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Blu-ray Creation with the New Apple Final Cut Studio

Figure 1. The drive case on the Apple Mac Pro pulls right out, but mind the cables.

Figure 1. The drive case on the Apple Mac Pro pulls right out, but mind the cables.

This issue of Final Cut Pro Insider finds me—well, inside an Apple computer, appropriately enough, specifically to add a Blu-ray drive to a Mac Pro. It''s a journey that many of you will take now that Final Cut Studio can burn Blu-ray Discs, so I thought that I would share the experience. Then I''ll describe how to create a Blu-ray Disc with the new Final Cut Studio. Though both tasks might sound intimidating to the uninitiated, they''re actually so easy that you''ll be wondering if I actually get paid to write this stuff. I do, and please keep thoughts like that to yourself. (Please don't share them with my editors.)

 
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So, getting the drive installed. For the record, I used a Pioneer BDR-202 BD-RW that the Pioneer folks obviously forgot that they sent me late last year (don''t tell them, either). The drive supports both write-once and rewritable Blu-ray Discs. BD-R are discs about $3 per disc, so rewritable makes sense for test discs and the like. I installed the drive in a 2009 Mac Pro—I can''t vouch that the process will be this simple for earlier versions. For this baby, however, all you''ll need is the drive and a Phillips-head screwdriver, so don''t procrastinate. Let''s jump right in.

Pop the case by pulling the latch in the back and removing the side panel. On the top front, you''ll see a drive case that should pull out without tools. Note that you''ll be pulling out the current drive attached via its cables, so work gently and don''t pull too far.

Figure 2. The SuperDrive in the DVD case, looking lonely.

Figure 2. The SuperDrive in the DVD case, looking lonely.

Once you get the case out, unplug the cables from the back of the current drive so you can place the case on a table or other flat surface, as you see in Figure 2. Don''t sweat getting those cables reattached; Apple includes a combined power/Serial ATA plug that makes installation a snap. Even better, as you''ll see below, Apple provides two such plugs—one for each drive that the case can hold—so you don''t have to worry about cables for your new drive.

Figure 3. Both drives installed.

Figure 3. Both drives installed.

You won''t have to worry about screws, either, since Apple includes the required four of them prescrewed into holes on the side of the case. Remove them with the Phillips, insert the new drive below the original, and screw it in.

After that, it''s time to reattach the cables. Figure 4 is a glam shot of the two-headed, power/Serial ATA cable. The top cable attaches to the original drive, while the second, lower extension goes into the second drive. Now would be a good time to mention that if you''re trying to install an older, IDE-connected drive, you''re probably out of luck.

Plug those cables in, then slide the drive case back into the Mac Pro, careful to use the guide screws on the bottom for guidance. Unless you''re a total klutz, you should be done in less than 10 minutes. See? I told you it was easy.

Figure 4. Apple''s neat, dual headed Serial ATA/power cable.

Figure 4. Apple''s neat, dual headed Serial ATA/power cable.

Boot the computer, and the first question that'll come to your mind is, "How the heck do I open the second drive?" Mine too. I''ll save you a trip to Bing and tell you that you simply hold the Option key down when pressing the eject button on the keyboard (F12 on non-Apple keyboards), and the second drive will open right up.

Now that we''ve got the drive installed, let''s burn a Blu-ray Disc.

Figure 5. Start by adding chapter markers to your project.

Figure 5. Start by adding chapter markers to your project.

Burning Blu-ray Discs with the New Final Cut Studio


Much of Final Cut Pro 7''s new functionality relates to the Share menu that's accessible via the File > Share command. In essence, this is a fast way to share a single sequence, so if you''re burning a four-act opera to Blu-ray, combine all acts in a single sequence before getting started.

One nice feature of the new Share function is that you can trigger multiple jobs from a single Share. I decided to kill two birds with one stone (don''t tell the PETA folks) by burning both a DVD and Blu-ray project using some AVCHD footage that I shot last month of my two girlies at their piano/singing recital. The grandparents had already seen the footage at full 720p on YouTube, but they''d appreciate the DVD nonetheless.

Figure 6. Then click File /> Share, and choose Blu-ray output.

Figure 6. Then click File > Share, and choose Blu-ray output.

Whatever the content, start by adding chapter markers to your project as before. If you''ve never done this before, it''s simple: Move the playhead to the desired marker location, and click M twice. The screen shown in Figure 5 will open. Click Add Chapter Marker, and then add a name, which will appear as the button name in both Blu-ray and DVD titles.

Once that's complete, click File > Share to open the Share menu, and choose Blu-ray as your target.

Figure 7. Choosing your output device.

Figure 7. Choosing your output device.

Click the checkbox beneath the Blu-ray output to open the options screen shown on the right. Then choose your output device. If you have a Blu-ray drive in the computer, select it to burn a Blu-ray Disc. If you choose your legacy DVD-R/+R drive, you''ll burn what''s called an AVCHD disc, which can store about 40 minutes of HD video on an DVD-R/+R disc but isn''t universally compatible with all Blu-ray players. Or, you can choose the Hard Drive (Blu-ray) option and burn the project into an IMG file that you can burn to Blu-ray Disc later, or burn to disc on another computer.

Figure 8. Choosing a template.

Figure 8. Choosing a template.

Next, choose one of the five templates that Apple provides. Note that you can make your own in Motion, though I didn''t explore that option.

Then, type the name of your project in the Title field. If you don''t customize the name, Final Cut Pro will assign an autoname such as “Sequence 1-Blu-ray,” which will trigger a 20-minute conversation with your parents about what that means (or a reburn to avoid same).

Other options are all, well, optional. You can customize the menu by inserting your own background image, logo, or title graphic, and have the DVD player open either the menu or the video itself when the disc is inserted. Operationally, Final Cut Pro creates all required chapter menus and all links between all menus and chapter points with preset navigation. Don''t bother looking for a preview window (there isn't one) or about burning the project to your hard drive and playing it from there (the Apple DVD Player can''t). Fortunately, if you''ve spelled your marker names and title correctly, there''s very little that can go wrong.

Figure 9. Choosing a name and other options.

Figure 9. Choosing a name and other options.

Where you''re done, click the plus sign to the right of the Blu-ray option to add another preset, and choose DVD. As you can see below, the DVD options are even more limited, with only one template that Henry Ford would have loved and less menu customization. You have to choose another title, which I forgot, so the grandparents are getting a DVD titled "Sequence 1-DVD"—I just won''t take their calls.

When you''re done tinkering, click Export, and Final Cut Pro takes it from there. On my 2.93GHz eight-core Mac Pro, it took 37 minutes to convert 12 minutes of 1080p AVCHD footage (captured as ProRes HQ) into two shiny new discs: one Blu-ray one DVD. The Blu-ray played on my ancient Samsung BDP-1000, which was the first or second Blu-ray player model ever shipped. This bodes well for compatibility with newer players. The DVD played fine on all tested players.

Figure 10. Burning the DVD project.

Figure 10. Burning the DVD project.

Video quality for both cases was very, very good. Overall, while short on features, Final Cut Pro''s Blu-ray and DVD-authoring capabilities are very long on ease of use and output quality.