Avid — Negotiating Corners

17 04 2008

== And, Maybe, Turning Them

Avid LogoIt’s really too early to tell, but I’m incredibly encouraged by what I’ve seen from Avid in the last several weeks, as they’ve pre-announced, and announced a lot of things in the weeks leading up to the NAB show, just now finishing up in Las Vegas.

There have been oodles of press coverage in the last week and a half on the latest announcements from Avid, regarding their new hardware and software. See the pieces by Phil Hodgetts and Steve Cohen, as well as this press release from Avid. I have been studiously avoiding chiming in about this, waiting for the people who know much more about this I do, to weigh in first.

But I must say that, after a few years in which Avid has forgotten how to innovate, it seems as if they are finally thinking of the future.

Let me explain a little bit about what I mean by the future.

Sure there was new hardware announced. There are a line of DX processor boxes which don’t connect through the bottleneck we’ve come to know as Firewire. For any editor who has pressed the PLAY or STOP button on the Avid and waited an excruciatingly long two seconds for the machine to respond, this is really great news. In fact, the audience at the April 8th Avid event at Universal Studios in Los Angeles cheered when Matt Feury (who does the awesome Avid filmmaker interview/podcasts) jokingly announced this as a major upgrade. To us, it is.

They also announced huge price cuts and the banishment of the Xpress Pro product line to the great NLE graveyard in the sky. To those of us who felt that Xpress Pro was, simply, Media Composer bowdlerized for profit, this is also great news.

[As an aside, this follows on Avid’s earlier announcement of a new website, forums and — best for me — a commitment to expand their efforts in educating their users.]

In fact, the greatest news about all of this is not the hardware, but the fact that the new management team seems to be paying attention to its user base again. They’re meeting with us on a regular basis, talking about bug fixes, enhancements and release plans in a way that I haven’t seen in years.

Here’s an example that, in my geeky little way, I’m pretty excited about. FilmScribe is Avid’s ancient tool to create various output lists — EDLs, Film Cut Lists, Optical Pull Lists, etc. It’s always been an amazingly effective, but amazingly clunky, tool.

Now, you can drag and drop a sequence that you’ve created onto any number of template files (in the Mac OS Finder window — and, I presume, on the PC as well). If you drop it onto an EDL template, it will create an EDL for you. If you drop a metadata file onto a template for, let’s say, an XDCAM I assume that it will create an Avid ALE file automatically.

In other words, the Avid is finally becoming modular — in the way that Final Cut is, and has been for a very long time. That means that, as new camera formats keep coming out, Avid will be able to accommodate them much faster. The lengthy wait for P2 and EX-1 card compatibility was excruciatingly difficult for users and certainly hurt Avid — as customers could much more quickly get those cameras to work in FCP.

So, yeah, I love being able to drag stacks of video tracks around on the timeline (who wouldn’t? FCP users have been doing it for years.), but what I really like about Avid’s announcements is that is bodes well for their ability to make really great future announcements.

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