December 22, 2017
Year-In-Review

Biggest Tech Disappointments of 2017

Every year, there are a few pieces of kit that just underwhelm filmmakers, and here are ours.

2017 was mostly an exciting year but we did have a few real "come on, really?" moments in gear and tech, and here they are:

VR

This was the year folks started to say "Wait, VR/360° still hasn't happened in a real way yet?" While Oculus sales remain low (despite price cuts), and the content just doesn't seem to be there, the clearest moment in VR's lackluster performance was the end of life for the Ozo from Nokia. This camera was hands down the leader of capture in that space, used for short films and experimental docs and livestreaming red carpet events.

Nokia is one of those oddball companies (they started making tires!) that it's hard not to root for, and the Ozo seemed like a nice pivot from the company as its handset business died. Now Nokia is pivoting hard to healthcare tech, and leaving VR behind. While there are tools to be excited about (the Insta360, among others), the end of the Ozo is a bummer.

Apple

Credit: Apple

Apple practically deserves its own category in tech disappointments for the year. After last year's winner of a loser the 2016 Macbook Pro (which, with shipping starting last November, continued to disappoint us all year), Apple continued the misfires this year with two major disappointments; the expensive iPhone X, and then the end of life for Final Cut—not to mention admission that the company has purposely slowed down old iPhones to encourage the purchase of new ones.

Credit: Apple

First the iPhone X. The notch. The price. What more do you have to say? That notch is going to be just fine in apps that are designed to fit it, and will even work well on the home screen, but for filmmakers, who are obsessed with the precision of our frames, it's going to either lead to cutting into your perfectly composed shots, or shrinking the image down on the screen wasting valuable screen real estate. All that, for $999?  Apple hasn't come out with a compelling reason to upgrade its phones since iPhone 6S, and no matter good the camera is (and tests say that it's great), it's not as good as the Google Pixel 2. Or the countless other cameras you could buy for a thousand bucks. 

Credit: Charles Haine

End of life comes for everyone and everything, but the end of FCP-7 is a particular bummer for all of us who built our careers initially on the robust, simple, nearly ubiquitous product. It's also a real bummer for filmmakers with projects that are still working in 7, which is not an uncommon situation for documentary filmmakers who might spend a decade editing and might have started before 7 was even released and upgraded into it. Of course, if you don't update your OS, you can keep using 7, but if you stop updating your OS you'll lose out on security updates, which leads us nicely to our next disappointment.

OINTB
The latest season of 'Orange is the New Black' was leaked by hackers prior to its official release.

Hackers

This was a big year for hackers breaking in and getting content from major providers before it was ready, and it's hard not to be disappointed. To be clear, we aren't placing all the blame on Larson Studios, but allow us to be innocent enough to be disappointed first off that hackers, looting the internet for ransomable content, exist at all. Secondly, we're disappointed that the tech exploits exist and that major tech companies abandon software such that they can be exploited.

It's clear that Apple and Microsoft really wish we would all just update our OS to the freshest version and they didn't have to keep patching older OS versions as well, but the reality of the situation is sometimes we love software that isn't going to update, and we are disappointed that the big platforms don't spend as much time on the security of old platforms as we would like.

Credit: Avid

Media Composer First

Avid Media Composer remains a dominant tool for studio and television productions. Despite a huge push from both Blackmagic and Premiere in 2017 into shared user workflows, Avid is the king of the hill when you need five people working on a project at once. The weakness in the system is getting younger filmmakers using MC, when they can get Premiere for cheap or Resolve for free.

To combat this, Avid has come out with Media Composer first, which is totally free.  Why is this a disappointment? Well, every time you have a distinction between free/paid software, it's tricky to find the key tools to hold back for the paid version to drive sales while allowing the free version to be functional enough that people adapt it. With Resolve, the paid studio version is needed for power tools like noise correction, but is fully functional as an editor or color corrector in the free version. 

Media Composer first is restricted in tracks and exports, which are smart restrictions for freeware. But you cannot move a project back and forth between the two, which cripples the software. If you are a small facility, and you occaisionally need to ramp up to a bigger number of editors for a project, the ability to bring in a few AEs who show up with software ready to go, especially at the last minute. Every freelance editor has Premiere on their laptops and can come in, set up on the conference table, and get moving. By preventing that ability with Media Composer it makes the software far less useful to learn for young editors hoping to get freelance work. Yes, of course, you could go to the website and buy a few more one month licenses on Media Composer if you needed, but it's just that sort of barrier that helps the small, nimble companies swap over to Premiere.

The Canon 6D Mark II

Canon 6D Mark II 

When the much anticipated 6D upgrade came earlier this year, we were disappointed by the lack of one seemingly key ingredient: the ability to shoot in 4K. If you were wondering whether Canon decided to focus squarely on its still customers with its DSLR offerings, now you know for sure. With the Panasonic LUMIX GH5 coming in at the same price point, and offering 4K, video shooters may abandon Canon DSLRs for good.

But don’t take our word for it. Our comments on the 6D posts and social media lit up around this issue, summed up nicely by reader John Haas: “$2000 is a good amount of money to me at this point in my career, and many of the readers here, and I'm not going to invest that if the product won't give back in its value. A 1080p camera in 2017 won't give back or allow for growth with it for $2000.”

 

See all of our 2017 Year-in-Review coverage.     

Your Comment

10 Comments

This is a very strange article. First... VR, really if you are disappointed that VR is not some huge take over the world product, you don't have much vision. Outside of gaming and special industrial applications this is just another waste of time... 3d anybody? .... Apple... ya they are a huge disappointment (#SCARCASM) that is why they are the number 2 and number 9 (US / Global) company in the world. Hackers...what?... A Free entry level version of a non-linear editor? ...and lastly a particular model of a prosumer camera..... very strange

December 22, 2017 at 1:18PM, Edited December 22, 1:18PM

37
Reply

I agree completely. I can't help but disagree on every topic in this article. Not only do I find this article toxic in a community that doesn't need any help being toxic but I don't think it actually helps anyone to learn filmmaking.

December 22, 2017 at 2:31PM, Edited December 22, 2:31PM

4
Reply
Robbie Patton
Editor
94

Apple's shares are at their pricepoint because:
- they make a 60% margin on everything they sell (and people trapped in Apple-sphere don't switch easily)
- Apple has over 500 billion of cash somewhere and investors hope to cash in the revenue once the money comes home.

It is very possible to be huge and dissappoint. Otherwise every huge company ever would keep on existing as a huge company forever. (Nokia, BlueBerry, MySpace, Lehman, etc...)
About Apple admitting to slow down products: should not be a surprise. Another reason investors love them :-p

December 23, 2017 at 7:05AM

8
Reply
avatar
WalterBrokx
Director, DOP, Writer, Editor, Producer
9070

It's too early to expect VR to have any real impact because high quality VR playback is still way too expensive, and high quality VR cameras are astronomically expensive.

We need a great $200 4K VR headset and a great $2K camera to shoot 4K VR.
(instead of $60K - 10K cameras)

All of the low-cost VR headsets and cameras I've played with so far produce a pretty crappy looking image compared to non-VR cameras.

December 23, 2017 at 3:06PM

2
Reply
Guy McLoughlin
Video Producer
29875

What is this trash? Was it written by a thirteen year old redditor? If you can’t find writers with experience in film, you guys need to just stick with compiling content from outside sources.

December 22, 2017 at 6:09PM

5
Reply

No

December 23, 2017 at 4:52AM

7
Reply
avatar
Miguel Sotto
Cinematographer
246

Biggest disappointment of 2017?
This article.

What strange things to select as the biggest disappointments. If these are the largest disappointments of 2017, then this was (implied) a pretty phenomenal year!!

I feel like if I asked my 12 year old cousin - who knows very little about anything tech - he would come up with better disappointments than this. It'd be great if NFS put a little more thought into their articles, and just attempted to HELP people learn about film with their articles.

December 23, 2017 at 9:53PM

16
Reply

I'll agree that Final Cut Pro X was a disappointment when it came out, but that was almost 7 years ago. In it's current form it's an amazingly capable NLE and absolutely worth a second look for those who dismissed it long ago. There have been loads of updates and added features over the years, it's much different than it's initial release.

December 26, 2017 at 6:24PM, Edited December 26, 6:25PM

5
Reply

Sounds to me like some folks commenting here are upset by the somewhat negative takes on Apple hardware and software. In the media production biz, there are certainly a LOT of die-hard Apple fans. Macs are decent for many production oriented things. I get that. Not a Mac user myself, so the FCP7 thing didn't directly affect me.... but I know how it feels to see your favorite application dying a slow (or swift) death. That being said, it seems a little odd to cover the FCP7 factoid at this late date - as the development for FCP7 pretty much came to a grinding halt shortly after Final Cut X was announced at NAB 2011 (April). That announcement was done "off-site" at a hotel event because Apple had already been MIA at NAB Show since 2008 or something. That, in and of itself was shocking. To see a company like Apple, who can certainly afford the overhead, intentionally "not participating" at NAB Show since almost 10 years ago. Just very strange. Personally, I feel the article is mostly accurate in most sections, with Nokia Ozo bowing out of the 360 camera market - and Canon's semi-lackluster features (or lack of "built-in" high-end film-making features). There could certainly be a "Part II" and maybe a Part III to this article.

January 3, 2018 at 12:18PM

6
Reply
avatar
Paul Tyson
Systems Specialist at Studio Tyson
81

I think your comment on Apple is a bit harsh and somewhat misinformed. I don't work for them and I don't get paid by them, just be known.
First off, they didn't say they slow down phones to encourage purchase of new ones, they gave us a legitimate reason. To propagate the notion that they did it to get more sales is not okay, especially in a news letter.
Second, if you are still on Final Cut 7, you are gonna be on Final Cut 7. It hasn't died, it still works on older OS and older machines, so why would you say that? Security is an issue if your old machine is online. I'm sure they have a laptop and a firewire to transfer stuff back and forth. It's still perfectly functional. It's not dead. And, get your doc done already and if you can, switch to something more modern. There are tools and apps for that.
And for the iPhone X, it's a cool phone. if you are shooting full videos for clients on your phone, and the notch bugs you. Get over it or return your phone. I think you got 30 days to do it.
Sorry, this is not a disappointment or a fail. Apple is still cooler than the others. Have you even taken a picture with the Pixel 2? It's crap. They create a mask to give you at the depth of field in their version of portrait mode. It's terrible.

Done.

January 8, 2018 at 10:26PM

0
Reply