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iCloud and the future of collaborative editing

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Chris Kenny
iCloud and the future of collaborative editing
on Mar 9, 2013 at 4:21:31 am

I have some experience with iOS development, and I'd read the iCloud developer docs a while back. But it just clicked for me today how directly relevant some of iCloud's capabilities are to FCP X.

Do I mean to say we'll all be using iCloud to sync events and project files? Well... maybe someday. But what's more immediately applicable here is not iCloud, the Apple-hosted service, but some of its underlying support technology.

iCloud has these things called 'ubiquity containers'. A ubiquity container is a sort of magic box. An app can put a document in one, and that document is available to other instances of that app on all the other devices connected to the iCloud account. Apps can use this for regular documents. But where things get really interesting is when apps use it with Core Data documents. See, there's some additional magic with those.

For those who aren't familiar, Apple describes Core Data as a "an object-graph management and persistence framework". In slightly more accessible form, that means that developers can use Core Data to represent the various pieces of data their apps work with (that's the object part). Core Data provides a lot of capabilities for defining how one piece of data relates to other pieces of data (that's the graph part). And Core Data also provides an easy way for apps to save all of this out to disk and load it back in later (that's the persistence part).

iCloud, though, can provide an additional service to apps that use Core Data — syncing. Not passive Dropbox-style syncing, where if you have a text file stored on Dropbox open on two Macs, and you edit it on one of them, you won't see the changes on the other until you close and reopen the file. Active syncing. Of the live object graphs in whatever apps are using the Core Data document in question. This means live updating — make a change on one computer, see it on the other a few seconds later.

As for the relevance to FCP X, guess what FCP X event databases and projects are? Yup. They're Core Data documents.

Add Core Data syncing to FCP X, and you'd hypothetically get seamless live syncing of projects and events. This means you could literally be watching the event viewer update as another user tagged clips, or watching clips move around in a timeline as another user edited — and you could also make changes yourself, which would be propagated the other way. Mix in some shared storage, so you can all actually access the same media files as well, and you'd have an absurdly powerful collaborative editing environment.

Now, actually syncing this stuff over the Internet to Apple's iCloud servers may or may not make sense. It's actually not as implausible as one might think, because iCloud's Core Data syncing does incremental updates. Once the initial document is uploaded, only changes need to be sent. But even if that isn't practical, Apple could simply package this same technology into a locally deployable, re-imagined version of Final Cut Server.

When might we see this? It's hard to say. I haven't written any code that uses Core Data syncing myself, but I've read that it's still rather buggy. And using it as I've described in FCP X would be by far the most ambitious use anyone had tried to put it to, as far as I'm aware. But it's hard to believe something like this isn't somewhere in FCP X's future.

--
Digital Workflow/Colorist, Nice Dissolve.

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Michael Gissing
Re: iCloud and the future of collaborative editing
on Mar 9, 2013 at 4:49:00 am

So it works like Google Docs and Calender have been working for years. Many users share the one file with real time updating possible. It also sounds like Adobe Anywhere as described to date. It makes sense for Apple to have such a thing for certain collaborative workflows.

I have often used the Google docs route to do remote directed narration recording where we all share the directors script and can add best take info plus all edit the words and have them show on all screens. That combined with Skype for monitoring and talkback and it is a powerful simple way to collaborate with interstate clients.

Editing picture that way? Why not.


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Chris Kenny
Re: iCloud and the future of collaborative editing
on Mar 9, 2013 at 5:40:58 am

[Michael Gissing] "So it works like Google Docs and Calender have been working for years. Many users share the one file with real time updating possible. It also sounds like Adobe Anywhere as described to date. It makes sense for Apple to have such a thing for certain collaborative workflows."

It's hard to tell exactly how 'live' Adobe Anywhere is in this sense. Adobe's demo video seems to show changes being sort of 'published' back to the server, and possibly someone manually hitting a sync button to see them.

But yeah, Google Docs does demonstrate this kind of live collaboration. You can also see this sort of syncing with existing iCloud apps — open a contact on your iPhone, update that same contact on your Mac, and see the change happen back on the phone.

Apple could launch something like this with just project and event metadata syncing, leaving users to sort out shared media access. But they might also want add some sort of streaming tech to address the media access problem — Adobe Anywhere has something like this.

--
Digital Workflow/Colorist, Nice Dissolve.

You should follow me on Twitter here. Or read our blog.


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Jok Daniel
Re: iCloud and the future of collaborative editing
on Mar 9, 2013 at 4:43:49 pm

[Chris Kenny] "Add Core Data syncing to FCP X, and you'd hypothetically get seamless live syncing of projects and events. This means you could literally be watching the event viewer update as another user tagged clips, or watching clips move around in a timeline as another user edited — and you could also make changes yourself, which would be propagated the other way. "

Really cool stuff for sure, but no need to wait for the future. You can already do this with Lightworks.


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Andrew Kimery
Re: iCloud and the future of collaborative editing
on Mar 10, 2013 at 12:30:09 am

Avid has Interplay Sphere and a couple of years ago showed a live demo of remote editing at NAB where they were editing footage on servers in VA using a web-based app on a laptop. One goal of the project was to allow any web-enabled device (laptop, desktop, tablet... not sure about phone) to use a Java app to edit remotely (so no need for an MC install). I haven't heard anything about it since which is a shame because it looked like the type of jump start Avid could really use.

Online video game services like OnLive and Gaikai (now owned by Sony) have shown that with fast consumer-grade internet connections you can basically remote in and play games located on their servers with minimal lag so an editing app should be sufficiently responsive. The elephant in the room is of course where does the media live, what kind of hardware does it need to reside on and what kind of bandwidth does it need in order to run smoothly. Not to mention who's the IT guy that gets the 5am call when the server in LA goes down and the people in NY are sitting on their thumbs. ;)

For first party hardware and multi-user experience Avid obviously has the advantage but whether or not they can compete with off-the-shelf solutions is a big question. Apple has an ecosystem advantage but the walled garden may keep more people out than in and Apple seems skittish to go too deep down the post production rabbit hole. Adobe has an advantage with it's CS bundle and could be first to market with an solution for the masses (well, post production masses) but I'm skeptical about what it will take to 'live stream' ProRes HQ or similarly sized files.


-Andrew




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