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Final Cut Pro 4 and the Art of Filmmaking
Final Cut Pro 3 and the Art of Filmmaking

By Jason Cranford Teague and David Teague
(Includes a companion DVD)
Published by Sybex US$60.00

Book Review by Roger Richards


Final Cut Pro 3 and the Art of Filmmaking After Apple’s Final Cut Pro (FCP) was introduced in 1999, early adopters found that books on how to use it were rare, the first decent one being Lisa Brenneis’s low-cost guide that came out a few months after. It should have been included with the program instead of the terrible user manual Apple boxed with it.

Things are different these days, with several excellent books on FCP available. Apple has also changed, including extensive manuals and documentation with Final Cut Pro 4. As someone who has used the program since it first came out I was always searching for books that could teach me new things….no matter how long you use the program, there are always things to learn, the program is that feature-packed and deep. 

I received a copy of Final Cut Pro 3 and the Art of Filmmaking when it first came out a couple of years ago, and just got a copy of the new version for Final Cut Pro 4. The first impression of these books is  how visually appealing they are. Unlike all the other FCP guides I have seen, which mostly read like scientific manuals, these books use color photos and illustrations to full effect. The result is an easy to navigate and understand reference manual.

If you are a beginner to Final Cut Pro or to DV editing in general, getting started can be a daunting thing. Years of experience as an editor is a plus, but what if you are an independent filmmaker trying to cut your own piece and IMovie just will not do? This book can help get you going. 

First, there is a section that explains how to set up a DV editing station, including useful info on editing decks and other hardware such as the different types of computer hard drives for storing your footage. There is a good overview of FCP with illustrations on how to set up and use it for the first time. The descriptions are clear, concise and detailed.

Also of use for beginners to both DV filmmaking and FCP is a chapter on how to shoot video for efficient editing. This section has tips on timecode logging and a few pointers for beginners on how to shoot digital video and recording effective, clean audio. Although not very detailed, the advice here in this section could end up saving a neophyte filmmaker a lot of headaches. 

For a newbie, the book has detailed explanations of how FCP works. It guides the reader through the principles of three-point editing, how to adjust audio and the use of transitions. For the intermediate and advanced FCP users, the book will serve as a handy reference for using features such as color correction, compositing and fine tuning audio. The illustrations really come in handy here. One of the good features of this book is the use of actual film projects, from reality-based productions to experimental music videos, as examples of how filmmakers are using Final Cut Pro to produce their creative visions.


After showing how to edit a project, the books offers the reader options on how to output the completed film, depending on whether the work is destined for TV, the big screen or the Web. Personally, I must admit to being impressed by the fact that this was the only FCP 3 editing book that I have seen offering information on using Sorenson Squeeze. This Web compression software happens to be the one that I and most of my close colleagues use to prepare our DV projects for Web presentation (we present only in QuickTime). The info on Discreet’s Cleaner is also excellent. In the updated book for FCP 4, there are chapters guiding one in how to export video for DVD creation in applications such as DVD Studio Pro 2 and a useful step-by-step explanation on how to export from FCP 4 into Compressor, the new video compression software that comes bundled with the program.

Final Cut Pro 4 has been extensively revamped by Apple, with many new features that offer advanced functions optimized for the Mac G5. The new version of this book for FCP 4 users explains many of these new features, and in a simple, clear way. As a matter of fact, having just recently upgraded my system to FCP 4, the book helped me to solve a few problems with color correction and real time functions the same day that it arrived from Sybex. The Apple manuals included with FCP are indispensable, but one has to dig for info and so are not practical as a quick reference guide.

In summary, I really like this book. It is a bit pricy compared to most of the other FCP reference books available but it is the best-looking, best-illustrated and offers very detailed info. If you are new to Final Cut Pro, spend the extra money and get this book. If you are an intermediate/advanced user, it should find a useful place in your FCP reference library.

 

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