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How Final Cut Pro Works

Features of Final Cut Pro
Film and sound editor Walter Murch discusses using Final Cut Pro to edit "Cold Mountain."
Film and sound editor Walter Murch discusses using Final Cut Pro to edit "Cold Mountain."
© Paul Hawthorne/Getty Images

The most powerful feature of Final Cut Pro is that it comes as part of the Final Cut Studio 2 software suite. This means that advanced video editing tools that were previously sold as expensive standalone units are now included as one highly compatible package.

Final Cut Studio 2 includes the following software titles, all of which are accessible from within Final Cut Pro:

  • Motion 3 - A tool for creating stunning 3D and animated motion graphics.
  • Soundtrack Pro 2 - An audio editing tool for scoring and professionally mixing the audio for your project. It's like Pro Tools for Final Cut Pro.
  • Color - Includes basic and advanced tools for color correction.
  • Compressor 3 - Easily encode projects for playback online or for playback on DVDs, high-definition TVs and mobile devices.
  • DVD Studio Pro 4 - Author professional quality DVDs with hundreds of built-in templates or create your own design from scratch.

One of the most recent additions to Final Cut Pro is the Open Timeline. In the past, you could only place clips in the Timeline if they were shot at the same frame rate (24 fps or 30 fps), aspect ratio (standard or widescreen) and definition (standard definition or high definition). If you wanted to use clips from different media sources, you'd have to transcode each one of them to a standard format before you could edit them in real time.

With the Open Timeline, you can insert an HD clip right between two SD clips, and you'll never notice a difference when editing and previewing the sequence. Make edits across all formats and file types without having to render along the way. All of the heavy lifting comes when it's time to export the sequence. Then you have to choose a single format to publish the movie and the whole project will be rendered accordingly.

Another cool new feature is the MultiCam editor, a tool designed specifically for projects where multiple cameras were used to shoot the same scene. With MultiCam editing, you can choose up to 12 different shots of the same action and view them all in a Brady Bunch-style segmented window. Then you can cut from shot to shot as if you were switching from camera to camera during a live broadcast. Press play in the Timeline and use your mouse to select each shot when you want to make a cut. The clips will appear in the timeline separated by edit points that you can adjust with the standard editing tools.

Final Cut Pro also includes a powerful real-time effects engine. You can choose from 150 built-in effects and filters for adding big-budget effects to even the smallest budget production. And because Final Cut Pro is packaged with Motion 3, you can easily assemble flashy graphics packages without leaving the native Final Cut environment. Simply highlight a clip, right-click and Send to Motion Project. When you're done adding filters and graphics, you can bring the finished clip right back into the Timeline.

Final Cut Pro's programming architecture is also surprisingly open for a famously closed company like Apple. Apple has chosen to base Final Cut's code on XML, making it easy for third-party developers to create plug-ins and add-ons for expanding the Final Cut experience. Final Cut's internal effects engine, for example, runs on a codec called FxPlug, which Apple has made available to third-party effects developers.

But even the coolest video editing software isn't free from problems. In the next section, we'll look at some of the drawbacks of Final Cut Pro.