By Mike Curtis Macworld.com | on July 24, 2009
Price When Reviewed: 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.
New Timecode window: Previously only available as a third-party option, now you can display a resizable floating window that shows the timecode. This is ideal for that client on the couch in the back of the room.
Improved Markers: You can now color-code your clip and sequence markers, search and jump to them, and add information to them as the clip plays, and more.
Automatic Transfer: XDCAM and P2 footage now optionally copies to designated scratch directories as soon as the media is detected, and custom metadata can be added automatically via a new Log and Transfer window. Footage can start importing as soon as media is connected, which opens the door to faster, more efficient workflows as well as potentially automated workflows.
New Redcode Log and Transfer options: When importing Redcode via Log and Transfer, you can transcode to any of the ProRes flavors on import, or just import it as native. But there are no new options for cropping or scaling which I had hoped to see, nor will the 2K layer of 4K native files play back in real time in Final Cut Pro 7. Footage shot in the default 4K 16:9 will come in at a nonstandard (for video) size of 2048 by 1152, and there are no options in Final Cut to scale this to 1920 by 1080 ProRes. Similarly, if 4K footage is shot in the 2:1 aspect ratio, no provision for cropping or letterboxing to fit into 1920 by 1080 ProRes is provided by Apple. This can be done with Red provided tools, however.
This version of Final Cut Pro includes much improved closed captioning support, the ability to globally change transitions (or cherry pick the ones you want to change in bulk), improved tabs (color coding and other improvements), trackpad multi-touch gesture support for timeline navigation, and a new version of Cinema Tools for working with file-based workflows like image sequences and Redcode footage. This is a huge improvement over prior versions, but not clearly documented within Cinema Tools.
The upgrades and new features in Final Cut Pro 7 are good, solid, worthwhile improvements that will increase every editor's productivity. Final Cut Pro 7 will enable new, even higher quality workflows with ProRes 4444 for those demanding it, without requiring the massive storage and throughput that uncompressed media demands. Easy Export will save time, and iChat Theater solves the remote editing problem if everyone has sufficient bandwidth. Blu-ray support, while limited, is welcome if long overdue.
The Final Cut team has clearly listened carefully to customer requests, properly prioritized the features they did implement, and appears to have done a solid job implementing them. However, there are still a few things that haven't been fixed from version 6, such as proper handling of pulldown and cadence in the Open Format Timeline capabilities, and a proper RGB processing pipeline that can handle more than 8 bits of precision (especially now, with ProRes 4444). Apple says the Y'CbCr 32 bit float is good enough. Red workflow still has lumps in it if you don't shoot in the Quad HD setting. While Apple states that there will be performance benefits from running Snow Leopard with Final Cut Pro 7, no new features are enabled by running it.
If this version had shipped within a year after Final Cut Studio 2, I'd be thoroughly satisfied with Apple's rate of progress. But it has been two years, and at this point I'm a bit surprised at how many long-standing issues haven't been sufficiently addressed, and how relatively little bold new ground this version explores.
That said, the several days I worked with it prior to release, it did not once crash on either an 8-core Mac Pro/8-Core Xeon 2.93GHz ( Macworld rated 4.5 out of 5 mice ) or a 17-inch MacBook Pro ( Macworld rated 4 out of 5 mice ).
Macworld's buying advice
With Final Cut Pro 7, Apple started with an already excellent market-leading tool and takes it further with significant improvements that will benefit editors doing realistic day-to-day tasks and enable them to get better work done even faster. The background processing, Easy Export, and new ProRes flavors alone make this a worthwhile upgrade for the entirely reasonable upgrade price of £216 plus VAT for the entire Final Cut Studio.
The plethora of other minor improvements makes for a smoother, faster version of Final Cut Pro to work with. What's not to love about that? I would have liked to see a few more things get fixed, and seen some dated or flawed infrastructure ripped out and rebuilt, but that is not to be for this version. As a product, this is very strong, a definite A. As an upgrade, it feels like a Macworld Expo without Steve Jobs grinning and saying, "One more thing...."