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Old December 25th, 2005, 09:10 PM   #1
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FC Express vs Pro 4 or 5

Hey, I'm low on funds and low on editing skills and wondering the best way to spend several hundred dollars.

I'm currently running FCP3 and IDVD5 on OS10.3.9 using a G4 (733 MHz / 768 MB SDRAM) I've read about FCP3 not being native to OSX and that is probably why it takes such a long time for color corrections and video filters to render (8 hours for color correction on a 2 hour film. Up to 24 hours when I tried Boris FX trial Filters for snow and spot light).

My primary goal was to get faster and not get too much stress with old apps not working. I've heard moving to Tiger can be problematic and I could only hope to afford one or the other at this time any how.

I'm wondering about buying FCP5 from apple or FCP4 from ebay and I'm wondering if I'd be better off with FC Express.

I'm mainly filming plays and recitals and hope to start doing weddings. I have no idea what Express looks like or does. I know I don't like I movie and would hope Express resembles Pro.

Thinking of what I can do in FCP3, I like to "Capture Now". I like using several tracks of video and audio, chapter markers. I want to be able to use filters like Vortix. I like the Composite modes with Alpha and Luma. I want to be able to color key out the backgrounds for green screen. I'm used to using Aif audio files but would be happy using other audio file formats.

So saying I don't want to upgrade the OS now, and want to do what I'm doing now without losing capabilities (I know I've only scratched the surface of FCP3 and am not fully utilizing it), would Final Cut Express be a good thought or should I try to upgrade the version of Pro I can afford?

Thanks,
Scott
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Old December 25th, 2005, 09:32 PM   #2
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Well I think the main improvement you'll see on a slow G4 like that would be in the realtime capability, not necessarily final rendering (although that's probably a little faster than FCP3). You barely squeek by the minium spec for FCP5 (500mhz G4) for editing DV (HDV needs a minimum 1ghz).

Capture now is supported on all the programs you mention, but batch capturing is only supported in FCP, not FCE. I don't think FCE has a 3-way color corrector.

If you can afford then I'm sure you'd be happy with FCP 5. FCP 4.5 (free upgrade from FCP 4) is a big improvement over FCP 3. Not sure about using FCP 4.5 on a 733 mhz machine with relatively small RAM however. But it was surprisingly responsive on my 1ghz powerbook with 1.25 GB RAM.

As far as the best way to spend a few hundred bucks, how much could you sell your G4 for? If you did that and got a new Mac Mini then you'd also get MacOS X 10.4 as part of the deal. If you believe the rumors about the Intel Mini's arriving in January then there might be some good deals ahead on the G4 Mini's. I realize this isn't what you were asking, but just pointing out that your current hardware is going to be pretty limiting...
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Old December 26th, 2005, 12:16 PM   #3
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Thanks Boyd. Your thoughts are excellent as always and they cause me more questions than answers- as always. But that's the name of the game as there are seldom easy answers.

Your main point is that my current hardware is "limiting". However, you point out that I could get some editing speed in real time with something more current than FCP3. I think that's important, because I lose 15 minutes or so at a time when I want to see what something looks like in the timeline before proceeding. I can probably live with the overnight rendering because of the hardward problems.

What it comes down to for me is how do I make my self more productive in the short term so that I can earn more money to buy the better toys. I'm trying to make a buying choice between camera equipment and computer software. So I guess that's all subjective.

I think that I can put off buying a camera light and a WA lens for a while and concentrate on what will make the end product better and more time efficient. I can't shoot video any faster. But it would make sense to spend less time at the keyboard, hence a faster editing program. It also makes sense to have the filters since there is no substitute for them when you really need them. Too bad they're so expensive.

I just feel like I'd be better off focusing on filters (plug-ins) and faster real time editing software for the moment.

Thanks,
Scott
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Old December 26th, 2005, 06:44 PM   #4
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One thing you'd better check... does you G4 have an AGP graphics card? If not then the newer versions of FCP won't run on it.

Funny thing, I used to have a G4/733 like yours, with the same amount of RAM. It was a good workhorse everal years ago, and the best value in Apple's lineup for awhile. A year ago I was setting up a DSL connection for my friend and got totally frustrated fighting with her Windows 98 PC. So my solution was to just give her my G4/733, which I wasn't using anymore. Made both my life and hers easier! :-) It works fine with Safari, MS Office, etc, but there's no way I would want to do any real video editing on that machine.
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Old December 26th, 2005, 09:47 PM   #5
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I say new machine and software...because essentially thats gonna make you faster.......maybe on ebay you can find a higher end G4 with FCP 4hd installed on it.
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Old December 26th, 2005, 10:52 PM   #6
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Geeze, you guy's are killing my dinosaur's self-esteem. Since its being cranky right now, I'm going to whisper this.

I remember reading something once about Accelerate Ur Mac (or something like that). Is that a viable solution or is it just asking for trouble.

And I just looked and there is a Geoforce 3 AGP card installed. So I guess that means a newer version of FCP will work.
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Old December 27th, 2005, 07:58 AM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Scott Routt
I remember reading something once about Accelerate Ur Mac (or something like that). Is that a viable solution or is it just asking for trouble.
Hey, if your machine gets the job done for you then keep using it! But if you want to improve your workflow and update your software then it's going to be a big bottleneck.

I wouldn't even consider upgrading a machine like that however. Makes no sense from a practical or economic standpoint. Who knows what incompatibilities you'd run into with a 3rd party upgrade? And (cover your computer's ears while I say this ;-) - a machine like that is not worth much of anything in today's market when you can get a Mac Mini at twice the speed for $500.

I'd be careful about buying FCP 4 unless you can confirm that it's got a clean license and is not a leftover from someone who has upgraded to FCP 5. I've just started editing my first big project in FCP 5, and on my dual G5 I find that it is definitely an improvement in terms of realtime performance. I don't know if you would find this also holds true on a slow G4 however. But I suppose you could buy a copy, see if it works, then decide whether you need to upgrade your computer.

Let us know how things work out.
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Old December 27th, 2005, 09:13 AM   #8
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Hey Boyd, I took a look at Mac Mini after I read your post. The low end model is $499, 1.25MHz and 512 Ram. It has no super drive. It only has a 40 GB harddrive.

So assuming I went in that direction. I'm wondering if I'll get screwed when I get enough money to buy the software because the RAM requirements on new FCP versions will probably double. Can ram be added to the Mac Mini? I see the cost is about $125. But Dang that box is small? It doesn't appear that the machine would be upgradable.

I would also have to add a $100 for a FW DVD burner. I'd probably have to move to the next level $599 because 40GB is to small to process four 60 minute DV tapes even with my old 70GB FW Hard drive. So I'd say, Dang again and just get the $699 model because it would already have the Super Drive and the 80GB hard drive.

Which brings me back to my original question concerning RAM. Can RAM be added to these little boxes?

Thanks,
Scott
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Old January 5th, 2006, 03:12 PM   #9
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<<Which brings me back to my original question concerning RAM. Can RAM be added to these little boxes?>>

The mini will support up to 1GB; 2GB is probably more like it for DV editing. There are plenty of web pages showing how to install mini ram; it takes a couple putty knives to crack the case. Biggest limitation of the mini: only one monitor. If you use lots of pallete-intensive apps (FCP, Macromedia Flash, Photoshop, 3d packages) a 2nd screen, even a 15 or 17, is almost mandatory.

Keep an eye on Apple's refurbs (on the main apple store page, usually shown as "specials" or the like). They were selling single processor G5's for $1200 in December. And there's a lot of decent macs on eBay.

Mac hardware is dang robust... if you get a used one, verify, initialize & zero out the drive... seems most OSX problems are file-system related. For external drives, I've found that buying an external firewire box and a big & fast drive (both on ebay in scads) is usually cheaper than a retail package.

As for processor upgrades; I tried one in a G4/400. Yep, it ran at 1Ghz, but got very unstable... crashed so many times it killed my file structure. Some users have great luck, others not. Accelerateyourmac.com has tons of user reports.

Lesson for me: repair permissions WEEKLY as a minimum. Rebuild your directory with disk warrior regularly (the best $100-ish a mac user can spend); and backup daily. (CarbonCopy Cloner is a great, free OSX cloning utility. It'll copy your drive in ways that retrospect can't, and there's a scheduler add-on as well).

Speaking of monitors: Love that 20" apple widescreen but hate the $800 price? Dell's ultrasharp 20" is the same (samsung) panel (electronics are different). It's got DVI, Analog, composite, Svideo (all with front-switchable selection), and picture-in-picture. Got one for $400ish on eBay, new. I use the apple 20 all day, and the Dell is very very nice.
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