Opening Salvo (Updated)

Bravo Avid! You really made a bold statement on Saturday, announcing the next version of #Mediacomposer featuring a major UI overhaul just two days before Blackmagic Design will unveil Resolve 16. The last time the “NLE Wars” ran so hot Apple had the largest booth at NAB.

The infrastructure changes to Nexis are also big, (I mean, cloudspaces!!!) but beyond the scope of this particular post. Right now we are going to focus on why the UI overhaul is so revolutionary.

A curmudgeon’s meme.

Avid Editors will swap tales about which version of Media Composer was the most stable. ˆMeridien vs. Post-Meridien; the fabled 4.6.2 that never crashed … with SD; and 8.9.4 was pretty good until 2018. when Avid tried to be all like Adobe.

Part of Media Composer’s speed and stability is the enduring nature of it’s interface. Avid has changed MC multiple times in the past: Think AMA, and the dynamic timeline. But since the interface remains consistent an Editor’s valuable muscle memory doesn’t need to be retrained. An experience Editor and MC is a form of an existing BMI between man and machine.

Changing the interface could effect muscle memory, which in the Avid world could cause riots. Therefore every change needs to carefully weigh the costs and benefits. So this is a big gamble for Avid.

The advantage of taking this risk is that Avid is looking to tackle the widespread problem of non-editor usability. Avid isn’t Discoverable and it’s interface is very dated in the age of the single screen workstations (iMac, laptop, story producer screening station), iOS-era interactions, and the continued drift away from Log and Capture metaphors. Avid is gambling that making custom interfaces depending on “role” and with tailored toolsets is the way to go. Agitating a few to the benefit of the many.

From the website MC will support Resolve-style roles: Edit, Color, Finish, etc. But Avid is also introducing roles like Producer, Assistant, Logger. These interfaces will put the tools these roles needs front and center while hiding the more esoteric buttons. This would enable larger teams to collaborate more efficiently and within the Avid (Microsoft) eco-system.

Last year you would have barely realize that Media Composer as a product of Avid Technologies. I bet that’s going to very different this.

There is is. Media Composer does Premiere meets Resolve

Update: Just had a hands on demo with 2019.5 and the new interface is a big deal. I think Bin management is going to require a rethink of an AE’s/Editor’s habits. The demo is running on a MacBook Pro, Avid is definitely trying to show off interface efficiency.

Update: Media Composer is just a small slice of Avid’s booth.

PostSchedule.io THE PROBLEM DEFINED

Post Producers/Post Supervisors & the Post Schedule

Post Supervisors are Producers who specialize in the post production process. Part chief of staff, part office manager, part coach; this dynamic role influences a show in numerous ways. But their most important responsibility is creating and maintaining the Post Schedule.

All of these TV characters would make great Post Supervisors!

The Post Schedule is the primary tool used to keep a show’s stakeholders appraised of its progress through the post production process. A good post schedule includes the following information:

  • Edit Start: when each episode is expected to start, and who is working on each episode.
  • Episode Due Dates at each stage: (Rough Cut, Fine Cut, etc…).
  • Notes Due: this is when stakeholders giving notes are supposed to deliver them to the production before overages occur.
  • Total Days Late: if your production company wants to recover “breakage” from the network, this is often a good place to start. Wasted editorial days waiting for notes can add up to tens of thousands of dollars.
  • Final Delivery Date: always begin with the end in mind!

Post Schedules come in a variety of formats. This is my “Dashboard” version:


Creative Executives often like the post schedule to be presented as a traditional calendar:


Bond companies, Studios, and Networks have their own formats too:


The crux of the Post Producer/Supervisor’s problem is that a change to one schedule, necessitates manually changing every other version. This is time consuming and error prone work. Here are some results from a recent survey about scheduling answered by 76 Post Producers/Supervisors:



The final problem with current Post Scheduling techniques is that a manually maintained Post Schedule limits the ability to collect and analyze data.


This Sankey diagram from the Netflix Technology blog is a little vague on details describing these production “blocks”. What do they represent? And how can the information be trusted if it’s gathered from such an error prone process?

PostSchedule.io is a web application that aims to modernize the post scheduling process; and these Medium posts are a journal of my process through user research, landing page creation, and bootstrapping its way into existence. I hope you enjoy the journey. And if this sounds like something you’d like to get involved in, feel free to contact me on twitter: lowbudgetfun.

Airtable (TL;DR review)

One of the most heartbreaking aspects of being a tech savvy person working in the entertainment industry is all of the almost but not quite right software on the market. For example: you have Asana’s anti-freelancer friendly pricing. Misguided attempts at analytics. And shoehorning Trello into an indie documentary productivity tool.

Today’s entry into the almost but not quite right category is Airtable. I know this startup is hot right now. But sadly it misses the mark for me. My TL;DR review is this:

Airtable offers neither the design flexibility of a spreadsheet, nor the customized reporting of a full featured database.

Here is an example of the dashboard I use to manage my shows:

Dashboard view
The Post Supervisor’s “Dashboard“.

And here the best Airtable can do with its Record List “block“:

Airtable Dashboard Record List Block .png
Awful on so many levels.

I was hoping Airtable would make it easier for me to keep a Dashboard version of the schedule in-sync with a Calendar view. And it did show potential. Changes made in the calendar show up on the record list block. And changes made to an episode record, show up on the calendar. (See the embedded example “base” below) But without design tools to provide contrast and emphasis, Airtable can’t make the cut into useful. The per user pricing doesn’t help either.

https://airtable.com/embed/shrjp3ssjvpDhrFHl?backgroundColor=red&viewControls=on

I have a few more complaints about Airtable, as a company, as well:

  • They advertise Airtable as a spreadsheet alternative, but on their community forums repeatedly say that Airtable is not a spreadsheet when users ask for features that Airtable can not do.
  • Screenshot-2018-6-6 airtable block at DuckDuckGo
  • One much requested feature is a “record updated” trigger for Zapier. Despite an employee saying that this feature is “coming soon“, there is now just radio silence on this front. Just say that it’s not on the API roadmap anymore. Your silence is deafening.
  • Glacial response from the support team. Plus blocking a paid user for 1,000 years seems like an excessive and silly policy.
  • IMG_0827
    3018… I mean really?

I’m extra hard on Airtable because I’ve never wanted a service to work SO badly.Screenshot-2018-6-6 Post Production Scheduling Survey

 

The potential to save hours of work each week is sooo close, but too far. Perhaps if Airtable engaged with their customers as opposed to ignoring them, they’d create a product that would appeal to even more users.