WARNING: This post is chock-full of editing-geek mojo. If you’re not interested in editing and editing tools, then I’d suggest you surf over here instead (just kidding, just kidding).
I spent most of yesterday at a meeting up in the beastly hot city know as “Beautiful Downtown Burbank,” along with a group of editors, talking to some of the people from Avid about what’s coming up for them, especially as revolves around the release of their new Media Composer software, version 3.0 (due out in early June).
Now, many of you know that I like working on the Avid. I started out on Lightworks, way back in the stone age of NLEs, and subsequently was forced to work on Ediflex and Montage before I got to work on the Avid. It took me a little bit to get used to it, after the very film flatbed feel of the Lightworks. But I’ve been using it pretty consistently since then and have gotten very used to its look and feel.
But the company very nearly ran aground for several years, when it couldn’t figure out what it wanted to do and how it wanted to interact with its users. Now, admittedly, feature and television editors are probably the worst group of users you’d want to have as a manufacturer — we’re incredibly detail-oriented, we’re under so much time pressure and stress that we have very little patience for errors, but we also want an incredible amount out of our editing systems. If you were going to choose a market to create an NLE for, I’d go for wedding videographers way before us.
But we are very visible and we do help to drive the NLE companies forward in their product development.
So, when Avid started its “New Thinking” campaign, many of us approached it with some trepidation. Was this sloganeering or course correction? Was it a sincere effort at reclaiming lost loyalties, or a cynical attempt to woo people away from Final Cut?
After yesterday’s meeting, I have to say that I’m very encouraged. Many of us in the room, including fellow bloggers Steve Cohen, of the ever informative Splice Here, and Harry B. Miller III, of the ACE Technical Blog, felt pretty positive about some of the new features. One that I am particularly happy to see, is the Avid FX application, which will now be integrated into Media Composer. Previously available as a stand-along application as part of the PC-only Avid Suite, this is Avid’s response to the increasing practice of Avid editors to go out and use Motion for titles creation, only to have to import them back into Avid. (As an aside, Jay Cassidy — who is cutting the new Jim Sheridan film — told me that he does his titles in After Effects.).
Based on Boris, Avid FX can easily create and animate titles which, like Motion, can be made from a large number of templates. For anyone who has no time to make titles, but still needs them in their cut, this is a great time saver. It was pioneered by Apple in Motion (and, before that, LiveType), but from the demo we saw, Avid has more than stepped up to the plate to give us a similar tool.
Like Motion, it is keyframable, works off of a timeline model (which is manipulatable) and pretty responsive, even on a single core laptop. It doesn’t work in quite the live/interactive way that Motion does (requiring the user to click on an “Apply” button in order to see changes), and is scattered across many overlapping windows. But it is completely integrated within Avid, rather than residing in a separate application, and that should make it even easier to use than Motion and Final Cut. It was absolutely thrilling to see it.
Two other strong additions to the Avid product are the timecode and caption burn-in effects (these are actually in the present version of Media Composer, but are pretty new so many of us were just learning about them). YouTube tutorials on these can be found right here for the timecode burnin effect and here for the caption effect (which not only can create subtitles, but can also be exported for use in DVD subtitle tracks).
One other thing that we saw that we are hoping to use in January when USC opens their new cinema school building, is the Avid Media Station. This is, essentially, a stripped down Avid, which will allow the actual picture files on one Avid, to be sunk up with matching audio files on Pro Tools. Though this was demonstrated as a great way to allow sound editors to easily receive files for editing (without forcing the picture editing team into the time consuming process of creating QuickTime movies for them), we are hoping to use it as an easier way of projecting dailies and cuts. Right now, we hand OMF sessions over to our sound department, which are then sunk up to a tape or to film for projection. In the future, using the high quality digitized picture (at DNxHD36, in our case), we can easily sync it up to the same ProTools session. Voila. Time saved. Quality enhanced.
[I told you this was going to get geeky. I apologize right here, right now.]
All in all, we were pretty excited.
This is what happens when you have healthy competition between products. The user always wins.
Oh, and speaking of user, you might want to sail on over to Avid’s new blogs. There you will find actual Avid engineers and developer type people, talking about what they are up to. And it’s not just sales talk, it looks like it’s going to be a great place for interaction.