Tag Archives: Nle

Wooden pencils and NLEs

Think of commodities and hardly anything fits the bill better than the wooden pencil. It hasn’t changed in years. It’s difficult to imagine anyone making a purchasing decision on anything but price. Now try to imagine being the product designer at a wooden pencil company. On the worst day, virtually any job on the planet from toll taker to undertaker is light years more interesting.

Perhaps not.

In last week’s Economist, the Future of the Pencil outlined how Faber-Castell stays atop of the wooden pencil market. From non-toxic paint pledges during the age Chinese manufacturing lead scares to adding little rubber dots to help school kids get a grip, the eight-generation family-owned business continues to innovate — and maintain some pricing power where you’d least expect it.

I’m just as uninterested in wooden pencil market dynamics as the next guy, but the lesson any designer or creative professional should take from all this is that there’s room for innovation and creativity in nearly every endeavor. Two and a half years ago a lot of people were saying the non-linear editor was done. It was complete, a commodity. Cash cow it and innovate elsewhere was the common wisdom. Like the designers at Faber-Castell, the newly hired leadership team at Avid thought differently, and if not for that I’d have a pretty boring gig. Whether it’s editing directly from XDCAM media or editing on the cloud, the NLE market remains vibrant. And I remain gainfully employed.

Has consumer cloud-based editing arrived?

Recently I was sent a link to an article about JayCut.com. Because I work for a publicly traded company that develops non-linear editors of both the executable and cloud-based kind, I don’t think it’s appropriate for me to get into the specifics of any vendor’s software design or business model. Anyone who saw Avid’s web-based editing demo at NAB or last May’s Editors Lounge has seen Avid’s vision of what editing in the cloud can be.

Long before taking up NLE design as a vocation I was enamored with the idea true “online” editing. Years ago I was a fan of JumpCut — the online editor eventually bought, then shuttered by Yahoo!

JayCut UI

JayCut's UI is similar to those of consumer-facing online editors before it. Is its fate going to be similar too?

If Yahoo! couldn’t jump start JumpCut, what would make a someone attempt a consumer-facing web-based NLE again? The world has changed a lot since 2006 when I first encountered JumpCut. Here are just a few of the shifts that might make a consumer-facing NLE viable.

  • Smart phones are the new camcorder. Nearly everyone under 35 has a phone capable of recording video. Assuming an unlimited data plan, sending even large files to the cloud is a lot easier than waiting to get home and tethering the phone to a PC to download videos. (JayCut can only do this from Android phones currently.)
  • Facebook and YouTube are the de facto publishing platforms of the Millennials. They don’t make DVDs. They don’t even do email. If they want to edit their video, they will want to do it where their video lives.
  • Cisco with its Flip cameras and other online players are interested in consumer video to drive traffic and revenue. Linksys + Flip = Lots of Cisco hardware being sold to ISPs.

Unlike JumpCut, JayCut is not a pure consumer play. It offering includes video distribution software and services for business, differentiating itself from Brightcove somewhat as a tool for online collaboration. (Mashups with a more adult-sounding name.)

Also entering this space is Kaltura.com/.org — an open source online video editing and distribution platform with a nifty WordPress plug-in to boot. Kaltura will host your applications and content, and also allows for DIY on your own server. The Kaltura player also allows for collaboration. Blog admins can set permissions for user to add, comment, and edit videos embedded in a blog post.

Perhaps these tools are still ahead of their time. But if not 2010, when?

Avid names new CEO

Gary GreenfieldGary Greenfield’s the new boss. The whole announcement’s here.

There’s been the requisite gnashing of teeth on some of the mailing lists, mostly because Greenfield lacks video industry experience. I’m not convinced that’s reason enough to dismiss the hire. Avid needs a leader experienced in changing a technology organization as its product faces commoditization.

Greenfield has been CEO of GXS since 2003, a leading worldwide provider of business-to-business integration, synchronization and collaboration solutions. Since December 2003, he has also been an operating partner with Francisco Partners, a leading technology-focused private equity firm.

Previously, he served as CEO of Peregrine Systems where he managed the restructuring of their business; president and CEO of MERANT; and while CEO of INTERSOLV, they merged with Micro Focus to form MERANT. He has experience growing businesses both organically and through acquisition, managing development, marketing and operations, and serving diverse customers from small businesses to the Fortune 500.

The question is what will Greenfield do with Avid. MERANT was sold to Serena in 2004 after Greenfield left the helm. But rumors of an acquisition had been in and out of circulation for a couple of years. GXS is privately owned by Francisco Partners and Norwest Ventures.

Might Avid be sold? Might it go private? Interesting enough questions for investors, what about editors and facility owners? Greenfield’s background is in managing B2B companies. Good. The fixation the previous team, spurred on by analysts, had with Avid getting into the consumer space led to the disastrous Pinnacle acquisition. Greenfield is comfortable in narrow verticals. Better.

In the past Avid’s been terrible at the relationship thing. Maybe now Avid can get serious with companies like Adobe and find ways to partner to fill the ever-expanding gaps in the Avid post-production workflow (especially on the Mac). An overture to Red might work well for both companies as P, though it probably will have little effect on either companies’ top line.

If I was a betting man… I’d bet Avid will end up going private, and the NLE market will continue evolving as it has.

Interesting list fodder, but little near term effect for editors. Normally I’d say wait until NAB, but…

Why Final Cut Express matters

Often it’s hard to get fired up about the younger sibling versions professional content creation tools. I’ve been on a multi-year tear ripping Avid’s Xpress Pro for being a needlessly and excessively hobbled version of Media Composer. So when Apple announced Final Cut Express 4, I yawned. Having been on Final Cut Studio 2 for some time, there wasn’t much to be learned running Final Cut Express through the paces.

Final Cut Express 4

Apple sent a review copy, so what the heck? Let’s see what FCE can do. The short answer is it doesn’t do much more or less than expected. It’s a nearly fully featured, Firewire-only version of Final Cut Pro. It lacks batch capture and logging, some compositing and keyframing features, and time code display for sources in the browser.

Limitations noted, Final Cut Express is an impressive piece of software for $199. For the pro, already using Final Cut Studio, FCE is a great satellite station since all the above-noted features reappear once an Express project is opened in Final Cut Pro. Final Cut Express captures time code info and includes it in the QuickTime metadata, so FCP reads it, and accesses it.

For so many video projects, Final Cut Express is a fine solution — Firewire in/Firewire out, or Firewire in/QuickTime out. Just enough power, and none of the bloat. Installing FCE on an older PowerBook took only a few minutes. The package contains FCE and good, old Live Type — not a bad throw-in for a $199 package.

The beauty of Final Cut Express is not the application itself, but where it fits into Apple’s video ecosystem. FCE 4 — why not just call it 6, so the Express numbers match the Pro? — can import iMovie ’08 projects. Apple has created a seamless path from pulling the Mac out of the box all the way up to Final Cut Studio 2. This is something Avid and Adobe can’t do. Pros can scoff, but Apple’s virtually guaranteed every student, every mid-career creative professional looking to get into video, and every corporate user who has outgrown iMovie is likely to migrate to Final Cut Express before trying something else.

Academic discounts and “lite” packages such as Premiere Elements and Xpress DV Free don’t have that hook into the crowd that learned iMovie first. Apple’s strategy with Final Cut Express is longterm. It often takes several years to get from iMovie to Final Cut Pro, but for those just beginning to explore video editing, the path is clear.

Adobe has a clear path as well, all those Dreamweaver, Flash, and Photoshop pros will surely consider Premiere Pro first. And Adobe’s products work on the other 95% of all desktop computers. That’s not a bad starting point.

Where does this leave Avid? Can Avid appeal to the next-generation of editors? I can’t help but notice that the apparent median age of members of the various Avid communities I participate in and visit is roughly 10 to 12 years older than the FCP communities. Pinnacle was going to be that bridge to the consumer/prosumer. What happened?

The Wall Street Journal on editing

With the credit markets in a tailspin and the southern half of the US in flames and out of water, you would think the Wall Street Journal would have a busy enough news day. Apparently not. It was time for the WSJ to dust off the editing-is-just-so-dang-easy piece.

Lee Gomes is apparently no David Pogue. At least when Pogue oversimplifies my job in print, it’s fun to read and accurate enough for the masses. Gomes’ piece has no information of any interest to any editor, producer, or post production supervisor. Well, may the post supervisors will get a kick out of it.

In describing the modern, streamlined approach to feature film post, Gomes writes:

Right on the set, the digitized film went into a computer; after that, just a handful of people were involved. While the skills were different, coordinating the work of these editors and others wasn’t much more different than what happens in an average office with a typical PowerPoint presentation.

Oh really? I’ve done the consulting thing, and with it the whole PowerPoint to end all PowerPoint presentations. You know what, Mr. Gomes? If it’s that easy, I suggest you ditch journalism and become a post director at one of the networks. The pay’s a lot better, and you seem to think you could handle it.

Can’t wait until Gomes writes about managing SIVs. Now that’s something apparently any kindergartener can handle.