graphics (with alpha) for background, logo, and title graphics, and even generate a chapter menu.
Another significant catch -- this is the only Blu-ray support offered in the entire Final Cut Studio suite. DVD Studio Pro doesn't support Blu-ray in any fashion, and gets only the smallest of increments -- from version 4.2.1 to 4.2.2. It doesn't support Blu-ray authoring, encoding, or burning. Easy Export is powerful, convenient, and useful, but that is the extent of Blu-ray support in this release. Considering that Adobe has offered Blu-ray authoring support on Intel Macs for two years, this is a startling hole in Final Cut Studio's capabilities
All of the above can happen in the background, meaning, you can export from Final Cut Pro in the background and keep editing, even the same sequence you're simultaneously exporting. The exported files won't show any changes you've made since export started, but you can keep on working, regardless. This feature will probably be the biggest productivity boost, since you don't have to sit and twiddle your thumbs unproductively while waiting for Final Cut to finish feeding Compressor frames, as you had to in the past. Final Cut Pro even takes advantage of Compressor clusters to accelerate the process.