Opening My Mind Has Opened Doors
COW Library : Art of the Edit : Richard Harrington : Opening My Mind Has Opened Doors
The past few years has forced me to rethink a lot of my business decisions. What I'm going to lay out for you is how I reached the decision to switch from Final Cut Pro to Adobe Premiere Pro, as well as why part of my postproduction department is running on Windows.
A MAC GUY, TO SAY THE LEAST
To say the least, I'm a Mac guy. I learned on an Apple II in grade school. Got my first Mac at Drake University, which required each student to have one. I ran a publishing company, a web company, worked for other companies, and then myself, all using Macintosh workstations and Apple-centered workflows.
Along the way, I was certified as one of the First Final Cut Pro instructors. I've written more than 10 books specifically about the Mac OS and Mac-only applications. I've spoken at Macworld, Mac Live, and numerous other conferences about the Mac. In fact I'm writing this story on a MacBook Pro using Apple Pages, which is by far my favorite word processor.
So what happened? I guess you could say "I lost my religion." I have not abandoned the Mac platform -- it's still the majority in our shop -- but I have become much more open-minded about where Windows fits in and how PC manufacturers offer a wider range of machines with a lot more potential processing power.
Running parallel systems. Please click image above for larger view.
MOMENTS OF CLARITY
I was pulling together footage and selects to show a client. I had about 45 minutes of interviews that I needed posted to the web for their review that night. Everything was complete in Final Cut, and I chose to export, first, directly to Compressor, then with reference movies. In both cases the compression time was well over 2 hours for simple iPod-formatted movies. Two hours of my life about to be wasted, and one more meal I missed with the wife and kids.
Then the lightbulb went off. Because I had the Adobe Creative Suite installed for Photoshop and After Effects as much as anything else, I already had the Adobe Media Encoder installed too. It is wicked fast, 64-bit and uses every core to its fullest.
Adobe Premiere Pro can import an XML file from Final Cut Pro, so I quickly saved out an XML from my FCP project, and imported it into Premiere Pro. Since I wasn't moving any media -- Premiere and FCP were on the same Mac, and like all of the computers in our shop, connected to the SAN -- my FCP project imported into Premiere in about two minutes. A quick menu pick in Premiere of File > Export > Media, and the files were off to Adobe Media Encoder.
RHED Pixel's HP DreamColor monitor works alongside their Apple Cinema Display. Please click image for a larger view.
The 45 minutes of footage that was going to take FCP/Compressor two hours to render was only going to need 30 minute to compress on the same Mac using Adobe Media Encoder. I clicked "Go," and walked down the hall.
Out of curiosity, I opened the same FCP project in Premiere Pro on the PC tower. Our network drives can be seen by Mac or PC, so the footage was already in place. With Apple QuickTime and the ProRes decoder on Windows loaded, the project opened in a snap.
For giggles I chose to export the project again, to compare it to the similarly-configured Mac --17 minutes on the PC, and it was done.
From two hours on Mac, down to 30 minutes on the same Mac, to 17 minutes on a PC.
I was hooked.
Then Apple made the decision pretty easy for even those on my staff who were most resistant to change. After a few days with FCPX, even the most stubborn were ready to switch to Premiere. It was all the motivation we needed to embrace a new path.
WHERE WE ARE NOW
Once you launch Adobe Creative Suite, there is no real difference between Mac and PC from an aesthetic point of view. The apps look the same on both platforms and behave the same. Where they deviate is speed.
You can build a Mac Pro with up to 12 cores. You can go to a 1 GB graphics card, and 64 GB of RAM. Need card slots? You get three. Memory? There are eight slots to fill.
On the other hand, we recently got an HP Z800 workstation. Just as easy to open up as a Mac Pro, and once inside, no tools needed to access slots, change drives or even power supplies. Instead of topping out at 2.93 GHz, I can go up to 3.6 GHz (with several more choices for processor speed).
Twelve slots of RAM can go up to 192 GB of RAM, and up to 6GB of GPU power. For a Mac user, such choices, and such speed, are simply not available.
WHERE WE GO FROM HERE
Moving forward, we're mixing Macs and PCs. We just converted one of our edit suites over to PC, building it around the Z800. The speed of the Z800 combined with Premiere Pro's ability to work with native camera media is quite compelling, but we have found that we can still run parallel systems. We left our Mac Pro in the room on a KVM switch which allows the PC and Mac to share the same keyboard and mouse, so that if an editor needs to jump over to the Mac, it's just a push of a button.
As we move new projects over to a PC-oriented workflow, we can still go back to the old Mac systems for Final Cut Pro 7. If we want to, we can port old projects and most of their organization into Adobe Premiere Pro. If it's just a quick fix, we go back in time, but moving forward on new projects we don't look back. The old assets and old project files serve as great starts to new projects.
I think our state of mind can best be summarized by one of my musical heroes (who I've had the pleasure of talking to in person). The great George Clinton said "Free Your Mind... and Your Ass Will Follow." So will increased profits, faster workflows, and greater flexibility.
You don't have to choose. Use both for the tasks they are best suited, and for us, that means the HP Z800 for heavy lifting.