We’ve got about six months to go before NAB 2009, so I figure it’s time to start making baseless predictions. So, here’s my take.
First off, if we don’t have FCS3 or some other major video announcement from Apple around the time of NAB (whether they attend the show or not), I think it’d be time for some serious questions about Apple’s commitment to the product line. I don’t think there’s much truth in the occasional rumor about Apple shopping around Final Cut, and I assume that the big FCP shops already know the road map, but it’s time to move the platform forward.
There are a few big areas that I see as logical steps for improvement.
GPU Acceleration in Final Cut
Motion already makes heavy use of the GPU for effects, and Final Cut Pro already has the capability for GPU accelerated effects as part of its FXPlug architecture. However, the bulk of the filters in Final Cut are currently running on the CPU, and the realtime effects architecture is achieved based on CPU speed alone.
Unified Solid State Camera Support
Importing video into Final Cut has gotten to be a bit of a mess these days – you’ve got “log and capture” for tape, “log and transfer” for P2 and AVCHD, plus XDCam and DR60 importers from Sony, plus standalone apps for RED, and a handful of others. It’d be nice to see an importer plugin architecture that allows different importers to plug in to the “log and transfer” framework, so that we could have a unified interface and workflow.
Premiere Pro CS4 does it, so Final Cut should too. I know it’s not a “pro” format, but that doesn’t mean people won’t be creating compelling content with it. Transcoding to AIC really hobbles the support.
Please? It’s already Schiavo’d, just end it.
BluRay in DVDStudio Pro
This one I’m a bit less certain of – Steve called BluRay a “bag of hurt” at a recent event, but Encore is doing it. If DVDSP isn’t going to get BluRay support, it might be time to officially start phasing it out.
Better Roundtrip Support
Roundtripping is one of those ideas that works great in demos, but never seems to quite live up to expectations in real life. Final Cut -> Motion -> Final Cut tends to work ok, but FCP->Soundtrack->FCP is like russian roulette. Every now and again it’ll work OK, but usually it just blows up in your face. It’s not sexy or fun, but it sure would be nice if it worked.
Make Color Pretty
Nobody expected FinalTouch to get beautiful in one version, but for Color 2, it’s time to get an Apple interface and a refined workflow. Better Quicktime integration would be nice, and again, improved roundtripping.
OpenCL Accelerated Codecs
This one is a bit more “out there,” and the WWDC NDA prohibits me from talking about some of it, but OpenCL would provide some great opportunities for hardware accelerated video codecs. Not just for encoding, but also decoding of formats like HDV and AVCHD. Now, whether this will happen is a bit more uncertain – it’d be a pretty sharp departure from Final Cut’s reliance on Quicktime. It’d also likely be Snow Leopard only, though perhaps OpenCL can be integrated into an app, the way Core Animation showed up in Motion before appearing as an OS component.
Avid and Adobe are doing it now, so it only seems logical that Apple will add some sort of script-sync feature. Is this something people use in real life, or is it just nice for demos? I’m not sure.
Real Final Cut Server Integration
It’d only be logical to start building in Final Cut Server integration, to really start putting a bit more pressure on Avid in that space.
Other Crazy Stuff
If they were going to make it Snow Leopard only, there’s lots of other interesting stuff that could be done – grand central scheduling, proper soup-to-nuts 64bit, etc. Maybe for Final Cut Studio 4.
Hey, whatever happened to the Shake replacement?