Storage20110224-224x128Apple (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.

ThunderboltWhy 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.

Thunderbolt-speeds-usb-3Will 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:

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)?