The Pro App Paradox (Part 3)

Writer’s note: more an exploration of ideas and rabbit hole of links, than a coherent argument.

Featured image: tweet in reference to the introduction of Apple‘s iOS app: Cards.

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

From The Pro App Paradox (Part 2). Written over 7 years ago!

Major” motion pictures are “logistically complex [projects] and difficult undertakings, much like waging a small war.” Therefore the software tools used to tackle these complex problems will have more in common with architectural and medical software, than anything used to consume motion pictures.

3D Modeling

Screenshot-2018-6-29 Maya Editor overview
Screen Grab from the Autodesk Maya’s webpage.
Revit Structure Revit Autodesk
Just kidding, this is Revit. Also by Autodesk, but for architects.


Screenshot-2018-6-29 Features of Nuke Foundry.png
Screen grab from Nuke’s webpage.

Traditional Nonlinear Editing

Screenshot-2018-6-29 Media Composer - Video Editing Software - Avid
Screen grab from Media Composer’s webpage. Used by 90% of motion picture editors.

Now let’s compare that to Apple’s websites for…

Final Cut Pro X

Screenshot-2018-6-29 Final Cut Pro X
Clean interface for daaayys…
Screenshot-2018-6-29 Final Cut Pro X(1)
Screen Grab from Final Cut Pro X’s webpage.


Screenshot-2018-6-30 iMovie
“But you can’t make editing mechanical,” the Avid curmudgeon.


Screenshot-2018-6-29 Keynote
Apple’s webpage makes using Keynote look like fun!

There is an inherent tension between complexity and simplicity. Apple is erring on the side of simplicity. (Link, Link, Link, Link, Link, Link. Each of those is worth a read BTW!) And because of that they are making software that probably won’t ever be used for complex tasks; like making Thanos awesome!

On the other end of the spectrum, the motion picture industry accepts the role of the Vfx Editor. Although I think those days are numbered. Hiring a person to do something that computers are way better at doing is inefficient and soon enough Adobe’s Toggle Proxies and Fusion Connect are going to be better than pension payments.

But here is the thing; I don’t think Apple is wrong.

From Google’s June 26th Los Angeles Media Summit

At a recent Media Summit Google hosted a panel with three interesting players in the Vfx space. All are moving away from infrastructure: Sony is moving towards virtual workstations in the cloud. The Mill already renders everything on the cloud. And the Foundry’s new cloud platform, built on top of GCP, is using Machine Learning to calculate accurate bids, among other things.

You don’t need to read tea leaves to see that there isn’t much long term value in creating a killer workstations anymore. Making killer thin clients is where the future is at for Apple. The interesting question is going to be: so what happens to the file system?


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.