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Re: Avid Media Composer gets slick overhaul

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Tim Wilson
Re: Avid Media Composer gets slick overhaul
on Apr 8, 2019 at 11:01:23 am
Last Edited By Tim Wilson on Apr 8, 2019 at 11:11:11 am

[Michael Gissing] "I contend though that if you truly want to work at the "speed of imagination", you need a dedicated control surface."

For grading, absolutely. It's insanity to think otherwise.

For editing, though, I'd encourage you to sit with an experienced Avid operator (editor or assistant), and tell me that they're not moving at something resembling the speed of imagination by keeping their hands on the keyboard. Many of the features that have kept people using Avid through the years, say, trimming, come down to adding the suffix "that you can use without taking your hands off the keys."

[Steve Connor] "Cue wailing and gnashing of teeth in parts of the Avid Community ☺"

Some of you old-timers will recall that among my previous jobs before coming to Creative COW was as a Senior Product Marketing Manager in the Media Composer family. My last NAB there was 2006, where I rolled out the first software-only Media Composer, among other goodies.

I went on many customer visit where we showed them some pie-in-the-sky stuff that looked and acted as modern as anything you can imagine. One of the fellas working on that stuff indeed left to become a manager at FCP who then managed FCPX for many years before his retirement....and the most common reaction was, "WOW! I LOVE IT! Implement any of it in the shipping product and I'll murder you in your sleep and burn down your house with your corpse in it."

Technically, I only heard that one once, but it was understood to be the feeling underlying the more polite responses as well. My heart continues to go out to anyone trying to drag new features into that community....

....ALTHOUGH, that said...I think that the stereotype of Avid being crusty and old is just that. There certainly are those, but the growth in that community is being driven by young editors, make no mistake about it. Students are coming out of school knowing it, fangs dripping with enthusiasm to make their mark in the industry -- and because they're well-versed in other software too, and ways of working that aren't rooted in film, they've been making their demands more insistent.

Frankly, if you look around the COW, there's no older, crankier forum than this one (I say with no small fondness, being both older and crankier than two-thirds of you), and few forums more packed with young people than the Avid forum.

And yeah, many of them are the assistant editors who are doing the heaviest lifting with things like multi-application interoperation, media management, and creation of deliverables. Workspaces that accomodate those operations, which may not involve whatever you're calling timelines these days, are no less integral to the ecosystem of what we call editing than the editing itself, make a HUGE difference in the pleasantness of using those applications.

Which is to say, what's firmly attaching these youngsters to Media Composer is the opposite of inertia. It's that Avid is the only application that's extensible enough to not only do what they need it to do, but to also get the rest of the interface out of the way AND allow them to work on teams that in practice are scaling into hundreds and even thousands, combining local and remote infrastructures, etc etc etc.

[Oliver Peters] "At the enterprise level, large broadcast users can set up restricted workspaces by task. For example, a very streamlined view with limited permissions for the user, like a logger, producer, reporter, or assistant editor. All set up via a central profile control panel by a sys admin. Log in as the editor and you may see the full toolset, but log in as a reporter and you are only exposed to a subset. This is something that places like NBC or large university film labs are quite interested in."

This is the same dynamic viewed from the top. Avid's stickiness isn't that major networks and film schools are afraid of change. It's that they ARE changing, they need to change FASTER, and Avid is keeping up with those changes in ways that no other company is even attempting.

Which largely has nothing to do with what most folks here are doing, sure. You can call it a niche if you want, but it's a niche that represents a staggering number of jobs. Not just the 500 narrative series in the US, but corporate work, military, large-scale education -- this isn't just about a couple of dozen geezers working in LA County. It's the people with the biggest pile of jobs, and the biggest pile of money, and other vendors just aren't in the game.

[Oliver Peters] "There's a lot more going on than just the UI refresh. It's also the first iteration of an ongoing overhaul project that will continue to play out over the year."

There are ways in which that's the least interesting thing about this release. Maybe THE least interesting thing, except to the extent that it's customizable. And you rightly point out, Oliver, that it's critical to understand that the customizing can be done at at admin level for the dozens or hundreds of machines that might be in play, and especially in educational settings, each of which might have multiple users who need unique settings. Managing this on a machine-by-machine basis is impossible.

And as you also rightly point out, the interface that's most usable for you may be unusable for me. So the bullet point is the one you identified, that it can look like many, many different things, and that is admittedly cool.

But the "ongoing project overhaul" is HUGE, and it's another place that Avid is pressing their advantage. I mean, we've been hearing yapping about ACES (the Academy Color Encoding System) since NAB 2015 (or NAB 2014 if you were paying attention, but the 1.0 spec was Dec '14), and Avid is the first NLE to support it -- and in up to 16K, no less.

Until now, it's mostly been for finishing, so applications like Resolve, Scratch, Nuke, Baselight, et al cared, but this is another sign of Avid moving away from Media Composer's heritage, and become tied directly into the heart of the delivery system.

Not for the editor necessarily. Maybe that's an assistant editor, or some job whose description hasn't quite been written. But it's another aspect of stickiness through functional extensibility.

You may say, yeah, but I'm not making movies that care about that kind of thing. If they want to get onto Netflix, they do. Here's last year's workflow diagram, from a pretty hilarious blog about the movies that Netflix engineers are making in-house to test these workflows themselves.

Here's the link to the article itself, which really is a highly entertaining read. You've surely already noticed that the EDL is being generated by Premiere Pro, and there's probably never going to be a need for them to use anything else for their in-house test shorts. It was 6 years before they even attempted making these shorts be actual stories.

The point is that Avid is officially not content to stop at the EDL part of the process. They don't want ANY technological limitation be the reason they stop. Maybe you want to switch to another application -- fine. Hence the emphasis on the increased range of deliverability options.

Yeah yeah yeah, none of this may STILL apply to you. Maybe you're going to be the guy who hands off the cut list and washes your hands of the workflow. That's fine. I don't know about you, but I'm more than ready to have fewer components to my own job. LOL But Avid's days of stopping at the cut list and washing their hands of the rest of the workflow? Gone. They want it all.

The remarkable thing is that they're already responsible for 90% of what's not just on TV as we used to define it, but on streaming, too. Avid's not only keeping up with the workflows necessary to be part of mainstream streaming -- they're making moves to move ahead.

It's been especially interesting to see what Avid editors are talking about on social media. One guy posted that the thing that most excited him is small thumbnail views in bins. This is similar to our old friend Scott Simmons' perspective that the most exciting feature in the new Adobe release is copying and pasting audio parameters. It's not always the mountain that stops forward motion. Sometimes it's the pebble in the shoe.

So I was struck by the reply from another old friend, Alan Edward Bell, a frequent COW contributor before he jumped to the blockbuster league with The Amazing Spider-Man, followed in quick succession by the final 3 Hunger Games pictures and then some.

He's definitely back to the sort of middle-aged big-time movie editing dude that I was just saying isn't necessarily the key target for Avid anymore, but I think he's got it right, that this is an exciting release, and especially exciting to think about in terms of first steps for what's next.

But it ain't just about the UI.

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