Apple is set to launch Final Cut Pro Studio this month. Rob Schoeben, Apple’s vice-president of applications marketing, says it will make 2005 the year of HD.

Apple used the NAB show in Las Vegas last month to launch Final Cut Studio, a suite of applications designed to give professional users a firm grip on the burgeoning HD market. The suite includes upgraded versions of Final Cut Pro, DVD Studio Pro, Motion, and a new application called Soundtrack Pro.

"We are leading the charge," says Rob Schoeben, Apple's vice president of Applications Marketing. "Many people looked at HD support in iMovie this year and said, 'that's a little ahead of its time.' Now, the moment HD takes off, every Macintosh is ready."

Schoeben says Apple believes 2005 is the year of HD, and the company's consumer and professional product strategy is going full force behind the format. Typically when you think of HD, Apple's movie products come immediately to mind. But Apple wants to take the association beyond that.

"We are not just talking about HD in Final Cut Pro – it's a complete solution," says Schoeben.

Final Cut Pro

Final Cut Pro 5 supports working in DV, SD, film, or all major HD formats including HDV, DVCPRO HD, and fully uncompressed HD. Perhaps the biggest new feature for Final Cut Pro is multicam support. The multicam tools allow editors to cut from up to 128 sources, with simultaneous real-time playback of up to 16 angles at a time.

In typical Apple fashion, multicam support can be achieved by simply clicking on the camera angle the editor wants to use and it is instantly added to the timeline. Crossfades and other effects, as well as adjustments to current clips, can be achieved straight from the timeline. Like the other applications in the suite, there’s no need for rendering – everything is done in real-time.

"What we found from our Final Cut Pro experience is that people have fallen in love with a new way of working that has got as much of a ban on rendering as possible," said Schoeben. "You have real-time editing, real-time motion graphics and you want your audio to be real-time too – everything follows that theme. It draws a pretty stark contrast to some of the ways editors are being asked to work on other platforms with other products."

This is possible in Final Cut Pro with the addition of Dynamic RT, an intelligent system that automatically adjusts image quality and frame-rate during playback. This allows editors to see more real-time effects at the highest possible quality.

Apple has added new audio capabilities in Final Cut Pro 5, which enables users to capture up to 24 simultaneous audio channels at high-quality 24-bit 96KHz and use audio control surfaces.

Soundtrack Pro

Soundtrack Pro, the new application included with Final Cut Studio, takes elements from its namesake, Soundtrack, and Logic Pro. Soundtrack Pro includes full multi-track editing and mixing, over 50 professional effect plug-ins from Logic Pro 7 and more than 1,000 professional-quality sound effects.

"The approach is to try to create one tool for everything," said Schoeben. "We took a lot of time to decide the right way to solve the audio issues out there – the answer was two tools. There’s some shared tools, a great music-creation tool in Logic Pro 7, and an audio-for-video tool that is first and foremost about creating the perfect soundtrack."

Soundtrack Pro includes useful utilities that fix common problems with audio files including Find-&-Fix, which identifies and repairs background noise, pops, clicks, and hum.

Integration with Soundtrack Pro and Final Cut Studio is very tight, according to Apple. This allows users to seamlessly move between other Final Cut Studio applications and Soundtrack Pro for quick audio touch-up and creation. An entire sequence from Final Cut Pro 5 can be taken to the Soundtrack Pro multi-track editor for larger scale, audio postproduction.

Motion was first introduced at last year's NAB, and this year, Apple introduced Motion 2, the company's real-time motion graphics software. Among its new features is Replicator, a new automated design tool that lets editors animate any number of duplicated movies or graphics along user defined grids and patterns.

Motion 2 also includes over 130 accelerated filters such as 3D rotation, vignette and caustics, and more than 50 new particle effects that automatically generate spectacular animations such as sparkles, bubbles, and space clouds.

Apple has also given third-party developers a way to write their own effects with FxPlug, a professional plug-in format that takes full advantage of Motion 2's real-time GPU accelerated performance and 32-bit float rendering.

In addition, new MIDI support allows Motion 2 to be “played” like a musical instrument with animation changes triggered by playing a keyboard or using faders or knobs on a MIDI controller.

DVD Studio Pro

Finally, DVD Studio Pro 4, Final Cut Studio's DVD authoring program, is the first commercially available DVD authoring software that lets users burn their HD projects to high definition DVDs based on the latest HD DVD specification.

Schoeben says HD DVDs could only be played on a Macintosh using the new movie player application included with Mac OS X Tiger.