TUAW Bookshelf: Final Cut Pro 7 Quick-Reference Guide

When it comes to software reference books, there are three major varieties -- the detailed soup-to-nuts books that try to tell you everything and weigh about ten pounds, the "dummies" type that are usually so full of obvious information that they're relatively useless, and the small quick reference manuals that assume that you have some familiarity with your software and just focus on the things that you really need to know.

Brendan Boykin's Final Cut Pro 7 Quick Reference Guide (US$29.99 for the printed text, $16.79 for the ebook version), part of the Peachpit Press Apple Pro Training Series, is one of the latter types. It's a small book when it comes to physical size; you can easily tuck it into a laptop bag with your MacBook Pro when you're heading out for location shooting and editing. The 212-page text is divided into sections roughly following the three-part Final Cut Pro workflow of ingest, edit, and output.

Boykin, owner of Creek Mountain Media and an Apple Certified Master Trainer, definitely knows Final Cut Pro. Brendan not only teaches Pro Certification classes, but also works with Final Cut Pro and other Final Cut Studio applications to build digital video solutions for clients.

The Quick-Reference Guide starts with an overview of Final Cut Pro's user interface. While this may seem like overkill for a text that is directed towards working professionals, this reviewer found the section useful as a memory jogger for such things as what the various colors in the render status bar mean, or what some of the many icons in the Tool Palette are used for.

The book layout includes blue tabs in the outside lower corner of the pages to highlight new features in Final Cut Pro 7. This can be very useful for FCP users who are moving up from earlier versions, are familiar with the application and its UI, and who want to learn what's new in Final Cut Pro 7.

The text moves on to the details of setting up a new project before moving to the section on "ingesting," or capturing, video data. Peachpit's books include highlights and arrows denoting tips and important information notes, and they're very helpful for learning your way around a specific feature of Final Cut Pro 7.

Once video has been captured, it needs to be edited. Boykin goes through two quick sections on editing and trimming video next. Rather than describing the three-point nonlinear editing methodology in detail, the author focuses on the Final Cut Pro tools that are used for editing and trimming video. That's exactly what a book like this should focus on, and Boykin does an excellent job of ensuring that this is a quick-reference guide, not a detailed textbook.

Of course, video without audio is rare today, so the book covers the tools used for setting an audio mix, automating recording, and recording voiceovers. The tools for video transitions and filters are next, followed by chapters on keyframing, generators and templates, and compositing. The book then gets into output methods for the final product of your labors. Boykin rounds out the Guide with detailed descriptions of specialized workflows.

The text is well-written with absolutely no fluff. As with most of the Peachpit Apple Pro Training Series, the concepts are explained more fully with a good mix of annotated color diagrams and screenshots. For users who want to take their knowledge to the next level, Boykin provides a 5-page appendix of keyboard shortcuts, and the book is well indexed, as a reference guide should be.

If there's one complaint this reviewer has about the Final Cut Pro 7 Quick-Reference Guide, it's that it's not spiral-bound. For books of this type, it's handy to have the text laying flat next to a keyboard while you're trying something. With a standard paperback binding, you have to hold the page down with a hand or conveniently-placed peripherals. The binding choice, of course, is made by the publisher, not the author.

For both new and established users of Apple's pro video application, the Final Cut Pro 7 Quick-Reference Guide is a well-written, focused, and compact compendium of tool descriptions, tips, and notes. Peachpit also makes an online edition of the book available to purchasers for 45 days at no cost as part of their Safari Books Online digital library.