DV Editing Software 
A Platypus Field Review 
by Dick Swanson
"Nonlinear editing"  A fascinating phrase for yours truly who is truly a non linear person.  I carom through each day, moving from this project to that, this book to that article and from web page to web page. 

But enough about me except for full disclosure:  Apple provided The Digital Journalist with a Blue and White G3 350MHz with 128MBs of RAM, an IBM 12.7 GIG drive and the software, FCP 1.0.  I found almost immediately that 128MB of RAM was barely enough to get the project out of the gate.  Apple kindly sent another 128MB chip.  We¹ve since added a third 128MB chip on the assumption that memory is like AA batteries;  you can never have too much.   

Be aware that one drive isn't going to do it either.  A scratch disk or three is an absolute necessity.  We¹ve added a Maxtor EIDE 20.4GB drive and Quantum has kindly sent us two loaners to try out;  Fireball Plus KX, ATA66, 27.3GB which made my life whole again.  They have worked flawlessly. 

Now that the nuts and bolts are in place, let me tell you what non linear editing is: in the beginning you transfer digital video  by firewire into your computer¹s hard drive  (beta? what's that? Actually, with Pinnacle¹s Targa cards you can bring in beta as well but who wants to walk around with a $50,000 betacam anymore?).  The footage is now called "clips" and can be played in FCP, the interface between your hard drives and your imagination.  FCP allows you to make a movie with effects, audio, transitions and then output it to DV tape or to VHS for viewing in the privacy of your living room.  Simple, eh? 

As an Avid trained editor with only 3 years experience I was not yet anal about it.  It was a good thing because FCP's learning curve, for me at least, got very humbling (for the views of other humbled people go to where an Apple guru named Ralph will gently massage your ego back into shape).   

It would have been easy to dismiss FCP.  The manual does more harm than good and the tutorial will send you back to your Nikon F¹s (I think I just dated myself).  The titling features lack WYSIWYG, you can't mix fonts, font sizes or styles and only truetype fonts are compatible.  The trim and slip and slide functions (editing features) are clunky and their visual clues are confusing. Setting up the preferences will drive you crazy because of the lack of documentation.  It is a serious drawback. Spending about $65 bucks for Straight Scoop's FCP Power Start CD-ROM ( is highly recommended.  

But the most serious issue right now is rendering time.  It¹s a HUGE drawback.  I know real-time effects and transitions are a-coming with new software releases and the G4 lurking out there.  3rd party render cards are not far behind either.  But for now, be prepared to spend some time with your family during your projects.  Overnight rendering is common. 

Now, having said all that, and after editing several long form pieces, I¹m now firmly in the Final Cut Pro camp.  With all its early faults, FCP is serious on-line editing software (four pieces for ABC's Nightline have been edited by Rolf Behrens on FCP).   I say early faults because they¹re not fatal and should be easily addressed in future releases (when I "left" Avid, they were up to Release 8.0 and there are things in 8.0 that are already in FCP Release 1.0)   The interface is elegant with an easy to understand desktop.  The Browser is where you manage your media in "bins".  Clips from the bins open up in the Viewer where you can finetune the edit and drag and drop them into the Canvas (a great feature here is the editing options that allow you to mouse the clip to the desired option such as overwrite, replace, insert or superimpose for instance.  When you release the mouse button, FCP makes the edit for you.  You can also drag and drop directly into your sequence timeline.   You can even drag and drop from the desktop! such as a still photograph (you remember those) directly into your timeline.  Be still my heart! 

The video capture by firewire is a joy to use.  The deck or DV camcorders (some decks and some camcorders) can be controlled from the Log and Capture window.  You can capture one clip at a time or batch capture (batch capture is logging your clips then telling FCP to go fetch.  It asks you for each tape you¹ve logged from, captures them and places them in your bins. 

FCP has an extensive and professional set of video transitions and filters as well as audio filters.  Hopefully, future releases will beef up the audio filter lineup.  Keyframing in its applications for animation and effects is deep and wide. Doing compositing and motion in FCP can be addictive. For Instance, you can import Photoshop images (as .psd)  with all their layers and do wonderful things with your imagination.  FCP aims to be a full service program.   

And what makes all this work?  Apple¹s Quick Time and Firewire.  Two ³inventions² that deserve canonization.  Your life just got easier without SCSSI. 

And all this for $999! (of course you need a DV deck or camcorder,  an NTSC monitor is nice, maybe speakers, maybe an extra monitor for more desk top real estate).  Still, for the price of one Avid system, Media Composr 1000 for instance,  you could set up 7 or 8 Final Cut Pro editing suites!  

Digital video is here in full voice and the consumer is the better for it. This important evolution has given us Final Cut Pro, Quicktime, Firewire, low cost 3-chip DV camcorders (all 4 of the Nightline pieces were shot on Canon's XL-1, a $4000 camera outfit) and low cost computers (a stripped down G4 with 128MB RAM, a 10 Gig hard drive and a Compuserve rebate can be had for about $1200) .   

I've done one edit on Avid in the six months I¹ve been using FCP.  Both work well and I have issues with FCP but I'm hooked. I don't take this lightly, because I make my living editing.  Apple has given us an exceptional program at an exceptional price.  Version 1.2 is just around the corner and as a beta tester, I can tell you it's only going to get better.  Is this a great country or what? 

Contents  Editorials The Platypus Links Copyright
Portfolios Camera Corner War Stories  Dirck's Gallery Comments
Issue Archives Columns Forums Mailing List E-mail Us
 This site is sponsored and powered by Hewlett Packard