What’s Avid Up To?

What does the recent Avid Insider seminar mean to editors? That depends on how you think it fits into Avid’s plans for NAB next month. The seminar itself was well done, and the company certainly has been busy, but what we saw was mostly focused on workgroups.

It’s possible that will be some surprises in April, but if this was an NAB preview then there just isn’t that much in the way of bread and butter features for editors to get excited about. Specifically:

Avid Interplay is an interesting product but it wasn’t designed for typical feature and TV cutting rooms. For reality TV and large installations it’s another story. If you are trying to coordinate the work of dozens of editors, producers and writers, or have to handle lots of new visual effects every day, then you need something to help you, and Interplay might be that thing. Unfortunately for editors, it requires the learning of yet another user interface and frankly, one that looks awfully crude and Windows-centric.

DNx36 is probably going to be adopted in a lot of cutting rooms and for Avid folks it’s going to represent a small revolution. But editors have been cutting compressed HD for some time with Final Cut, using DVCPRO. Avid’s codec is arguably superior, but the process is nothing new. It requires Adrenaline, so adopting this format will nudge editors and facilities to trade in their old Meridien machines.

Automatic script mimic is a very slick idea and I certainly plan to try it out. But, so far, the large majority of editors haven’t been attracted to Avid’s script tools and I’m not sure whether this will sway them.

A realtime burn-in effect for timecode and footage would save cutting rooms a lot of time, but it’s not here yet and we’ve been waiting for a long time.

Avid running on Intel-Mac should be released any day now. That’s probably the biggest news for editors and it should help make our machines, particularly our portable machines, run a lot faster. But like all Avid products, it’s probably going to be buggy at first, and for that reason, the adoption rate is going to be slow.

That leaves Avid Satellite, which seems like a good solution for Pro Tools video until you realize that it costs roughly $6,000 per seat. I expect that many sound and music editors, when told what the ante is, are going to decide that Quicktime is plenty good enough.

What was missing in all this were new usability features for editors. A new title tool, new mixing tools, a live timeline, background saves, automatic backups — the list is long, and I’m sure you all have your favorite items for it.

Instead, the changes we’re seeing mirror the kinds of things that came in with Meridien, namely improved speed and image quality — along with a lot of new bugs and quirks. Editors never got excited about Meridien, and we’ve largely been staying away from Adrenaline for the same reasons. That can’t be good for Avid’s bottom line.

There’s plenty on this list to think about and some of it will certainly be used widely. But at the same time. I’m struck by the fact that while Avid continues to avoid changing the core application, Apple pushes the envelope, bringing out major new features, or whole new applications, almost every year. To some extent they have to do this, because they’ve been coming from behind. But that time is ending. Though I still prefer Media Composer, both applications are now roughly similar. And with Final Cut you get DVD Studio Pro, Motion, Compressor and Soundtrack.

The question now is what each company will offer at NAB. Rumor has it that Apple will show a beefed up Final Cut, able to play, cut and conform 4K materials, perhaps running on an 8-core Mac Pro. That’ll be a show-stopper for sure.

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