On July 13th, 2011, AVID hosted an evening dedicated to providing a simple message: Avid is listening to its professional users and committed to that marketplace in developing the new features that editors want. The Steven J. Ross theatre on the Warner Bros. studio lot was packed with nearly 550 editors. Join Debra Kaufman as she highlights the evening's events.
Editor's Note: We were pleased to let the folks at Avid speak for themselves, to explain their current and future plans for meeting the needs of professional editors. We look forward to doing the same with representatives from other companies in the very near future. -- Creative COW
At the Steven J. Ross theater on the Warner Bros. studio lot, Avid CEO Gary Greenfield, COO Kirk Arnold, and other Avid executives held an evening of conversation and information devoted to getting a simple message across: Avid is listening to its professional users and committed to that marketplace in developing the new features that editors want. The theatre, packed with nearly 550 editors, frequently broke into applause, both at the message and the description of the future direction that Media Composer will take.
"We're here because you're our lifeblood," declared Greenfield "We're here to talk and listen, but mainly to listen."
The emphasis on listening to customers was Greenfield's way of differentiating Avid from Apple's recent launch of FCPX, which has alienated and angered many long-time FCP editors, especially those in the professional film/TV arena. And, although the words "Final Cut Pro" were not mentioned directly at the Avid event, the subtext of the get together was just as clear as the one overtly expressed. To sweeten the deal, Avid has been offering Media Composer at $995 for Final Cut Pro editors who want to make the switch.
"I've always believed in Avid," said student editor Eric Harnden, who has been cutting indie films with Final Cut Pro. "I thought that FCP was taking over the market, but being involved with FCP for the last three years, I've noticed that Apple doesn't listen to editors and Avid does."
Norman Hollyn, photo left
Howard Brock, former President of Runway Inc., photo right.
The recent brouhaha over FCPX was on everyone's minds. "At the moment, it appears that Apple's strategy with Final Cut Pro is to take the loss of 100,000 higher-end editing facilities and editors, in exchange for the 1,000,000 or more mid-range single person shops who do everything themselves (from editing to sound and finishing)," said Norman Hollyn, professor/editing track head at the University of Southern California's School of Cinematic Arts. "Realistically, that's a hugely growing market, so I can't say that I can fault Apple's business sense. But it royally pissed off a lot of people who work in a collaborative higher-end environment."
According to Arnold, the response to this $995 offer to switch from FCPX to Avid has been substantial, although she declined to reveal the numbers. "It's why we're continuing the offer this quarter," she said. "We have a chance to reintroduce ourselves to the community."
The company also reconfirmed its long-standing educational pricing of $295 for schools, teachers and college students, with college students also receiving four years of complimentary upgrades. The same offer goes for ProTools and students can also purchase EDU (Media Composer + Pro Tools) for $495, again with four years of upgrades.
The evening began with a conversation between Avid Technical Marketing Specialist Matt Feury and editors Jonathan Alberts (Like Crazy, Wristcutters: A Love Story, The High Cost of Living) and Alan E. Bell, A.C.E. (500 Days of Summer, Duplicity, Gulliver's Travels, Water for Elephants). Both editors talked about their history of cutting on Avid systems. Alberts learned Avid in film school but, as soon as he got out of school, switched to Final Cut Pro to cut several small indie features. "The pressure to cut with FCP was financial," he says. "And people felt more comfortable with FCP. It was a difficult conversation to tell them they should use Avid." Alberts recounted how, although he became quite proficient at FCP, discovering all the new Media Composer features enticed him to return to Avid.
Left to Right: Gary Greenfield, CEO of Avid; Alan E. Bell, A.C.E., editor; Jonathan Alberts, editor; Kirk Arnold, COO of Avid
Early in his career, Bell gravitated to Avid. He recalls, in the early days of nonlinear editing, looking at D-Vision, Media 100, Lightworks and then purchasing an Avid. But that changed. Bell switched to Final Cut Pro because he could easily buy the system. Then he saw Avid Media Composer version 5. "I knew I could get back to ScriptSync which I really missed," he confessed. "And I don't regret [going back to Avid]."
Next, Paul Foeckler, Avid VP, Creative Professionals, took the stage to show attendees what Avid is planning for the future. First, he described "an amazing amount of activity" in the last three years, starting in June 2008 with Media Composer version 3.0 "That was the beginning of the 'new thinking' campaign to turn our attention back to customers," says Foeckler. Avid delivered four releases of Media Composer in short order: version 3.5 in February 2009, which resolved format issues; version 4.0 in September 2009 which allowed editors to mix-and-match different frame rates; version 5.0 in June 2010, a major release which enabled third party monitoring and RED support; and now version 5.5, released in March 2011, which opens MC up to another third party iO system. "All in all, we've added over 200 major product enhancements," said Foeckler.
Photo of Paul Foeckler, vice president creative professionals
The trend over these last few years has been to make Avid increasingly open. "The most significant innovation over the last two years is AMA (Avid Media Access)," he said. "It came from a customer suggestion that Media Composer be able to link to media natively." A plug-in architecture, AMA (Avid Media Access) lets editors get native, direct access to file-based video without moving, importing or transcoding media. The editor can instantly view, edit and playback clips with access to all metadata, and cut different media formats together in the timeline without converting clips. Video formats include RED, QuickTime, HDCAM SR Lite, XDCAM, P2, GFCAM, and Canon XF.
Foeckler also pointed out Smart Tools. "It makes Avid feel more like other software applications," he said. "And you can turn it off and work in Media Composer's traditional way. It's all about choice."
Also improved is the popular ScriptSync with PhraseFind, a phonetic search tool in Version 5.5 that works in all languages and is completely integrated with the timeline. "There's also better interoperability between Media Composer and ProTools 9, between picture and sound," said Foeckler. "We're bringing more audio innovation inside Media Composer because people are asking for it. It blurs the line between sound and picture."
What Avid plans for the future was the highlight of the evening, although Avid stressed more than once that what they showed was not a toolset, but rather prototypes. Attendees were enthusiastic about the prototype features:
64-bit architecture will be the foundation for future versions.
A new UI that will focus on what people are used to with OS but will not sacrifice tools or memory muscle.
The need to address frame sizes bigger than HD, with 2K and 4K
More formats available to AMA
A ProRes encode as well as decode
Prototype/Technology Demonstration UI Image for customer feedback (not a shipping product).
Foeckler stated that customers are also asking for help with stereoscopic workflows, something that Avid intends to address. "There are currently 50 films in 3D in production," he said. "There are 18 million 3D-capable TV sets already sold. It's happening. Broadcasters are also engaging with us and we're developing serious innovation in 3D."
Avid also intends to integrate Dolby Surround Sound creation in Media Composer, and is also looking at supporting complete color correction inside Media Composer. The future will also see Avid supporting more hardware. "We're working with AJA, Matrox as well as Blackmagic Design, Bluefish 4:4:4 and Motu," he said. "Our strategy is to create a completely open atmosphere that will work with any third party hardware."
COO Arnold had the final word: "We hope you'll embrace and trust the fact that we're deeply committed to the professional community and to your interests," she said. "You are our business. You are us. Eighty percent of our employees use our products at home. We're listening and we'll continue to act on what you tell us."
Left to Right: Matt Feury, technical marketing specialist at Avid; Jonathan Alberts, editor; Alan E. Bell, A.C.E., editor
Mingling outside the theater afterwards, more than one editor expressed an opinion on Avid's message and plans for the future. "Everything that Avid talked about and, frankly, they have been doing the last several years, tells me that they have decided that they are committed to that higher-end market," said Hollyn. "I know that their management and engineering teams have been much more open to listening to editors in all categories -- from the feature, commercials, and television editors who they've always had as customers, to the web video producers who write, direct, produce, shoot and edit their own material. Everything they said seemed directed at the group of editors who feel abandoned by Apple's new focus, even though they didn't mention Final Cut by name once. I still think you need to know as many tools as your mind can handle, but I feel really encouraged by Avid's direction."
"I believe them when they say they're loyal to the professional editors community," added editor Paul Petschek. "It shows up in the product. The technology development with version 5.0 was groundbreaking, the most technologically advanced development I've seen. They knocked it out of the park."
Howard Brock, former president of Runway Inc., compared the changes with Avid Media Composer to "your old love coming back into your life with a major attitude adjustment." "I think they're on the right track," he said. "Rather than taking everyone back into the tent with exorbitant admission fees, the new Avid philosophy is to embrace all users with open arms and give them what they are asking for. It's exactly the opposite of Apple's approach that seems to be something like, 'You're too high maintenance and I don't need you anymore now that I'm a rockstar and everyone wants to sleep with me'."
If Avid intended the evening to highlight the differences between them and Final Cut Pro, the response of more than one editor showed that this mission was accomplished. "In the wake of Apple's apparent abandonment of high end post production, Avid focused on how important feature and television editors are to them," said editor Steve Cohen, A.C.E., author of Avid Agility. "In stark contrast to Apple's traditional secrecy, the focus was on listening."
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