Final Cut Pro HD For Dummies

Final Cut Pro HD For Dummies

by Helmut Kobler

ISBN: 9780764577734

Publisher For Dummies

Published in Arts & Photography/Photography, Computers & Internet/Graphic Design

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Sample Chapter

Chapter One

Introducing Final Cut Pro

In This Chapter

* Introducing the concept of editing

* Seeing how Final Cut makes editing easy

* Seeing what's new in Final Cut Pro 4 and HD

* Understanding the Final Cut workflow

* Getting to know the interface

* Finding help in Final Cut Pro

Imagine for a moment: You're a big-time director on the set of your latest movie. You have just called your last "Cut!," the A-list actors have gone back to their mansions, and the crew is dismantling the million-dollar sets. You lean back in your director's chair, close your eyes, and breathe a deep sigh of relief, knowing that the film is finally finished. You can, at last, relax.

Yeah, right! In fact, this show is far from over. Although you may have some amazing footage, the fat lady won't sing until you have edited it all into a polished film. Enter Final Cut Pro.

Understanding the Purpose of Editing

Editing video or film is a bit like writing. When you write (or when I write, at least), you start by putting all your ideas on paper - good or bad - so that you can see what you're working with. Then, you arrange the best ideas in a logical order so that they say what you mean, as clearly and efficiently as possible.

It works the same way when you're editing digital video. First, you scrutinize all the footage you shot on set (usually, a lot). Slowly, you figure out which shots to keep and which ones to send to the proverbial cutting-room floor. You may remove a shot for any number of reasons: an actor's performance, technical problems, or the fact that you can see a crew member's foot in the frame. Next, you arrange your "keeper" shots, one by one, so that they begin to tell a story, and you bring in your dialogue, music, and sound effects to make the project complete.


In this book, I call your footage video, whether you originally shot it on film or videotape. This term keeps things simple because digital footage is generally treated the same after it's in Final Cut, regardless of its origins. (In a few cases, footage originally shot on film has some distinctions, but I note them when appropriate.)

Exploring the Capabilities of Final Cut Pro

Final Cut lets you do all this editing work on your Mac. To be a little more specific, when you're "behind the wheel" with Final Cut, you can do the following:

  •   Capture: Capture video or audio media from digital videocameras and video decks, CDs, microphones, and existing digital files onto your hard drive. (Let me say it again: Don't let the name Final Cut Pro HD fool you; sure, Final Cut works great with HD, or high-definition, video, but it's still just as adept with standard def video - the kind of video displayed on most televisions today, and captured by nearly all video cameras).

  •   Organize: Organize all your media files so that you can easily find them. (A project may use hundreds of different files.)

  •   Edit: Edit your footage, which is almost as easy as cutting and pasting text in a word processor.

  •   Add audio: Add audio to your movie - whether it's dialogue, voice narration, music, or sound effects - and control the volume for each audio element.

  •   Create transitions: Create transitions, such as fades and wipes, between shots.

  •   Add text titles: Titles can range from the classic white-text-on-black title cards to animations with all sorts of pyrotechnics.

  •   Add effects: Enhance video and audio with tons of effects filters and color-correction tools.

  •   Composite: Create impressive visual montages by compositing (combining) multiple shots into one. This process is similar to the one in the popular Adobe After Effects program.

  •   Create a final product: Record your polished masterpiece to videotape or export it to digital files destined for DVD, CD-ROM, or the Web.

    Appreciating nondestructive editing

    One of the great things about Final Cut Pro is that it's a nondestructive editor, which means that no matter what you do to your video and audio inside the program, the original media files on your hard drive are never changed or erased (okay, almost never; see the following Tip paragraph). Suppose that you have a bunch of video files on your hard drive, and you bring them into Final Cut to edit them together. Although it may seem as though you're cutting this media into different pieces, resizing it, and even deleting it, that's not the case. When you're editing, you're really just creating and moving a bunch of digital pointers to the media on your hard drive. The pointers tell Final Cut what parts of the media you want to play in your final movie (in other words, play Clip A for three seconds and then play part of Clip C for two seconds, for example). Thanks to this approach, you can work and experiment, knowing that you aren't hurting your precious media.


    With Final Cut Pro HD, you can alter or erase your original media files within the software in only one way, but you really have to go out of your way to do it, and safeguards prevent accidental goofs. I explain this feature - just one of the many useful things Media Manager can do for you - in Bonus Chapter 3, on this book's companion Web site. (For more on this Web site, refer to the Introduction.)

    Final Cut Pro versus the competition

    Plenty of other editing programs are available these days: Adobe Premiere, Avid Media Composer, Avid Xpress Pro, and SpeedRazor all come to mind.

    What makes Final Cut Pro so special? Four things:

  •   It's brimming with features: Final Cut Pro not only delivers the big power features that sound great on the back of the box, but also gets tons of details right - the little, thoughtful things that help you work smoothly, in a way that suits your personal style.

  •   You don't need a supercomputer or expensive proprietary hardware to run Final Cut Pro: You can build your editing system around many fairly modern Mac versions (as long as yours has a G4 processor - see Chapter 2 for more info) and everyday peripherals, such as capture cards and FireWire hard drives, for example. Now, with Final Cut Pro HD, you can even edit high-definition video (usually, the realm of the most advanced and pricey editing systems) on everyday Macs (see Chapter 3 for more about Final Cut's HD capabilities).

  •   At $1,000, Final Cut Pro is affordable: Admittedly, many people wouldn't put the terms affordable and $1,000 together, but before Final Cut Pro came along, you had to pay several thousand dollars for software that did the same thing. So, relatively speaking, $1,000 is the equivalent of a blue-light special - with the bonus that you don't have to fight off angry hordes of shoppers, because Apple has plenty of copies to go around.

  •   Final Cut Pro is hugely important to Apple Computer: Final Cut Pro has sold many new Macs in the past few years, and Apple thinks that it can sell many more in the years ahead. (For example, major movie studios and commercial production companies are beginning to switch to Final Cut Pro instead of sticking with the former standard, Avid.) So Apple is very serious about continually and aggressively improving this gem. Here's a case in point: Final Cut has had four major revisions in about three years. Now, that's commitment!

    New in Final Cut Pro HD (and the earlier version 4)

    Speaking of improvements to Final Cut, lots of great ones are in the new HD update as well as in the earlier version 4. (Officially, Final Cut Pro HD is known as version 4.5.) Some are little tweaks that polish off the editing experience, and others are big-ticket additions to version 4 and the newer HD update that make a big, big difference in the kind of work you can do. Here are some of the program's more exciting features:

  •   FireWire HD video editing (new in version HD): Final Cut has been able to edit HD (high-definition) video since version 3, but only with expensive, highly specialized hardware, such as HD capture cards and huge hard disk RAIDs (basically, big collections of hard drives that work together to quickly read and record the tons of data that HD has, till now, required). Final Cut Pro HD is the first version of the software that can edit DVCPRO HD, a new, exciting form of HD video. I explain this format in detail in Chapter 3. This format delivers, in a nutshell, the supersharp, high-resolution quality of HD but doesn't require the use of expensive equipment (like capture cards and elaborate RAID drives) to edit on your Mac. In fact, you could edit (with some limitations) DVCPRO HD video on mere-mortal systems, like a PowerBook or an iMac, if you want. In other words, Final Cut Pro HD brings HD to the masses.

  •   Soundtrack music making (new in version 4): The new, stand-alone Soundtrack program that's included with Final Cut lets you compose custom music for your movies using short, prerecorded musical loops (drumbeats and tons of other instrumental riffs). No musical experience required!

  •   Hot text effects with LiveType (new in version 4): Final Cut ships with a new application named LiveType (see Figure 1-1) that lets you animate text and apply all sorts of special effects: glows, particle effects - you name it, LiveType has it. LiveType ships with tons of predesigned animations and styles so that if you're in a hurry, you can whip up good-looking titles in minutes. If you invest a little more time, you can also customize the animations and effects to an amazing degree, creating type that is truly unique to your project.

  •   QuickTime video compression (new in version 4): Compressor is another stand-alone program that makes it easier to encode (that is, to compress) your Final Cut movies as QuickTime digital files. For starters, Compressor features a long list of predetermined settings that you can apply to movies, depending on the delivery medium they're destined for. (For example, Compressor has settings for encoding movies for DVDs or for downloading by 56K modems or faster DSL modems on the Internet.) These predetermined settings take much of the guesswork out of encoding your video. Also, Compressor has a fantastic batch-processing mode; it can encode your Final Cut project into lots of different formats all at once while you go down the street and get a latti.

  •   Real-time rendering (new in version 4): Final Cut 3 introduced real-time previews of transitions (fades, for example), color corrections, and some other special effects, saving you from having to render those effects before seeing how they looked. (Rendering is the process by which your Mac has to calculate how an effect should look before the effect can be played.) But this feature had some limitations:

    Final Cut 3 could offer these real-time previews for only a handful of effects.

    You could see those previews only on your Mac's screen, not on a TV monitor, which many editors prefer to watch.

    When you were finally ready to record your movie to tape, you still had to render all the effects the old-fashioned way.

    But with Final Cut 4, all that changed: It can give you real-time previews of any effect imaginable (and combinations of effects, too - even if you're editing high-end HD video, care of Final Cut's HD update). In many cases, you can also view these effects on a TV and output them to tape without rendering - it all hinges on how fast your Mac is.

  •   Customizable interface (new in version 4): Finally, Final Cut now gives you full control over its interface. Have you ever wished that a certain function had a keyboard shortcut or a different keyboard shortcut than the one now assigned to it? Well, that's no problem - you can now assign any Final Cut function to a keyboard shortcut of your choosing. What's more, the Final Cut main interface windows (like the Canvas, Viewer, and Timeline) now let you install custom icons that call up just about any feature in the program, saving you time from hunting for them on menus.

    Going with the Final Cut (Work) Flow

    Final Cut Pro starts to make sense when you understand how you use it from start to finish. Let me summarize its workflow in four easy steps:

    1. Capture and import all the media - that is, video, audio, and still pictures - that you want to use in your project.

    This media can come from a camera, video deck, music CD, DVD-ROM disc, or other digital file already on your hard drive. The media shows up in the Final Cut Browser window, where you have easy access to it. Each piece of media you bring into the Browser, by the way, is called a clip.

    2. Move your media clips to the all-important Final Cut Timeline window.

    You use the Timeline to place, move, and otherwise edit clips so that they tell the story you want to tell.

    3. Add pizzazz in the form of titles, transitions (such as fades, dissolves, and wipes), custom music, and more advanced special effects, such as color corrections.

    4. Record your project to videotape or export it to a QuickTime digital file.

    You make QuickTime digital files if you're aiming for digital distribution, such as the Internet, CD-ROM, or DVD.

    It's true: Final Cut Pro brims with many windows, dialog boxes, menus, and check boxes, but all this apparent complexity really boils down to these four easy steps. Keep that in mind, and you can see that this isn't rocket science.

    Taking a Grand Tour of the Interface

    After you have gotten a grasp of the Final Cut Pro workflow, you can expand your expertise by taking a tour of its interface - namely, its toolbar and its Browser, Viewer, Canvas, and Timeline windows, as shown in Figure 1-2.


    Excerpted from "Final Cut Pro HD For Dummies" by Helmut Kobler. Copyright © 2004 by Helmut Kobler. Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher. Excerpts are provided solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
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