Posts Tagged ‘Pro Apps’

Disruption

Tuesday, April 26th, 2011

On the basis of the now infamous “Sneak Peek” I think that it’s fairly safe to conclude Final Cut Pro X is about to challenge our assumptions and expectations about the process of non-linear editing. The idea that all the tools we use today will disappear or be revised beyond recognition strikes me as absurd, but I’m prepared to stand corrected. For those of you suffering conniptions at the thought that we’ll lose the “core functionality” we’ve grown to love, I can only say that I don’t actually recall How-to-export-an-OMF receiving prominence in any previous demonstrations of FCP, yet that particular option has been available for a while. Perhaps the answer will be that it is there, but it’s not really that new, different or exciting and therefore it didn’t make the presentation shortlist… (A little bit like Radiohead deciding to drop “Creep” from their live set because they’ve a new album out…)

Such is the price of innovation.

The truth is that we all know the score. You don’t need me to rehash the details. While you might still be smarting about the Xserve, I doubt you’re still upset at the loss of your floppy drive. Overall I believe the gains have tended to outweigh the losses. What is it they say about hindsight? Will you lament the obsolescence of FireWire should Thunderbolt deliver on its promise? Really?

Back in 2002, when FCP won a Primetime Emmy Engineering Award, Steve Jobs reflected that,
“Final Cut Pro has democratized professional video editing by bringing the capabilities of a $50,000 editing bay to everyone for under $1,000…” Today we all know that this wasn’t hyperbole. Whatever your thoughts on the current situation, you can’t deny that Final Cut Pro has had a profound impact on the world of post-production. The arrival of FCP not only provided new opportunities for filmmakers, but it challenged the existing models and practices of a well-established industry. While there are pockets that still cling to the old methods, the wider norms have changed and a new generation of post-production professionals has emerged. Even if you disagree that the changes were so dramatic, on a micro-level, without FCP, do you think we would have a strong Premiere Pro today or a software-only version of Media Composer? The release of Final Cut Pro marks a disruptive moment of innovation in the history and technology of post-production.

It is worth noting that we’ve seen similarly bold challenges made with other Pro Apps too. It might be difficult to recall that DVD authoring was a largely byzantine and prohibitively expensive practice before the introduction of DVD Studio Pro. By offering a relatively straightforward interface and toolset, working with DVDSP meant you no longer needed to be an engineer or pour over the DVD Specification to understand the process. The release of Shake for Mac OS X created new opportunities for visual effects houses as suddenly you didn’t need high-end, proprietary systems to create the most intricate and sophisticated effects. I probably don’t need to remind you about the changes to the world of grading wrought by Color. All told they could be as significant as the impact of FCP. Silicon Color’s Final Touch, at $25000 was something of a revelation, but the integration of Color in Final Cut Studio has enabled a different kind of workflow and quality of finishing that was previously only available at the top end of the market. Even the ancillary tools, panels and monitors, are available for a fraction of the price you would have been required to spend only 5 years ago. Most recently, with the toolset provided by Final Cut Server, Apple is providing a robust solution for media asset management at a fraction of the cost of competing products. These tools change business models and collectively they have reshaped a large portion of the industry, as well as opening opportunities in new areas of media production.

Of course this kind of “disruptive innovation” is precisely what Apple is known for. If all of the applications disappeared today, as the rumours have so often suggested, the world has already been transformed. I don’t think we’ll ever return to the old model. I’d like to believe that Avid understand this. Certainly I think the arrival of Nuke, Smoke for Mac and DaVinci Resolve suggest that other companies are looking for ways to further enrich the market and engage a wider crowd. But the Pro Apps do not seem to be in any danger of disappearing soon. So what is Apple to do now? How do you think the folks in Cupertino will respond to the emergence of all these new tools and opportunities? The answer, it would seem, begins with Final Cut Pro X. A new tool that embraces the latest technologies in Mac OS X. This release appears designed to set a new benchmark, to once more rewrite the rules, to innovate and disrupt the norm. In order to do this Apple will need to look beyond the established habits of the existing user base. If you think about progress of the application in these terms, you’ll understand that the developers have to. Come June you may look at FCP X and wonder where to start, but if you’re willing to adapt your methods, I suspect that before long you’ll find you can suddenly do so much more. You might then wonder what all the fuss was about, but hopefully you’ll be too busy editing.

As release of Final Cut Pro X approaches, take a moment to survey the current landscape of creative applications that are used within the post-production industry. I think that you’ll agree the legacy of Apple Professional Applications is evident. Yet even as the reverberations of the first seismic shift are still being felt, Apple appear ready to disrupt everything again.

Pro

Wednesday, April 20th, 2011

The overarching meme of the FCP X saga has got to be the “Pro” angle. You’ve almost certainly read the articles yourself and know the score already. I’m referring, of course, to the squall of questions and unbridled speculation around whether FCP X is really aimed at the “professional market”. These claims are often supported by the “it’s just iMovie Pro” trope and filled with arguments about whether the software will really support the tool set or workflows required by professional editors. Without testing the software in a meaningful way I think that it’s impossible to say one way or the other, but that doesn’t appear to be stemming the tide of opinion — or official response.

(For the record in an interview for MacVideo recorded at the SuperMeet, Steve Martin, President of Ripple Training, who actually seems to have some concrete insight, doesn’t agree that the sky is falling.)

As the storm rages on, I’m increasingly intrigued by how the term “professional” is being used and what it’s taken to mean. If we consider how it has been applied, it seems frequently to be used not only as a means of asserting the validity of ones own experience, but also as a way to exclude and reject other sectors where media production occurs in a professional context. I’m sure a lot of us are rankled by elitism, but in this situation, I’m truly surprised that the perpetrators don’t see how blinkered and prejudiced their arguments appear.

When Final Cut Pro made its debut in 1999, one of the things that justified the “revolutionary” tag was the price. 12 years later, it’s perhaps difficult to recall how radical the departure was, but $999 lowered the bar for entry, it provided new opportunities and ultimately changed the post production industry forever. Those of you with memories as long as mine will remember well the taunts that FCP was not suitable for professionals. Back then FCP was widely derided and in some quarters, the disdain has persisted to today. Despite all the evidence to the contrary, Final Cut Pro is often still regarded and dimssed as a “toy”.

One of the perks of my job as a trainer and consultant is that I have chance to work with folks from all manner of backgrounds. I meet the editors who cut with Avid by day, while working with FCP on independent projects at home. I have opportunity to train Avid stalwarts who are pleasantly surprised to discover so much of what they understood about FCP to be myth. For those with previous knowledge of Final Cut Pro, I will often advise more efficient workflows and ways to further integrate other applications in the Final Cut Studio suite. What is striking about the last crowd is that I never can tell where they’ll come from. Amongst the more predictable broadcasters, filmmakers, journalists, teachers and students, I’ll encounter anthropologists, web designers, visual artists, bankers, programmers, police officers (and their civilian co-workers), soldiers, youth leaders and campaign workers. I am never surprised anymore and it’s always intriguing to learn about how they’re using the tools. In fact that’s the one thing that unites all these people, in some way, they are working in a professional capacity with FCP to create original content. These are new jobs, new roles, which have altered the face of media production, as much as the internet has challenged and changed established distribution models. Just as digital NLE’s transformed the cutting room, there’s no turning back now. And when these people complete the courses I teach, they often come away with a greater understanding of how to work with the software than many broadcast editors. If I’ve done my job correctly, they will have an increased capacity to tell their particular stories more effectively.

As the release of FCP X draws nearer I can’t help thinking that we’re facing another shift. Only time will tell if it will be as dramatic, but history isn’t on the side of those who choose to resist it.

Fuss and Bother

Thursday, May 20th, 2010

Amid the clamour and speculation yesterday regarding the future of Final Cut Pro — everything’s okay — a number of folks referred to current job listings for Sr Human Interface Designer, Pro Apps and Sr Visual Interface Designer, Pro Apps. The consensus amongst the commentators seemed to suggest that these were “recent” additions, but the posted dates suggest they’ve actually been around since January last year.

Apple Job Listings 2010.05.20

While I share the passion a lot of people feel towards the Pro Apps, I prefer to read more considered analysis and choose my sources carefully. Above all I try to keep unsubstantiated claims in perspective and steer clear of the sites trolling for page views.