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.
iChat Theater will be a boon to editors cutting remotely. OK, so you've used iChat's video chat feature, right? What if you could send the live output of your edit session to someone over iChat? And wouldn't it be nice to have a picture-in-picture of yourself over the video so you could talk to the remote client on video chat while editing? And wouldn't it be nice to have a timecode burn-in on screen while you did it? Now you can. That is iChat Theater's whole point--you can video chat with the client the same way you would normally with iChat, but instead of seeing the client up close, you (and they) see the live output of your edit session, either the sequence or individual clips you're working on. This has been possible in the past with an AJA Io or similar device, or with a second Mac and a DV hardware codec, but now it is possible with no additional hardware from within Final Cut Pro 7.
Of course, how well this works is entirely dependent on how fast your outbound internet connection is. From my home-office cable modem, I get 500 to 800 kilobytes per second for downloads, but at best about 125 kilobytes per second for uploading, which is what you're doing when you send a video stream to someone. And of course, their download speed has to at least match that--they have to be able to catch as fast as you can pitch.
New Change Speed tools
A new interface for the Change Speed window lets you set Ease In and Ease Out and has an option that lets you keep the timeline from rippling so you can doodle without pushing the rest of your timeline further down the sequence, which would mess up your audio sync. Also, a new interface element gives you keyframes in the timeline and a graphic display of how stretched your video is in time.
You can either drag stretch for constant speed changes, or set keyframes for variable speed changes, right in the timeline. Unfortunately it does not take advantage of Apple's Optical Flow technology (high quality motion and pixel blending technology from Apple's Shake) that is present elsewhere in Final Cut Pro, Motion, and Compressor that could result in smoother frame blending. However, you can always run the clip through Motion for more accurate control and smoother results.
More fixes and features
Native AVC-Intra Support: Final Cut Pro 7 now supports native editing of this format--you can import it and edit it directly in its native file format (as it was captured), rather than having to import and wait for it to transcode to ProRes before it is editable in Final Cut Pro. Native support also includes RT Extreme acceleration for real time transitions and effects.
Alpha Transitions: Alpha transitions are scene transitions that use an animated graphic element with a matte (or alpha channel, thus the name) to do a wipe between two shots. This demos well--palm leaves brush across the screen to transition from the beach to the bungalow shot--but I'd file this in the "fluffy" category of often demoed, rarely used features outside of travel and sports shows.