Archive for the ‘Final Cut’ category

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.

FCPX 2nd Day

April 14, 2011

For a better look at the FCP-X introduction, check out these videos: part 1, and especially part 2. What’s striking to me on second viewing is how much of the demo focused on editing. There were none of the de rigueur things we’ve gotten so used to — no mention of the number of realtime layers, for example, and little discussion of which media formats can be used. Instead, they talked about how editors work.

A few examples: The timeline doesn’t have tracks — it just has empty space. Sync picture and sound clips can be moved around as single objects. You can have multiple, independently editable timelines in the same sequence. Instead of audio keyframes, you drag the ends of fades. When you trim, all the clips in the timeline move. Speed ramps are done by grabbing part of the clip itself and stretching it.

It remains to be seen whether I would want to cut a complex sequence without asymmetrical trimming. Or whether I’d want to look at a timeline where sync audio clips and dialog edits weren’t visible. Or whether I’d want to lock music and sound effects to picture clips all the time in order to keep sync when trimming. Or whether I could do without the ability to lock two sequences together and compare them side by side. Nor is it clear how you’d turn over to sound, or share a project between editors, or handle big projects.

But whatever you think of this demo — and today’s reaction was pretty mixed in some circles — it focused on how we work. That’s where the innovation was, and that’s what got the crowd charged up.

What Was Said and What Wasn’t

April 13, 2011

Well, the wait is over — Apple showed off what the company is calling Final Cut Pro X, at the Supermeet in Vegas last night. Some of the speculation turned out to be fairly accurate: full use of all CPU cores and the GPU, enough performance that they can claim you’ll never have to transcode, resolution independence up to 4K with mixed resolutions in the timeline, background rendering — and a decidedly iMovie-style interface.

There were many features designed to help you automatically organize, clean up and subclip material: shot recognition, face recognition, color correction, audio clean up, stabilization, all on import. Range-based keywording and something they are calling “Smart Collections” — all medium shots, for example, can be auto-identified, listed automatically and played together as if they’re in a sequence. You’ll be able to start editing a shot before it has been fully copied from a memory card to a local drive.

Other features include skimming with pitch-corrected audio, automatic syncing of multiple cameras as in PluralEyes, sample-accurate syncing, shot nesting (multiple versions held in a single timeline clip), multiple audio fade curves along with waveforms that move with clips and respond dynamically to level adjustments (audio keyframes seem to be a thing of the past), a color-managed workflow with automatic color matching between shots and secondary correction.

The timeline has been rethought in many ways. It doesn’t have fixed tracks — they’re dynamically created and removed as needed. There’s no viewer window — everything is played in what used to be the canvas — but there’s a nice audition feature, allowing you to merge alternate takes into a single object and then quickly switch between them within the sequence. There’s an an iMovie-style “precision” trimmer, but instead of Avid-style multi-track trimming you get the ability to define sync relationships within the timeline. Clips remain locked together even if they weren’t shot together, which makes it easier to move stuff around without throwing music or sound effects out of sync with picture.

The editing model is even more drag-and-drop than current FCP, and to make it work, clips move out of the way to accommodate a drag, something Apple calls a “magnetic” timeline. Drag and drop encourages track proliferation — you just keep stacking stuff up. To deal with that, there’s a new nesting feature, called Compound Clips.

The capper — it’ll be sold as a download from the Mac App Store — for just $299, available in June.

Many questions remain unanswered. What has become of the rest of the suite: Motion, Soundtrack Pro, Color, DVDSP and Compressor? Visual effects tools, titling and mixing weren’t discussed. How will Final Cut fit into professional, collaborative working environments? Will it export to Pro Tools? Can you input or output to tape? Will it even generate an EDL? In classic Apple style, the demo allowed for no questions.

In general, the new FCP is another step in the democratization of editing. aimed squarely at people who need to quickly rough out a story from miles of unstructured, file-based material. Those making documentaries, commercials, webvideos and reality tv are going to find a lot to like. For structured material, it makes less sense. Whether automatically moving clips around in a timeline and automatic track creation will work for scripted features and television remains to be seen.

We’ll certainly see a lot of discussion about it today. Let the fun begin. Additional details are available at ProVideo Coalition. There’s a detailed live blog at Photography Bay with some hidden camera video here.

Pre-NAB Editors Lounge Video

April 8, 2011

Video from the Editors Lounge Pre-NAB Panel Discussion was posted yesterday. I was part of it, and we covered a lot of interesting stuff, including the new FCP, the future of the editing UI, 3D, the lack of HDCAM-SR tape stock due to the tsunami, and many other things.

The other participants were Terry Curren, Mark Raudonis, Lucas Wilson and Michael Bravin, and the panel was moderated by Debra Kaufman. It was co-sponsored by Alphadogs and Keycode Media.

The video is in four 15-20 min. segments. So the two hour panel has been expertly trimmed to about 80 minutes.

Check it out at Vimeo.

Part 1 – Final Cut Speculation and Predictions
Part 2 – Evolution of the Editing UI/Editing Outsourcing
Part 3 – The End of Tape/Thunderbolt/Camera Evolution
Part 4 – 3D/Questions and Answers

Final Cut Pro 8 Tuesday?

April 7, 2011

It appears that Apple will take the wraps off FCP8 (aka FCPX) at NAB Tuesday night at the Supermeet, a user group event that once focused on Final Cut but lately has branched out. This year is was supposed to feature presentations from several companies, including Avid and Aja, but on Tuesday the program abruptly changed, with Apple bumping all other presenters. The supermeet web site now refers to a “surprise sneak peek at something very special,” which is presumably FCP.

Terry Curren broke the story on the Avid-L listserv and Steve Hullfish has commented there and on the ProVideo Coalition blog. As you can imagine, there’s been plenty of talk in the blogosphere, and the reaction has not been all positive. Some people, including Scott Simmons, are pretty unhappy about the way Apple is throwing its weight around.

Without a presence on the show floor and even before the show opens, Cupertino has demonstrated that it has the power to suck all the air out of the room — without telling us a thing. Mark Raudonis made a presentation at the Editors Lounge a couple of weeks ago and got everybody talking without saying much more than “I saw it and it’s awesome.” When he was asked whether he plans to switch his company over, he politely demurred. That’s Apple’s MO — use mystery and surprise to focus attention. It’s in stark contrast to Avid, a company that now excels at reaching out to, and working with, its customers.

Based on Jobs’ design philosophy, the new version will probably focus on performance and user experience, and eliminate old metaphors whenever possible. I suspect that it will be resolution independent at least up to 4K, probably higher; it will use all the cores and graphics power on modern Macs, and attempt to make transcodes a thing of the past; and it’ll be fully multi-threaded, meaning that you’ll be able to save, render and do all kinds of other work while video plays. It may also ignore tape I/O and eliminate the source/record metaphor. Many features we’ve come to expect may be missing in action.

Will we in the professional world use it? Maybe not immediately. Avid will continue to shine in fully professional environments. But Apple has already got our attention. On Tuesday the reality distortion field will disappear, the multiverse will collapse into ordinary reality, and we’ll know a lot more.

FCP Speculation

March 5, 2011

Phil Hodgetts and Terry Curren devote their latest podcast (websiteitunes) to speculation about the upcoming Final Cut Pro 8, and what might have transpired at the super-secret demo that Apple held for 100 luminaries on Feb 17. The main takeaway: no viewer/source monitor (as in iTunes), no tape I/O, background rendering, all 64-bit, running on a new modern codebase that is no longer tied to Quicktime — and all purely speculative, of course. But it makes for interesting listening. The release is promised this Spring.