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Review: - The Focal Easy Guide to Final Cut Pro 7

Febuary, 2010

The Focal Easy Guide to Final Cut Pro 7
By Rick Young - $29.95

Review by Steve Douglas

For those who have been using Final Cut Studio for a long time it is easy to forget that there are many who have just purchased their first camcorders and are slowly dipping themselves into the waters of Final Cut Pro and non-linear editing. It is just as easy to forget how intimidating Final Cut Pro was when version 1 first arrived and how there was nothing out there to help you learn. Via the growth in the number of user groups, forums, supplemental DVDs and books, surmounting that learning curve is considerably faster and easier than it once was.

This is not the first Focal Easy Guide to Final Cut by Rick Young, who is the Editor of MacVideo, that I have reviewed but as I was reading through it, it caused me to think that if there was any book I could have had at my disposal when Final Cut Pro version 1 was released, this would have been my first choice for a number of reasons.

Addressed to the beginning student, though anyone at any level might find something that would benefit them, the Focal Easy Guide to Final Cut Pro 7 presents all the material that a new editor would need to get them up and editing. No, it does not teach you how to create all the fancy effects that we see ubiquitously, nor does it provide media and projects to follow, but that is not its purpose and the reader is better off for it.

Rick Young, a long time shooter of prominence, clears away the confusing techno-babble and divergent editing approaches to explain in plain and simple language just what is needed to get started, how to get started, and sequentially takes the reader in hand progressing step by step, proceeding with the patience and caution that a new student needs and expects. Rick Young begins by clearly reviewing the software requirements, hard drive space, fire-wire and the various video formats before even starting the student editor with the Final Cut Installation. Think of how just doing the Final Cut installation can be daunting. There are the multiple discs, the menu requiring you to check which applications you do or don't want as well as the sizable media that accompanies some of the applications in Final Cut Studio which you may or may not want or need to install. As you would expect Easy Setup and System Settings are thoroughly discussed dispelling the fear of doing something wrong.

Most students, whether they are still in high school or who have just bought their first camcorders and now want to learn to edit, do not start out with the higher end, higher priced camcorders. It is fair to say that if DV is dead and HDV is dying, that AVCHD is alive, well and booming with the growth of so many small, low cost camcorders. This is the first book I have seen that pays close attention to learning how work with these camcorders and the AVCHD codec. More sophisticated codecs are not ignored with excellent sections covering XDCAM EX footage and the use of different media cards as well.

As one would expect from any book focusing on Final Cut Pro there are complete chapters reviewing both the FCP interface and the log & capture and log & transfer operations, how and why to use the logging bins and capturing of audio including the capture of music from CD and set your video and audio layers.

Rick's discussion of the tool bar is especially valuable to the new editor as he doesn't overwhelm the user with an in-depth overview of each and every tool but rather focuses on the most necessary tools to get you started. This section is further personalized, as these are the tools that he most uses as well. I agree that there is little need to explain every detail of Final Cut Pro for a book such as this. Better to provide comprehensive discussion of just what is need to get you started, feel confident and take off from there. Never the less, all the new features found in the latest version of Final Cut are covered including up to date developments in Final Cut's speed controls, sequence markers, the expanded Pro Res support, global and alpha transitions. This is something I haven't seen in several new books intended to be an update to FC 7. Coming in at 270 pages, this is rather remarkable compared to the nearly 600 pages in Apple's own Training Series book. While it may seem unnecessary to mention, the font is large enough to read easily and the book is light enough to carry with you anywhere, on the plane, bus or to the dinner table. The graphics are colorful and easily display the focus of the specific section you might be reading. For those long past the beginner stages of editing, there is much in this book that will serve as fine reminders of tools and techniques that you will benefit by simply as a review of things perhaps long forgotten.

It's easy to come to a bottom line here and I am happy to note that I have no criticisms or suggestions for this or future editions. Most would agree that Final Cut Pro opened the world to editing. Rick Young's Easy Guide to Final Cut Pro 7 is a great way to open yourself to Final Cut Pro.

Steve Douglas is a certified Apple Pro for Final Cut Pro 7 and underwater videographer. A winner of the 1999 Pacific Coast Underwater Film Competition, 2003 IVIE competition, 2004 Los Angeles Underwater Photographic competition, and the prestigious 2005 International Beneath the Sea Film Competition, where he also won the Stan Waterman Award for Excellence in Underwater Videography and 'Diver of the Year', Steve was a safety diver on the feature film "The Deep Blue Sea", contributed footage to the Seaworld Park's Atlantis production, and productions for National Geographic and the History channels. Steve was a feature writer for Asian Diver Magazine and is one of the founding organizers of the San Diego UnderSea Film Exhibition. He is available for both private and group seminars for Final Cut Pro and leads underwater filming expeditions and African safaris with upcoming excursions to the Cocos Islands, Costa Rica, Lembeh Straits, Indonesia, and Wakatobi. Feel free to contact him if you are interested in joining Steve on any of these exciting trips.

copyright © Steve Douglas 2010

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