Wish List #2 – The Live Interface

What I find most frustrating about both the Media Composer and Final Cut these days is the static quality of the interface. We’re so used to this now that we don’t notice it, but if you play around with Apple’s Motion you might start to think differently. Even iTunes feels more live than our beloved picture editing programs.

What makes Motion different is that it’s designed to modify your animations while they continue to play. This may not sound like much but using it on a fast machine can feel liberating. You get instant feedback on whatever you are doing. There’s less waiting, less mousing around; you get a much clearer sense of connection to the material.

The Media Composer was born at a time when playing a sequence took all the horsepower the thing had. So it was designed around the idea that you’d press play, look at your work, press stop, change something, and then press play again. The Media Composer was so rigid in this regard that once you pressed play you couldn’t click the mouse anywhere without stopping video. That was how it was in 1991 and that’s how it is today, a decade and a half later.

Though it was designed more recently, Final Cut isn’t much better. But it does offer one huge advantage over the MC, namely the ability to scroll and zoom the timeline while video plays. Once you try that, you never want to go back.

That kind of dynamism, where nothing stops you, where you’re always making decisions based on moving images and sound and where you get live feedback on your changes, is the basis of the user interface of the future.

Here are some initial thoughts about what that might consist of. Some aren’t completely fleshed out — they’ll take some experimentation. But I hope they’ll be food for thought. Please contribute your suggestions.

  1. The timeline continues to play while you resize it.
  2. The timeline re-centers itself automatically when you play off either end.
  3. Windows can be resized or moved around while video continues to play.
  4. Rendering should happen in the background. In fact, whatever the machine is doing, it should do it in the background. You should never be stopped by the pinwheel cursor.
  5. Mixing moves, reverb, EQ, all should work while audio is playing. It should be possible to identify a portion of a sequence and play that material as a loop while you manipulate various effects.
  6. The same should be true for video effects. You should be able to apply and change them and see your changes while video plays. And you should be able to change parameters for transition effects while the transition plays as a loop.
  7. Finally, you should be able to independently play several video and audio sources at once. For example, it should be possible to gang the source and record monitors and play them simultaneously. It should be possible to audition music against picture by cueing the music in a popup monitor, playing your timeline and then hitting play in the pop-up. It should be possible to play dailies in the source monitor while you scroll around in the timeline or do other work.

The old paradigm was “make a change, press play.” The new paradigm is “press play, make a change.” A system that can do this is going to make our current machines seem quaint.

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Explore posts in the same categories: Avid, Avid vs. Final Cut, Avid Wish List & Bugs, Final Cut

3 Comments on “Wish List #2 – The Live Interface”

  1. travis Says:

    I agree with all of this. I used to use Sony Vegas before I decided to go “Pro” with Avid and Vegas does ALL of these things… only reciently have i learned that cutting dialoge on Vegas wasn;t as good as Avid. But having the instaint interface of Vegas is amazing and leaves you feeling restricted in any other editing program.

  2. Steve Says:

    I had forgotten about Vegas, but now that you mention it, I do remember how live and interactive it felt. Nothing stops you or slows you down.

  3. Martin Baker Says:

    Completely agree with you Steve. The irony is that I can see it coming full circle. Back to the days of linear editing where you could tweak a value in RT during playback. The ability to grab a clip in Motion and do a RT corner pin during playback is very exciting.


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