The Ground Shifts

As we move into NAB time (the show starts Saturday), it seems to me that the Apple/Avid competitive landscape has shifted significantly. Final Cut hasn’t delivered a major upgrade in two years and won’t have a booth in Vegas. But Avid has been busy modernizing their feature set and doing serious work on reliability and performance. Two years ago Final Cut seemed almost unbeatable, and many people were predicting the end of Avid. Today, things look a bit more balanced. I participated in John Flowers’ “That Post Show” podcast recently and the consensus of the participants was that Media Composer’s new “Advanced Media Architecture” (AMA) is a big win for Avid. (The show isn’t online yet. I’ll post a link here when it is.)

You can work with just about any Quicktime media in FCP, and you can do it without conversion. That used to look like an important advantage. But today, many file-based cameras don’t shoot in QT formats. You can usually convert (“rewrap”) your media to QT — but if your format is supported by AMA, MC doesn’t ask you to do any conversion at all. You just grab the media and start cutting. Avid’s Achilles heal, the fact that it forced you to convert everything to its native formats, has morphed into a big advantage. And, strange as it may seem, the fact that Final Cut is tied so strongly to Quicktime begins to look like a limitation.

MC 3.0 brought big performance and stability improvements that were long overdue. I was able to work for three months with version 3.05 and could count the number of crashes I had on one hand. Final Cut isn’t nearly that stable. Version 3.5 brought additional improvements. And MC still beats FCP hands down for precise and complex trimming, something that many long-form editors, myself included, can’t live without.

It would be foolish to assume that Apple has been standing still these last two years, and I expect we’ll hear more from them soon. But in the meantime, MC is looking better and better.

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3 Comments on “The Ground Shifts”

  1. oynk Says:

    Hi Steve

    I caught the show on iTunes. It was great!

    I had always leaned towards Final Cut at home because it tends to ‘play nice’ with the variety of formats I use. Lately, I have been shooting with the Canon 5d, so MC was not an option. It’s great to see Avid competitive again.

    As for NAB, it’s hard to say why Apple is not going. Maybe, like pulling out of Macworld, they are trying to get away from a ‘convention’ timeline for product releases and market to the consumer when they are ready. Since they have the latest Final Cut at every store, I suppose people can get hands on time there.

    I am going to NAB and I will check out MC 3.5. I am definitely interested in seeing how Avid implements AMA. They seem to be finally heading in a good direction.

    Great post.

  2. mark Raudonis Says:

    Avid’s presence at NAB sure ain’t what it used to be… but then again, many of the vendors have scaled back.

    What strikes me from walking the aisles for the past two days is that the entertainment media is a HUGE business. It’s no longer JUST about broadcast or theatrical film. The market has expanded expotenially in the last few years.

    So, in that spirit, I think it is no longer about Avid vs FCP, but about niche markets that need solutions. Just like no single codec is right for every situation, no single NLE can possibly be the “one solution” for all the many segments of the entertainment industry.

    Mark

  3. Steve Says:

    Probably very true. Almost everything we expected in the early days of the digital revolution turned out to be wrong. Democratization of the technology leads to market fragmentation, narrow-casting. Did anybody predict that?


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