Final Cut Express 4

Final Cut Express 4

Final Cut Express 4’s AVCHD support alone is well worth the $199 for the software.

 

We’ve always been big fans of Final Cut Express. It offers a ton of pro-level editing features for just a fraction of the price of bigger-budget packages like Final Cut Studio ($1,299, www.apple.com), Avid Xpress Pro ($1,695, www.avid.com) and Adobe Premiere Pro ($799, www.adobe.com). And at $199, version 4 of Express is a top-notch value—the previous version was $299.

 

Sure, $199 isn’t chump change, but consider that Express gives you most of the same editing tools, animation features, and real-time effects found in Final Cut Pro with the same flexible interface. In that light, $199 is a bargain, and the budget-friendly price makes it easier for iMovie power-users to step up to Express.

 

Of course, Apple gave Express some new features, too. Most important is that, if you have an Intel Mac, the app now captures and edits footage from HD camcorders that record video in a format called AVCHD. (Don’t confuse AVCHD with another HD format called HDV, which Express has worked with for a couple of years.) AVCHD uses very efficient compression, based on the H.264 codec, to squeeze a lot of good-looking HD video onto tapeless media like DVDs, hard drives, and memory cards.

 

Capturing AVCHD video with Express is actually a pleasure, much better than futzing with tape-based cameras. Just plug your camcorder into your Mac and bring up Express’s new Log And Transfer window. You’ll see a list of all the individual scenes you’ve shot. From there, you can preview and then capture any or all of the scenes to your Mac’s hard drive—and as a bonus, you can start editing while capturing later clips.

 

Unfortunately, Express doesn’t just capture the raw AVCHD video from your camera—it converts the video using an intermediate codec that’s easier for your Mac to work with but leads to some hiccups. For one thing, HD video in Express’s intermediate codec requires between 25GB and 49GB of hard drive space per hour of video (depending on whether your camcorder records in 720p or 1080i). That’ll fill a hard drive up quickly. Likewise, transferring the footage from your tapeless camera to the Mac is slower than capturing from tape. These hitches aside, we’re happy to never have to fast-forward or rewind through a tape again to get the right scene.

 

Express can also import your iMovie ’08 projects, but we’re not especially wowed with the process. In iMovie, you export your project to a special format by choosing Share > Export Final Cut XML. Then, in Final Cut Express, you choose File > Import > FCP XML From iMovie. Here’s the catch: Express will import iMovie’s edited video clips and any cross-dissolve transitions you’ve applied, but it won’t bring in independent audio clips, text titles, video effects (from the Ken Burns Effect to color enhancements), and it will convert any other iMovie transitions to plain ol’ cross dissolves.

 

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Frank

Since it no longer includes Soundtrack, what are the audio editing options? It doesn't seem that taking out capabilities is an "upgrade".

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The Hague

...all we see are HARDWARE ads, mentions of software, delayed updates, BUGGY RELEASES...

What. Has. Happened. To. The. State. Of. Apple. Software.

QuickTime used to be a given. Now, each point one brings different actions to certain window draws, Full screens, etc.

Not to mention the absolute arrogance of releasing a QT update that breaks After Effects in any way shape or form. They either: didn't test it properly on a real world machine OR - like the RAM business a few years ago - KNEW IT WOULD BREAK AFTER EFFECTS just to show up Adobe on some of their latent bugs. Come on. THIS IS BUSINESS.

We (at the huge media company) upgraded to your Intel Macs, Apple. Now start focusing on the professionals that use your products, large and small. Jobs has said many times he could care less about the software side of equation now. It's all Ives, phones and "the less". Cool beans. That's great! I LOVE MY iPhone. I also miss OS 8.6. Go figure.

Get it together, guys. Let's start with iTunes, maybe? Geesh. It's crap.

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Anonymous

Apple makes software? Who knew . . .

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Anonymous

Yeah, for a long time a matter of fact.
I hope you're joking.

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