NAB – 2nd Impressions

Nab Show FloorThe smoke has cleared a bit and I’m left just a wee bit underwhelmed by this year’s NAB. Full disclosure — I wasn’t able to go, so I’m commenting from the sidelines.

Apple and Avid both made some big announcements. Apple introduced Color, Final Cut Server, and a new, relatively high bitrate, compressed HD format. And it took the wraps off some significant improvements to Motion and Soundtrack Pro. Final Cut went to version 6 with an “open timeline” where you can mix and match formats and framerates.

Avid introduced an improved Unity product at a significantly lower price point, along with ScriptSync and DNxHD 36. It also offered a new and surprising commitment to open standards.

What strikes me about all this is how similar the two companies’ strategies are now. Both offer compressed HD formats, both have file sharing solutions, both offer a media asset manager, both have timelines that can mix and match different formats, both allow you to do useful work with a stock computer or a laptop, both provide a suite of applications, both profess to be based on open standards (though how that works out in practice remains to be seen). More than ever before, Avid and Apple are leapfrogging and copying each other.

The differences are in the details. Final Cut Studio provides much more breadth in terms of the applications offered, and the programs are tightly integrated. But Final Cut Server, which looks like a nice and inexpensive media asset manager, can’t do the most basic thing I need, which is to share bins. ProRes 422 and DNxHD now compete, but in different ways. Avid offers a 36 Mbps codec, which is about as light as you can get. But at higher bit rates Apple says you can still run an impressive 14 simultaneous streams of 720P/24 material on an 8-core Mac Pro (details).

Most disappointing to me, neither company made major changes to their core applications. Apparently they’ve both decided that their editing UIs are good enough. But that’s where I live all day long and there’s plenty in Media Composer that seems old and antiquated. Final Cut was built more recently and tends to feel a little more modern, but it has many weaknesses, too. It badly needs a better media manager, a better way to resync clips, and an improved trim module. Both companies seem to be influenced by facility people who aren’t close enough to the editing interface to recommend changes of this nature.

All that said, I’m excited by Color and I find the Final Cut ecosystem very appealing. On the Avid side, if Media Composer 2.7 offers good and stable performance on a laptop it might be the release that finally convinces a lot of Meridien users to switch. And many of my friends have been talking about ScriptSync, so I’m starting to think it might catch on.

Either way, it seems like the future of “offline” editing is high definition. I fully expect that I’ll be cutting with DNxHD 36 very soon. In fact, it seems like we’re going to have to come up with some new terms for this. Offline just doesn’t mean what it used to. At the top of the editing world we’re still going to see a distinction between editing from dailies and finishing. But the old idea that offline meant fuzzy and low-res just ain’t true anymore.

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

3 Comments on “NAB – 2nd Impressions”

  1. editblog Says:

    I agree totally that the basic editing toolset seems to take a back seat to flashy apps and smoking fonts. I love flash but fix that functionality I need every day first.

  2. Robin Buday Says:

    Soundtrack Pro being able to mix in 5.1 is a really nice feature. Not to mention that “spectrum analyzer” mode for removing frequencies from waveforms…

  3. Liam Says:

    I had ScriptSync demonstrated for me it was pretty amazing, probably the highlight of NAB. i will probably never use it but great to know there is still plenty of room for innovations in editing…

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