February 25, 2011

With a New Final Cut Pro on the Way and New MacBook Pros with Thunderbolt, Apple Pro is Back

Apple (finally) demonstrated the new version of Final Cut Pro to industry insiders this week, and because everyone who saw it is under a Non Disclosure Agreement, we won't be hearing any details about it soon (until sometime around NAB, I'm guessing -- though Apple is not listed as an exhibitor, they will likely stage their own event). Without going into specifics, however, the new FCP is being called "the biggest overhaul to Final Cut Pro since the original version was created over 10 years ago," and more simply, "jaw-dropping." More on the new FCP in a second. Apple also released new MacBook Pros this week, which, along with the usual slew of processor and graphics updates, debuted a brand new 10Gbps (read: ridiculously fast) interface -- Thunderbolt. Apple Pro is back.

Why is the Pro division of Apple "back," if they never went anywhere? Well, a year ago I posted about why filmmakers might switch from Macs to PCs -- or at least from Final Cut Pro to Premiere Pro. In the year since, many DSLR editors have switched to Premiere because of its ability to handle DSLR footage natively. Because the last update to Final Cut Studio was relatively minor, and because rumors have circulated that Apple was dumbing down Final Cut, many wondered if Steve Jobs and co. were deemphasizing the pro market in favor of the candy-coated iOS world (where most of their profits lie). But with these new announcements/releases, Apple is sending a strong message that they're not just a mobile devices company. Although, as it happens, Thunderbolt is well-suited to mobile devices.

Will Thunderbolt become the new standard for high-speed digital video data transfer? It seems so, with support not only from Apple, but also Intel, Avid, AJA, and Blackmagic as well. Of course, with USB 3.0 just hitting the market, Thunderbolt could go the same route as Firewire -- better technologically but less widely adopted. As you can see at left, Thunderbolt is twice as fast as USB 3.0 -- but few devices (meaning hard drives, or even SSDs) are anywhere close to being able to output data that fast. The benefit of Thunderbolt, then, becomes its ability to daisy-chain devices (which could collectively outstrip USB 3.0's 5Gbps speed, theoretically), and its ability to function not only as a data transfer interface but also as a display port. Which makes it good for space-challenged mobile devices. Here's the official blurb on the 'bolt:

MacBook Pro now gives you access to a world of high-resolution displays and high-speed peripherals with one compact port. That’s because Thunderbolt is based on two fundamental technologies: PCI Express and DisplayPort. PCI Express is the technology that links all the high-performance components in a Mac. And it’s built into Thunderbolt. Which means you can connect external devices like RAID arrays and video capture solutions directly to MacBook Pro — and get PCI Express performance. That’s a first for notebooks. Thunderbolt also provides 10 watts of power to peripherals, so you can tackle workstation-class projects on the go. With PCI Express technology, you can use existing USB and FireWire peripherals — even connect to Gigabit Ethernet and Fibre Channel networks — using simple adapters. And because Thunderbolt is based on DisplayPort technology, the video standard for high-resolution displays, any Mini DisplayPort display plugs right into the Thunderbolt port.

If you're planning on buying one of these new Thunderbolt-equipped MacBook Pros, please use any of these links -- your purchase will help support No Film School at no additional cost:

Here's a demo of (the old) Final Cut Pro in action with Thunderbolt:

Time will tell how well Thunderbolt does in the ubiquity department, but I have a feeling it will be the new Firewire: superior specs-wise, but found primarily on Apple devices. We'll see.

As for the new Final Cut Pro, I really don't have many details to share, given I wasn't at the presentation and those who were there can't say anything about it. However, Philip Hodgetts, frequent keeper-of-tabs on all things Final Cut, had this to say: "One source described the new release as encompassing everything from low level architectural changes to a complete redesign of the user interface." Hodgetts goes on to explain that QuickTime is still 32-bit (not the player application, which if you boot up Activity Monitor you will see is 64-bit, but presumably the underlying architecture itself). He mentions the possibility that Apple could migrate to iOS's AVFoundation, which is headed to Mac OS X Lion. But as far as we're concerned, the underlying technology is less important than how well it works and which new features it offers editors. I've asked you guys before which new features you'd want in Final Cut Pro 8, and here were your responses.

What's your take on the newfangled Thunderbolt -- better than USB 3.0 or kind of a bummer that now there are competing standards (again)?

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16 Comments

http://www.theregister.co.uk/2011/02/24/thunderbolt_mac_threat/

The 10Gbit/s interconnect Apple introduced Thursday in a new line of Macbook Pros may or may not change the way the world connects external hard drives and other peripherals to their computers. But it's safe to say the newfangled copper link likely contains the same security weakness that for years has accompanied another Mac innovation: the Firewire port.

Like Firewire, the Intel-designed Thunderbolt is based on a peer-to-peer design that assigns blind trust to any device that connects through the bi-directional, dual channel interface. According to security expert Robert Graham, that gives attackers yet another chink to exploit when targeting machines that offer the interconnect.

“Imagine that you are at a conference,” Graham, the CEO of security consultancy Errata Security, writes. “You innocently attach your DisplayPort to a projector to show your presentation on the big screen. Unknown to you, while giving your presentation, the projector is downloading the entire contents of your hard disk.”

February 25, 2011

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Interesting. Of course, if this security problem affected all Firewire devices, it's worth asking: after a decade of use, have you ever heard of anyone having had security breaches because of Firewire?

Interesting quote: "Intel processors offer the means to significantly rein in Thunderbolt by restricting a device's access to memory locations of the computer it's attached to. But as of now, there are no indications Mac OS X makes use of this." Wonder if that's in the works for Lion.

February 25, 2011

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Ryan Koo
Founder
Writer/Director

Just this morning, I was wondering, "So, what's all Thunderbolt jibber-jabber?" Along comes Koo with yet another tightly-organized, well-written, and highly informative post that tells me everything I want to know, without wasting my time. This is exactly why I don't bother reading any other industry blogs.

Oh yeah, the laptop sounds pretty cool too. But aren't PC laptops now using quad-core processsors, making Apple's dual-core a day late, and about $1,000 overpriced?

February 25, 2011

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The 15" and 17" MacBook Pro are both quad-core. Only the 13" is dual-core.

February 25, 2011

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10 Gbps is awesome. If I just bought a mac pro, I'd be kinda mad that it didn't have that. Good thing I built a hackintosh off your guide with USB 3! Love the hack pro!

February 25, 2011

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Clayton

This makes things tough for folks like me who are looking at investing in a new external hard drive or two. I guess the sensible solution is to future-proof with USB 3 AND Thunderbolt I/O's.

February 26, 2011

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Joey

I bought a 17" MBP in October. I am f*cking pissed.

February 26, 2011

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Scott

I feel your pain Scott...I realize it's too late, but next time 'round you may want to keep an eye on MacRumors' Buyer's Guide, which keeps track of when Apple updates their products...I never buy without first consulting it:

http://buyersguide.macrumors.com/

February 26, 2011

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Don't worry, it'll be ages until an affordable TB solution becomes available. I think manufactuers are looking at bringing out enclosures that contain SSDs in RAID, so we're looking at ~ 3x 128GB SSDs in RAID 5+ enclosure = ~$1,000 for a 256GB external HDD or 4x128GB SSDs in RAID10 for ~$1,250 for still only 256GB, but damn, will it be fast!

March 15, 2011

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Thunderbolt is not an "Apple innovation", and it will not be found "primarily on Apple devices". Formerly known as Light Peak, this technology was developed primarily by Intel and will be in a wide range of PCs from any number of manufacturers.

February 27, 2011

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Michael

Glad to hear the bigger MBPs are quad-core. Amused to hear that "Thunderbolt" had an even worse name before. "Light Peak"??? Sounds like some kind of sexual euphemism.

February 27, 2011

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The name "Lightpeak" possibly refers to the fact that there's an upcoming 'optical' version of "Thunderbolt" (no copper wire) which will be even faster and with longer cables. (after re-reading my own sentence, hope that made sense)

March 3, 2011

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sirherald

Don't think I said it was an "Apple innovation"... The question isn't whether it will be found on other hardware (as was Firewire), but rather how much market share it will have compared to USB 3. Ubiquity wins...

February 28, 2011

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Ryan Koo
Founder
Writer/Director

Sorry, it was the first reader (felix) that referred to it as a "Mac innovation".

February 28, 2011

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Michael

Hey Koo another well informed and super interesting post thanks for this valuable information.

March 25, 2011

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Carlos Avila He...

In short I just apple fucked over too many people with FCPX. It'll be interesting to see its price and what it can do. Apple is infamous for jerking people around.

June 6, 2013

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Andrew