Too Suite?

Adobe and Apple are pushing suites of applications in their quest to dominate retail post production. You make a single purchase and get a studio in a box, a studio that’s supposed to, by itself, serve the needs a diverse group of editors. That’s the competitive environment that Avid finds itself in, and it looks like there’s no going back to the old world of high prices and neatly defined market segments. However, just how these suites should function is still up for grabs.

Working with Final Cut, you end up creating separate projects in each application, and this can be problematic. Getting data between them is quirky and inconsistent. Dealing with an underlying Final Cut sequence that keeps changing isn’t easy. Hooks to make it easy to conform your work outside the suite don’t necessarily work. And not all the applications are consistent in terms of look and feel.

It’s arguably easier for software engineers to add functionality via the suite, but it’s not at all clear that we editors want so many separate applications. Take a look at Microsoft Office. Yes, they’ve kept spreadsheet and word processing separate. But Word now includes all kinds of desktop publishing features, and HTML and graphics are included via modules. Double click on an image and your toolset changes — but you stay inside Word.

One of the key questions application designers now face is how much functionality to put in the main ap and how much goes into the suite. Personally, I skew toward putting more power in the central program where I can get at it easily. I don’t particularly want to learn Pro Tools to do temp mixes — I want more power in Media Composer. But when the time comes to do full-bore final mixing, I sure want to know that everything I do is going to move over to the big sound ap, easily, transparently and intact.

There’s no magic to this — some things are better done in the editing application and some are better done via the suite. Figuring out which is which might turn out to be a big part of what separates the winners from the losers in the next round of post production competition.

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6 Comments on “Too Suite?”

  1. Frank Capria Says:

    Agreed. Suites make good marketing, but how much real value they add for editors is an open question. Please forgive me for a blatant blogroll here. The only reason I post this link a post on my blog is because it includes a link to a white paper written by Boris Yamnitsky that really supports your point.

  2. Mark Burton Says:

    Well put, I also agree with this sentiment. I think sometimes there is a tendency for companies to create a new app as it provides them with an extra item to market – the customer is getting a bigger bag of tricks – when in many cases the features offered by that program could have been rolled into the flagship app and would ultimately have been more useful for the user. LiveType is a prime example, and although Cinema Tools was an acquisition, it should have been rolled into FCP years ago.

    On a less cynical note, its perhaps also true that its much easier and more reliable for the company to build an app from scratch rather than retrofit the features to an existing, complex app. If the flagship app has a very solid architecture, then it could potentially handle many more features, but it does seem like both Media Composer and Final Cut Pro are reaching the point where their becoming too complex for their own good.

    The integration of the Interplay features in MC 2.5 caused many issues for people who were not even using that system. Perhaps its time for a complete renovation.

  3. Steve Says:

    Frank,

    Can you post a link to Boris’ whitepaper here?

    Thanks,
    Steve

  4. Norman Says:

    I think that the biggest supporters of the suites are two:

    1) small, independent filmmakers who can’t/won’t farm things out to other people because any cost is too much, and

    2) producers who think the same.

  5. Frank Capria Says:

    Steve —

    Sorry, somehow it didn’t post. The link is:

    http://www.capria.tv/2007/05/17/a-different-approach-to-nle-workflows/

    To follow up a little bit. I wonder if some of how we feel about suites is based on experience. After working with Avid for 17 years, After Effects for 11, and DVD Studio Pro for a few years, I want to work with tools I’m familiar with. Integration is less important than overall ease of use and quality of output.

    Fabulous work and great thinking, Steve.

  6. Steve Says:

    That’s a very interesting paper and the points he makes are absolutely spot-on. Thanks for posting it, Frank. What makes it so unusual is his focus on re-cutting, something that all too often gets short shrift. We editors know that there is nothing that doesn’t get re-edited and efficiency with changes is critical.

    The plug-in approach is effective with Red because you simply double click on the existing effect to rework it. Motion integration comes close, but the fact that you have to create and maintain a separate project (and import new material into it, as needed) is a real weakness. Mr. Yamnitsky obviously thought all this through very carefully.

    One thing he doesn’t mention is how Boris effects work when we’re conforming, say, on a Nitris. I’m rarely working at finish quality. Everything has to be conformed either in HD, 2K or 4K.


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