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That thing about ‘Avid’ editors

Going to the recent NAB convention it was hard not to be disappointed with Media Composer. I mean look:

IBM Waston + Adobe Premiere
IBM Watson plug-in demo for Adobe Premiere. Cognitive enables users to search media by emotion. It’s like an AI powered AE.

IBM just built a Watson powered Assistant Editor; that can be integrated directly into the NLE!! And Adobe Sensei is applying machine learning to our creative tools. Meanwhile Media Composer remains stubbornly walled off in the 20th century.

So why don’t broadcast and film editors abandon ship and leave Media Composer behind for more advanced (1) and flexible tools like many did 10 years ago when Final Cut Pro was introduced?

I think it is easy to be cynical about curmudgeonly editors and their stubbornness to learn a new tool. (I think of Paul Giamatti’s cameo on 30 Rock as Richie the editor) But I think the logical reason is that the value proposition just isn’t there, yet.

When Final Cut Pro was introduced, an Avid Meridian based NLE cost between $35k and $60k. At one thousand dollars, Final Cut Pro was a cost savings too big to ignore. But now that all NLE’s are in the sub-thousand dollar range, there is little value that new software can add to the post production process. I’d guess that the number one holdup to a more efficient television post production for most shows, is the notes process. There are few software improvements that can save more money, or speed up the process, then having stakeholders delivery quality notes on time.

The next order of magnitude in efficiency gain is going to be when the NLE is 1) able to reduce personnel costs, or 2) deliver valuable business insights.

A Production company with four or five shows that share a team of five or six assistant editors is a prime candidate for an the IBM Watson + Adobe Premiere combo, because the potential to reduce the support staff represents a savings of $100k+ each year. And Adobe Premiere’s tools are already primed to reduce the ‘technical’ work performed by A.E.’s; for example, advance Grouping and integration with Review & Approval systems like Frame.io and Media Silo.

But none of the NLE’s have introduced features for the stakeholders yet, and I believe this represents nonlinear editing software’s biggest opportunity. (Premiere’s advanced metadata support puts them in a prime position to add these features) A few prime examples, that I’ve written about before would loading footage or cast interviews. Once stakeholders are able to see what they spent money on versus what ended up on the screen; they will be able to make more informed decisions. Just like Google’s Alpha Go ended up teaching the world’s best players new strategies for the game.

What I find so interesting about the current state of affairs is that Adobe is so user forward. Their website is all about selling the experience of using their products to the people who will use their products day-in and day-out. Avid’s website has customer stories to remind you that they are the dominant software tool for film and broadcast television, but their website is clearly pitched at business people making infrastructure investment. There are no pages pouring love into the tiniest interface details of their newest release.

The people who would benefit the most from NLE analytics, are the people who would be the most receptive to buying such a tool, are already Avid’s real audience; decision makers at large companies with a couple of hundred thousand to spend. In the meantime Avid editors don’t really have any incentive to learn another tool because there is no software savings that offset waiting 3 days for notes 🙂

Foot notes: 

(1) In a highly collaborative environment (12+ users) nothing beats an Avid Technologies Media Composer / Nexis combination. But I believe that Premiere will be ready to compete within the next few years because adding collaboration is easier than adding the machine learning techniques I think about.

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