The Pro App Paradox (Part 2) REVISITED

In my previous post I wrote about the demise of Shake and XServe. Now we’ll see how the future of editing is bearing down on us unexpectedly.  Just look at YouTube Video Editor and Avid’s “edit anywhere” technology preview. Notice what these lack? A filesystem.

I used to teach nonlinear editing at a University and from my experience students had the most difficulty in three areas:

  1. input: digitizing footage into the NLE.
  2. output: exporting a finished project.
  3. file management.

Once the footage was ready for editing, the cutting and trimming came easily. The current barriers of entry for nonlinear editing are technical. And the future belongs to whoever can eliminate them.

Final Cut Server was Apple’s attempt to abstract away the filesystem in order to make editing more accessible. But abstracting the filesystem away on the desktop is difficult for multiple reason. People are used to downloading files and putting them on a “media drive”.  But if Final Cut Server were moved into the cloud… well suddenly the file system isn’t a problem anymore. Just like…

Word processing! Document management and sharing used to be the province of your computer and the sneakernet.  Then Google Docs put it all in the cloud and now problems such as “where is the most up-to-date document” are a thing of the past.

Writer’s note: Sadly, old habits die hard. I’m still surprised by how many of my peers continue to lose data because they refuse to use Dropbox!

The future of editing will be like this. Xsan, Avid ISIS, and similar SAN solutions are stopgaps.  We’re really only waiting on the bandwidth.

Writer’s note: And we’re still waiting…

Apple is the one company that won’t hesitate to kill a technology on the decline before the rest of the world is ready. They did it with the floppy drive, they’re doing it with the optical drive. If the future is going to look like Avid’s “edit anywhere” Adobe’s Project Rush why develop and support the stopgap?

Writer’s note: In hindsight I overestimated the availability of high speed, low latency bandwidth in the United States. Sadly the situation is only getting worse. Also, my loathing of file management is just as strong today as it was eight years ago. If technology, especially in the motion picture industry, has failed us. It is in this realm. That Apple would lean into the file system on their iOS platform truly caught me by surprise.

In the final part of this series I will explain why content creation tools are the antithesis of Apple’s design philosophy.

Note: Revisited September 27, 2018.

The Pro App Paradox (Part 1) REVISITED

Writer’s note: Let’s look back at what I had to say about Apple abandoning the pro market almost eight years later.

In his most recent newsletter Larry Jordan attempts to quell the hysteria around the “Apple is abandoning the Pro market” rumors with the following argument:

Now, let us assume that Apple decides to abandon Final Cut – or not upgrade it – or sell it – or in some other way give it up.

That means that other companies – OUTSIDE of Apple’s control – will have primary responsibility for editing video and other media. There’s nothing to prevent these other companies from inventing codecs that don’t run on iDevices. Or redesign their editing software so that it doesn’t support Macs. … The only company that has a permanently vested interest in keeping Macs successful is Apple – and as their recent financials indicated, they are selling more Macs than ever before.

I don’t agree with this reasoning. The tools to create the movie Avatar are very different than the tools to watch it. Watching Avatar requires an iPad.  Creating it requires an awesome set of tools and a small army. By killing Shake years ago Apple essentially abandoned their only chance of playing even a small role in high-end cutting-edge productions. But perhaps this example is a little too extreme.

The tools to create The Real World are very different than the tools to watch The Real World. A show like The Real World requires either an army of loggers and a highly collaborative post production infrastructure.

Writer’s note: in retrospect this post proved to be amazingly prescient. I choose ‘The Real World’ because Bunim Murray was the face of a successful Final Cut Pro implementation for years. It was news when they dropped FCP and returned to Avid in 2012.

Final Cut Pro, Xsan, and Final Cut Server were supposed to be the holy-trinity of the Apple collaborative post production workflow. Say whatever you want, but yesterday Apple effectively killed the infrastructure component of the mythical collaborative workflow.

Two Mac Pros shelf mounted in 12RU’s of space does not equal 2 rack mounted Xserves with LOM and total redundancy.  And again, people spending $50k or $100k or more want to make sure they’re making a long term investment. Xsan suddenly looks a lot less attractive.

Suddenly post production understands the adage, “nobody ever got fired for choosing IBM.” An integrated Avid solution end-to-end is certainly better then a mixed solution.

Amateurs and Soccer Moms will create content for their iPads with iMovie on their iMacs. But the future of professional editing is collaboration. Make no mistake, Apple has abandoned its future in collaborative post.

Writer’s note: I cringe thinking about my statement “Amateurs and Soccer Moms” because it comes off as disparaging, which it wasn’t meant to be. Apple brilliantly captured the power of enabling ‘Soccer Moms’ to create family memories in their absolutely touching 2013 Christmas commercial. And in retrospect, the power (and money) that top social media influencers wield is enviable to many struggling artists in Hollywood. But what I was trying to get at is the fact that creating motion pictures on par with ‘Avatar’ or ‘The Real World’ requires tools that Apple is no longer interested in making.

In Part 2 I will explain why this is a good thing.

Note: Revisited September 26, 2018.