You can expand your system to do any level of picture quality and to a higher "professional" level. Much of the following might be more than you need or even want, but much of it is mandatory for a broadcast-quality finishing setup. Chances are, if you are a professional, you will need some, if not all, of the equipment discussed. One of Final Cut Pro's better features is that it is resolution-independent editing software. Resolution independence means that with this single version of software that Apple supplies , you can upgrade your hardware to edit video all the way from low data rate motion JPEG to High Definition video and all points in between. No data rate is too large or too small for this software to handle if the proper hardware is installed.
In the past, you needed proprietary hardware to upgrade the picture quality of most edit systems. Professionals had to spend tens of thousands of dollars to upgrade from an offline to an online broadcast-quality system. In addition, the editing software had to be upgraded. Final Cut Pro, in contrast, is resolution- and hardware-independent software. The only hardware requirement is a G4 Mac!
State-of-the-art disk drives are getting extremely large and extremely fast. Macintoshes are also becoming faster, as are SCSI specifications and throughput. A year from now, the recommendations in this chapter might be outdated . It's important to understand that because technology is constantly shifting into higher gears, other and newer solutions to run faster systems that can handle uncompressed video might come about, or more real-time effects. However, sometimes it's dangerous to constantly push the envelope, especially if your livelihood depends on how stable and reliable your system is. Be careful. Investing in untried solutions until they really are "tried and true" can be dangerous to your blood pressure, and even your career.
Another point of view expressed often is just the opposite . Buy the biggest, fastest , and latest system you can, because it will last longer. I actually believe that the middle ground is probably the wisest choice. Even if you have state of the art today, you won't have it in six months. It's far more important what you put into your program than how fast you can get it done. Content is king. This is not to say that picture quality isn't importantit is. Still, a more compelling program is what you as an artist, technician, and creator should be most concerned with.
An example of pushing the envelope was seen at NAB 2003 in Las Vegas. AJA was showing its new Io product (a wonderful converter, and a next -generation device, I might add) working with a 17-inch PowerBook using two FireWire 800 400GB drives striped in a RAID 0 configuration, recording and playing back uncompressed video with Final Cut Pro 4. It seemed to work. But I'd certainly let time go by and let the "envelope pushers" work out any problems that might occur in a real-world environment before I based my livelihood on this sort of setup. Pretty amazing, though. Imagine, an uncompressed solution on a PowerBook!
An adage states that you can't be too thin or too rich or have too much RAM. RAM allows your computer to run multiple applications at one time; therefore, it will ease your workflow. Remember, too, that software sellers always list the minimum . Most software runs faster and is more stable with more physical RAM installed in your computer.
I suggest that 512MB of installed RAM is the minimum you should be running in any modern OS today. However, the more you have, the merrier your computing experience will be. Some third-party capture cards require more RAM. With the recent price drop worldwide in RAM prices, this is an excellent , powerful, and relatively inexpensive upgrade. Additional RAM affects not only Final Cut Pro's performance, but also the rest of the software on your machine. Apple's G5 computers hold a total of 8GB of RAM, and the performance boost to your workflow now and later will definitely be enhanced with more (and faster) RAM.
Storage Space Requirements
Each user must determine just how much storage space for media files he needs for his given workflow. The new requirements for a full install of everything supplied with FCP 4 are larger than ever before. You'll need 1GB of storage just to install the FCP application files. You'll need an additional 14GB of storage for all the media files supplied with LiveType and Soundtrack.
You needn't install these additional media files if you don't intend to use them, but I think you'll find that these wonderful additions to the suite of programs that FCP 4 supplies are very useful indeed. They are tremendously powerful applications (and are a lot of fun to work with), and they further define Final Cut Pro as the best value in editing software. In the case of LiveType, you don't need to install all the media files associated with it; you just install them when you want to use them. However, this requires that you have the additional DVDs handy and available when you want to use these files. If you will edit short-form material, such as a TV commercial or short industrial film, you don't need nearly the space that a feature film editor or documentary editor might need. I once edited a 4-minute short documentary program that used more than 35 hours of source footage! In DV terms, this would require that you have about 1GB of storage for every 4.7 minutes of source footage. In many cases, a shooting ratio of 10:1 (10 minutes of source material shot for each minute of finished program) is common. Therefore, if you are aiming for a 30-minute program, you probably should be looking at storage for 5 hours of source material. In DV terms, this computes to about 100GB of storage.
Running out of storage space for your source material is not always an easy thing to overcome . You can manage media with management tools that Final Cut Pro supplies. You can delete media you've captured that you no longer need or are not using in your program, but it's a far better plan to keep all your source material available for editing and reediting or revising.
Many editors want and should have the ability to capture or digitize all or most of the source material that was shot or otherwise created for their project. Revisions are much easier this way. Having to delete material to make room for more material is time-consuming ; therefore, it's not cost-effective . Just when you thought you wouldn't need that particular shot, you actually end up needing it and having to capture or digitize it all over again. Needless to say, the workflow becomes tedious if you are constantly spending time deleting, only to have to do more recapturing later.
The DV OfflineRT functions introduced in Final Cut Pro 3 might help here. In short, this format captures media files at a lower resolution, which saves storage space. This is discussed in Chapter 14, "Managing Large Projects." Third-party analog and digital capture cards also have lower-resolution capture capabilities and also might come into play as you plan your storage strategy. In brief, you can capture video at lower resolutions that require smaller amounts of storage space. With the smaller storage space, you can keep more media on your computer's media storage disk. The method here is to capture all your footage, edit in this lower or offline resolution, and then recapture only your edited program in higher or online resolution for final output. This might not be acceptable for some situations, though. One example is when the total editing time has to be as fast as possible, such as when you need a news story to be on the air ASAP.
Another issue to keep in mind is that you need space for any render files you might include in your program. These files are approximately the same size as their duration demands in any given resolution. In an effects- intensive program, you definitely need to plan for these files. You also should not plan to completely fill up the disk drive. Disk drives simply don't perform as well when they are full. I suggest that you keep at least 50 to 100MB of any disk drive's space unused.
Disk Drives for Editing Mini DV, DVCAM, and DVCPRO25 Formats
It is highly recommended that you add an additional ATA 66/100 7200rpm disk drive(s) with 8MB of disk cache to the basic DV Mac setup to use solely as a storage disk for FCP media files. Final Cut Pro calls this disk drive the scratch disk . If your intention is to capture or work in higher resolutions, you might need higher-end disk drives. (See the later section "Disk Drive Considerations for Higher-Quality Video Editing.")
You need at least an 8.5MBps sustained transfer rate to reliably capture and play back DV files. Faster is better. If you plan to use a Mac with internal expansion capabilities and you add internal ATA disk drives to it, this is the lowest cost per gigabyte of storage that can record and play back DV media files.
The reason you want a separate drive for use as a scratch disk is that video applications such as Final Cut Pro require tremendous disk drive speeds to play back these large files. Editing DV requires a sustained transfer rate of about 3.6MB per second just to play back the picture and sound files within your computer. Therefore, asking the computer to access the OS, application, project files, and media files from the same physical disk drive is a daunting request indeed.
Partitioning the startup disk, leaving a partition for media files, is only a halfway measure and is not recommended because the same physical drive is still being asked to do it all. Partitioning would result in the development of dropped frames and poor playback performance if you are capturing to the only drive on your Mac. Partitioning disk drives slows down performance as well and really should be avoided for an optimal setup.
Rest assured, though, you can run the lower-resolution files for this tutorial on any disk drive. Because their data rate is lower, you needn't worry about the performance of the files you'll use in conjunction with this book. Also keep in mind that if you capture OfflineRT files instead of full-resolution DV, partitioning a G4 PowerBook or other G4 computer's only internal drive (the startup disk) works great. This is because the data rate needed to play back these media files is about one-third the amount of a full-resolution DV file. It works fine. I highly recommend this format for mobile offline editing stations . It renders extremely fast, too!
Disk drives seem to become less expensive, faster, and larger on a weekly basis, so you have little excuse for not setting up your system right from the beginning. However, just how much space do you need? That depends on how much you intend to capture. Keep in mind that many shoots have at least a 10:1 shooting ratio. That is, every minute of finished video has at least 10 minutes shot. Table 1.1 shows just how much storage you might need.
Table 1.1. System Storage Needs
Video Data Rates
1MBps, offline-quality Photo-JPEG
3.6MBps, DV-format video
24MBps, uncompressed video
As you can see, your storage needs could be large indeed. For DV, you need a whopping 13GB of fast disk drive storage to work with a 10:1 shoot (where you have 10 hours of camera master material), resulting in a 1-hour program if you are capturing most of what was shot. For uncompressed video, you need almost a terabyte, or 1000GB! This is storage just for your camera masters. You need even more room for your rendered effect files. Keep in mind that you should try to have at least another 5 to 10% more storage space for these files, plus space for additional music or graphics files you might use.
Again, more is better, but it isn't necessary in order to start up or use the project in this book. The project is designed to run on the lowliest of minimum requirements. All you need is a 350 G4 computer with AGP graphics or a G4 PowerBook or eMac or G4 iMac with about a gigabyte of free storage space, Final Cut Pro 4, and the will to learn.
If you will edit on a PowerBook, iMac, or eMac, your only choice for additional storage space in the newer Apple portables is external FireWire drives. Apple currently does not support their use. If you intend to use a portable and you need more space, look for FireWire drives with fast, sustained transfer rates. For the present, 7200rpm drives with the Oxford 911 ATA-to-FireWire converter chipsets are the most reliable because their sustained transfer rates are fast enough. If your computer supports it, FireWire 800 drives with then-newer chipsets are even better. They seem to be about the same speed as the same drive internally mounted would be.
FireWire RAID systems that might solve this historically unreliable storage device are beginning to appear. Even though FireWire can support transfer rates much faster than is necessary, FireWire drives use internally mounted ATA disk drives. The limitations of the FireWire bridge and the fact that ATA disk drives just aren't that fast keep them from utilizing all the theoretical speed of the FireWire bus. The data has to be bridged by a chipset for the FireWire bus to use it. That's why it's important to note a FireWire drive's specifications if you need to use one.
A Video Deck Instead of a Camera
A camera's tape transport for recording and playing back your material is not nearly as robust as those used by a deck (or VTR). The constant searching and shuttling of the tape as you log, capture, and possibly recapture your footage wears out a camera's tape transport much faster than transports used in desktop video machines. It's a matter of deciding how much you'll use your camera for this purpose. Light use is one thing, but daily and heavier use is quite another.
Video recorder/player decks have a much longer life and allow editing to occur at the same time a shoot might be happening. Furthermore, they search tape as much as 10 times faster than a camera does. In general, video recorder/play decks also give you more features and functions for recording and playing material than cameras do. Some might have audiometers, headphone jacks , multistandard playback and record capabilities, and more. They are required if you plan to edit from something other than VHS or DV.
Betacam machines, DVCAM or DVCPRO machines, and HD machines are an obvious upgrade to consider. To use them, you need serial device control for not only physical control of the machine, but for all the time code information as well. Betacam machines use RS-422 control, for example, and Apple recommends USB serial adapters for this purpose. An alternative is a Stealth Port that Gee Three supplies. (Check out Appendix E to learn more.) The Stealth Port replaces your internal 54Kbps modem on a G4 tower. Many users report better results using the Stealth Port over the use of a USB serial adapter. However, if you have a Mirrored Drive Door Mac, the Stealth Port should be avoided. And it's unavailable for a PowerBook or iBook, so you will need the USB adapter for a portable workstation. Those made by KeySpan seem to be the preferred USB adapter. KeySpan also makes a PCI card, supplying multiple ports for the addition of machines.
Other manufacturers of capture/converter equipment, such as AJA and others, might also have a solution for serial control built into their products. For example, AJA's Io product supplies this port, so check out what you get from your specified capture card or converter supplier for the latest on their recommendations for serial control devices you might need.
Monitoring your video with an NTSC or PAL video monitor from your computer is also highly recommended. The computer's display shows colors differently than a video monitor or videotape playback does, and it does not display all the resolution of the actual video files intended to be recorded back to tape. When you monitor video with Final Cut Pro, you see all of the raster of the recorded material. TV sets crop up to 10% of the image on all four sides, and the video monitor keeps you apprised of this. They are great for making sure that your titles will be seen.
You can connect a video monitor to your computer through a camcorder or deck that is connected to the FireWire port of your Macintosh when editing DV in either NTSC or PAL formats. Third-party capture cards and media converters also provide this function.
When you set the system to view your source footage or edited program externally on a video monitor, you are better prepared for color corrections, as well as a host of other operations, which are better served by viewing the video the way it will be seen by others when you are finished with your program. Titles, in particular, look a lot better on an external NTSC or PAL monitor. It is probably the single most important addition to your system. Professionals would never work without one.
You can even buy a video monitor that displays multiple formats, such as 16:9 display and multiple television standards. HDTV monitors might be a bit pricey, but they probably will become less costly as more users buy them. A quality video monitor can last for years , and it will not go out of date as quickly as your computer or other video equipment such as a camera will.
Expect to pay from two to 10 times as much for higher-end (and, no doubt, better) professional video production monitors. Each of the major companies that make video equipment has pro and prosumer quality equipment. The current crop of CRTs is the culmination of years of research and development. Multistandard versions are your best bet. Look for digital input availability. You'll own this device for years as a professional. Look for monitors that feature SMPTE-C phosphors, which are color-calibrated to a standard. (This feature is not available in consumer TV sets.) These professional monitors can display component, Y/C, and SDI. Even FireWire inputs are arriving.
That said, a consumer TV set with monitor inputs will serve you better than not having an external video monitor at all. But without a blue-only switch (which none of these television sets provides), you cannot set up these monitors ideally for color. There is a way, though. I've heard of putting gel in front of a non-blue-gun-only monitor. I haven't experimented. Having a large gel around is pretty cumbersome.
External Speakers /Headphones
External computer speakers allow you to monitor audio at much higher quality than the speakers that are usually in your computer. To accurately hear the relative volume of your program's various audio tracks to adjust for mixing the proper levels or adjusting audio filter settings, you should use a set of external audio speakers. You can also listen to your audio playback with a quality set of headphones instead of external computer speakers. However, any audio engineer would tell you not to mix with these headphones, because you should do this with external speakers. In a classroom situation that has more than one edit system going at the same time, this is essential.
In Final Cut Pro 3, when you view external video via a FireWire output, you must have a way to monitor the audio, because it is not mirrored on your computer's speakers.
In other words, your computer's speakers are muted when you view your program externally. No longer is this a limitation with Final Cut Pro 4. You set audio and video outputs independently from each other within the application, and they play in sync using internal speakers used by your computer system while playing externally on a video monitor, for example.
You can use most external speakers supplied by a video monitor or TV set, but they are not as accurate at monitoring audio as a set of headphones or high-quality computer-driven speakers would be. Various capture cards can provide external monitoring of video and audio as well. These settings can be set separately from each other. A second set of self- powered speakers can be a welcome addition to your system just for monitoring your audio as you watch your video on an external video monitor. These speakers require only a line level input supplied from the output of your DV camera, converter, or capture card.
Adjusting audio levels is enhanced by the use of audio mixers . You can monitor your output from your computer with mixers and adjust the levels to suit yourself. Moreover, audio mixers allow for more input and output options in your system. To monitor from a DV-based system, you can send out your audio via the FireWire port and connect your media converter's, camera's, or deck's audio output to a mixer. You can also use this mixer to fine-tune audio levels for recording to analog devices, such as a Betacam SP machine or even a VHS machine. In systems that have capture cards, you can send your card's audio signals to a mixer and accomplish the same thing during the recording process. You might even use mixers to monitor your audio with headphones while you view your video externally.
More Desktop Space
If your computer has open PCI expansion slots, or if you have a dual computer display card, you can add a second or even a third computer display. The added screen space is especially welcome if you are running more applications than just Final Cut Pro at the same time. Working with Final Cut Pro on a single 15-inch computer display is difficult at best. A 12-inch PowerBook might be quite compact and a possible candidate for portability, but you'd definitely want a second display if you were to use this machine as your everyday editor.
Professionals typically use two computer displays: one for the Timeline window, Viewer, and Canvas, and the other for the Browser. Some capture cards provide this function as well. If you have never experienced multiple displays, you really don't know what you're missing. After one day, you will wonder how you ever did it without the added screen space.
Many users (including me) consider Apple's Cinema Displays the very best solution for working with Final Cut Pro. These displays are considered among the finest LCD computer displays in the world, and their fairly recent price cuts make them very attractive. Cinema Displays' pixels also stay on until they are told to change their values, whereas "regular" LCD monitors strobe constantly at a high rate, adding to eyestrain. Having a longer timeline is a real time-saver. Less scrolling around within the application makes for a happy, more productive editor and a more satisfying experience in general.
I also recommend flat panel displays over CRT displays for use with any NLE or computer for general purposes. Many studies show that looking at CRT displays for extended periods of time is extremely hard on your vision. Constant eyestrain might become part of your life if you intend to do this for a career. Moreover, LCD screens provide the added advantages of extra workspace and lower power consumption. Let's face it: They are just plain cool, too.