Waiting for NAB

At this point, I expect that all eyes are on NAB — the calm before the storm, as it were. Apple’s announcement this coming Sunday has been the subject of a lot of speculation, namely that we’ll see a 4K version of Final Cut and a revamped Logic. The company has made it clear that it plans to focus on host-based processing and with the quiet introduction of the 8-core Mac Pro last week it has an opportunity to really push the envelope. It doesn’t take a crystal ball to guess that they’ll use those machines to do things that haven’t been possible before. That should provide excitement enough, but we haven’t seen a significant feature upgrade to Final Cut for some time and the company may have some other improvements up it’s sleeve, too.

As you all probably know by now, I tend to be more interested in bread and butter usability features than finishing or visual effects. Not to say that those things aren’t important. But my focus is on shaping story and performance and I tend to get excited about things that help me do that. An extreme example: one friend, a prominent editor, prefers Adrenaline over Meridien for exactly three reasons: real time audio dissolves, 16 playable audio tracks and faster bin saves. The ability to play layer upon layer of visual effects in real time, Adrenaline’s headline advantage, doesn’t figure in his calculation. If Avid offered invisible, background saves, or a live timeline that could be scrolled or scaled while the machine played, I’d wager it would create a lot of Hollywood converts. I doesn’t seem that things like that get high priority in Tewksbury and that’s slowing adoption here.

Avid doesn’t keep secrets the way Apple does and it looks like they haven’t held much back for NAB. That doesn’t diminish the importance of version 2.7. If it’s as bug free as we’ve been led to expect it will finally allow us to get some serious work done on portable systems and that has the potential to fundamentally change our work environments. Avid wasn’t the first to this party — Apple was — but if they’ve got it right it will change the way we in features and episodic TV work. DNxHD 36 is also important and will help a lot of us start looking at HD images — no small thing, either.

All in all, it feels like a watershed NAB for both companies, but in different ways, and that can only be good for editors. The changing technical landscape continues to alter our lives. But at the end of the day, storytelling has to remain paramount. I love the technology — but if I’m not using it to move people it doesn’t mean a whole lot to me.

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