March 14, 2013

Major NLE Updates Coming at NAB? What Adobe and Avid Should Do to Improve Their Products

NAB is an exciting time of year for us filmmaking folk. While there are certainly some exciting things on the horizon in terms of cameras, rigs, lenses, lights, and what have you, I'm making an educated guess that this will be another significant year for NLE development, especially from post-production giants Avid and Adobe. Avid is likely to make the jump to version 7 of its flagship Media Composer, and if they follow their previously mentioned product cycle plan, Adobe will release version 6.5 of their popular Creative Suite. With much of the editing market still undecided between the three major players in post-production, these new updates could be a crucial stepping stone into the future for these companies.

First and foremost, I should mention that these are the two NLEs which I use regularly. Premiere has taken over as my go-to editing platform, and I use it for most, if not all, of my personal work and for smaller films. Avid, on the other hand, is generally my tool of choice on larger scale productions where media management tends to be a little more unruly, or if it's something I'm collaboratively editing with another person. So as someone who uses both of these on a consistent basis, I have a solid idea of what I would like to see out of the programs in future versions. So without further ado, let the speculation begin.

Avid

The folks at Avid have found themselves in a peculiar predicament as of late. They still dominate the high-end broadcast and film markets with their various software solutions -- as evidenced by their near sweep in several post-production categories at this year's Academy Awards. Despite this seeming success, however, Avid has been hurting financially for the past several years as their sales have continued to decline. This financial downward spiral seems to be boiling over for the company, seeing as how they recently postponed the release of their 2012 4th quarter earnings, something widely regarded by both the business and editing communities as a desperate move.

It seems to me that if Avid really is in desperate financial trouble, they're going to need to make a splash at NAB in order to stimulate new sales of their software  solutions. For them to accomplish this, they are going to need to implement a major overhaul of the Media Composer interface and make it more accessible to younger editors, while simultaneously maintaining the level of professional precision that has made the application an industry workhorse for the past 20 years -- and they're going to have to do all of this while significantly lowering their price points.

Beyond these exterior changes to the software, Avid is going to have to heavily refine the way the software works internally. While they've subtly been doing this for the past 2 or 3 years with features such as AMA linking, OpenGL support, 3rd-party I/O options, and most importantly, 64-bit base code, Avid is still lagging well behind both Adobe and Apple in terms of performance and taking advantage of modern hardware. They need to follow in Adobe's and Apple's shoes with OpenCL support and background rendering. Beyond that, they need to bring resolution independence to both their project settings and to individual clips so that editors aren't restricted to the standard TV and film options that Avid currently offers.

However, despite the fact that a revamped version of Media Composer would likely get Avid's software division back on the track to profitability (especially if they could do the same with Pro Tools), whether or not the company has the cash or credit to cover the costs of the sure-to-be hefty research and development for such an overhaul is highly questionable. If the new version of Media Composer fails to gain traction in the broadcast and film communities, and Avid continues to lose money, it's likely that we could see some kind of company restructuring or even the sale of the company or its individual parts.

Adobe

Adobe, unlike Avid, seems to be thriving these days. After having snatched up many an editing professional after the Final Cut Pro X conundrum, and with the potential downfall of Avid, Adobe is now in a position to take the lead in the professional NLE market. In order to do this, however, they're also going to have to keep innovating with their suite of video post-production tools.

First and foremost, and I don't think I'm alone in this, it's time for Adobe to develop and embrace their own proprietary codec, a la ProRes or DNxHD. While the success of codec independence is part of what makes Premiere great, the performance of certain native codecs within the program is not what it could or should be. With a proprietary codec, Adobe would be able to completely optimize the performance of the software for that codec, as opposed to having a piece of software that deals with some codecs well, and others not nearly as much. Considering that many narrative-style films already transcode their raw camera data for both dallies and offline editing, it would be fantastic for Adobe to develop something to aid in that process. Sure, Cineform has been a decent 3rd party solution to this point, but it's time for Adobe to step up their game and cater to both independent folks as well as high-end professionals.

I would also like to see better integration of the Production Premium suite with its newest member, Adobe SpeedGrade. The acquisition of SpeedGrade from Iridas last year was an excellent move for Adobe in terms of putting together a comprehensive suite of tools for the video professional. However, the implementation and insertion of SpeedGrade into the suite has been clunky, to say the least. If Adobe can manage to integrate the program with the same dynamic linking technologies that have made it a breeze to shoot back and forth between Premiere, After Effects, Audition, and Encore, then they'll finally have a complete, integrated set of high-end tools for the video professional. As it stands now, it's just as easy to take a sequence from Premiere into Resolve as it is to take it into SpeedGrade. This needs to change if they want SpeedGrade to become a more viable option for the folks already using their products.

What do you guys think? What would you like to see out of the new versions of Media Composer and Premiere Pro? What would Avid have to do with Media Composer to keep it relevant and profitable? Conversely, what do you think Adobe would have to do to catapult Premiere Pro into industry dominance? Let us know in the comments.

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151 Comments

I think all of these questions should be taking a backseat to the far more interesting question re Adobe's recent announcement that everyone must get into their cloud after April 30.

That's right! After April 30, Adobe will no longer ship physical discs. Your computer must log into their cloud at least once every 30 days or it'll stop working. And, of course, that means that whatever plugins you have installed will stop working too.

Adobe now calls their cloud-only access to its apps a "membership". You will no longer own the software - no matter that you may have paid for it over the course of a year or two or three years or whatever number of years you have been subscribed. Once you stop paying, you are kicked out of the cloud and your workstation is inoperative for Adobe software and your plugins thereto.

Adobe does not really state this in it's online sales literature. I had to demand that the Adobe store sales rep I spoke with be honest about that and he then admitted this.

Personally I don't wish to be a member of Adobe's cloud. I wish to purchase and own outright.

Wake up Sheeple!

March 27, 2013 at 11:33AM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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wsmith

I'm confused about a lot of this cloud stuff. If I purchase Premiere on disc(s) before they become unavailable, would I be able to run that software indefinitely without being part of this cloud nonsense?

And, Mr. Monahan, are you hearing all those people saying they have very unreliable internet connections?
I live in Los Angeles and even my internet connection (Time Warner) is pretty spotty, at best.
Please tell me if I'm wrong but, seems to me, that issue will reduce your customer base significantly.

I just can't see how making a box of discs available, even at a slightly higher price to cover the packaging and shipping, would be a bad thing. Not to mention how some companies, these days, are forcing users to work according to the company's policy instead of the users wishes. Just because you CAN do something doesn't mean you should.

March 27, 2013 at 12:56PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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dixter

Hi Dixter,

To answer your question: you can always go back to your physical discs and use those indefinitely.

However, I want to make sure you aren't under what I perceive to a fairly common misconception. That is that you need to always be connected to the Adobe's cloud at all time for the apps to work at all.

Not true. You do, however need to allow your workstation to connect to internet at least once every thirty days to validate your license. Failure to do so will render your suite (and all installed plugins) unusable until you do allow a connection.

My problem is that you can pay for the cloud for a long time and never really own the suite or an upgrade to the suite. I'll use myself as an example: I have CS6. As I recall, the upgrade from CS5 was about 350.00. Now if I do get on Adobe's cloud because CS7 is compelling, the first year of cloud access is 360.00 (at the intro price for current users). Thus I could pay for a full year but still not own the upgrade.

A new convert to Adobe (from FCP for example) can "pay for a cloud" for enough time to represent an amount equal or exceeding the current cost of CS6 but never own the product. That convert could also have invested a small fortune in plugins and not have access to those if he/she suddenly jumps out of the cloud.

No good for me.

By the way, in order to keep on topic of this thread, here are my improvement requests:

I have some major problems with Encore in the form of a very longstanding bug that Adobe was apparently loath to admit was a bug. They did so only after being escalate to the highest support level and lots of time wasted. I'm talking about the dual layer DVD "layer break" bug. That is due to a bug in the software that Adobe licensed from Sonic called "Sonicfire" or "Sonic Fire" My interest is long-form programs of entertainment events that require dual layer DVDs. The required workarounds required are horrendous and unacceptable to me. Thankfully I have a replicator who's advanced and expensive disc checking software identifies the problem even though Adobe's does not and is able to do the workaround for me, for a fee. This bug has been around since Encore was released and I've given up hope that it'll even be fixed.

Lot's of people labor under the falsehood that one should only use Verbatim discs (false), and also use two other technically arcane freeware solutions (true).

My other problem is just a big fat annoying problem with Adobe randomly forgetting where a given project's files are located on my storage. Cut me a break! When nothing has changes and I have repeatedly pointed it to where those files are a number of times, it's just too dumb to remember.

Today, out of curiosity, I called Adobe to learn what I could about Adobe's support policy and programs for the so-called "members" of Adobe's cloud. I had to call them and they had to call somebody and I challenge you find it on their site. Here's what you get by becoming a "member":

90 days of unlimited support, online or phone, once you call support fort the first time, for each update.

You don't have to upgrade to a new version when Adobe releases one but you can only get support for the a version up to 90 days after a new version is released. Thus you are compelled to finish your projects and upgrade to the next version. Heaven help you if are on a project that get's stalled by producers etc, and need help with a bug (assuming Adobe deigns to be kind enough to escalate your issue and admit a bug.

So, you are now compelled to get into Adobe's stinking cloud and become a perpetual payer or your workstation and plugins will become useless until you cough up the ransom.

I suppose 30.00 per month is not so bad in terms of price but after one year it'll be 50.00 per month and even there I'd be more receptive if unlimited phone support were available (not that I use phone support unless I get a insurmountable problem due to bug. My main issue is that 50.00 per month is 600 per year and after a year I still own nothing.

Prior to the emergence of news that I'll be forced into the cloud, I have felt strongly inclined to sit out an upgrade unless the layer break bug is fixed. What I need most doesn't seem like it'll ever be fixed. And yet Adobe has the desire to compel me into it's buggy cloud and I now hate Adobe and I really used to love them before this.

Something tells me that if everyone is forced to the cloud, Adobe has less incentive to expeditiously fix bugs if everyone is forced to be a perpetual player.

Moreover, we have now seen a huge, ongoing DDoS (Distributed Denial of Service) attack orchestrated by a spammer lashing out at Spamhaus for blacklisting them as spammers. The scale of this wildly unprecedented attack has slowed the entire internet and is roughly 5 times bigger than anything the banks have ever seen when they were under attack.

Adobe itself has had a public relations nightmare when it's secure certificate servers were hacked they do cartwheels to fix .

The internet is increasing subject to being brought to it's knees and Adobe cannot cover it's own buttocks sufficiently. I am sure we'll see many outraged Adobe users who cannot reliably reach Adobe's cloud to get an upgrade when they need it. This will be fatal to users in parts of the world that don't have broadband access.

I'd rather either pay a reasonable premium for physical discs or get the suite from the cloud but NOT be in a position of not owning, outright, what I have paid for.

I have a suggestion for Adobe: Let user own what they pay for; charge the customary price for the suite ort the upgrade as the case may be. Charge them that price for access to the cloud until the next version is released and then shut them out until they renew their subscription. But let them own the app that they have paid for.

I don't need or want to be a member of Adobe. Being a member of a club signifies a willingness on both the club as well as the member. I feel like this is some kind of forced ransom where I only get visitation rights of my child if I pay it.

March 28, 2013 at 4:01PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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wsmith

At this juncture I only film underwater in 3D. Adobe needs to add native 3D support and can use the implementation of Edius 6.5 as an example. The Cineform 3D solution takes too long, is not real time, and creates monster .avi files. Avid Media Composer has the best 3D solution (still needs to add native MVC support that is in Edius 6.5). Adobe is way behind relying on Cineform (that is owned by GoPro).

Lastly, both Avid and Adobe need to add support for the simple ability to burn a 3D Blu ray for playback. It is frustrating that a $65 NLE (Cyberlink Media Composer 11) has the ability to create a 3D Blu-ray with a simple way to produce chapters and navigation capabilities and the major players can not. Persons using Cineform with Premier Pro to edit 3D footage have to take the end render from Premier and create a 3D Blu-ray using either Sony Vegas Pro or Cyberlink. What a joke.

April 2, 2013 at 2:14PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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"If Adobe can manage to integrate the program with the same dynamic linking technologies that have made it a breeze to shoot back and forth between Premiere, After Effects, Audition, and Encore, then they’ll finally have a complete, integrated set of high-end tools for the video professional."

Premiere and Audition do not link that well. Audition is incredibly unstable when working on projects exported from Premiere. I don't make this comment lightly but after hours and hours of work and unfortunately many hours of wasted time and lost work.

March 6, 2014 at 5:48PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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James

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