Avid Technologies’s exciting NAB news was a strategic alliance with Microsoft’s Azure Cloud Platform (1). The deal is clearly bigger news for Avid than Microsoft since the press release resides on Avid’s website and is merely a sentence on the Microsoft Azure blog, but this is still very exciting news. And I wouldn’t be surprised to see Microsoft buy Avid within the next two years.
Avid Media Composer IS film and television nonlinear editing. Full stop. Just take a look at their customer stories. Star Wars; Avid. Star Trek; Avid. James Bond Spector; Avid. Etc etc etc … Yes, there are a few outliers, but if you watch a show in a movie theatre or on television, most likely it was cut on Avid Media Composer.
Philip Hodgett’s excellent blog points out that Apple’s Final Cut Pro X has two million installed licenses, probably one hundred times more users than Media Composer; but that doesn’t really matter, because Game of Thrones uses Avid too! And what this means is that Avid Technologies is sitting a trove of meta-data larger than Smaug’s horde of treasure. (Yes, The Hobbit was also edited on Media Composer) And this is truly the next frontier of video analytics.
The current state of video analytics is focused on the viewer. Netflix’s spends an enormous amount of time trying to understand their viewers; why someone who watches Narcos and House of Cards, would also watch something dissimilar like Gossip Girl and Gilmore Girls. At NAB I saw company after company touting their superior ability to recommend content to viewers in order to keep them watching (2). But to me this is like a restaurant saying that everyone is buying their salad and avoiding their soup, without considering the quality of their ingredients or the method of preparation.
The next level of video analytics is going to be about the creation of the media we consume. As I’ve written before, as budgets shrink productions need smarter tools to help them make smarter decisions. The NLE is the natural place to gather the necessary data, and Avid Media Composer is the de facto tool for visual entertainment. With the proper hooks Avid Technologies has an unprecedented opportunity to revolutionize our understanding of visual storytelling production. The only risk is that Avid will either move too slowly or squander their opportunity all together. And there is plenty of evidence that they will do so.
Microsoft feels corporate in the same way that Avid does (3). Microsoft already sees the value in big data and provides IT services to large studios. This is a natural progression for Microsoft. Let’s see what happens, but Avid best not mess this up.
(1) Media Composer editors, on the other hand, should be upset, if not downright concerned about the lack of attention given to the crown jewel. Just look at the lavish attention Blackmagic Design has given Resolve 14. And it’s not just gloss, look at this innovation: Built-in chat & Timeline Comparison!! In many ways Avid is facing the same dilemma with Media Composer as Apple is with the Mac Pro; Media Composer IS Avid (1A), and if Avid Editors start to migrate away, the longterm value of Avid Technologies will be greatly diminished.
(1A) Avid is Media Composer, just as much as Media Composer is Avid because if you take away Media Composer, then Avid Technologies is just the maker of broadcast tools with dozens of competitors. Just the fact that when people say, “I cut on Avid,” and they are referring to Media Composer tells you everything about that product’s importance within the company.
(2) For all their talk of Chaos Monkeys, reading this article on in Variety about the trouble on The Get Down was very disappointing. Netflix compromised the core of their experience, ‘the binge watch’, in order to capitulate to a “creative vision”. I mean, after the first writer’s room was shutdown in Los Angeles and relocated to New York did Netflix evaluate what went wrong and put mechanisms in place to prevent it from happening again on other shows? What was going on behind the scenes when a second showrunner was replaced and production was delayed yet again?
(3) it is my understanding that IBM’s Watson Cognitive Technology or Google’s Cloud Video Intelligence are superior video analysis tools, but in regards to company culture Microsoft and Avid ‘feel’ subjectively more compatible.