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The Big Change Around NLE - Plugging Into Asset Management Systems (Pt. 1)

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For a $50 note: Professional Editing at Consumer Prices. George Jarrett hears that editing has moved on in terms workflow sophistication, secure reach and handling growing files. The big question on many lips is, will Apple bury FCP X and come again?

Having spent a year interviewing editors who cut popular feature films and worry more about first assistants than the technology they use, looking at the area of software editing packages takes you into multiple other areas. One is the freelancing community; honest enough to say their life is 20% craft editing and 80% grunt editing, turning round highlights and stitching together programs.

You hear comments such as: "Traditional editors do not like FCP X. If it was good enough to replace FCP7 they would all be using it." People figure that growing the feature set without going back to refine the UI and jumping to 64-bit will pull them away from Apple to Adobe or Avid. Which one though? And will we see FCP X11?

The debate about what people adopt and evangelise about means you will hear comments about Avid's editing interface being old fashioned, and Adobe's licensing model being a snare. In fact, editing is making such huge strides that the editing package that people prefer is no longer the big issue, if it is contemporary. Editors can enjoy the benefits of soft mount files and growing files, but not the rates they get paid in a crowded marketplace.
To find out where we are in terms of workflows and feature sets Adobe, Avid and Quantel give top vendor perspectives, and Root 6 provides an overview of what the market wants.

Al Mooney, Adobe Systems' senior product manager, Professional Video Editing, reacted first to a set of market feedback comments:

1. Adobe Premier is the natural successor to FCP 7. In many ways it is FCP8. It has all the tools you need although the UI is not as fluid and tactile as FP7.
2. NLE systems vendors continually update features without refining the editing interface.
3. No particular system has held its hand up to say it is the successor to FP7.
4. Freelance editors are R&D in the marketplace.

"Many FCP7 users feel like Premiere Pro is the right place to go next because it combines established, proven editing paradigms with ultra-modern file-based workflow support," said Mooney. "I don't like it being referred to as FCP8 because it is so much more than that – it may look similar in some ways but when you start using it you realise how fast and modern it is.

"Our support for high resolution workflows, our integration with other apps like SpeedGrade and After Effects, and the amazing power of the Mercury Playback engine put FCP7 comparisons to bed," he added. "Gone Girl could not have been done on any other system and those editors are the best in the business. We refine the 'editing interface' constantly – just look at our recent release – and refine the editing experience constantly too, taking feedback from our ever-growing user base."

Growing file support was seen to be successful at the FIFA World Cup, where Premiere Pro was used exclusively with EVS. Given that NLE systems essentially do the same thing, how does Adobe differentiate itself?

"We differentiate in a number of key ways: we are the most open NLE manufacturer and work directly with customers to build the right product," said Mooney. "We learnt so much from Gone Girl, and from the World Cup. If you don't do R&D alongside customers, you'll fail. Our other key differentiators are Creative Cloud integration with all the other apps.

"The VFX workflow on Gone Girl made maximum use of Dynamic Link. We have best of breed support for the huge array of file-based media out there now. We have published six releases since May last year, all bearing features.

"We went 64 bit and GPU optimised way back with CS5. We have Adobe Anywhere for remote editing," he added. "Final Cut users know they will be able to learn the product fairly quickly, because they know they can open up their old projects via XML. Switchers are usually extremely comfortable in a couple of days and then start discovering all the things they couldn't do before. FCP7 was a fantastic product, but it's old, it’s 32-bit, and it's resolution limited," said Mooney.

How does the Adobe Creative Cloud come into play with the different types of editors? "We focused on the broadcast market initially and have seen enormous success there across the globe. Film is increasingly important to us, from indie to the very highest end as people saw with David Fincher," said Mooney.

"There was some resistance in the market to our move to a membership model but I believe that the vast majority of our 2.8+ million subscribers see enormous value. We have never been so aggressive with feature bearing releases and customers see that value," he added. "$50 dollars a month gives you every creative product we make – not just the NLE, but also Prelude, After Effects, SpeedGrade, and Photoshop, plus cloud features, plus integration with our range of touch apps like Premiere Clip."

Can one editing platform handle the needs of such a wide variety of editing professional? "There is so much variety today that I don't think one single product can address every market. Premiere Pro is a very powerful tool for broadcast, film, and high-end work. But if you want to shoot something on your iPhone and put it on YouTube Clip addresses that," said Mooney. "We also have Prelude designed as a simple and effective rough-cutter."

David Colantuoni, Avid's director of product management, identified with the different demands from editing groups. The user community council ACA is a big influence on Avid's product developments.
"We understand that there is a need for film craftsmen to get their work done more efficiently, but also not to let technology get in their way," he said. "But then there is this other side of the coin, that needs things like support for 4K, a more robust codec, faster storage, or the things that go along with movie technology."

The next release will give background rendering. "That will help everybody, but we have smaller things that editors have asked us for like bins that will carry from project to project," he added. "It is just a little thing that means a big thing to an editor every day, particularly a cinema editor who has multiple clips in multiple bins, and multiple projects going on at one time. We try to keep our user base happy by giving them the tools that make them more efficient but also move forward as technology moves forward."

"What we are designating for is to adapt to anything greater than HD resolution. And when 8K becomes more mainstream we have built the Avid media central platform, which is where a lot of the player engine sits for Media Composer today, so it is extensible," he continued. "We spent a lot of time adapting and making our architecture more robust over the past few years to accommodate for this. It will handle what anyone wants to throw at it in the future."

Away from the technology, Avid has accommodated the business models that many Final Cut and Adobe editors follow. "We have a deep editorial product that's embedded in so many media and entertainment facilities round the world. One area that we wanted to appeal to was the group using Final Cut 7 who wanted something different. We adapted our business model to accommodate them," said Colantuoni.

"A lot of users still think of Avid as expensive, that you need a large facility and a lot of hardware. But that is not true. You can buy a Media Composer today for as little as $9.99 a month if you are a student. And that's the same version that you can edit an Oscar winning film with," he added.

The article is also available to read in BFV online.


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