Archive for the ‘Adobe Premiere’ category

Filling Niche Space

April 17, 2012

In evolution, when one species disappears, others evolve to fill the vacant niche. That seems to be exactly what’s happening now in post production. A year ago, Apple abandoned the professional editing world by releasing FCP-X and putting a bullet in FCP 7. The product has improved since, and contains many  innovative ideas, but the consensus today is that if you want to edit professionally, you’re better served elsewhere.

In the intervening year, we’ve seen fundamental redesigns of the two major competitors, Media Composer and Premiere (both now at version 6) and, as of yesterday, the redesign and repositioning of Autodesk’s Smoke, now called Smoke 2013 and selling for just $3500. Not to be outdone, Avid has offered a competitive upgrade from FCP 7 (or Media Composer) to Symphony for just $1000. The result is a reinvigorated group of tools for both creative and finishing tasks, and a changed competitive landscape.

For more about Smoke and Premiere, check out two recent episodes of Kanen Flowers’ “That Post Show” — “Smoke This Podcast” and “Adobe CS6.”

“That Post Show” on Editing Applications

August 25, 2011

If you’re looking for some thoughtful and provocative discussion about the future of editing applications, and specifically about Final Cut vs. Media Composer vs. Premier, check out yesterday’s episode of the podcast, “That Post Show.” Hosted by Kanen Flowers, participants were Paul Del Vecchio, Scott Simmons, Paul Zadie, Shane Ross and me. The episode is entitled “Unstoppable Hydraulic Pressure,” which is a quote from something I said about the power of market share in the post landscape. You can get it for free from the iTunes store.

Abandoning the Fans

July 10, 2011

In a recent Creative Cow podcast (on i-Tunes), Walter Biscardi and Richard Harrington go into vivid detail about why FCP-X won’t work for them as professional editors. Matthew Levie makes some similar points in a five-part diary describing his first experiences with the program. Though their comments represent the earliest of first impressions, the fact that these long-time FCP users had so many problems has to be taken seriously in Cupertino.

Whatever you think of Apple, Jobs and company sure have a knack for stirring things up. Depending on your background and your prejudices, Final Cut Pro X is either a stroke of genius, modernizing and expanding the company’s dominance in the semi-pro world, or a classic blunder, alienating some of its most loyal customers, who owe their careers to the democratization that FCP brought with it. The new program has many problems: no compatibility with FCP7, no import or export beyond Compressor and Motion, no provision for site or volume licensing, no good way to use multiple monitors, minimal support for tape I/O, a metaphor based on “events” and “projects” rather than media and sequences, a single on-screen viewer rather than the traditional source/record windows, and a powerful resemblance to iMovie. All of which says to existing professional users, “We don’t see you as our customers anymore.”

Apple is working a playbook it knows well, the same one it used with the original FCP: democratizing and enlarging the market by going after a group of customers that the other guy doesn’t know exists. But the first time, they were seen as a savior, a Pied Piper. This time, they have an existing user base. Those people have already pinned their hopes and built their businesses on Apple. All that accumulated experience now will have to be relearned.

This undoubtedly represents big opportunity for Avid and Adobe. But as pro users migrate to other applications, Apple’s competitors would do well to remember that FCP1 was also seen as a toy. Avid didn’t seem to take it seriously until the growing customer base began to suck the oxygen out of the post production environment. And despite the initial problems, FCP-X contains plenty of real innovation. At the end of the day, it’s the innovation that matters — the company that makes the best musical instrument, the one that lets me produce the sweetest music and have the most fun doing it, is the one I want to use.

As creative professionals, we all rely on an implicit, long-term collaboration with the developers of the applications we use. Did Apple made a business decision to accept defections at the top of the market in exchange for more customers further down the food chain? Or did its legendary secrecy cause it to underestimate the push-back it would encounter for changing so many basic features? It may take some time to sort that out. But one thing seems clear: the relationships we create with our favorite software applications may be more one-sided than we think.

FCP-X and the Pain of Democratization

June 27, 2011

Avid editors looking for a bit of shameless gloating will enjoy the latest installment in Kanen (John) Flowers’ podcast “That Post Show” (iTunes). Dormant for some two years, the show has reappeared with a new episode featuring four longtime Final Cut editors talking about FCP-X — and they are not happy. In their view, Apple has turned its back on professionals, creating a program they can’t use to make a living and leaving them with little alternative but to switch to Premiere or Media Composer. Some of the features they mourn: a source monitor, multi-cam editing, bins, windows that can be broken up onto multiple monitors, trim mode (they reserve special scorn for FCP-X’s “precision” trimmer, pointing out that FCP-X is inherently imprecise), the ability to cut from one sequence into another, OMF/AAF export, EDL support. The show was recorded soon after the release and is thus based on the earliest of first impressions, but it makes for some entertaining listening.

There are plenty of serious limitations in FCP-X — but there were huge limitations in FCP1, too. The pain of democratization is always wrenching, and this release of Final Cut will be no different. Every new release, it seems (including the appearance of the first Media Composer), has made editing more accessible and expanded the base of editorial talent. But by seeming to abandon its existing customers, Apple has confronted many editors with a choice they never wanted to make, and forsaking the company that once empowered them, or accepting a program that doesn’t serve their needs. Whatever you think of Avid’s performance over the last decade, new management has been doing its level best to listen to and work with editors.

None of this should cause us to overlook the fact that most of the innovation in FCP-X is focused not on workflow, but on editors and the editing process. Randy Ubillos is nothing if not creative when it comes to the experience of editing, and I, for one, want some of those features now: waveforms that don’t constantly redraw; background saving and rendering (rendering has gotten all the press, but saving will mean more to me); background proxy creation (and the ability to switch from proxy to full-res media with a click); “clip connections” that let you drag music or sound effects with the picture it’s synched to; compound clips that allow you to collapse and uncollapse portions of a sequence; “audition” groups that let you cut more than one option and quickly switch between them within the sequence, and of course, excellent timeline performance with long-GOP media. I understand the mixed reaction to the magnetic timeline, but I’d love to have it as an option.

Short term, FCP users are facing a difficult choice, which is good for Adobe and Avid. But long term, FCP-X represents a new challenge, appealing to a whole new audience of media creators and offering them features that nobody else has. Yet.

For those of you who are thinking about making a switch to Media Composer, I encourage you to take a look at my book Avid Agility (now available in print or for Kindle). If you want to get the most out of Media Composer and do it quickly, it’s your best resource.

Customer Support – Not!

May 29, 2011

I recently spent some quality time on the phone with Microsoft customer support in the far east. I’ve used Microsoft mice for years, but I needed to temporarily uninstall their mouse driver. I ended up speaking to five people including a supervisor and the supervisor’s supervisor. None had any Macintosh experience. There is apparently no such thing as Microsoft Mouse/Keyboard support for Mac. After two callbacks, the supervisor’s supervisor finally informed me that the uninstaller exists in the my Utilities folder. It doesn’t have the same name as the mouse driver, but there it is. Time wasted — two hours.

I’ve had similar experiences with Adobe tech support for its publishing program, In Design, where it often seems that all problems can be solved by reinstalling the application or trashing your preferences. If that doesn’t work, then the bug you found is actually a feature.

We’ve all had these experiences. And painful as they are, they are one thing when they relate to your phone bill, and another when they’re about a piece of software you depend on to make a living.

Two weeks ago Avid took over the AlphaDogs Editors Lounge event with a series of simultaneous, small-group meetings where customers could get up close and personal with key Avid personnel. CEO Gary Greenfield was on hand, along with the principle Media Composer product managers and engineers. Anybody present could pose questions to the key decision makers at Avid and get honest answers.

Contrast that to Randy Ubillos’ impressive Final Cut X demo at the NAB Supermeet. He showed off lots of intriguing technology, and the crowd cheered. But no questions were permitted.

Avid and Apple are playing to their strengths. Apple is once again democratizing the market, making it possible for more and more people to edit, and hoping for customers numbered in the millions. Avid is building on its deep roots in the professional community and keeping those relationships as close and current as possible.

I’m glad both companies exist. They’re doing different things and both are important. But when it comes to customer support, I’ll take the up close and personal kind, any day.

Conforming Red

October 17, 2010

Red is now Hollywood’s great science experiment, with workflow options proliferating almost every day. How do you do dailies? How do you transcode and sync? Who is archiving your media? We’re finally starting to get our arms around those issues, but there are still too many options. And the bigger question now is how you conform.

“The Social Network” team actually did it in their offline cutting room, moving from Final Cut to Premiere and from there to After Effects, using EDLs (not XMLs) and dpx files (not the native R3D files). They then turned over to a Pablo for timing. (Adobe has posted a video laying this out.) I’m finishing a TV movie that was cut with Media Composer 5, conformed in Smoke and timed in Lustre using the native R3Ds, which gave us all kinds of color control. And those are just two of the dozens of permutations available. Before we started shooting, I spent a full week going over them, and at the end, the conversations were so filled with jargon that a normal mortal listening in would have thought we were nuts.

We do more and more visual effects work in our offline editing rooms. In television, I’ve gotten very spoiled seeing my work conformed perfectly using Symphony. There’s a tremendous sense of freedom in that — if you get something right, it’s finished and you never need to think about it again. But in features we don’t generally experience that particular thrill, because above HD resolution everything has to be rebuilt, and too often, by eye. Each system has its strengths and weaknesses. Smoke is powerful, interfaces with Lustre for timing and understands many MC4 effects — but MC5 is another story. Baselight understands XML (but not all effects). After Effects is cheap but doesn’t understand either one. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

The whole thing is a mess. Conforming complex visual effects by eye is crazy, and somebody is going to make real money straightening it all out. More fundamentally, will we be conforming in our cutting rooms or at a post house? Or will increases in processing power make the whole thing moot?

Meanwhile, be prepared for a new workflow on every show you do, with new options, new gotchas, and new things to learn each time.

The Zen of Trim

April 20, 2010

I had an interesting debate with a music editor friend the other day. Frustrated (as we all are) with the hoops you have to jump through to move material back and forth between Media Composer and Pro Tools, he suggested that MC simply start using Pro Tools as its audio engine. And not just the engine — the whole UI. MC just synchronizes with PT. End of story.

I completely agree with the need to move sequences/sessions and media back and forth without conversion. But much as I envy the Pro Tools toolset (as I describe in this post), I don’t want to rely on the PT interface. Why? Because I’d have to give up Trim Mode.

My friend wouldn’t have it. “I can do anything you can do,” he insisted. I tried to explain that he can’t trim while watching picture or listening to sound. He said he didn’t need that — he just drags things around and hits play to check the work. Or he trims using PT’s trim tool. No problem staying in sync.

I wasn’t making any progress, so I finally pulled out the laptop and made a single dialog cut. My point was this: Most of my cuts are overlapped. When I adjust picture, I usually want to adjust sound somewhere else to stay in sync. With MC, I can trim all parts of an overlap while playing and watching any one of them. When I stop, I’m done. The ability to see realtime video while the cut is made, and to observe what’s happening at any part of the cut, audio or video, a-side or b-side, while keeping everything else in sync, is something I can’t get anywhere else. Not to mention the ability to do asymmetrical trimming, or trim two heads or tails, slip or slide, etc., all while watching, or listening to, any portion of the cut.

I had to show it to him three times. Each time he scratched his head, thought for a minute, and said, “well, I can do that, too.” And I kept insisting that he couldn’t. Finally, on the third go-round, came the reply, “Lemme see that again.” And then, finally, “Wow — I guess that IS pretty cool.”

His conclusion? Digi should add a trim mode and then Avid could merge the two UIs. My conclusion? Video and audio editors need different tools.

The discussion also gave me new insight into the other major editing applications, and how difficult it is to explain the power of Avid’s trim model to somebody who’s never really used it. I know, I know — plenty of people have switched from MC to FCP and have never looked back. But for a lot of us, trim mode is the holy grail. If I had to, I could work without it — I just don’t ever want to.