Archive for the ‘Apple’ category

Apple Gives and Takes Away

June 11, 2012

Those looking for a better Mac Pro at WWDC were likely disappointed today. Apple released a modestly refreshed model with faster, 4-core and 6-core processors, but without USB3, Thunderbolt, or the new Ivy Bridge CPUs. Macbook Pros were updated with Ivy Bridge, Nvidia graphics (in the 15″ models), Thunderbolt and USB3 and continue to include Firewire 800 and Ethernet. The top of the line machine is now a 15″ model with a retina display, no optical drive, 256 GB of SSD storage, but without Firewire and Ethernet. It’s thinner and lighter at just 4.5 pounds. (A Thunderbolt to Gig-E adapter is available now and a Thunderbolt to Firewire-800 adapter is promised for next month.) The company now no longer sells a 17″ laptop. The Macbook Air line got upgraded with Ivy Bridge chips and USB3, along with faster speeds, faster SSD drives and lower price tags.

For more about the Mac Pro check out this piece at ArsTechnica. Additional coverage is available on their Infinite Loop page. Macintouch’s summary of the keynote is here. For prices and marketing videos, check out the Apple site or the Apple store.

Mac Pro to Resurface at WWDC

June 6, 2012

Posts have appeared on several rumor sites describing Apple’s expected hardware announcements at the World Wide Developer Conference next week. All the models will presumably sport USB3 ports, allowing us to use inexpensive USB3 drives at full speed. And a new Mac Pro will apparently be part of the lineup. This is welcome news for those of us who prefer to do our editing on Mac-based systems. Despite Tim Cook’s belief that we are now living in a post-PC world, if Apple had let the Mac Pro line lapse permanently, the professional content creation world would have probably begun a slow and inexorable march to Windows. New Macbook Pros are said to be thinner and lighter, with Intel’s Ivy Bridge chipsets, retina displays, no optical drives, and perhaps missing Ethernet and Firewire ports (yes, you read that right). We may also see some models with NVidia GPUs, which could improve real-time performance for editing and effects applications.

Steve

October 6, 2011

By now, you all know that Steve Jobs passed away yesterday. Many words have been and will be written about him, and how much his vision and passion changed our lives. He was determined to see the future and make it real, and he did that many times over in his short career. Apple’s “think different” ad lauded “the crazy ones,” “the trouble makers,” “the ones who see things differently,” and “who push the human race forward.” Steve Jobs was very much one of those people, and today, one day into a new world without him, I wonder if any of us yet know how much he will be missed.

Dealing with Big Monitors

September 6, 2011

This is a little one, but it’s made an outsized difference to my work. Some of you are undoubtedly cutting on laptops, but for those sitting in front of a couple of 24″ screens, a common complaint is that so much screen real estate makes it easy to lose track of the mouse cursor.

Though many people don’t seem to be aware of it, you can easily change the cursor size with an OSX control panel. Go to System Preferences > Universal Access > Mouse and Trackpad Tab. You’ll see a Cursor Size slider. Bump it to the right and your cursor will get a whole lot easier to locate. It’ll look a bit more aliased, but that’s a small price to pay for greater usability. (You can do the same thing in Windows with the Mouse Control Panel.)

For more tips like this, check out my book Avid Agility, available in print or for Kindle at Amazon.

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.