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Author: Troy Dreier | Website: http://www.FlashKit.com

Here's the question that many people starting in online video need to ask: is Final Cut Express capable enough for your needs, or should you get the full Final Cut Studio? Sure, the cost savings for FCE are attractive, but does it have all the features you need?

To answer that question, we spoke to Tom Wolsky, an internationally known Final Cut expert, the author of five Final Cut instructional books, and a trainer with Class On Demand.

What's New with FCE and FCS
FCE 4: Final Cut Express can handle AVCHD video with its latest release, and has new filters from Motion, Apple's motion graphics app. That gives it about 160 filters total, Wolsky said. But some thing went away with this release, as well: Soundtrack is no longer included and Apple removed some of the LiveType and font functionality. On the plus side, it reduced the price to an affordable $200.

FCS 2: The last version of Final Cut Studio introduced Color, a color correction application, updated Motion with 3D capabilities, and made important changes to Soundtrack Pro. Final Cut Pro itself didn't change much, Wolsky said, but added the ability to work with AVCHD and XDCAM video.

What You Do and Don't Get with FCE
The FCE interface looks and works exactly the same at FCP's. The only change, Wolsky notes, is that FCP has one extra button.

FCS is a suite, of course, so you don't get all the helper applications if you buy FCE, including Color, Soundtrack Pro, and Motion. FCE doesn't show timecodes and it can't batch capture. It's also missing some of the export functions of FCP, such as exporting to EDL (for linear editors) or OMF (for ProTools). Wolsky also noted that FCE is missing the 3-Way Color Corrector filter, a valuable one in FCP.

FCE At-a-Glance

  • A comprehensive editor for DV, HDV, and AVCHD, it has all the same professional editing functions.
  • Capable of turning out professional work for most jobs, such as online video or event videography.
  • Really inexpensive, especially considering the editing power it offers.
  • Provides an easy pathway for moving to FCP. If you know how to use FCE, you can use FCP.
  • Since FCP is the industry standard, FCE offers an inexpensive way to learn the interface and functionality.

FCS At-a-Glance

  • A complete suite of applications that can edit, finish, compress, color correct, output to DVD, mix sound, and add sound effects.
  • Inexpensive, considering how much is included.
  • Works with any video type, from DV to fully uncompressed HD. Outputs to any format.
  • Ubiquitous in the industry. More people use FCS than all the other video editors combined. If you're only learning one, this is the one to learn.
  • Intuitive. Its interface is logical and easier for beginners than Avid's.

The Bottom Line
Final Cut Express does 80 percent of what Final Cut Pro does, and it's ideal for people working with DV, HDV, or AVDHD. It's a strong choice for schools, event videographers, or prosumers.

Final Cut Studio is for professionals who need to create professional-level output for broadcast, film, or the Web. Anyone earning a living on post-production needs the full suite.

If you're working exclusively online and your needs are modest—perhaps your company is just experimenting with online video and you're sure you won't need sound or color correction tools—you can make do with FCE. But if you need professional-quality results and nothing less will do, you're going to need to buy and learn the entire suite.

» Level Intermediate

Added: 2009-01-22
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