Ok, shakedown cruise is over. The votes have been tallied. You need look no further. This is the real deal.

I feel like I just found a new girlfriend after the old one took all my money, my albums, and slept with my boss. Not to mix too many metaphors, I’ll say it quick up-front:

Apple’s got the new Killer App.

My definition of a Killer Application would be, somewhat inelegantly, something that you didn’t know you needed but once you’ve found you don’t know how you lived without.

Examples? Wordstar. Excel. Pagemaker. Photoshop. The Internet.

Strictly speaking, of course, the Net isn’t an application, but I think it’s appropriate to say that each of these inventions has been able to turn Information Technology, computers, and the way we use them upside down. Each has made a lot of money, and each has made a lot of people happy.

Final Cut Pro rocks my world.

The genius at Apple who decided that desktop video was a new revenue stream for the company will never have to work again.

It is, certainly, neat to knock together little videos on your little iMac with iMovie. Never mind that you’ve gotta go out and buy a big hunking Firewire drive or three to keep your entire video porn collection alive on the desktop. iMovie and Firewire speak for themselves. They make it doable.

But Final Cut Pro, iMovie’s Big Brother at $1000, is the Big League application. It will change forever the way Hollywood does business.

I’ve been editing film since before Bill Gates was born:

  • Little home movies on 8 mm stock, film that looked like shiny black spaghetti, tasted like cancer.

  • 16 mm film in school and in the Army. The pinky-nail-sized frame could almost be blown up, at great expense, and projected in your local Bijou. 16 mm is that grainy stuff we like to think is more "real." Forty frames a foot.

  • 35 mm film since '74. The professional format. 24 frames a second, ninety feet a minute. A hundred feet’ll cost you thirty five dollars in an alley off Sunset. Might even work if the can hasn’t been opened by a doper looking for his stash.

  • CMX, Montage, D/Vision, Lightworks, Avid—each of these computer editing machines has come and gone. Each deserves a place with the old film editing tools. The Moviola. The KEM. The Steenbeck. The Scissors.

Final Cut Pro will pave the way to a Cinematic Democracy at long last. You buy your thousand dollar digital camera. You buy your thousand dollar software. You fire up your G4 Macintosh. What? Don’t have a G4? Gotta get one.

You make your movie. On your desktop. No negative cutting, no off-site sound mixing. No elaborate special effects done at the cost of a quadruple by-pass. You make your movie.

And so will Hollywood make theirs. Digital media, projected. George Lucas leads the way with Star Wars: Episode 2, but there are thousands of youngsters right behind him, working in garages, just like he did when he was their age.

And Apple did this. You can talk about your Windows Video, and your Linux and all those competitors.

Final Cut Pro is scaleable professional-level film and video editing software. Edit, composite, mix, write to DVD or High Definition Tape. Cut traditional film negative if you'd rather.

A thousand bucks.

Get the money and bite the learning curve bullet. The manual is 1500 pages, and there’s nothing this century’s first Killer App can’t do.

Wait and see.

Winter, 2003.

I was very gratified to discover that master film editor Walter Murch (Apocalypse Now, The English Patient) had decided to use Final Cut Pro to edit Anthony Minghella's 80 million dollar adaptation of Charles Frazier's best-selling 1997 novel, Cold Mountain, starring Nicole Kidman, Jude Law, and Rene Zellweger.

He was interviewed for the Apple website and, along with some very interesting comments regarding the aesthetics of film editing, had this to say about the mechanics of sculpting 600,000 feet of film into one of the most beautiful films of our generation:

Were there bottom-line differences in working with Final Cut Pro than with other systems you’ve worked with?

At the basic everyday level of working, say when I’m assembling a scene, the differences were trivial. I felt very comfortable with Final Cut within a day or two of working with it.

But one of the significant things about Final Cut is that it’s not a software/hardware hybrid system, it’s a software-only system. That means it almost completely eliminates the natural tendency of editing systems to develop bottlenecks. That started to be an issue with the emergence of flatbeds, which were significantly more expensive than Moviolas. They offered real advantages, but the disadvantage was that you couldn’t simply say, “Let’s get another one.”

But on "Cold Mountain,” we are able to have four Final Cut Pro stations, fully-equipped, for less than we would have had to spend for one Avid station. And to have four stations working on a feature film is a significant improvement over what you usually have, which is two. It’s good to have four burners on a stove when you’re cooking dinner. You can put all of them to use. You can cook a big dinner on two burners, but you have to juggle the pots and pans a lot more.

In addition, we were able to create what you would call satellite stations on four laptops equipped with Final Cut, offload the media for a number of sequences, and continue to work. So if we ever got into a situation where suddenly there was a huge amount of footage, we were able expand out to eight working stations.

While managing his primary task of editing a mile of generated footage a day, Murch realized a considerable side benefit—an easy, real-time training op for novice editors—by leveraging the easy flexibility of Final Cut Pro.

I was able to give my assistants and apprentices on the film some raw material and let them cut some scenes. We established a kind of tutorial system where we organized dailies along with my notes expressing what I thought about the material. Then, on their own laptops, they would be able to edit the scenes together and get a feeling about what it’s really like to edit professionally-shot material.

It’s been a concern of mine for some time: How do you effectively train the next generation of editors when the equipment is capital intensive and very expensive and definitely not portable, as both flatbeds and the Avid aren’t. That creates a situation where it is awkward to give untrained people access. But Final Cut lets us continue to work at the highest professional level pulling our stuff together, even as it is used as a sketchpad for somebody who is just learning how to cut.

You’ve cut a major project on Final Cut Pro. What’s your assessment?

Certainly it’s a great product, and it just got significantly greater with Final Cut 4. We were about as far out on a limb as you could be, 6 months in a country that 14 years ago was solidly part of the Soviet Bloc and is still one of the most hard-pressed of all the Eastern European countries. And there we were in the middle of it all with 4 Power Mac G4 Final Cut stations happily cutting away, with no serious downtime at all on any of the stations. We were really very confident in what we were doing and in the hardware and software supporting it.


On Hollywood and filmmaking:

Below the Line

sex drugs and divorce

a little life, interrupted
  1. Hecho en Mejico
  2. Entrances
  3. Sam's Song
  4. Hemingway and Fortuna
  5. Hummingbird on the Left
  6. The Long and Drunken Afternoon
  7. Safe in the Lap of the Gods
  8. Quetzal Birds in Love
  9. Angela in Paradise
  10. And the machine ran backwards

a secondhand coffin
how to act
Right. Me and Herman Melville
Scylla and Charybdis Approximately
snowflakes and nylon

I could've kissed Orson Welles
the broken dreams of Orson Welles
the last time I saw Orson Welles
The Other Side of the Wind

Below the Line
completion bond
Film Editing
Film Editor
Final Cut Pro
forced development
HD Video
king of the queens
Kubrick polishes a turd
movies from space
Persistence of Vision
Sven Nykvist
Wilford Brimley

21 Grams
Andrei Rublyov
Apocalypse Now Redux
Ivan's Childhood
The Jazz Singer
The Sacrifice
We Were Soldiers
Wild Strawberries

*drools incoherently*

Goddamned cool.

While I'm much more a novice to film editing than riverrun, the twelve hours per short I've spent over the past year and a half hunched over an iMac, peering at iMovie's basic-of-basics interface on the tiny monitor, made the first time I used Final Cut Pro (on a G4 no less!) orgasm-worthy. We're talking multiple, mind-blowing orgasms here. The hell with George Lucas, this program was making me into the next Wachowski Brothers.

FireWire. Final Cut Pro. The G4. Even FCP's poor cousin, iMovie 2. Can Macintosh do no wrong?

Can Apple Do No Wrong?

Let me second riverrun's suggestion. If you have any interest in film at all, this program is what you want, nay, need. All you need is a decent FireWire-compatible digital camera and some imagination to go along with it. And a G4. But everybody needs a G4.

Essentially, Final Cut Pro is a whole suite of editing programs rolled into one super-shiny package that just reeks of awesomeness. First and foremost, there's the Import/Export utility, which is, obviously for maintaining a healthy, communication-filled relationship with your FireWire (the only true Plug and Play) compatible digital camera. Then there's the main video editing program. Cutting, juggling, everything. Special effects enough to keep a Star Wars junkie happy, and a manual big enough to kill even the gigantic Yukon mosquitoes with. Lastly, but just as importantly, there's the sound editing part. While it doesn't have all the power of a standalone, professional sound editing program, it more than fufills the needs of Final Cut Pro. Also there's an additional track for any music you want to import off CD or any other source.

See why I love it?

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