2011 may be the year in which the US begins to decide on whether we want a new President, but far more engaging to us will be which and when facilities make moves to new Non-Linear Editing software.
The fact that FCPX was rarely being shown as a possible NLE to interface with a company's widget was glaring evidence of the industry-wide dismissal of the product as a viable solution. Even in situations where showcasing FCPX would make sense, such as pairing it with a direct attached storage solution via Thunderbolt, manufacturers were more keen on using standard utilities to show performance, or showing Adobe Premiere Pro or Avid Media Composer playing back 2K footage from a laptop. Some even stubbornly clung to showing FCP 7, in deference to the majority opinion that staying put on an NLE choice was the wisest thing to do until more information is known.
We were most surprised that there wasn't an update to FCPX at the show, but that might have been wishful thinking: Apple long ago unhitched Pro Apps updates from trade show schedules. And as for the notion that "we want to get it right" will work for this industry, we believe Apple can now take all the time it wants to get it right. If Apple's strategy is to take the pressure off themselves with regards to release cycles, they may well find their strategy too effective, as former customers decide enough is enough and start planning their NLE migration strategies.
Avid and Adobe continued their consolations and eagerness to listen, which still strikes us as insincere.
For Adobe's sake, CS6, which was not being shown to the public at the show, is getting further hyped as the make-or-break version to start the industry migration avalanche.
And in evidence that reality is settling into the mindset at Avid, the US$999 cross-grade promotion for Media Composer will turn into a US$1499 offer beginning on October 1.
Which brings us to a shining light amidst this debacle, and oddly enough, the title of the software reflects its proposition: Lightworks. Once a DOS-based NLE forged in the early days of computerized film editing, the software has risen again in the form of a Windows-based open source all-purpose editor, funded and championed by the folks at EditShare. But the exciting news is that Mac and Linux ports are in the works, as well as a sensible way for the development team to pay their own salaries down the road. A "membership" in LightWorks gets you access to their full suite of native codec support, upgrades and user forums, with engineering support coming at an additional price point. Want to try it out? Download it. It's free. We have done so, and will be actively involved in the QA of the Mac version when it supposedly becomes available in December. We've always wanted an open source NLE for our customers. The demo we saw told us that LightWorks may very well fill the bill.
The World of Collaborative Workflow and MAM
We spent a lengthy amount of time in the "stand" of Square Box, makers of CatDV. Kevin Duggan knew of us, why we were there, and welcomed us in as if he were anticipating our interest. In several patient sessions, with stories thrown in for good measure, he demonstrated why the product is so solid. We stand sharpened on its capabilities, and will add it to our spec list going forward. While we continue to think that it's not perfect for all sites, we have a very clear idea of where it will fit well.
Our colleagues at Gallery were showing Sienna in a comfy corner of the Isilon stand, to which they have clung quite happily for a few years now. Sienna is still top on our list for soup-to-nuts news and sports workflow, and its capabilities keep growing. For example, a new geo-tagging feature adds a level of intuition to searching the catalog that is unmatched by systems ten times the cost.
We also took a fresh look at MatrixStore from Object Matrix. There's been a tremendous amount of innovation here, far from its old proposition of using Xserves and Xserve RAIDs to create a nearline. Nick Pearce-Tomenius and team have cobbled together a "nearchive" storage solution that is fresh and inspiring, using storage modules that they designed and commissioned themselves. Most impressive is the built-in ability to replicate media repositories between geographical spans automatically and transparently.
But what we are truly laser-focused on is finding the next media asset management system that will allow us to replicate the features in Final Cut Server (well, the features that actually worked). The obvious requirement will be to transparently transfer all resources and metadata in our clients' current catalogs, as well as preserve the back-end workflows that they have come to rely on. But to stop there would be irresponsible: the new system will need to be simpler, more capable in its ability to hook into other solutions and systems, and most importantly, it shouldn't take advantage of our customers in terms of the pricing vacuum that Final Cut Server left in its wake (read: "Oh, Final Cut Server is dead. Let's charge one million dollars for its replacement.")
We're pleased to announce that we have solid leads in this area, and will be going into the lab to begin research. This is not something that will flourish overnight, nor will it be something that we gleefully announce to the world so our competitors can profit from our sweat and toil. But how can we continue to be leading contributors within the integrator and administrator community while preserving our right to do business? We can do this by forming an international consortium of trusted colleagues who champion collaboration over profit. Those colleagues are smiling as they read this, because they know who they are. We know that it's going to be a challenging but satisfying road ahead, and we are grateful that we'll be doing it together with them.
As always, we welcome your comments.