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The Three A's; Avid, Adobe and Apple

COW Blogs : walter biscardi's Blog : The Three A's; Avid, Adobe and Apple
The 2010 National Association of Broadcasters convention had the Post Production world buzzing about the Three A's of the industry.  Apple, Adobe and Avid.   Well, really more Adobe and Avid since they were actually at the show and had something to demonstrate.

Adobe brought their CS5 creative suite to the show with some incredible announcements.  Not the least of which to me is the ease of integration with other NLEs like Final Cut Pro and Avid.  Adobe has decided to "play nice" with with their competitors to make it easier for Post Houses like mine to get projects into and out of After Effects for one.  Right now this requires plug-ins like the Automatic Duck Importer for AE (which is totally awesome by the way), but with CS5, we could essentially take an FCP timeline, send it to Premiere and then send it over to AE.  Ok, the Duck plug-in is around $500 and Premiere is $799 so it’s a bit silly to even consider Premiere just for this functionality.   But......

Premiere has taken a huge step forward with their 64bit enabled Mercury Engine.  Much more realtime functionality and you can see in their online demos 4k and 2k material scrubbing and playing back in the same timeline.  You will have to install CS5 in a 64 bit system to run and run an Adobe Certified graphics board in order to take full advantage of the Mercury Engine functionality.  But the functionality of Premiere is very much on par to what Final Cut Pro based facility are used to and the real-time functionality of the CS5 package simply blows FCP out of the water.  

Avid brought us Media Composer 5 and what really got the show buzzing was their support of Quicktime.  More specifically, Apple’s ProRes codec.  So now there is the very real possibility of Avid working right alongside Final Cut Pro in the same facility or for sharing projects across facilities.   
Not only that, Avid’s H.264 native editing support refutes everything we’ve been saying about that codec and Final Cut Pro for the past few years.  Whenever someone said they could not get H.264 to edit well in FCP (such as from a DSLR), we would inform them that it was not a proper editing codec, it was a finishing / delivery codec.  Transcode it to something else like ProRes.  Avid (and Adobe for that matter) is now showing that assumption to be false.  Take the H.264 and start editing right away in realtime.

And like Adobe, Avid has a much more seamless P2 / tapeless workflow that does not require transcoding, wrapping to be able to edit with this material.  Simply bring it in and start working pretty much instantaneously.  

Now the one thing Avid has NOT really done is open up the platform to third party hardware.  Right now you can use the Matrox MXO2 Mini for display only.  So you can watch your project on a monitor and do a crash record to a VTR or DVD Recorder but that’s pretty much it.   No support for the AJA Kona Boards or the BlackMagic boards at this time and Avid was very vague on whether that would come in the future.  “The MXO2 Mini is the first step” is what I was told during a meeting, but that was all they said.   What I would ideally like to do in our situation is install the Avid Media Composer 5 software to work on our AJA Kona 3 based systems.  This would allow me to hire any freelancer whether they want to work with FCP or Avid and we could work in one universal codec, ProRes so any system could access the media.  This is going to be a wait and see with Avid to see how willing they are to really open up the software to third parties.  Short term I might install one copy of the software with the Mini so an editor could use Avid in our shop and we would lay back to tape using a Final Cut Pro workstation utilizing Automatic Duck to move the project over.  Right now to really use the Media Composer software fully, you still need the Mojo hardware and I’m not going to spring for that.

So that leaves us with Apple.  (sigh) Apple’s lone appearance was at the Supermeet.  Note I said Supermeet and not FCPUG Supermeet.  That’s because the FCPUG part of it was dropped and in this case, for good reason.  Apple sent up Steve Bayes, Sr. Product Manager for Final Cut Studio to give a presentation.  Mind you, this followed the two jaw dropping presentations from Adobe and Avid.  Steve starts off with “I’ve got a secret” and proceeds to tell us really nothing at all about Final Cut Pro.  There was no secret, just more marketing buzzwords about how wonderful Studio is and how many production partners are using Studio or something along those lines.  See I can’t even remember much about what he said because it was basically meaningless.

Your two strongest competitors take the stage in what used to be the Final Cut Pro Users Group Supermeet, completely knock it out of the park, and all you can do is whiff?  I would like to say we heard crickets in the room, but that would be a disservice to the Rio Hotel so it was more or less silence that greeted this earth shattering “secret” from Apple.

When Final Cut Pro came out, the industry laughed at it.  Here’s a cheap little NLE knock-off that will never get traction.  Apple proved that wrong by offering a very low-cost, yet powerful editing tool that can truly work in all manner of film and television post production.  Apple worked its way to the top of the heap in terms of users worldwide, somewhere in the neighborhood of 1.3 to 1.5 million registered users (and who knows how many more “non-registered” users).  Nobody could match the suite of tools, particularly with the addition of Color, for just $999.

Well, now we’re all kind of laughing again.  Apple’s notorious silence allowed Avid and Adobe to completely leapfrog all discussion about Final Cut Studio and leaves the post-production community wondering whether Apple can keep up.  When your competitors can work with your very own codec (H.264) better than your own product, that’s a problem.  When your competitors can work with tapeless workflow better than your own product, that’s a problem.  When your competitors can work with more realtime functionality using your very own hardware, that’s a problem.   Basically Apple sent up Steve as a sacrificial lamb and really should not even have bothered.

The integration of the entire Adobe Suite has been much tighter than the Final Cut Studio suite for a few years now, but there really wasn’t anything to get me to even consider dumping FCP for Premiere.  In fact, despite the fact that many of us like to defend Final Cut Pro vs. pretty much any NLE out there by saying it’s the artist that makes the difference, not the tool, I never really considered Premiere as a viable alternative for editing.  It just never felt like a “professional editing tool” for whatever reason.  Probably just a personal bias and I just don’t hear of very many “pro users” that base their facilities around Premiere.

With CS5, the Adobe suite suddenly looks very promising as an alternative.  Even more so since it runs with all of our existing infrastructure we have in place for Studio.  The only change would be to replace our ATI graphics cards with the proper nVidia cards to support the Mercury engine.    If Avid opens up their software to all third party hardware, especially the AJA Kona boards, well then that certainly becomes a very viable alternative as well.

That’s one of the beauties of what Apple has actually created.   A very strong third party hardware market that is software agnostic.  By concentrating on just the software and computer hardware, Apple opened up the Audio / video hardware to multiple independent companies like AJA and BlackMagic who designed their products to work with multiple NLEs out there.  And as we all know, FCP / Premiere / Avid all work essentially the same way so if you know one, you can switch to another one pretty darn quickly.  

Will I make the switch?  I’m not doing anything immediately though I will upgrade all our systems to CS5 when that is released.  We run CS4 on all of our systems currently as we’re very heavy After Effects and Photoshop users so we have the Production Premium suite.  When the CS5 bundle gets here you better believe I’ll be poking around in Premiere to see how it operates and just how well it “plays with Final Cut Pro” and how it compares to working with Final Cut Pro.

No I’m going to wait to see what Apple has to show us, whenever that is.  They have to not only hit a home run, but knock it completely out of the park.  I want to see a realtime alternative to Adobe’s Mercury Engine.  I want to see the ease of use of H.264 and other tapeless formats that don’t require Log and Transfer with a re-wrapping.  I want to see very tight integration between the apps in the suite like CS5.  And I would really like to see Apple open up an “ease of use” path for working back and forth with Premiere and Avid systems.

So right now, my feeling and what I heard very often on the show floor, at the Supermeet and my various meetings with people is it’s time for Apple to put up or shut up.   They set the bar high for a full featured non-linear editing system at a very low price.  Adobe and Avid just blew right by them using the same hardware that is available to FCP facilities.   Is Apple going to move the Studio suite forward and really improve the workflow for professional editors as the other A’s have done, or are they simply going to maintain the status quo with a few updates to just continue to sell Mac hardware?   At the moment, Apple’s silence is deafening.   I'm reminded of the NFL Playoffs commercial campaign a few years ago, "Show Me Something."  Anything.....    Once I can see what Apple has to show us, then we'll make the decision on where we go from there.  We're about to grow from 4 to 9 edit suites in the next few months so what we see revealed from Apple will make the decision on where our company goes from here. I'm hoping they hit it out of the park so we don't have to change anything, but it's easy enough to make the switch if that's better for our company.

Of course the one thing Apple still has going for it is Color.  Adobe and Avid still don’t have anything to match that.   Oh that’s right, DaVinci took care of that for them, but that’s another blog entry.....

Posted by: walter biscardi on Apr 18, 2010 at 7:27:50 amComments (9) apple, final cut pro, adobe, nab, aja, blackmagic


Re: The Three A's; Avid, Adobe and Apple
by Matt Larson
The big game changer will be when Apple comes out with Final Cut iStudio, the editing app that works on iPhone and iPad: "We listened to our users, and what they told us they want is to incorporate the physicality of touch-screen-editing into our Final Cut Suite. What could be better than editing on the beach, or on the train? With just the flick of a finger Final Cut iStudio will MAGICALLY transition* between 2 separate pieces of video!" declared a proud mid-level manager who is the lackey they put in-charge of the Pro Apps division this week.

*Magical transitions limited to dissolves and unicorn wipes.

2 x3Ghz Quad MacPro
Mac OS X 10.5.5
QT 7.5.5
FCP 6.0.5
AJA Kona 3 (6.0.1 drivers)
G-Speed XL 12 RAID
@Matt Larson
by walter biscardi
Cutting on the iPad WOULD be fun, but in all seriousness, one thing that would be sweet would be the "cloud" editing that Avid is pushing. An editor anywhere in the world can cut a project via internet.

Since Apple is so big on their MobileMe cloud, wonder if they have given any thought to this. Sure you can use Logmein right now to accomplish something similar, but to have it built right into the app would be interesting.

You're out of town and your client wants a change, you can do it remotely from your laptop to your primary editing system. Or collaborating with editors from out of town without the need to ship drives and media all around.

Would be pretty cool and in theory, Apple should be able to do that better than Avid since they already have the MobileMe working. Of course, that means the MobileMe people would have to be allowed to talk to the Final Cut Studio guys. From what I hear, that won't be allowed to happen due to secrecy. Wouldn't want one side of Apple to actually know what the other side is doing......

Walter Biscardi, Jr.
Editor, Colorist, Director, Writer, Consultant, Author, Chef.
HD Post and Production
Biscardi Creative Media

"Foul Water, Fiery Serpent" featuring Sigourney Weaver coming soon.

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@walter biscardi
by Matt Larson
I'd like to see that cloud based system but geared more towards working with remote clients. Imagine sitting in your edit room and the client is in some other part of the world, and you can both preview the same clips at the same time, in real-time. Just as if they are sitting in front of a monitor in the studio.

The producer in a separate location would be able to scrub through proxy-media clips in your bins or watch your monitor out feed. Depending how far you want to go with it, even the ability to do assemble XML edits that can sync and load the full rez media back on the main FCP system.

Now THAT would make a great iPad app!

2 x3Ghz Quad MacPro
Mac OS X 10.5.5
QT 7.5.5
FCP 6.0.5
AJA Kona 3 (6.0.1 drivers)
G-Speed XL 12 RAID
Re: The Three A's; Avid, Adobe and Apple
by Don Walker
Are you saying Walter, that you expect to hear something from Apple in the next couple of months, that will enable you to make choices about your new suites, or are we all just waiting for next year for the next FCP update? BTW I have no regrets about moving from Woodstock Georgia 4 years ago to Texarkana, Texas, except for the fact it looks like now i would have a chance to be a freelancer at Biscardi Creative......... Rats!

John 3:16
@Don Walker
by walter biscardi
I have no expectations from Apple at this time. Who knows when we will hear something.

What I am saying is that Adobe and Avid have much needed traction right now and Adobe especially is looking like a very viable alternative. When the time comes, probably fourth quarter of this year, when we have to order all our new systems, I might hold off on order all new Studio suites and just order CS5 suites since we'll need After Effects and Photoshop in all the suites no matter what. Then depending on what Apple actually has to show us, then I will be able to make an informed decision on whether it's worth the upgrade or transitioning potentially to CS5.

As much as the Avid announcement is nice, without true hardware support for the AJA Kona 3 boards that we already own, that's not really a viable option for us since it would cost so much to outfit all the suites. CS5 is a much more cost effective option right now.

Walter Biscardi, Jr.
Editor, Colorist, Director, Writer, Consultant, Author, Chef.
HD Post and Production
Biscardi Creative Media

"Foul Water, Fiery Serpent" featuring Sigourney Weaver coming soon.

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Hi Walter. The fact is that
by Paolo Ciccone
Hi Walter.

The fact is that Adobe Premiere works with the native format for much of your media files and it doesn't require a conversion to a Quicktime format like Final Cut does and that is an architecture fundamental difference.

The same issue is causing the problem of final cut to not be able to use image sequences. The conversion to QuickTime seemed like a good idea of that time, to unify all the media into a single format, in reality it's posing a lot of of issues in the acquisition and editing of media material in real-time. Even whith CS three I'm able of acquiring footage with my HD camera and importing it directly into Premiere as HDV files, .m2textension, directly without conversio. If Apple wants to compete in that market it has now to make a major change in the architecture of final cut and that will take a lot of time
Decisions, decisions
by Gerry Fraiberg
Walter, thanks for the advice. I only have the single version of Photoshop CS4. Upgrade to Production Premium: $1,099. Upgrade of Final Cut Studio 3: $359. For a busy production house, or editor, the answer would be to get both. In a small town two hours east of Toronto, I'm thinking twice. I work in HDV and DV, shooting on a Sony Z5U. Maybe I should just build it and they will come. Build it bigger, that is.
Tough and easy choice
by walter biscardi

If you already own Photoshop / After Effects or even a CS package, you can get a Production Premium upgrade at a really good price. Included with that will be Photoshop, After Effects, Illustrator and of course Premiere among others. So if you need to upgrade Photoshop or After Effects anyway, go ahead and get the Production Premium package.

Then get a Mac Pro with the appropriate graphics card that will enable the Mercury Engine as this same card will also work with Final Cut Studio. What I would strongly suggest is you try out Premiere and see how you like it and if you do like it, you can always start working on it since it plays well with Studio. Whenever Apple announces Studio, you can decide if you want to revert back to FCP if the features are worth it, or just continue using CS5. Since Premiere is included with the full Production Premium package, it makes sense to play with it when you make the upgrade.

Definitely interesting times and now we just have to sit and wait to see what Apple's response will be. Let's hope it's "awesome."
The Three A's; Avid, Adobe and Apple
by Gerry Fraiberg
I'm still running FCP5 on a G5, in a small market as a lone operator (one man band?). I've been considering upgrading to Final Cut Studio 3 - until I started reading about CS5 and Mercury engines. I was running Premiere 6 with a Matrox RT2500 when I switched to Mac and FCP five years ago. The transition was painless, and the reward was a far more stable system. Now after reading Walter Biscardi's blog, I'm left wondering what to do. The G5 is still rock solid. To upgrade I need a new Mac Pro, whether it's to Final Cut Studio 3 or Premiere CS5 as part of the Production Suite. I'm also running Photoshop CS4 and Lightroom 1. Adobe is certainly making things interesting. And as you point out, once you know one system, it's easy to adapt to another.

Professional Video Editor, Producer, Creative Director, Director since 1990.

Credits include multiple Emmys, Tellys, Aurora and CableAce Awards.

Creative Director for Georgia-Pacific and GP Studios, Atlanta. Former Owner / Operator of Biscardi Creative Media. The show you knew us best for was "Good Eats" on the Food Network. I developed the HD Post workflow and we also created all the animations for the series.

Favorite pastime is cooking with pizza on the grill one of my specialties. Each Christmas Eve we serve the Feast of the Seven Fishes, a traditional Italian seafood meal with approx. 30 items on the menu.

If I wasn't in video production I would either own a restaurant or a movie theater.



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