[Inter]face of things to come

The iPhone has been out for a few months, but I’m neither in the market for a smart phone nor a new carrier. My only experience with the iUI has been running colleagues’ phones through the paces for a minute here and there — not terribly enlightening. But yesterday my iPod Touch arrived, and I finally got to smudge an Apple touchscreen thoroughly. As expected the UI is intuitive and elegant, though the small screen size limits precision to the point of irritability when navigating the web in Safari.

It’s been more than fifteen years since the Avid/1 defined the NLE interface. Back in the saddle doing long-form for long hours this past summer reminded me that it’s time for the keyboard and mouse to go. Current NLE UIs are long in the tooth.

Final Cut Pro Touch?

More than a decade ago, extolling the virtues of NLEs to filmmaker Ric Burns, he explained that he preferred cutting film manually over electronically. He liked to feel the film passing across his fingertips. For a few years, there were some noble efforts at mechanical user interfaces (MUIs) for NLEs. Avid had a moderately decent one. Blue, bought by Pinnacle which in turn was bought by Avid, had the best. It had a jog/shuttle knob that felt exactly like the Beta controllers on Sony decks. Apparently I’m in the minority, preferring a MUI to a GUI with my editor.

Apple’s iUI is nimble and cool, but the Microsoft’s Surface appears to be a more realistic possibility to power an NLE interface. Surface has made the rounds at demos and gotten the requisite ooohs and aaahs, but there doesn’t seem to be pent up demand for a new computing UI. Here’s where the iPod and iPhone come into the picture… once a few million of these devices get in the general population, people will gravitate to the UI.

Contour Shuttle ProEditors will be the earliest adopters. The ultimate UI has been the editor’s holy grail. Track balls, Wacom tablets, JL Coopers, and Contours all attempt to fill the void, but fall short. Imagine cuing and trimming by simply sliding your finger — faster trims more frames, slower less. Editing within the NLE will once again be as intuitive as the Moviola.

7 Thoughts on “[Inter]face of things to come

  1. Robert Lawson on October 2, 2007 at 12:55 pm said:

    Who will implement this and how?
    Will Avid integrate Wacom touchscreens? Will Apple sell us new Apple Touch Cinema Displays for use with FCP? Will Apple open up and integrate Wacom touchscreens?

    Thanks, as always, for your perspective on our business. Always worth reading.

  2. I agree that it is time to redefine the metaphor of editing. I long ago bought a mouse pad / Number pad from fingerworks and still use it on my laptop.

    I can see this type of technology working well with NLEs.

    Maybe Avid will buy it up and make a MUI.

  3. Pingback: The Editblog » Thinking About Interface

  4. I’ve started exploring this on my blog at http://alex4d.wordpress.com/2007/08/28/gestural-edits/ – how gestures can help us feel that we’re manipulating clips directly, and http://alex4d.wordpress.com/2007/08/29/not-quite-direct-manipulation/ – showing that we don’t have to have our arms waving across two widecreen monitors to edit using multitouch.

  5. I believe that the discontinued Discreet (Autodesk) edit was tablet based and featured the same contextual interface as it’s IFF siblings. Smoke also behaves the same.

  6. mark Raudonis on October 4, 2007 at 10:04 am said:

    A few weeks ago here in Los Angeles the “Wired: Nextfest” took place. There you could see all kinds of future technologies today. Example: Google Earth, except it’s MARS! Very cool.

    The the Microsoft Surface was on display and it was truly amazing. Here’s the most interesting part. Editing is usually a collaborative effort. With a large enough screen, and a simple enough interface, you can have two, three people all standing infront of the screen and moving things around. This screen was hugh (six feet wide) and there must have been at least a dozen little kids all making “art” simultaneously. Imagine, no more “couch” in the back of the room. Just an over caffinated producer/director at your side changing all your decisions as you go.

    Don’t know if this is a step forward, but it CAN be the future.


  7. There’s also XTreme Reality 3D, “a piece of software that works with your webcam to let you control applications and games with your hand in real space.”

    There’s a movie on YouTube.

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